Dear Costco Food Court

Posted on: 07/10/18 3:30 AM | by Jonathan McKee

The polish dog, the hand-dipped ice cream bar, the chocolate swirl frozen yogurt… all gone! Costco, here are 7 bad decisions you made in your food court that are costing you loyal customers like me.

And I was loyal. My wife teased me that Costco food court was my favorite restaurant. Your food court is indubitably better than the completion, hence my surprise. Is there new management or are you just getting sloppy?

My go-to order back in the day was your polish dog meal, half of a piece of pizza (my son gladly added the other half to his pile), and your hand dipped ice cream bar with almonds for dessert. Sadly, I can’t order most of these now. (Oh the nostalgia.)

I’ve heard from your employees about your Continue reading “Dear Costco Food Court” »

Death of the Dining Room

Posted on: 11/25/14 5:45 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Family DinnerAs families and friends gather together for the holidays, the big question I have is… where will they gather?

Their dining room?

The kitchen?

It’s funny how much you can tell about a society’s social norms solely from the changes in its home design. Think about it.

  • Do you have a dining room?
  • Is your kitchen sink near the social center of your house?
  • What year was your home built?

Today’s homes have two glaring changes compared to homes from a few decades past Continue reading “Death of the Dining Room” »

Consuming Music… and Cheesecake

Posted on: 01/14/13 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

David and I finished our annual recap of the songs that went #1 in the past year, just posting Part II of the article on this week’s Youth Culture Window page (if you don’t receive that free Youth Culture Window in your inbox, CLICK HERE).

Thirteen songs made it to the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart this year, giving teenagers plenty to resonate with…both good and bad. That two-part article provides you with an overview of each of those songs.

Every once in a while someone will ask me, “Why do you care so much about the music teenagers listen to?”

I guess that would be like someone asking me, “Why do you care about what your kids eat?”

Consider the love for cheesecake. If you sauntered into the Cheesecake Factory on a random Friday night and discovered their Dulce de Leche Caramel Cheesecake to be delicious, you might not be aware that you just consumed over 1000 calories, 44 grams of fat, and 91g of carbs in one piece.

I mean… who cares. It just tastes delicious!

Perhaps you begin eating a piece after every meal.

If someone warns you, “Hey, you’re gonna grow three chins if you keep eating all that cheesecake!” you might be tempted to reply, “I just don’t worry about all that stuff. After all, how do we really know that excess calories and carbs are bad for you anyway!”

Ignorance is no excuse.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying all music is bad. Quite the contrary (all food isn’t bad either). But, perhaps we should be aware of what our kids are consuming.

That’s why I spend a little bit of time in each of my parent workshops giving parents a tour of pop culture, and then sharing various research (like this and this) revealing that the lyrics do affect young people, something to ponder when they average about two and a half hours a day listening to said lyrics.

Interested yet?

Check out the top music of 2012.

Flying Pie Pizzaria

Posted on: 10/7/12 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

As a true lover of pizza, I have to give a shout out to a small little place called Flying Pie Pizzaria in Boise. Tonight I ate there for the second time, and the experience actually surpassed my expectations… which wasn’t an easy task, because I loved the place the first time.

Last year was my first trip to Boise. I flew out for the weekend to preach in a small downtown church and teach a parenting workshop. Matt, the youth worker, booked me again this year to come speak to the congregation and do another workshop.

When he booked me I told him, “We’ve gotta go to that cool little pizza joint again!”

So not even an hour after I landed Continue reading “Flying Pie Pizzaria” »

Top 10 Places to Eat in the U.S.

Posted on: 04/29/12 3:09 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I’m a simple man, with simple tastes. You won’t find me eating Sushi, and I’m not really even big on steak. When I’m traveling the country, foods like pizza, wings, and BBQ are what my pallet craves (although I also enjoy good Chinese or Mexican cuisine).

Having traveled quite a bit in the last 15 years, I’ve had the opportunity to taste many of what people describe as the most amazing pizza, the greatest burger, or the best BBQ. Tastes definitely vary. The restaurants that were truly amazing have drawn me back again and again. So it’s time I compile a list of the greatest.

