My First (And Last) Trip to Rafa’s

Last night, my family and I visited Rafa’s for the first time. I know this place is beloved by Park Cities families, as evidenced by the large number of them who were there when we were. But I judge a restaurant by how easy it makes my life as a parent, and Rafa’s failed in that regard.

Our kids were waiting on water for close to 10 minutes after the adults at the table had their drinks. This is especially a problem when the salsa is as spicy as it is at Rafa’s. Once the drinks did arrive, they were a guaranteed mess, because the kitchen had run out of lids.

Perhaps in an attempt to make up for the drinks snafu, the boys’ meals were brought out early. But they were so early that my oldest son had finished his dinner before my plate arrived, providing me the fun experience of defending my rice and beans from constant attacks by his spoon.

The one thing I can say for Rafa’s on the kid-friendliness front was that the waiter offered up spoons for the kids to eat with, without my wife and I having to ask first, as we have to at most restaurants. But the overall experience was far too stressful to risk repeating.

Perhaps we just visited on an off night? Perhaps you want to defend the honor of this Park Cities institution. Feel free to savage me in the comments. Or vote for Rafa’s on the People’s Choice ballot that will appear in this week’s paper. If enough of you do, I’ll be forced to write something nice about the place when we name the winners in January.

By Dan Koller Nov. 14, 2011 | 8:35 am | 37 Comments | Comments RSS
37 comments to "My First (And Last) Trip to Rafa's"
  1. gg @ November 14, 2011 at 9:25 am
    Small family owned business is a dying breed. I can’t imagine that you would use your job to slam a small business especially during hard times…it’s just wrong!!
    Off nights happen…

  2. [...] Read more. [...]

  3. Sharpay @ November 14, 2011 at 9:55 am
    Dan – definitely an off night! Rafa’s is very kid-friendly, even for toddlers. You should give them another chance.

  4. Avid Reader @ November 14, 2011 at 10:05 am
    You just have to expect the overall experience to be a little hectic. It is a great restaurant, with great food, and a good staff that is more than accomodating and usually not a 10 minute water wait. Going between 5-7:45; expect noise, possibly a wait, and plenty of kids. Love it and will continue to go on a regular basis. As a heads up, if you ever call in an order for pick-up, they will tell you 20-30 minutes; but, regardless of when you show up, just expect them to not have the order ready and you will have another 10 minute wait for them to put it together.

  5. Uppercase Matt @ November 14, 2011 at 10:05 am
    “But I judge a restaurant by how easy it makes my life as a parent….”

    Ah, a connoisseur of the king, the clown, and the colonel. Why can’t Rafa’s have a slide and ball pit?

  6. Dubious Brother @ November 14, 2011 at 10:31 am
    I’ve never had a bad experience at Rafa’s and have been taking my children there for years. As far as defending your beans and rice, teach your child to eat off his own plate – share yours with him or order him more. Do it now and you will have less stressful meals in the future.

  7. HPmom @ November 14, 2011 at 10:32 am
    I too think you hit them on an off night- but you asked for suggestions also. I know its a chain- but Chuy’s was always a great choice for us when the kids were small (noisy- and they have plenty of distractions as well as cups with lids) Also, Prego pasta house. They bring a ball of dough for the kids to play with while waiting for dinner to arrive. Primo’s also, since they have paper and crayons.

  8. Eater @ November 14, 2011 at 11:34 am
    You should not blame the restaurant for your kids unruly behavior. And if your kids are hard to handle, you should bring equipment to keep them in line. It is not the restaurant’s job to baby sit your “kids”.

    I love it when someone brings in their darling tot, who decides to start screaming during dinner, disrupting the entire restaurant, and then blames the restaurant for not being kid friendly.

    Face it, you kids are not restaurant friendly

  9. Eater @ November 14, 2011 at 11:36 am
    Stay Home until your kids know how to behave in a restaurant.

    We would all appreciate it.

