Changes at Chili's get seal of approval

Last week my son had an eye doctor appointment and I decided to make it into date night with my 8-year-old, since I try to squeeze in one-on-one time as much as I can with my five sons. It's not so easy sometimes. So, after we ordered his new glasses, I asked if he wanted to stop for dinner at Chili's, which is just down the street....and I remembered that I had a coupon for a free kids meal...and I happened to actually have it with me. What luck!

So, in we went and noticed immediately that the decor has been updated from our last visit. Sometimes restaurant upgrades work, sometimes they don't (I'm not a fan of the new Baker's Square layout - with a more open setup and lots of televisions. It feels more like a sports bar to me and that's a spot I normally go to for breakfast. I don't want to feel like I'm in a sports bar at 9 a.m.)

Chili's remodel includes lots of screens...even tablets on each table. Normally, I wouldn't be too excited about this, but being with a child,  it was a great form of entertainment as we waited for our dinner. The tablets have several options, including classic cartoons and games. I also loved the movie app, which allowed you to view movie trailers and see showtimes of each movie at local theatres. So, if you are planning dinner and a movie, it's all there at your fingertips. How cool is that?

The server informed us that they had new soda menus with 100+ different combinations, like Strawberry Sprite and Vanilla Cherry Dr. Pepper. I love that they offer the 2 for $20 combo, with an appetizer and two entrees for the price. They also have some great lunch options for $6, $7 or $8. I did make a lunch stop there a few months ago with one of the boys and it must have been in the middle of the remodel transition because the menu had been modified, but the decor hadn't been upgraded yet. I was pleased with my sandwich and soup combo. I love the lighter options now available. I opted for a salad with grilled chicken that was awesome! This time, though, I hadn't had much of a lunch and was wanting something a little more subtantial. I got the 6-ounce sirloin - obviously not up to par with an upscale steakhouse, but a good quality piece of meat cooked exactly like I requested served with loaded mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. I was a happy camper. The only thing it was lacking was a roll or some bread, which either didn't come with it or the server forgot to deliver.

The chain also gets props for the options on the kid menu. There were 11 entree options, including a grilled chicken platter. You never see that on a kids menu. They do, however, offer the fried counterpart - chicken nuggets for those kids who prefer them. And there's other standard kid fare - pizza, mac and cheese, quesadilla, corn dog, grilled cheese. And I love that they don't automatically come with fries. Again, there's 11 options for side dishes -- mandarin oranges, steamed broccoli, rice, cinnamon apples and salad among them. My son opted for corn on the cob with his. Between the menu options and the tablets, this is a great option for dining out with kids. Oh, and I mentioned that I had a free kid meal coupon. I think one of the kids had earned it at school. But, the waitress told me that every Tuesday kids eat free. Not sure if it's like that at all locations, but that's a big plus. No pictures this time. It was a spontaneous stop, so I didn't have my camera handy and the camera on my phone is pretty much worthless. But visit the website for menu options: