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Babies in multi-belled restaurants?


michaelklein
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Should a restaurant allow a couple to slide out a chair, clip a boster seat to the wooden table, and plop a squealing 9-month-old down to join them -- and the rest of a small, crowded dining room -- for dinner? Let's say, for this exercise, that the restaurant is Tinto. Discuss.

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This is sure to become contentious. I can see where you stand on this topic by your use of words. Squeal and plop being the most telling.

My babies are now 8 and 12. When we had only one kid he did accompany us to dinner at a few high end restaurants. We were careful to pick places that were already noisy and dining early or late when the place was not packed was often a good solution. A quiet, romantic, candlelit place wouldnt be a place to bring a baby unless you are blessed with an extremely quiet baby. Our eldest was not one of those. If he did scream, one of us walked him out of the dining room, often outside if needed. We did successfully eat at many places with him, Roy's on Maui, Emeril's in nola (boy was that place terrible!), Lulu, etc... We did have a pretty disastrous meal or two, but they were a disaster for us, because one of us had to be somewhere else with the baby.

There are many baby and child intolerant people in this world. I guess they dont remember their own beginnings. Sometimes I think people are hypervigilant about noise from a baby or child, but would never angrily confront adults making lots of noise in a restaurant. For example a large party getting a little drunk in a nice restaurant or the guy sitting next to us one meal at a small restaurant loudly discussing his prostate continuously. My husband and I are still relieved when we hear a baby making noise in a restaurant because it isnt our kid! :wink:

So now to the question. Should a restaurant agree to seat a couple with a squealing 9 month old? I think if they do not set a minimum age for their diners they probably should seat the family.

There was an article in the NY times this weekend about a British couple who left their young children in their hotel room in Portugal while they dined close by, and one of their children was kidnapped. The article was about parenting mores in different cultures and how in Spain and Portugal parents bring their young children out to restaurants and bars as a matter of course and that this is expected and accepted by the restaurants as well as the other diners.

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as the owner of a 9 month old, and as someone who used to go out a couple of times a week but has spent the last 9 months basically not going out except to big ol mexican or vietnamese or chinese places, i've been thinking about this very thing a lot lately. and like the smoking thing, or the 'god i hate it when people do X or Y' things, the argument has been hashed and rehashed a thousand times. and it still comes down to this:

allowed: well, what are you gonna do? people who have a lick of sense, like i like to think i do, aren't going to come in. people who don't are gonna come in and be a pain in the ass somehow anyway. you can make and state a policy, but then you'll have to turn away the people who show up anyway, or show up with out knowing. and then they get on message boards and start all kindsa shit, and next thing you know you have a bunch of helen lovejoys yelling WILL SOMEONE *PLEASE* THINK OF THE CHILDREN?

encouraged: no. going out is for people who can behave in public, which babies of that age just aren't able to do. you have to learn sometime, and i don't believe in sheltering your kids forever, but there's a time when things are appropriate and a time when they aren't. and like senator whatshisname with the porn, i can't define it exactly but i know it when i see it, and a baby in tinto ain't it.

somewhere like standard tap, though, where it's gotten bells but is more neighborhoody and less sceney and incredibly loud anyway, is less of a big deal, although we still made sure it was way on the early side before real diners came in.

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There was another thread where someone had an awful experience at Lacroix with a baby dining within earshot of their table. The parents lived at the hotel and the complaint was that there should have been more of a private room to accomodate resident families.

Like Chowfun, we too have taken our very young daughters out to fine dining restaurants albeit almost 20 years ago. As we tend to be considerate people (she more so than me for sure) we also planned early dining times and at the first sign of trouble, one of us quickly whisked the child away for a bit to calm her. We would both have been mortified at prolonged screeming or such and certainly would have left the place if this ever happened. We never had any problems with other guests, to the contrary, people seemed happy to see mostly well behaved little ones and attentive and caring parents.

I find there is pretty much a lack of this sort of attentiveness to one's children in general but more specifically in a restaurant setting. I think it speaks to our culture of over indulgance and it really annoys me no end.

The question for the restaurant is much more complex. In this age of lawsuits for the most ridiculous reasons, I suspect there might be legal exposure and most places would not outright refuse to seat an infant or toddler. If handled adroitly, however, I think seating infants at tables out of earshot of most guests might work. It is a difficult question and one certainly dependent on where one lives and what the culture is used to.

