Family travel: Coming to terms with choosing to eat at chain restaurants

At home in Chicago, my husband and I are always on the search for new, local restaurants to eat at with our family. We seek out ones offering new ethnic cuisines. We seek out ones in new neighborhoods. We seek out ones with healthy, local fare on their menus. So, when we travel, we often put pressure on ourselves to do the same. But, it’s not always easy to try new things with two young boys in tow. And, so, we’ve come to terms with it being okay to eat at chain restaurants when we travel, too.

When my husband started planning for our most recent trip to London, he started searching for new, local restaurants to try with our sons. But, after walking 10+ miles on most days, we came to the realization that it was often easier – and actually more comforting – to eat at chain restaurants.

We knew the menus would offer something for everyone.

We knew the staff would be helpful.

We knew the seating would be plentiful.

We knew we probably wouldn't ’t have to queue for a table.

But, what we didn’t expect is that we’d actually have a local experience, too. We were dining just like other London families – seated all around us.

On our first day in London, I told my husband that I had seen Instagram posts from British bloggers dining out at Pizza Express – a chain we had purposely not eaten at during other trips, thinking it was too much of a chain restaurant. And, guess what? After discussing it, my sons pleaded with us to go there for dinner that very night.

And, the streak continued.

While in London, we dined at Wagamama, Nando’s, Yo! Sushi and The Real Greek. And, each time, our sons were happy – and we all enjoyed good meals with London families and others.

It became comforting to know there was always a welcome option. In every London neighborhood. No matter where we ended up for the evening.

Of course, we also ate local, too.

We enjoyed lunch from the stands at London’s Borough Market.

We ate the best fish and chips we ever had from a small “fish and chippery” in Fulham – just on the other side of Bishop’s Palace.

We tried dozens of teas at Whittard of Chelsea.

Together, it made for a well-rounded dining experience for us all. One that made us feel like locals while on holiday in London.

And, now, we can finally relax and admit that it’s okay to add chain restaurants to our list of go-to restaurants, too.

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