  10. chia @ November 14, 2011 at 11:42 am
    I love Rafa’s! We almost always order it to go, and I agree with Avid Reader, never ready when you get there, but at least it’s hot. I say give it another shot-and maybe bring a drink for the kids just in case.
    As for Eater, back off a bit! I agree with your second paragraph, but Dan never implied that his kids were unruly. He said there were no lids, which was a mess waiting to happen, and his son was eating off of his plate. Not sure how that would hinder your eating experience there.

  11. Sammy @ November 14, 2011 at 11:53 am
    I don’t think a couple of timing issues is enough to say “This place isn’t kid friendly”. During one visit, something arrived late and something arrived early. Compared to other issues that a restaurant could have (bad food, rude waiters, giving your kid small swords to use instead of spoons), I think what you experienced is fairly minor.

  12. Grumpy Demo @ November 14, 2011 at 11:59 am
    Let’s review, critic takes his childern, who aren’t old enough to use forks or drink from glasses to a restaurant. He has no complaint about food, environment, etc. He’s just upset that the waiter didn’t babysit his little darlings.

    “Love the sound of helicopter parents in the morning.”

    Hint: The world doesn’t revolve around you kids.

    As a former waiter, you little darlings didn’t get water because they would have dumped it all over the table, chairs, creating a even bigger hassle because then the waiter has to clean up you kids mess while apologizing to you for your kids behavior.

  13. mike @ November 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm
    I don’t have kids but love that place, all I can say is don’t go during peak hours, it’s a madhouse. Also consider every other family in Park Cities brings their kids there so that’s quite a lot of kids that they are dealing with during dinner time.

  14. DemBones @ November 14, 2011 at 12:40 pm
    When Dan said, “Feel free to savage me in the comments,” lots of you took it to heart. His kids weren’t unruly, the restaurant is known as kid-friendly, and the timing of his service was off. He wasn’t trying to slam a local business in hard times, but was just asking if he hit an off-night. Answer seems to be yes. I don’t understand the vitriol.

  15. Grumpy old Merkin @ November 14, 2011 at 2:05 pm
    Well now Danny, you opened up a whole can of worms now, didn’t you?

  16. Joker @ November 14, 2011 at 2:58 pm
    So you judge a restaurant by how easy it makes your life as a parent? Dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Dan I bet you’re one of those people who is constantly complaining at restaurants, right? Next time stay home and cook something for your family, make sure you have lids though, they are very important, and please don’t serve the kids first. They might finish their meal and go after yours.

  17. gg @ November 14, 2011 at 3:09 pm
    @Joker-spot on!
    Dan-you should have just taken your kids to McDonalds..

  18. John C @ November 14, 2011 at 5:50 pm
    I’ll start by saying I don’t have kids. I do, however, judge a restaurant by the quality of the food and service. If you want kid friendly, I think ordering a pizza is a better idea, or getting something to go. Here is the one things that jumped out at me:

    “But they were so early that my oldest son had finished his dinner before my plate arrived, providing me the fun experience of defending my rice and beans from constant attacks by his spoon.” In my entire childhood, I never once ate off of my parents plate without their permission. I knew there would be consequences. Don’t blame the restaurant for that.

  19. jbw @ November 14, 2011 at 6:01 pm
    The last time I went to Rafa’s was about 10 years ago. We left before the waiter even had a chance to bring our drinks, since there was a (living) roach on the table.

  20. Dscott @ November 14, 2011 at 6:29 pm
    Rafa’s is a good place to take kids because it’s so freakin’ loud with all of the kids in there that no one will hear your’s anyway. It’s not our go-to place, though, because we don’t think the food is that great.

    One word: Mia’s

  21. HP Parent @ November 14, 2011 at 6:33 pm
    I’ve lived in these parts all my life and have only been to Rafa’s twice. Both times I was underwhelmed. I much prefer Mia’s or Gloria’s, and both are very kid-friendly. And El Fenix is da bomb. As they say.

  22. Baby Mama @ November 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm
    I fail to see how your poor planning is entirely the waiters problem. Bring your own cups if your darlings require a lid still – we do. Instruct the waitstaff to bring all the entrees out at once, instead of when they’re ready, or teach your children that manners require you to wait until everyone has been served to begin eating and that if you finish your food and are still hungry, you should politely say so and ask for seconds or a bite of your parent’s food.

