"The chicken rice place, the chicken rice place!" That is the inevitable answer I hear echoing off of our walls every Friday night when we ask our 5-year-old where he wants to go for dinner. He means Thai on Clark, the Uptown Asian restaurant that has replaced my dreams of medium rare filet mignon while sipping that dry Belvedere martini with variations on ... chicken and rice.
Don't get me wrong, Thai on Clark offers a very good and very affordable meal. And I'm not even really bothered by the fact that my days of pretending I am James Bond waiting at a bar for my next mission are gone. Those vanished long ago, along with my sporty sedan. The only danger left in my life is how spicy can I order my curry dish without spending the night chugging Pepto-Bismol.
It's the repetition that gets me. Every Friday, the same thing. It's as if I'm worried my life is going to pass me by while I am filtering the cream cheese out of my crab rangoon.
I don't think I'm alone. For guys like me, the nomadic exploration of our ancestors never really leaves. We must go out and conquer, and if that means toppling a new restaurant every week, then that's what we must do. But with evolution comes the understanding that children need stability. While my wild ways draw me away from more of the same, his little mind uses it for comfort. And in the game of life, at this juncture, his wellbeing trumps mine.
The irony of all this is that 20 years from now, when he is off on his own, I am going to be wishing that we could go back to the days of "The Chicken Rice Place" and enjoy one more meal as a family. But I am sure he will be busy cutting through that medium rare filet mignon while sipping that dry Belvedere martini not knowing what the next chapter of life has in store for him.
Thai on Clark is located at 4641 N. Clark Street in Chicago, thaionclark.com.
What's your kid's go-to restaurant? Share your own battle with eating-out monotony!
Ryan lives in Uptown with his wife, Pascale, and 5-year-old son, Leo, and works in Chicago as an actor and on-air host.
See more of Ryan's stories here.