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Depends on the parents more than the baby. If they understand the effect that a noisy baby, crying or yelling in glee, has on other diners and are willing to remove the baby at the first sign of disturbance, not a problem. I'm of the opinion that a "no noisy baby" policy should also hold true for never-to-be-starred establishments such as Little Pete's.

Army psyops provides recordings for use in military interrogation - at least they used to. Among other recordings, psyops has developed a continuous-loop tape of a baby crying that can be blared through speakers. Just as restaurants do not allow servers to waterboard their customers, no matter how justified, they should not permit their patrons to be subjected to the psychological stress of a crying baby.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

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You know I had to really think about this one. Working the restuarant industry sometimes gives me very one sided perspective about dining. My parents came to visit me and this very topic came up. My parents are in their mid sixties, retired, and are grandparents. So we discussed this very topic this weekend.

I remembered my first experiences eating in nice restaurants was going to the Frog Pond, Tiffany's, and Mama Yolanda's. I believed that I was quite young 10 or 12 years old. maybe younger. I asked my parents if they ever took me out when I was a baby, they looked at me like I was crazy. Never. When all my siblings and myself were too young to go out, a.k.a. babies they would get a baby sitter, or if they did not have a baby sitter available they would stay home. They considered it the "compromise of having young children." Even though they had kids they were not about to impose us "demons" on other diners who had their right to have a pleasant dining experience away from the everyday grind of life.

Now saying that, I believe that a TGI Friday's, pizza places, cheese steak and hoagie huts, it is alright for children. These places are many times geared for the family environment. It is also the responsibility of the parents, not the child, to take appropriate action if the child becomes bored and wants to run all over the place and hide under table #80.

I think common sense should apply, I mean,come on, you know if your baby is fussy or not. A lot of times I have seen children misbehave, cry or both, and the parents happily munch away at there meal, ignoring there child, that is ridiculous.

As for upscale restaurants, no baby should be in Lacroix or the Fountain or such. Everybody pays a high price to have a dining experience at those restaurants. So let them. A lot of people, again pay good money to get away from that grind of life, don't bring it right to the escargot. Do what my parents did. Get a babysitter or stay home.

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As co-owner/cook of what I think/hope is decent at what it does (coffee/lunch), we get a lot of the stroller set in during late mornings/early afternoons. When we get a kid that cries for more than a few seconds - happens at least once a month - there is a noticeable discomfort with other customers (some of whom leave earlier than they would have normally, costing us potential business). There is also added stress on staff and me while the noise is going on - and sometimes it could go on for a LONG time - as if the parent is totally oblivious to it.

We've never asked anyone to leave, but a few times we've had to intervene with crayons, puzzles, coin tricks or in a couple of cases, actually asking the parent, "What can we do to help your kid stop crying?"

Needless to say, I neither encourage nor like being seated near small children when I'm expecting to drop a $100 or more on dinner and wine, and will ask to be moved on those occasions. However, I will add that if the child in question manages to be well-behaved throughout the dinner, I will always make a point of congratulating the parents on their child-rearing skills.

Rich Westerfield

Mt. Lebanon, PA

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There is no scientific data to support this conclusion, but try to prove otherwise. Go on. Try it. Right now.

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I grew up in the restaurant business, and my parents took their children out to restaurants frequently from an early age, I am told. They claim that we were always well-behaved, which I find hard to believe. But I am carrying on the tradition.

I've had mixed experiences with our almost 2-yr. old twins. We've been taking them to restaurants since they were quite tiny and in infant car seats. I think doing so got them acquainted with the noise and "hum" of restauarants and has helped somewhat to acclimate them.

We've taken them to many New Jersey diners, some Mexican places near us, some good pizza places in Trenton and some Asian restaurants (menu items like noodles, rices and dumplings are well suited to toddler palates), as simple as our local, casual Tiger Noodles in Princeton--a terrific restaurant by any measurement--- to Vietnam in Chinatown, Ha Long Bay in Bryn Mawr and Susanna Foo Gourmet Kitchen in Radnor. In the latter two places, they had a meltdown, as they looked for familar Asian faces from Tiger Noodles and didnt find them. We were quick to pick them up and walk them around, and that calmed things down, but did nothing to aleviate the embarassment of their parents. Some restaurants have staffs that quickly surround and welcome the kids, and that always helps, such as Tiger Noodles and Vietnam. But others, like Ha Long Bay and Susanna Foo, well, that just didnt happen, and the staff (with the exception of Foo herself at her place; she was exceptionally sweet and playful with the twins) seemed uncomfortable with the prescence of the kids. We have also taken them for lunch to Amada and Mantra in Center City, breakfast at Meridith's in Berwyn ( a review visit no less, detailed coincidentally in the May issue of MAINLINE Magazine) and dinner at Fleming's Steak House in Radnor and had a delightful time at each. In each case the staffs at these places were into the kids, engaging them, chatting, flirting, and that made a huge difference. They are places to which I would also not hesitate to return.