These are the places I’ve discovered that I will drive out of the way just to enjoy their food:

  1. Giordano’s Pizza, Chicago, IL (and in Tampa, FL as well). No other pizza touches Giordano’s. I’ve had all the other Chicago competitors (more about that here), and I’ve tried everything from New York to San Diego. Giordano’s is pure manna from heaven. I have considered leaving the airport on a layover and hailing a cab just to go get me some Giordano’s. My desire for Giordano’s is almost sinful.
  2. Las Placitas, Orangevale, CA. This place is 6 minutes from my house and has the best chicken enchilada in the country. Sorry Arizona, sorry Tex Mex. Las Placitas, a true hole in the wall (it’s next door to a pawn shop) reigns. If I have a really bad day…you’ll find me here in the corner booth drowning my sorrows in a basket of chips and salsa.
  3. Trolinger’s BBQ, Paris, TN. I’ve been to the so-called best BBQ places in Nashville and Knoxville. Honestly, I’ve been to BBQ places from Texas to both Carolinas. Sorry, no dice. Trolinger’s takes them all. Trolinger’s is nothing more than a deli in the back of a feed store in small town Paris, TN. You ask for a pulled pork samich and the lady behind the counter will ask, “Ya want slaw on it?” …and the rest is pure enjoyment. There are definitely some other great BBQ places in the U.S. The noteworthy ones are probably the Famous Dave’s chain and Sticky Fingers (in the Carolinas). But aside from Trolinger’s, the best I’ve probably tasted is Smokin’ Mo’s in Chico, CA.
  4. Alexander’s Famous Fish Co., Kihei, HI. This dive looks like nothing more than a Long John Silvers. The meals are fried, they’re amazingly fresh, and they’re usually ordered to go (so you don’t have to sit on their dirty tables). Best unhealthily cooked fish and shrimp you’ll ever eat!
  5. Leatherby’s Family Creamery Ice Cream Parlor, Citrus Heights, CA. Sorry Cincinnati, but as good as Graders is, I’d rather eat a Leatherby’s sundae off a locker-room floor than Graeters in a china bowl! Leatherby’s serves huge portions, extra creamy…not recommended for the lactose intolerant. Best ice cream in the nation. No comparison.
  6. Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW), nation-wide. Before you criticize me for including a “chain restaurant” in the mix, let me just tell you, I’d be prejudice to not include them, because hands down, they have the best wings. I’ve had Native New Yorker in AZ, I’ve had Quaker State in PA, I’ve even eaten in the restaurant in Buffalo where “Buffalo Wings” were apparently invented. None of them compare. BWW is the best, hands down. My life got one notch better a year ago when one of these moved about 4 minutes from my house (and my belt got one notch bigger).
  7. PF Changs, nation-wide. While I’m mentioning chains, I might as well include this chain of delicious Chinese restaurants. PF Changs and their sister restaurants Pei Wei are both amazing, better than most hole in the wall Chinese places.
  8. Munchies, Ashland, OR. I had to include a breakfast place in the mix, and this breakfast place is the one that sticks out to me. The restaurant is in the basement in the main strip of the artsy little town of Ashland Oregon. My wife and I discovered it one year while at Ashland’s Shakespear Festival. Amazing omelets and a really cute atmosphere.
  9. Legal Sea Foods, Boston, MA (and scattered places around New England). I first came upon this place in the Boston airport. Their amazing clam chowder has been served at the Presidential Inauguration of several U.S. presidents. I’m sure both coasts are full of good seafood places (I have to give a shout out to Brophy Brothers in Santa Barbara, CA, and Doogers in Cannon Beach, OR … both amazing as well), but Legal is probably my favorite.
  10. Barefoot Grill (Part of the Hula Grill) Ka’anapali, HI. This grill is right next to the beach in Ka’anapali, right next to Whaler’s Row. The food is great and the POG drinks are fresh and amazing. I’ve actually never eaten inside, because the barefoot bar allows you to eat at a nice table with your feet literally in the sand. I’ll drive across the island to catch a lunch here (I’d do the same with Alexander’s, mentioned above, and Matteos Pizzeria. Oh man. I wish I could afford to visit that island regularly!)

That’s it!

What about you?

If you’ve eaten at any of these places, what did you think? (Be nice!)

What are your favorite places to eat across the country (Mention the CITY, STATE of the location in ALL CAPS in your comments below if you are recommending a place).

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Meet Me in Chicago or Milwaukee This Weekend

Posted on: 02/6/12 5:40 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Wanna connect with me for lunch or hear me speak? This weekend I’ll be traveling through Chicago and into South-Eastern Wisconsin. I’d love to connect with you.

