As a parent of two kids, we are always on the lookout for family-friendly places to eat, specifically for kids-eat-free specials. Our preschooler is just about the pickiest eater we’ve known, poking at his food or refusing to eat it to only complain about being hungry an hour or so later. We hate to spend money on meals for him that he won’t even touch.
Shortly after McAlister’s Deli opened their second location on the east side of town on Harmony (their other location is on College), we discovered that kids eat free every night after 5pm. This was perfect for those nights when we needed to go grocery shopping or didn’t feel like cooking (which seems to be often this summer).
McAlister’s Deli is a large national chain with a southern kind of feel. They started in Mississippi in 1989 and spread like wildfire all over the country. Now, I don’t want to make it a habit of reviewing national franchises because I like to support our locally owned businesses, but with a kids-eat-free night, many Fort Collins families probably want the low down.
They have an extensive menu – everything from sandwiches, paninis, pizza, baked potatoes and hearty meat and potato meals like meatloaf and roast beef. When you walk in, the size of the menu can be a bit overwhelming, so I suggest taking a look at their website beforehand. The kids’ menu is pretty standard; nachos, pizza, mac & cheese, sandwiches and a hot dog, also including a treat of Teddy Grahams and a drink ($3.25 when not eating free). Our son likes to get the mac & cheese. It’s not impressive, but a step above boxed Kraft mac & cheese. It is creamier, but it tastes like it has more salt too.
I’ve been able to sample quite a bit from their menu. Their sandwiches are pretty good, nothing special, but not bad either. I think ordering a sandwich is the safest bet here. You can even build your own ($5.90). Their paninis are disappointing despite how good they sound. The horseradish roast beef and cheddar ($5.99)? I can make something a whole lot more spectacular in my kitchen.
The giant spuds are exactly that. Giant. Where on Earth do potatoes grow this big? You really can’t go wrong with a cheese and bacon potato or the Justaspud (but rather boring). The biggest let downs are two platters; meatloaf and the pot roast classic. These menu items are truly cafeteria meals. They have no real flavor, but taste completely processed and have so much salt you could have issues. The “come-back” gravy is nothing to come back for.
Each meal comes with a choice of sides; macaroni & cheese, mashed potatoes & gravy, chips, potato salad, fruit or applesauce. You can sub a cup of soup or a side salad for $1.95. I’ve opted to get a cup of chili and was sorry I did. The chili is reminiscent of canned dog food.
They really hype up their famous Sweet Tea, which is a unique drink to Fort Collins. Frankly, if you add that much sugar to anything, it will be famously delicious. But it is something you won’t really find anywhere else.
As you can see, the menu is really nothing to rave about. So what are the good parts about McAlister’s Deli? Their service is great and they will do anything to make your visit pleasant. Our baby is just learning to feed himself and isn’t ready to eat any of the items on the kids menu. I asked if we could get him half of a plain baked potato for dinner (for free) and they happily obliged.
Stick with the sandwiches and a side of fruit, maybe a giant spud and a Sweet Tea and your visit will be alright.
2550 East Harmony Road, Suite 102
Kid-Friendly? Yes, Kids eat free every night after 5pm
Parking: Center lot than can get quite heavy with traffic at peak meal times
Healthy Options? Surprisingly, yes. You can check out their nutritional info online (all restaurants should have this).
Budget-Friendly? All menu items are under $10