I still do think long and hard before taking our twins out to just any restaurant, but, overall, I think we've been very fortunate to have kids who like all kinds of food, are well behaved in most social situations, and are not overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of a restaurant.

And we also have a bag of Cheerios with us at all times; they are the greatest invention of all mankind: a toy , a pacifier and a food all wrapped up in a tiny cereal ring.

Rich Pawlak

 

Reporter, The Trentonian

Feature Writer, INSIDE Magazine
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"In Cerveza et Pizza Veritas"

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Why is this even a discussion? Of course not. Should you park your car in the middle of the street? Should you smoke cigarettes in the dining room? Should you get drunk and bark at the moon?

The standard of respect for others in our society has eroded/was never there to the point where we have to have conversations about whether it's ok to disrupt others. As a simple matter of respect a parent should not bring a screaming child into a nice restaurant, much less scream and yell him/herself in that restaurant.

A 9 month-old screaming child is, by its nature, audibly disturbing to those within earshot. The question for a parent is whether he/she is willing to risk detracting from the experiences of his/her fellow diners. Inevitably this will happen. In my opinion it is selfish and disrespectful to others to knowingly engage in disruptive behavior while in the company of others. There are basic social agreements we make in fine restaurants that include not intentionally disrupting others' enjoyment. A screaming child will invariably violate this standard much like a cigarette smoker would at the adjacent table.

The babysitter was designed for exactly this purpose; getting one isn't always easy but such is parenting. Others should not be made to suffer for one's inconveniences, which is one of the basic agreements we should all make about living civilly.

Edited by Alcibiades (log)
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A 9 month-old screaming child is, by its nature, audibly disturbing to those within earshot.

Yeah, but you're begging the question here. No one is going to disagree with you that a *screaming* 9 month old child is a disruption that should not be visited on other diners. But not all babies are the same. And not all parents are the same either. Letting the kid sit and cry his/her heart out is obviously wrong, but that's not what most people do.

I dine out with a couple with a 1 year old relatively frequently. The kid is an excellent resta-baby: quiet, easily occupied and pacified. If the baby is going to be present, that's certainly something we take into consideration when picking a restaurant. And if the baby starts to fuss, one or the other parent takes the baby outside immediately.

We ended up stuck bringing the baby to brunch at LaCroix a while back (a place that would normally be off limits, but the baby-sitter cancelled). She didn't make a peep, and was the most popular person in the dining room amongst the older ladies in attendance.

The funny thing is, you still get looks from people no matter how the kid behaves. People are just ITCHING to be irritated by a baby. If you ask me, I've had a lot of restaurant table neighbors (for lack of a better term) that I would have traded for a crying baby in a heartbeat. As long as the parents are attentive, the kid is docile and the restaurant isn't completely inappropriate, I don't have any problem with it. I can deal with the occasional baby flare-up a lot easier than a table full of 40 something women opening sex toys and cackling at the top of their lungs. And yes, I have experienced both.

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In response to the original question, a good analogy would be would you serve someone who came into a bar already completely shitfaced? You know it could turn out to be a bad situation, right? Same thing with an already screaming baby. Babies and drunks can be an awful lot alike, as I'm sure we all know.

The analogy holds across the board. If a guy walks into a bar sober and has too much to drink, he gets cut off. If a baby comes into a restaurant sleeping but wakes up in the middle of dinner and starts wailing, then the parents should at least walk the kid outside.

If a guy goes to a bar, has some drinks, has a good time and handles himself well, then he can stay as long as he wants. Same thing with a kid. Long story short, a kid is a customer too. If they get disruptive, then they should be asked to leave, just like anyone else.

I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer...

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I just clicked on this thread to see what a multi-belled restaurant was. I still don't know. :raz:

The Philadelphia Inquirer's food critic gives out bells (Liberty Bells) instead of stars. So a multi-belled restaurant is a well-reviewed one.

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I just clicked on this thread to see what a multi-belled restaurant was. I still don't know. :raz:

The Philadelphia Inquirer's food critic gives out bells (Liberty Bells) instead of stars. So a multi-belled restaurant is a well-reviewed one.