You can connect with me in one of two places:

Chicago Area: Friday, at 11:30, I’ll be eating lunch at a Giordano’s Pizza (because it’s manna from Heaven!) near Chicago O’Hare airport or in one of the suburbs just North of there. If you’re interested in connecting with me for lunch, I’d love to meet any of you who are current readers of my blog or our web resources. I’ve done this in some cities where only a handful of us connect; in other cities it might be 20 or more. Either way it’s fun. It’s simple. Just use the CONTACT US button at the top of my blog and send me a message with the subject line “CHICAGO.” I’ll email you back with details if you email me before this Thursday at noon.

Hartland, Wisconsin: On Sunday, February 12, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. I’ll be teaching my PARENTING THE TEXTING GENERATION workshop at Westbrook Church in this suburb just outside of Milwaukee. Come meet me and enjoy this workshop! Jump on Westbrook’s website for more details, or scroll down to see the flyer below.

WANNA CONNECT WITH ME IN ANOTHER CITY? TWO WAYS TO DO SO:

  1. Make sure you subscribe to my blog and other free email resources. If you are already an email subscriber, scroll down to the very bottom of this email and click where it says “update subscription preferences.” Update that with your most current information, including your full name, which free email resources you want to receive, and then I’ll send you emails as I come to your area. If you aren’t already an email subscriber, click the CONNECT WITH US button anywhere on my blog or websites and sign up!
  2. Jump on my speaking page and scroll down to my speaking calendar to see if I’ll be speaking near you. If not, you can use my “speaking request form” to get more information about booking me in your city.

WISCONSIN PARENTING WORKSHOP

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Christmas Cookies

Posted on: 12/15/11 4:49 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I work out… just so I can eat Christmas cookies!

Last night was just the beginning. At about 8:20 Lori and Alyssa began with the “peanut blossoms” that they make every year (a peanut butter cookie with a Hershey kiss in the middle). Then at 9:10 I joined in, helping them start making some pumpkin cookies with a cream cheese frosting. (I’m drooling just typing about them!) By 9:22 I was kicked out of the kitchen for criticizing Lori’s measuring procedure. No worries, she still brought me samples as long as I stayed out of the kitchen and shut my big mouth.

By 11-something I was fading, but Lori was still going strong… and the best was yet to come…

Tonight we make the Nieman Marcus Cookies!

Oh man… even the name makes my taste buds rejoice. The cookies taste even better than the quality of the $360 sweaters you could buy at that store (yeah… I don’t shop there). These little puppies are amazing… so amazing in fact, I’m going to give you the recipe.

Yeah, I know. I’m probably the only guy who would provide a recipe on his blog. But trust me, I know food! (Have you seen my gut? I’ve worked out 5 days this week already and I’m still carrying around 20 extra pounds. I KNOW FOOD!!!)

Don’t hesitate… just try these amazing cookies and chime in and comment once you taste these little morsels from heaven! Here’s the recipe.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
The Nieman Marcus Recipe

2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups flour
5 cups oatmeal
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
24 oz. chocolate chips
one 8oz. Hershey bar
3 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

Cream together- butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Set aside.

Using a blender, grind all of oatmeal into fine powder (do a small amount at a time). Pour into a LARGE bowl. Next, grate chocolate bar and combine with oatmeal. Now add flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda to same bowl and mix well. Combine creamed ingredients and dry mixture (here’s where the stirring takes some real strength, a strong spoon… and a big bowl!) After well blended, add chocolate chips and nuts. (and this is where I eat a bunch of the dough!)

Make golf ball size cookies. Place 2” apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for about 9-11 min.

Oh yeah… you are gonna thank me later for this!

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A Bonus of a Bad Economy

Posted on: 12/2/10 8:23 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Nielsen came out with a fascinating report this week, a study revealing that more people are eating at home in the last year. Nielsen is calling “food” the social network of the ages:

When you think about it, isn’t food the real social network of the ages? Food is, and always has been, that special bonding agent that connects family and friends—with no electronic device necessary! Whether we gather for holiday celebrations, special occasions or the traditional family dinner, food, plain and simple, brings people together. And, as the U.S. economy experienced one of the worst downturns in recent history, consumers showed a renewed focus on back-to-basics in-home cooking.

I love it when people recognize the importance of relationships, including simple tasks like eating together. It seems like food is one of the common denominators that keeps surfacing when I talk about adults connecting with kids one-on-one (Connect).

