Chuck E. Cheese’s – Portage, MI
I’m kind of surprised it took us this long for L to figure what Chuck E. Cheese’s is. We had been by it in the past because it’s right next to Toys ‘R Us in Portage, but we always just explained it as a pizza place. I’m pretty sure another little girl at her preschool told her how cool of a place it is because all of a sudden, she was dead set on going to Chuck E. Cheese’s.
I gotta admit, L is nothing if not persistent. She started in on Monday telling me, J, her teachers and friends at school, that she and I were go to Chuck E. Cheese’s on Friday. She didn’t let up all week. It turned out that B had a pediatrician appointment and J didn’t want to take L, so we split up the kids. L and I went for pizza and games while J got B for a check-up and shots.
It has been A LONG time since I’ve been to a Chuck E. Cheese’s. In fact, I’m not sure I ever have. I remember vividly going to ShowBiz Pizza Place when I was little which would have been right around the time of the original Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time Theatre’s bankruptcy and subsequent merger with ShowBiz….so in a way, yes, I’ve been to Chuck E. Cheese’s…it was just under a different name at the stores near my house growing up.
I really didn’t know what to expect when L kept asking to go, but I knew they had pizza. I had sort of held off on lunch but not really knowing how the restaurant was set up kind of worried me. Would I be able to let L play while I waited for pizza or would I be able to leave the table? I really didn’t want to make L sit and wait knowing she was there mostly for the games.
The only Kalamazoo location of Chuck E. Cheese’s is on South Westnedge south of Milham Avenue kind of sandwiched between Toys ‘R Us and Michaels. It sits way back of Westnedge behind the Chili’s. There’s a huge parking lot for the small strip mall of stores and there were more cars in front of Chuck E. Cheese’s than I thought there would be.
The entrance is kind of two fold. There’s a large breezeway with another door leading in to the restaurant. When you get in, there’s a station with velvet ropes blocking off entrance and exit to the restaurant. An employee stamps a black light number on the child and everyone that child is with. Those numbers are checked with a black light pen when you go to leave and the child must be with an adult who has that same number on their own to leave the building.
The food service at Chuck E. Cheese’s is counter service. They have a lunch buffet we could have taken advantage of but I had found a coupon for a one topping medium pizza with two drinks and 25 game tokens for $20. I handed that to the guy at the counter and asked for a pepperoni pizza. He handed me two drink cups and a cup full of tokens for L. The total cost was just a little over $20 with the tax.
We were also given a number to place on the table. This alleviated one of my worries about how I was going to let L play while we waited on food. I let her pick a table then I went to grab a Pepsi for myself and a lemonade for her. She headed straight to the giant play area in the middle of the game floor with a tube that went around the top of the ceiling. I put the number and drinks on the table then went and followed her. I felt ok leaving the table as there were only about three other families in the place a the time and we were all spread out. I could see the table at all times too so that made a difference. Not sure how I’d feel about doing that on a busy weekend.
We dove right in to the games while we were waiting on our pizza. The arcade games are all the kind that give you tickets based on your score. I really liked the Fruit Ninja game which is a giant touchscreen, but L was more interested in the carnival type game where you shoot water at a target. The target on my side looked to be stuck so she “won” every time we played…and we both got tickets for that.
After about ten minutes, I noticed our pizza was sitting on the table, so I asked L to come eat with me. She ate a couple of pieces, but clearly wanted to get back to playing games. I had a medium pizza sitting in front of me and I was really hungry, so I let her go and continued to eat on my own.
Let me tell you, that pizza was much better than I expected it to be. The crust was the thing that really jumped out at me. It was fairly crispy all the way through, but not over cooked. It’s definitely nothing that’s made fresh, but it’s not very often I find pizzas that have that crunchy snap all the way to the center. The toppings and the sauce were fairly run of the mill, but with a little Parmesan cheese and a few red pepper flakes, it actually made for a tasty pizza. It’s been probably close to 30 years since my last trip to ShowBiz Pizza and all I really remember are the animatronics (and I think there was a ball pit…there’s not at Chuck E. Cheese’s anymore) so I had no idea what to expect food wise, but this is a pizza I would gladly eat again the next time L pesters me to go to Chuck E. Cheese’s. I’m not saying it’s the best pizza you’re ever going to put in your mouth, but I’ve had worse at places that weren’t geared toward kids.
After lunch, we played for another 45 minutes or so racking up tickets. The prizes were a little weak. With 50 tickets, we got a Halloween size box of Nerds. I guess we could have bought more tokens, but we had been there for almost an hour and a half and L had played pretty much every game she could. The games weren’t really that bad either with everything taking one token, so I can’t complain about the money I spent as L got to do every thing she wanted and I got a pretty good pizza for $20.
I know L is looking forward to her next Chuck E. Cheese’s trip and honestly, I don’t dread a return as much as I thought I would. It’s a pretty easy, not overly expensive option on days we want/need to stay inside. I’m not sure how I’d feel about the place on a busy day, but on a nice, quiet Friday afternoon, both of us had a good time. I know the name causes parents to roll their eyes, but it’s really not as bad as the horror stories you hear about. The food is pretty darn good and the games are pretty cheap. It’s not a day where you won’t spend any money, but the money you do spend won’t go to waste.