A lot of things change when you have children: your accumulation of sleep and cash, weekend hobbies, nights out.
It's work, this kid-raising thing (who knew?), so taking an extra helping of contempt alongside a restaurant meal was never appealing to me. Which is why, despite fuzzy, feel-good memories of sun-soaked patio days at the MarinaSide Grill, I have mostly avoided it since having kids of my own.
For years I received mail to my Dish inbox about the poor treatment doled out to families that dined there. The emails detailed how groups with children (even well-behaved ones) were always seated in the less-attractive "family room," away from the main dining room, even moved there after seating if the children had somehow managed to escape first notice. There were no highchairs. Complaints were badly handled.
I stayed away.
Recently though, I received word that the manager of the MarinaSide Grill had been recognized for leadership and commitment to workplace diversity and inclusion at the 2012 BC Workplace Inclusion Conference. Marie Dixon received the Individual Recognition Award for breaking down stereotypes, recognizing strengths in diversity and creating an environment of inclusiveness at the restaurant. According to the email, the previous owner had sold the restaurant to the Squamish Nation.
New owners? Awards for inclusivity? The new MarinaSide Grill sounded like my kind of place.
We packed up the family and headed for the cosy restaurant tucked under the north end of the Ironworkers Bridge. Upon arrival, we were swiftly seated . . . in the family room.
It seems most things haven't changed: the management, menu and policy towards children are all the same (although I did notice a stack of highchairs against the wall in that room). Even the former owner is still consulting, to keep things running smoothly, our server told us.
The menu is huge and tempting, with starters that run the gamut from crab bisque to retro-style potato skins, to be followed by anything from steak, chicken, pasta and burgers, and of course, seafood.
We began with mushroom caps, six of them, stuffed with crab, shrimp and cream cheese, baked until they were all melty and served hot.
They were my favourite dish of the evening. Calamari was tender, but wrapped in too-dense, crunchy breading, and piled with a heap of thin red onion slices.
The boulliabaise I ordered for my main course was fine - a workmanlike dish consisting of a thin tomato-based broth filled with cubes of salmon and halibut, tiger prawns, mussels and scallops sliced thin.
Big J's dinner was not as successful. He asked our server what her favourite entrees are, and she suggested Sailor's Stuffed Chicken (chicken breast stuffed with seafood, swiss cheese and spinach, rolled in bread crumbs and topped with shrimp cream sauce), or the seafood crepes, prepared in a similar fashion.
He decided to go it alone instead, and was disappointed. Almond-crusted halibut consisted of a thin piece of fish, barely seasoned and lackluster, over-baked and studded with tasteless sliced almonds. Cream sauce served on the side tasted like it was from a mix. The baked potato, once unwrapped from its foil, was soggy and cool. Not even heaps of sour cream and chives from the topping carousel could rescue it.
Who was most pleased with their dinners?
Our kids, who have never tasted previously frozen chicken tenders and fries, served with honey mustard sauce, that they didn't like. They got a kick out of the view over the marina and shipboard feel of the family room.
There's no small amount of irony that the guests who were happiest with their experience are the ones who have always been least welcome.
Despite being stuck in the back room, service was great. Our waitress was helpful and pleasant, kept our waters full, and delivered our meal efficiently. If only the food had measured up to her skill.
With two gingerales, a glass of Malbec and a sleeve of beer, the bill added up to $102.09.
Deana Lancaster has been writing about food and wine for 12 years, and worked in restaurants for more than a decade before that. She is passionate about good food. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/deanal, or send her an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.