Author/speaker Wayne Rice and I were talking about parenting a couple months ago– Wayne and I have both been writing articles for our new TheSource4Parents.com –and he mentioned an article he wrote recently about the disappearance of the family dining room. Wayne had read an article talking about how many people were converting their dining room into workout rooms or offices. After all- the dining room was the least used room in their house. Wayne noted what a tragedy this was… the decline in family meals.

Research reveals that families should make family dinners a priority. Columbia University’s study shows that those teenagers who have fewer than three family dinners per week are one and a half times likelier to report getting mostly C’s or lower grades in school; and teens who report these grades are likelier to smoke, drink and use drugs?

Maybe this down economy is just what families needed to get them back around the dinner table together.

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Battle of the Philly Cheesesteaks

Posted on: 10/16/10 1:57 PM | by Jonathan McKee

So I’m in Philly for the weekend doing one of my parenting workshops at a local high school and preaching at a church Sunday a.m. I flew in yesterday and met with some new youth worker friends today for lunch. They asked me where I wanna go, I said, “Some place truly ‘Philly.'”

They said, “Okay, we gotta take you to get a cheesesteak.”

Here’s where it got interesting.

There are three cheesesteak places here that have really made a name for themselves. Two of them (Geno’s and Pat’s) are huge rivals and right across the street from each other, and the other is a little place in South Philly called Tony Luke’s. My friends like Tony Luke’s the best, so off we went!

As you can see from the picture, this little outdoor dive was PACKED with a line of people all the way down the street! We waited for about 20 minutes and when we finally made it to the front, I let my friend Chris order for me. He ordered the traditional cheesesteak with grilled onions and the cheese wizz.

Yeah… it didn’t sound appetizing to me either.

But then I tasted it.

Pretty good! Surprisingly good actually! No, it’s no Giordano’s Pizza (shout out to Chicago), but it was definitely worth the wait! Plus, the atmosphere was authentic Philly. It was like going to The Varsity in Atlanta. More of an experience than  mindblowing food.

We then drove through South Philly wear Rocky ran, then through the downtown, etc. Great town, great history.

Back to work. I’m throwing some last minute touches on my parenting seminar. Gonna show them a few music video snippets tonight (Katy Perry, Miley, Far East Movement…)

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To Wait for Wings… or Not?

Posted on: 09/13/10 12:12 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I must be getting old and tired… because when I found out that I didn’t have to spend the night on the sidewalk tonight… I was very happy!

Most youth workers are pretty resilient. We can sleep on a gym floor, survive on pizza and warm coke, and even fix a carburetor with pocket lint and toenail clippings! That’s why me and my buddy Kevin (the junior high pastor at my church) were both willing to stay the night on the sidewalk outside of the brand new Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) by my house to be one of the first 100 customers (and get free wings for a year).

For those of you are lost… you might want to read my previous blog on Friday where I told you all about the new BWW restaurant opening by my house tomorrow (Monday). In that blog, I told you about two fun BWW experiences planned for this weekend. First, I had received some VIP passes for a free meal at their “preseason event” where they train their staff for opening day. I brought the family to that event Saturday night and it was even better than expected. We felt guilty about how much food they provided: appetizers, wings, burgers and sandwiches… even dessert. We were stuffed! All free.

But in that blog I also mentioned that I was going to drive by Monday morn at 5AM and see how big the line was for opening day (Monday at 10AM). Those plans changed when we noticed that there were already 10 people in line Saturday night (yes, 2 days in advance) for the grand opening.

So this evening (Sunday) at about 6PM I drove by to see how long the line was. About 35 people were now in line, all sitting in chairs playing dominos, working on laptops, etc. It was like the “male version” of a Twilight premier.

I called up my buddy Kevin (who had planned on going with me bright and early Monday) and asked him his thoughts. Neither of us wanted to give up our Sunday evening with our wives (because we’re smart!)… but we agreed that I’d go by before midnight and take a count, and if there was less than 100, we’d get in line and spend the night on the sidewalk.

So at about 11 tonight (it’s still Sunday night as I type this) I drove by and started counting. There were about 120 people standing in line. I breathed a sigh of relief and texted Kevin. “Abort mission. 120 people already here.”

Funny… I definitely would have had a fun time hangin with Kevin all night and then getting the free wings for a year. But something else inside of me was pretty dang happy when I got to drive home and spend the night in my own bed! 🙂

Well… I gotta go. I have to finish writing my Youth Culture Window article on tonight’s MTV VMA’s! It will be up by tomorrow afternoon!

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