And now I know, and knowing is half of the battle. :biggrin:

Chicks dig wheelguns.

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I am on both sides with this conversation. I think it falls mostly on the parents and having respect for the people around them. My wife had a I went to dinner on Sunday at Bar Ferdinand. Our son was born on our anniversary so we decided to go out as a family. We get there and the hostess tells me they have no highchair. Most families would leave at that point, we didn't. Having a 1 year old, owning your own restaurant, and don't forget being married, going out to eat is sometimes impossible. That being said my son sat on my lap and enjoyed everything that was brought out, even the apple foam. I will not cheat my son of these experiences. If my son was out of line we would exit the restaurant in a flash and try not to disturb the other patrons. Most parents don't get up and excuss themselves. That's wrong!

On a side note: What a great restaurant. I think we tried everything on the menu except dessert.

<span style='color:red'><i>Todd Lean

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In response to the original question, a good analogy would be would you serve someone who came into a bar already completely shitfaced?  You know it could turn out to be a bad situation, right?  Same thing with an already screaming baby. Babies and drunks can be an awful lot alike, as I'm sure we all know.

The analogy holds across the board. If a guy walks into a bar sober and has too much to drink, he gets cut off.  If a baby comes into a restaurant sleeping but wakes up in the middle of dinner and starts wailing, then the parents should at least walk the kid outside.

If a guy goes to a bar, has some drinks, has a good time and handles himself well, then he can stay as long as he wants. Same thing with a kid. Long story short, a kid is a customer too. If they get disruptive, then they should be asked to leave, just like anyone else.

Well said Tim!

Babies can be loud even when not screaming, but I think a happily chirping and happily squealing baby has a right to be so in a noisy restaurant where the adults are doing the same. There is a difference between a quiet restaurant and a boisterous restaurant.

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Babies can be loud even when not screaming, but I think a happily chirping and happily squealing baby has a right to be so in a noisy restaurant where the adults are doing the same.  There is a difference between a quiet restaurant and a boisterous restaurant.

I should have chosen that adjective more precisely. The baby at Tinto was shrieking.

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There are many baby and child intolerant people in this world.  I guess they dont remember their own beginnings.  Sometimes I think people are hypervigilant about noise from a baby or child, but would never angrily confront adults making lots of noise in a restaurant.  For example a large party getting a little drunk in a nice restaurant or the guy sitting next to us one meal at a small restaurant loudly discussing his prostate continuously.  My husband and I are still relieved when we hear a baby making noise in a restaurant because it isnt our kid! :wink:

So now to the question.  Should a restaurant agree to seat a couple with a squealing 9 month old?  I think if they do not set a minimum age for their diners they probably should seat the family. 

There was an article in the NY times this weekend about a British couple who left their young children in their hotel room in Portugal while they dined close by, and one of their children was kidnapped.  The article was about parenting mores in different cultures and how in Spain and Portugal parents bring their young children out to restaurants and bars as a matter of course and that this is expected and accepted by the restaurants as well as the other diners.

Wow. Talk about pitching into my wheelhouse. In order, then:

- I do confront inappropriately noisy adults, but then I seem to be comfortable with higher levels of confrontation than most people. Wouldn't expect most folks to, and only bring it up to establish my bona fides.

- The equation of "squealing 9 month old" with other patrons only applies if said patrons are prone to screaming fits and the random periodic emission of fecal effluvia.

- I was born and raised in Portugal. Which is why I know that the comparison is specious. The overwhelming majority of "dining out" in the Old Country does not fit the American notion of "fine dining". If anything, it's closer in ambiance to a coffee shop, rowdy, smoky, loud and extremely casual. In my experience, fine dining establishments did exist. They were convenient settings for business dinners, and generally well-oiled money-extracting devices. Not a place anyone would ever take their kids, unless they could also afford to take the nurse, the nanny and a laundry staff.

The other difference, though (and I'm probably about to raise some hackles) is that babies are much, much less likely to misbehave in Lisbon than they are in Philadelphia. Make of that what you will.

Except for Max, of course.

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Growing up, my parents definitely went the babysitter route until they thought we were old enough to behave... BUT, I would argue that was also a time when eating out was much more of a special occasion than it is these days.

The refrain in my household, when one did an inappropriate thing at the dinner table was, "she's not ready for Jack's." (My family's definition of upscale dining, a downtown Albany old school establishment). Man, when I was "ready for Jack's"... that was a big thing for me and I was prepared to act like a grown-up.

