Full Moon Celebrates 20 Years of Family-Focused Dining

full moonLeft: Full Moon's (outstanding) grilled chicken BLT. Right: A note from a satisfied young customer.

Ask any parent—eating out with kids can be complicated.

So when Sarah Wheaton opened Full Moon in 1997, she did it with a concept that was radical in its simplicity: she’d serve delicious, complete meals in a space that outwardly, intentionally welcomed families with children.

Full Moon will turn 20 in just a few months, and while the menu has changed a bit over the last two decades, the emphasis on family-focused dining has never has.

“You can imagine, there were moments when I thought, ‘We really shouldn’t do this anymore, we should change our concept,'” Wheaton reflects today. For one, serving so many kids can be exhausting. For another? “It’s hard to feed babies and make a living,” Wheaton laughs.

But it’s rewarding, too. A parent herself—her son was just two months old when Full Moon opened its doors—Wheaton has always believed that parents shouldn’t have to sacrifice anything to go out with their kids. Too often, walking into a restaurant with a baby in tow means skeptical glances from other diners (and sometimes, the waitstaff).

full moon

Full Moon owner and manager Sarah Wheaton. Photo by Emily Cassel.

On the other hand, restaurants that cater to kids often do so with overblown activities and unhealthy food. Wheaton didn’t think a kid-friendly restaurant experience needed to be infantilizing—waiters dressed up in costumes, toddlers tearing through tables like they were running from the ball pit to the arcade games at a Chuck E. Cheese’s, every dish on the menu deep-fried, bite-sized and covered in a pound of electric yellow sauce. Instead, she set up a play area with buckets full of toys and games, and developed a menu meant to delight adults.

For brunch at Full Moon, diners can have poached eggs served on grilled bread with asparagus and a roasted red pepper puree or grilled peaches on a bed of mesclun greens with feta and creamy balsamic dressing. For dinner, a Thai seafood stew—lemongrass-coconut-ginger broth, scallops, shrimp, cod, rice noodles, miso mayonnaise and sriracha—and will delight adults, while on the kids’ menu, mac and cheese or a hot dog with fries will more than satisfy young foodies-to-be.

“We’ve always decided that we wanted it to be like people were coming to our house to eat,” Wheaton says. “We’ll take care of you. We’ve got the changing table for the baby and we’ve got your wine glass all ready for you. It’s just an extension of our own home.”

Which, admittedly, means it has a different atmosphere than other area eateries. It’s not the spot to grab a quiet dinner for two on a Friday at 6, not necessarily the ideal Valentine’s Day date location. But it has its own sort of rhythms; on a Tuesday at 7, when the families with children have often headed home, couples can come out to play.

Plus, it’s helped the eatery earn accolades from local publications—the Boston Globe has called it “the ultimate in family dining”—and national ones like the New York Times and Gourmet, which said it serves “the kind of sophisticated food [parents] might cook for themselves, given the time and energy.”

Besides, the neighborhood needs it. As other trends come and go, as food fads ebb and flow, one thing is pretty constant: people start families. Wheaton and Full Moon will be here for them—serving great food, giving parents a place to go out, and often, hiring kids who grew up coming to the restaurant for service jobs when they’re older.

“When you’re here this long, especially in a neighborhood like this one where people really get to know you and we’re all, actually, mom and pop shops—there are no chains or anything—neighbors have spent their whole lives coming here,” Wheaton says.

“I feel like Full Moon is our baby,” she adds. “It’s all grown up, and this is our big moment.”

Full Moon is located at 344 Huron Ave. in Cambridge. (617).354.6699 | www.fullmoonrestaurant.com