Seven Kids, Three Moms and One Restaurant Health Inspector

(Thank you for your patience. We now return to our regularly scheduled program.)

My kids had 12 days off for spring break. And my husband had to work. After the first 5 days I was ready to pull my hair out. They had played with every toy they owned, re-discovered lost toys and now chanted “I’m bored” over and over in their sleep.

Hey! Why not visit my friends in Savannah? Fun for me AND the kids! 


Picture this.

Three moms. One dressed to the nines because she just got off work. Mom #2 is in your standard mom wear of slacks and a pretty t-shirt. Me? Wrinkled vacation wear because I don’t iron while on vacation (ok, I don’t iron when I’m not on vacation) and a dried cheerio stuck to my butt. (Sorry for the visual but dry cereal is our standard snack fare while traveling. At least it wasn’t a Snak-Pak pudding top.)

Seven kids. Yes, seven. Who have been cooped up all day, playing indoors because the pollen was causing asthma attacks and eyes to swell shut.

Two of the three moms (yes, I’m included in this pair) decide that it would be a great idea to take the kids out to eat. It takes about an hour to decide on a kid-friendly restaurant. Committed to our choice we call the other mom at work (We’re “watching” her two girls. In all actuality our kids are entertaining her girls. My friend and I are chatting between playing referee to wrestling matches and cleaning the kitchen from yet another snack. ) We agree on a time to meet and tell her which restaurant. She’ll meet us there.

Thirty minutes before the appointed hour the two moms load seven kids into two cars without incident. The two-car-caravan sets off to said restaurant.

We arrive before Working Mom and herd the children into the restaurant. On the way in one child pipes up, “83? That’s not a very good grade. In MY school anything below an 85 is a C!”

She’s referring, of course, to the health inspection score. Hmmm. 83. Now, I’ve had food poisoning twice in my life and I’m not keen on having it again or sharing the experience with 7 children and my 2 closest girlfriends. We’re not THAT close.

One mom scans the reasons for the low score. She gets to “Food not cooked to the proper temperature” and stops looking. We herd the kids out.

On to our second choice restaurant. We call Working Mom and she’s closer than we are. She’ll get a table for our crew.

We arrive and she’s waiting for us at the door. “I’m not sure you’ll like this either,” she smiles wryly.

79. We don’t even bother to check the list.

There’s a pizza joint up the street that her family loves. And it’s right across from the hospital. Convenient if things go south. We load the kids back into the car.

A half a mile later we arrive at our destination. Seven kids and three moms burst onto the scene, starving. There are doctors, in scrubs, chowing on pizza. Good sign.

The kids are situated at a table and the moms go to the counter to order. Health inspection score? 83.

We look at each other and laugh. “Maybe 83 is the new 93?” one mom says.  “Well,” I say, “At least the hospital is right across the street.” We decide to take our chances.

The meal goes without incident. The kids have a blast and the moms don’t have to clean another dirty kitchen. Twenty four hours later, we’re still standing. Thank goodness.

The next day we decide another meal out is a good idea. This time at my favorite place, Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House (at least, that’s what it was called when I lived there.) I first discovered Mrs. Wilkes by the smell. Every day, around 10 am, I’d start smelling the most wonderful aromas. I asked our neighbors where they were coming from. Just around the corner, they said, from Mrs. Wilkes. No sign. Just a line down the street of people waiting to get in. Served family style around giant tables.

“Family style, ” my friend reminded me, “You DO know they got in trouble once for re-serving food?”

“But it’s SOOOOO good,” I whine, “I LOVE Mrs. Wilkes!”

“Okay,” my friend says doubtfully.

We arrived at 10:30 (which used to be adequate time to line up) for the first seating of the day at 11am. Curious, I asked the first people in line how early they had arrived. 9am was the reply. Oh, how times have changed.

The kids were amazing, coloring pictures, chatting with other children. We had a chance to visit with other people in line. Finally, we were seated at 11:30am.

A table spread with the most mouth-watering, amazing Southern dishes imaginable. Fried chicken, beef stew, collard greens, squash casserole, rutabaga, mashed potatoes, rice, gravy, green beans, creamed corn, shredded bar-b-que pork, biscuits and cornbread, butter beans, sweet potato casserole, black-eyed peas, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, okra & tomatoes, red rice and cabbage. In all we counted 20 bowls or plates of piping hot food. It was delicious.

While one mom corralled all of the children and helped them clear their plates to bring to the kitchen (a Mrs. Wilkes requirement) I went up to pay.

Standing there, waiting for my change, I glanced up.

Mrs Wilkes, born in 1907, started working at the Boarding House in 1943. She eventually took over and worked there every week day until her death in 2002.

The health inspection notice.

With her score.


Looks like we’ll be back!

Oh yummy!

 Thank you, Mrs. Wilkes. I’m honored to have met you and so glad you were my neighbor during my stay in Savannah.


Filed under children, funny, Moms

27 responses to “Seven Kids, Three Moms and One Restaurant Health Inspector

  1. suzicate

    Glad you guys survived. You know I don’t think they post restaurant health inspection scores in VA. At least, I’ve never seen them…you bet I’ll start looking!

  2. Penny

    Perhaps the two moms looking after the seven kids need a score, too. How about 100 for courage under fire! 🙂

  3. Yes, I’ve never seen posted scores in MA, just that they’ve passed. That last place looks so wonderful!
    Glad you survived the break; ours is next week…

  4. Yum. I want to be there RIGHT NOW. Sigh…

    And I’ve never seen scores here in PA, either, at least that I’ve noticed.