  23. Charles @ November 14, 2011 at 7:54 pm
    Yikes, there sure are some mean comments here. Personally, I like Rafa’s and have taken my kids there with good results, so I guess I’d have to chalk it up to an off night. Maybe another chance is in order.

  24. peter griffin @ November 14, 2011 at 8:31 pm
    for pete’s sake,
    i went to rafa’s once.
    once.

  25. hpparent @ November 14, 2011 at 8:44 pm
    There sure are a lot of schoolmarms on this site. Poor Dan! I used to have a little (a lot?) of that in me, until my angels became teenagers. Now I am happy to chew the fat with other parents about the trials and tribulations, rather than play the parent snob. Cheers!

  26. rmo @ November 14, 2011 at 10:45 pm
    I think and know it must have been an off night. I have been there with kids and all went very smooth. PLEASE GIVE THEM ANOTHER CHANCE! We all have an off day. Writer please grow up!!!!!

  27. TB @ November 14, 2011 at 11:50 pm
    Dan, is that headline about it being your last trip to Rafa’s a promise? Thanks! And could you please share the other places you’ll never go? Yeah, that would be great!

  28. CapGuy @ November 15, 2011 at 1:59 am
    I would guess it would be best for you to stay at home and let your writers take care of bidness……
    You sound like the male version of the DMN witch.

  29. Jane @ November 15, 2011 at 7:44 am
    Dan, obviously you have never worked at a restaurant.

  30. mk @ November 15, 2011 at 9:07 am
    Dan, don’t give up on Rafa’s and don’t be daunted by all the snarky comments on this post! Your experience does sound like a combo platter of the restaurant having an off night and perhaps you having slightly unrealistic expectations of a peaceful meal with young kids at the table. The queso and cinnamon ice cream are reasons enough to keep Rafa’s on your list…I hope you’ll give them another chance. Also, if you’re ever even slightly hungover, a cup of their queso and a giant iced tea will make it all better. Er, not that I know from personal experience or anything.

  31. Whack Packster @ November 15, 2011 at 6:33 pm
    Sounds like you have some personal problems and spoiled kids.

  32. Mae @ November 15, 2011 at 11:21 pm
    I refuse to eat there unless it’s at the bar, which i realize people with 2 kids don’t do. Waaaayyy too loud with all the kids, probably off night

  33. Josh Ellis @ November 18, 2011 at 11:17 am
    Love Rafa’s. We don’t have any kids, but every time my wife and I eat there we see a ton of families eating with kids. The only bad experience I had was when they ran out of their traditional salsa one night and only had warm salsa.

  34. kmom @ November 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm
    Try Desperado’s on Greenville. Long time family owned restaurant, if you have a problem ask to speak to the owners, usually Jake or his dad Jorge. Nicest guys in the world, they’ll bend over backwards to fix any issue and the food is fantastic.

  35. Meredith @ November 18, 2011 at 5:23 pm
    Dan,
    Try them on Sunday…
    AND DON’T LISTEN TO THOSE HATEFUL PEOPLE! My husband has to ward off MY attempts at his rice and beans!

    HATEFUL PEOPLE: Are you and your children THAT perfect?

  36. Sam Tamborello @ November 19, 2011 at 12:07 pm
    Mr. Koller,

    Piranhas! Run fast! I had a good chuckle over the comments. Lighten up folks, it’s expensive to eat out.

    I’ve been preparing a delicious simple Mexican dish from items I buy from Whole Foods. I think it has much less sodium than eating out.

    I wish you, your family, and your staff a great Thanksgiving!

  37. Collin @ December 5, 2011 at 4:07 pm
    I live in the Park Cities and have tried Rafa’s twice. It might be a family-friendly atmosphere, but as far as food, I was not impressed!

    If given the choice, I’d go to Mi Cocina, Uncle Julio’s, or the Cantina Laredo across the street any day.

Leave a Reply

    FRIEND, FOLLOW, AND SHARE US
    Classifieds - This Just In
    SEARCH OUR SITE
    THIS MONTH’S ISSUE
    Recent Comments