These days, not only is dining out a regular thing... it's also the age of "attachment parenting" and "helicopter parents." (That's right, I watch the Today Show) The Tinto scenario is symptomatic of a bigger issue. My parents would leave me with the first 15 year-old that agreed to give up her Friday night. And, they would probably be the first to say I turned out okay.

I'm all for giving kids an experience to remember... but really, a 9 month-old? Will he remember anything more than hearing the stories of the time Daddy had to walk up and down 20th street with him as a shreiking baby? Give yourself a night off!

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"Yeah, but you're begging the question here. No one is going to disagree with you that a *screaming* 9 month old child is a disruption that should not be visited on other diners. But not all babies are the same. And not all parents are the same either. Letting the kid sit and cry his/her heart out is obviously wrong, but that's not what most people do."

HD,

I'm not begging the question. Klein's initial scenario was a 9 month-old "shrieking baby." To extend that scenario by discussing well-behaved babies is to extrapolate outside the bounds of the original poster's conditions.

Edited by Alcibiades (log)
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Should a restaurant allow a couple to slide out a chair, clip a boster seat to the wooden table, and plop a squealing 9-month-old down to join them -- and the rest of a small, crowded dining room -- for dinner? Let's say, for this exercise, that the restaurant is Tinto. Discuss.

Sorry I am being harsh Michael.

But responding specifically to your query, there is no discussion on the finer points of taking babies to tiny intimate or finer-dining restaurants.

The answer is simply no.

Get a freaking babysitter.

Not to generalise but parents with new babies tend to have this absurd sense of entitlement to infringe on the dining experiences of other patrons just because they had a baby.

We did not choose to have a baby, they did and thus there is no reason for us to be subjected to thier shrieking kid.

If you can afford Tinto's prices, you can get a baby sitter.

I would ask the manager to move them, or move me or I leave.

I would put up with it if I chose to eat at chuck e cheese's.

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If either of our twins even began to meltdown, we'd have them up and out of their high chairs in seconds. If they were even remotely fussy, we'd never enter the restaurant.

Rich Pawlak

 

Reporter, The Trentonian

Feature Writer, INSIDE Magazine
Food Writer At Large

MY BLOG: THE OMNIVORE

"In Cerveza et Pizza Veritas"

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As an uncle of twins who will be 2 this summer I get to uniquly see two sides of the coin and the bottom line is I think it falls to the parents of the child. My niece and nephew are in general great dinning out babies as they generally have a happy disposition and can be easily entertained. But the reality is when we plan to go out their parents make sure they get appropriate naps and we select places that we will be in and out of in about 75 minutes or less.

No matter how good a baby is, going over an hour is risking problems. There is only so much you can do and or bring with you to keep them entertained in a seat for over 1 hour.

Babies will get cranky without a nap no matter what, and all parents are aware of this. When I see a couple who has clearly been touring or shopping all afternoon come into any restaurant with a baby, you just know it is going to be bad. My opinion is that any parent who brings their child to a multibelled restaurant without preperation is just a self centered jerk, and they are going to do what they want no matter what.

As Rich has pointed out, if his kids ( who were too cute and very well behaved when I met them) act up then they take quick action to avoid a scene. I think that is an example of an attentive parent taking appropriate action.

Clearly if it got to the point of a screaming 9 month old in Tinto, you were dealing with parents who just do not give a damn and are going to act in a self centered way no matter what. All reason is gone from their behavior, so there is no sense expecting anything more, thus it becomes up to the establishment to take action.

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Babies can be loud even when not screaming, but I think a happily chirping and happily squealing baby has a right to be so in a noisy restaurant where the adults are doing the same.  There is a difference between a quiet restaurant and a boisterous restaurant.

I should have chosen that adjective more precisely. The baby at Tinto was shrieking.

I am almost loathe to mention this, but are we certain it wasn't Chef Garces new baby in the restaurant? He and his wife had a son not too long ago, so it's possible the baby was "staff", so to speak. :unsure:

Katie M. Loeb
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Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

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am almost loathe to mention this, but are we certain it wasn't Chef Garces new baby in the restaurant? He and his wife had a son not too long ago, so it's possible the baby was "staff", so to speak. 

Katie, that would actually be worse, it's one thing if a restaurant allows a couple with a baby thats loud. If the owners consciously allow their own baby to be screaming among diners coughing up high $$$$$$, they should be comping your meals. I seriously doubt Garces would do that.

Here is more on the story......

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/ask/michael_klein

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