    We didn’t get a break this year. They called too many unecessary snow days, so we just got Good Friday off. Not that it was supposed to be much, anyway. I think only Thursday and Monday as well. But we get off relatively early for summer, I think. Too early… ack.

  5. I just stumbled onto your blog looking for “mom” sites. You write well and we have something in common. I don’t iron – ever. Yesterday I decided to impose a penalty in our home if anyone ever says, “I’m bored”. The kids are panicked but really, I can’t stand that. Glad your trip was fun.

  6. I want to go to Mrs. Wilkes!!!!! YUMMY!!! I think it’s totally hilarious, and something that would happen to me, to end up at a restaurant with the same score as the first one you went to!

  7. I’ve never seen scores in FL either. I think it’s just Pass/Fail. Mrs. Wilkes looks wonderful! Savannah is on my list of places to visit. I’ll have to remember Mr. Wilkes.

    Gald to see you back!

  8. Holy Insanity! I can’t believe you took all of those kids out to eat TWICE. You are a brave, brave, woman! Good to have you back!

  9. You make me so hungry!!! The next time I get bored will you take me to Savannah?

    Glad you survived both outings in good form. Also glad the kiddos are back in school. Welcome back!

  10. angelcel

    Hey! You’re back!

    I always think that if you see people like police or medics eating in a place then it has to be OK because these probably hear all the gossip on what goes on behind the scenes. Makes you think though, if Mrs Wilkes scored 100 why is that not possible for everyone?

  11. That place sound awesome and so does Ms. Wilkes!

  12. ck

    I am so hungry and this post is making me crave salty food and sweet tea.

    Thanks A LOT, Jane.

    (And so glad to have you back!)

  13. Oh, Mrs. Wilkes, your okra and tomatoes and sweet potatoes and biscuits are making my mouth water!

    (Welcome back, Jane! Does the Mrs. Wilkes house deliver??)

  14. unabridgedgirl

    Mmmm. All of these pictures make me all hungry! And I can’t believe how low some health inspection scores are – – gross.

  15. I don’t even want to think to try and add health inspection score to my requirements when looking for a place to dine out with the kids. We STILL try to go out to dinner these days but it is usually an epic fail. The 2 and 3-year-olds are currently a nightmare when eating out. But oooohhhhh how I love a good restaurant. Bravo, Jane!

  16. Ha! Way to go with that find — a happy ending to quite an odyssey. Is it bad that I don’t check health inspection scores? We rarely go out to eat but I have a feeling I’d better start paying attention to this stuff no matter how infrequent the necessity …

  17. My parents were visiting last week and they wanted to go out to eat on several different occasions. I managed to put them off each time. I admire you for taking such a big group of kids out to eat – twice!

    Welcome back, Jane. I hope you had a great trip, poor health inspection scores notwithstanding!

  18. The scores are posted in NC and are the first thing my husband looks for when we eat out. (I’m glad my kitchen isn’t rated!) Scores as low as the ones you saw go in the newspaper.

    Good for Mrs. Wilkes! A friend of mine ate at Paula Deen’s restaurant in Savannah a few weeks ago. I’ll have to ask if he checked the rating. 🙂

  19. 100?! So if I start worrying about health inspection standards in restaurants we patronize, am I obligated to worry about, you know, cleaning my own kitchen?
    Kidding, kidding. Sort of kidding.
    I don’t think ours get scores – they just get fun writeups citing rats and roaches. Is it so wrong to shrug and hold the door open for the rest of the family?
    (Kidding, kidding…)

  20. You’re a braver woman than me – I panic when taking one grandchild (aged 1) out!! Well done on surviving!

  21. You are brave. I remember the days of taking my three out by myself. I was a glutton for punishment!

    Where is Mrs. Wilkes located? Hubby and I are trekking down to Savannah in a few weeks and he loves places like that. He wants to do Paula Deen’s but I absolutely refuse to go wait in line for an hour or more to get put on a list to wait in line to get a reservation and still have to wait!!! Ridiculous! NO ONE cooks that good. Besides I have an amazing cook in my hubby. Sorry Paula!

  22. Savannah! We went there for Spring Break as well. It our first time there and we took my Mom along. I loved it! I thought it was beautiful and charming. I especially enjoyed all the walking we did, soaking up the sunshine while baby napped in the stroller. We were told to do Mrs. Wilke’s but by the time we learned about it, it was too late (it isn’t open on Sundays).

    Bravo to you for attempting this feat with seven kids in tow. My 8-year-old is easy, but I had minor panic attacks everytime mealtime arrived with my 13-month-old. And it had nothing to do with the restaurant grade (I never gave that a single thought), it was about whether we would get through the meal without a meltdown 🙂

  23. I enjoyed this post. I was seriously sitting here chompin away on Cheetos while reading it.

    I never even thought to look at the scores, this I will be doing from now on.

  24. Anytime I am in that area Mrs. Wilkes will be seeing me for sure. And I will probably have a snack pack lid stuck to my butt.

    My kids had 11 shool days off for spring break. It was crazy. We made lots of great memories, but you know making great memories with two 3 year olds can be challenging. Especially when Dad really isn’t available. Still, sounds like you did the right thing!

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