Dining Out Fun For Keiki

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - August 30, 2006
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Chris da Clown entertains the keiki while their parents dine
Chris da Clown entertains the
keiki while their parents dine

I used to have a really horrible job. I was the day cook at a ramshackle restaurant where nothing happened all morning, and then at 11:30, 350 people descended from tour buses hungry for lunch. That wasn’t really the bad part. The restaurant was famous for its snake burgers, and everybody wanted one. I did it for about six months before I finally decided I couldn’t gut another ahi or grill another snake.

I’d probably do it again in a heartbeat, though, if you told me I had to swap jobs with Chris Tijeiro. He’s more commonly known as Chris da Clown and he spends Tuesday evenings conducting Keiki Night at Sam Choy’s BLC. Chris da Clown has the patience of a saint, the enthusiasm of a 3-year-old in an ice cream store and enough business acumen, apparently, to make a living out of twisting balloons into the shape of a fishing rod. He brings his extensive collection of toys, games and balloons to Sam Choy’s BLC every week and entertains dozens of children while their parents sit in the relative peace of the dining room enjoying a child-free meal.

“Tuesdays are really popular,” says manager Edwin Ohta over the din of dozens of children clamoring for a balloon animal.

“Parents love it, of course, because they get to eat dinner while the kids are entertained, and the kids have a great time.” In the games room toward the back of BLC, kids can crayon, run around, play several different ball games, do video things or watch children’s programs on a small screen. There are even floor toys and LEGO blocks for toddlers. And then there’s Chris. He makes balloon animals from 5 to 8 p.m., tells jokes, leads the children on jolly parades through the restaurant and never seems to stop being incredibly cheerful.

“I love this,” he says when I ask him how he stays sane. “I really look forward to Tuesday nights here - it’s my favorite night of the week.”

I believe him, but hesitate to tell him that I’d be crying if he made me swap places for an hour. Chris is funny and kind, and children love him. Parents love him too.

“We come almost every week,” one happy diner told me. “It’s great!”

The game room and Chris da Clown activities are free at Sam Choy’s on Tuesdays, and there’s 50 percent off the kid’s menu. That means you can feed your children a hot meal (if you can get them to sit down) for under $2, and let them have a fun hour playing while you eat. (BLC has complete “grown-up” dinner specials for $19.95 that includes soup, salad, entrée and dessert). There are three volunteers who stay in the game room and supervise most of the children. Tipping the volunteers is appreciated - and well-deserved.

I know it’s not for everyone, and believe me, if we didn’t have two little guys, I’m not sure I’d find myself rushing over to BLC every Tuesday. But if you need a night out, don’t have a baby-sitter, or just want to take your children somewhere they’ll have an unbelievably good time, it’s got to be Sam’s. When it comes to taking care of kids - and letting parents eat in peace - I’m not sure there’s any restaurant that can better Sam Choy’s BLC.

Now if only Ruth’s Chris had a games room ...

Happy eating.

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