Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dave & Buster's Only for Kids? Chuck E. Cheese Review

Earlier this year, I reviewed Dave and Buster's to understand whether a seemingly sophisticated restaurant/bar with video games and other games of chance could truly be enjoyed by a family with a seven year old, five year old and three year old.  I had compared it to an adult-friendly version of Chuck E. Cheese.  After all, its commercials touted how fun it was for adults during happy hour, but I'm sure I saw a couple of families in the background blurred out in a corner, so we had to try it.  Surprisingly, Dave & Buster's was able to muster a 35.5 Happies out of 50.0 Happies despite the fact that it took literally an hour to have someone take a hundred bucks for our simple little table order (with a couple of beers).  Don't even ask me how much money was dropped for those silly little tickets so they could be redeemed for Pokemon Cards, Silly Bandz and bouncy balls.

But I had compared Dave & Buster's to my memory of Chuck E. Cheese from back when I was a child and teenager. I had honed my skill in skee ball at my local Chuck E. Cheese and always remembered having a good time, but to truly make the comparison, I had to relive my younger days with my children.  I realize that bringing kids to a place like this is a much different matter than just reliving the good ole days.  I mean I had to twist my wife's arm just to accompany us; she was much more hesitant about this experience than I was. 

Natick, MA. 2pm.  After a morning and early afternoon dominated by Pop Warner Football and Fall Baseball leagues, the boys were already exhausted.  This might be a good thing at Chuck E. Cheese (not a good thing at dinner time when they're overtired and whiny).

GROG.  Let's just say that my wife was smart to bring her flask with her.  Could a place require beer and spirits for its workers and patrons more than an enclosed area full of screaming kids?  0.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

KIDS CRAYONS AND OTHER ENTERTAINMENT.  This Chuck E. Cheese certainly had plenty of entertainment for the kids.  Video games, games of chance (for tickets of course) and playhouses dominated the restaurant area.  Of course you would expect that coming here.  The kids were happy going around the game room until they found a machine that promised at least 5-10 tickets every time - in this case a football game played with ping pong balls.  This area however was devoid of TVs, music or any other diversion for adults.  It was as if they were saying "Adults, you shall enjoy none of this experience, and we couldn't care less.  Better you than us."  The only entertainment I got was listening to my four year old try to leave without her parents.  More on that story later. 9.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

SPEED.  You get your ticket, put it on a stand at your table and walk away with your kids.  When you get back, your nasty pizza is usually waiting for you.  Although this category discusses how fast your food arrives and not the quality of said food, I must say that I have never seen a nastier pizza in my life.  And I would eat that before I got something from the "Salad bar."  They lose points since I could have hoisted up nasty food like that in a hurry too - nothing special about that.  6.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

DESSERT.  Similar to Dave and Buster's, the kids were redeeming their tickets long before we got to this point.  Cinnamon sticks and some sort of Apple Pie concoction were the choices.   The reason points are granted at all was that trying to 5 bucks for those two options deserves points for having balls.  3.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

WHO'S PAYING?  We got food and game tokens to satisfy the kids for less than 70 bucks.  That is a reasonable price if it entertains the children for three hours right?  Uh, right?  Well, in any event, 70 dollars was a fraction of the cost that I paid at Dave & Buster's.  6.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

Overall, Chuck E. Cheese receives a 24 Happies out of 50.0 Happies.  Awfully mediocre as an overall experience, but since the children were bummed out to leave, does the score really matter?  Well does it matter to anyone besides us parents?  Overall, given the choice between Dave and Buster's and Chuck E. Cheese, I would rather spend a little more money for a better overall experience.  Dave and Buster's wins!

One cautionary note.  Do not rely on their security system and protocols - one line in, one line out and identifying stamps for parents and children.  I dropped the family off while I had to park in the back of the building and walked in by myself.  I did not receive a stamp.  Neither did my wife who walked in with the kids.  And the kids received stamps that were smudged (Who was at the door, some sort of stoner?!?).  As we were leaving and they were checking our stamps, none of us matched.  Secretly, I was thinking this was my chance to run away.  The new guy at the door was very nice about it and asked my 4 year old daughter if I was her Daddy.  Thinking he was kidding, she said "No."  Getting a little nervous, and seeing the gatekeeper get a little upset, we told her to stop kidding around.  Luckily, the guy realized that only her real parents would react like that and let us go.  Make sure when you walk in that you walk in together and everyone's stamps can be identified. 

photograph courtesy of

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