Saturday, February 15, 2020

Chase's Friend Zone

Dining out.  This is not an easy task when autism is a member of your party.  It can be challenging and sometimes downright impossible.  Eating out is WORK for our kids. It just is.  I've written countless lists and tips for those of you have a little ones on how to make it sort of work. I've had successful outings and downright "Holy Hell. Pack this up. Throw money on the table and the get the heck out of here" ones.

What if I told you that there is one restaurant where you never have to worry about how much noise your kid might make?  What if I told you there was a place you could go where not one patron would bat an eye at your kid getting up and wandering around flapping if they needed a sensory break?  What if I told you there was a place where you and your spouse could almost feel like you were on a date again while your kid was playing with the toys WITH adult supervision?

Sounds almost too good to be true, right?  Enter Chase's Friends Zone

Chase's Friends Zone is a sensory friendly dining area that's part of the Riv's Hub restaurant in Toms River, New Jersey. The owner's grandson was diagnosed with autism and let me tell you something, this set up is ACES!  This couldn't have been a greater experience.  It's a private dining room with it's own special entrance.  There is no loud music playing or seven different TV blaring with various shows or sporting games. It's so quiet!  Check this out. 

The hostess told us to sit where ever we wanted. Kiddo picked a spot closest to this play area. 

He hit the trains and completely ignored my husband and I. 

A lovely waitress hooked Mama Fry and Daddy Fry up while another staff member actively engaged with Kiddo and another child that was also there. Within minutes she had both Kiddo and the other child there playing TOGETHER with blocks. We didn't even have to get up and helicopter over him. It was almost like we were on a date! 

Forgot the headphones? No problem! They have a bunch they'll let you borrow! 

Every table had a basket of fidget toys and bubbles. Imagine going to a place where you didn't have to bust out the big mom purse with all the stuff.  They have you covered!  

Kiddo gives two thumbs up for their flat bread pizza and side of fries.  The amount of fries they brought out was almost comical.  He was delighted! The waitress was so engaging with him and with us.  Daddy Fry and I got a couple of burgers which were both really good and I'm not just saying that because I didn't have to cook them. They were great! 

They give each family a piece to sign for their wall.  If you go, look for us on the wall! 

And because this was a new place to us and not our typical Friday routine, autism and anxiety did come with us as well towards the end but let me tell ya, they had our backs there too.  Kiddo was getting a little anxious, and a bit loud but you know what?  No one cared!  The other family was also have a bit of a hard time transitioning to go home but you know what? We didn't care.  Like whatever. It happens.  The staff quickly got us our check.  Kept an upbeat, no big deal attitude which helped keep Kiddo calm and we were on our way with our leftovers.  It was probably the most relaxed I have ever felt while dining out with him and I'm not just saying that because that peach sangria I had was killer.  We talked with each other, with the other family, with the staff. It was just such a nice experience. 

I know this is one of those first of it's kind type places and if you are reading this and thinking "Well, that's great for her but there is nothing like this here.", I hear you. Please know that for many, many years there was nothing like this here either.  This is a start though.  Share this post.  Talk up this story to others. You never know why might read it who can try and bring a similar thing to a place by you.  We will absolutely be back.  If you are in the area, you can book a table on their website or give them a call.  We went at an "off peak" time but there were plenty of tables. 

A big side of fries salute to Chase's Friends Zone at Riv's Hub!


  1. I am on fire to go there, can't wait, thank you for posting this!

  2. Hello Ellen. I'm supporting The Autism Nature Trail (The ANT - - Game on! My goal is to donate $200,000 to the trail. CHEERS

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