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Babies/Children in Restaurants (merged topic)


Mark Sommelier
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It really depends on how badly high end restaurants want to cater to patrons with small children, here are a couple of examples of how other businesses deal with the problem:

1) A local movie theatre near where I live have a special viewing room called the "Crying Room". It is for people who bring small children who may not be able to sit through a movie quietly.

2) A Japanese restaurant in Richmond, BC has a special kids play room inside the restaurant with indoor slides, toys, video, etc. Unfortunately, one of the parents must be there to supervise, but at least the children will not bother other dining patrons.

I think it's fine for a restaurant to make it's own rules about what type of dining establishment it wants to be - then it's up to me whether or not I want to patronize them.

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  • 2 months later...

as the proud parent of a 3 and a 6 year old (i have pictures if you'd like to see them), we have been taking them to dinner at high end places since they were, well, one month old, now that I think about it. We've only ever left once because the kids were misbehaving.

My parents started taking me to the good places when I was about 3. You have to start somewhere, or there will be no folks to go to them in a generation or two.

I've had more meals spoiled by obnoxious adults than by kids, and nobody kicked them out.

At least kids don't get drunk and disorderly.

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Ironically enough, it seems that we need this policy more in the US than in Europe.  European children are for the most part quieter and better behaved than in the US.

I've never observed a problem with children in a French restaurant. Sunday lunch in the provences is traditionally a family affair at which you regularly see three generations, or even four.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Actually, to add a serious comment -- I find it odd that restaurant hostesses and servers seem oddly annoyed when I ask to be seated AWAY from children!

I was taken to high-end restaurants when I was little but I recall being awed by the experience and therefore respectful of others. But in those cases when there ARE children, I, as a diner, don't expect to have to put up with their noise and antics if the parents are minding them.

The night before V-Day, Shawn and I dined at Napa's Bistro Don Giovanni. In the booth behind us were two 10-something kids who were THROWING plates! I don't blame the children, I blame the parents. But if I have specifically asked to be as far as possible from these creatures, why should a restaurant be so resentful?

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It goes without saying that the parents are the problem. My husband is always fond of saying that it is cruel to spoil children or pets; you end up with a child or animal that neither you nor others want to be around.

I don't mind well-behaved children, but if some obnoxious kid is screaming in a restaurant I don't care if it's the kid's fault or the parent's fault. I just want it dealt with. And I'm sorry if parents of well-behaved children feel me tense up when they enter a restaurant, but I don't know if their child is good or not. If I had been bitten by a dog, would a dog owner really expect me to first assume their dog doesn't bite as opposed to the other way around?

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Last week we had dinner at a very nice restaurant with the kids. This was our first outing with the baby (he's 7 months). Because he is teething he makes a lot of weird noises from time to time- not screaming mind you, just noise, you know. Well, I wanted to leave right away because the table next to us was full with what looked like a business meeting and I never want to annoy anyone but Mr. Toasted walked him around, gave him a chewy thing and the baby was fine. We had a great dinner, the 7 and 9 year old kids were wonderfully behaved and we even had a bottle of wine! As we were leaving the people at the next table stopped us and told us how much they enjoyed watching our family have dinner together. One of the women said that it's a shame more parents don't bring their children to nice restaurants anymore. I almost cried right there. Here I was feeling all this anxiety and people were actually enjoying us! It was a good night.

Melissa

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I remember going out to Red Lobster once when I was a kid. I must have been about nine years old at the time.

I had ordered some lobster thing. The piece I tried to put into my mouth was soooo big, my mom was shocked. (She might have been embarassed as well. :sad: ) It was about another two or three years before I was able to go out again because of that episode. I don't remember going to any high end places until well into my teens.

So, as you can see, it's not always the parent who's at fault. My mom raised me to be well behaved as best she can, and I think I turned out all right. It's just that when I was growing up, I was at times "a little monster". :blink:

Soba

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I confess to being a little mistified by this thread in the sense that, in five years of working in restaurants and many years of eating at them, I have a hard time recalling any egregious child-related incidents. Admittedly, I live in downtown DC, where there are relatively fewer children, but I still have a hard time seeing the obnoxious child thing as an epidemic problem, as opposed to a series of irritating anecdotes. On the whole, it appears more likely that my dinner will be ruined by overcooked veal or maladroit service, than by monstrous tykes.

There was incident, with an ill mannered French child. Some extended family or another trying to have linch on the terasse at a nice restaurant near Gigondas. Towards the end of the meal the baby began wailing so loud that he almost woke my father up. :laugh: Guess those three hour lunches are tough on those at either end of the spectrum.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Our son Michael Jude was born in November and of course, he's the best little boy in the whole wide world :) We've kept him in for the entire winter fearing fever before the 8 week mark and finally in early February began to take him places. Peter Luger's was his first Big Restaurant. We got there super early for lunch, before anyone else actually, and and he slept like what else...a baby. The waiters and maitre'd said babies were always welcome and for whatever the reason I couldn't believe it. I was so nervous about bringing him to a so-called high end restaurant. I have no prob bringing him to all of our little hole in the wall places in Queens, however I feel uneasy about bringing him to more lavish places in Gotham.

I would of course never let him disrupt a dinner with crying, I'd never nurse him at a table, and would promptly take him outside if he ever got fussy. I think our etiquette would always be excellent and we'd be very sensitive to the other patrons' dining expereinces. I know that dining out is quite a luxury for many people and I would never allow it to be ruined. I'm curious about restaurant's actual policies....My husband and I dined at Daniel in NYC a few Saturdays ago for my 32nd b-day and I was amazed by quite a few adorably-clad, well-behaved toddlers. I would never even have thought to bring a child.

Should one ask about the policy when making a reservation or simply assume babies and young children can be brought anywhere unless otherwise stated. (I personally would always ask...) Is it even legal to bar babies from restaurants? Tell me everything there is to know about babies and dining establishments:) I'm curious about all this stuff as this is a first child and we are accustomed to eating out very often.

Grazie,

Lisa

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I, too, am a new parent (July, '03) and began taking my daughter to restaurants when she was two weeks old. My wife and I both wanted to get her used to (and numb to) the noise, bustle, and commotion of restaurants. It worked like a charm, and little Isabella ate at many fine restaurants in the Washington DC area.

But that's all over now.

This is not parental boasting (well, maybe a little :rolleyes: ) but we have a very happy and well behaved little girl. Almost never cries and can sleep through anything. However, now that she has developed more personality and physical enthusiasm, my wife and I have come to the conclusion that a restaurant, particularly a fine one, is no place for our little girl.

She likes to eat with her hands, grab for spoons, flowers, etc, and tends to spill things on the floor. Even though she does this quietly, it makes us feel uncomfortable and alters our enjoyment of the evening. I'm sure that this also has an effect on other customers in the vicinity.

So we have decided to take a year-long hiatus from her dining education. I have seen numerous examples of "bad" children in nice restaurants. I really think that, as a parent, you need to know what type of environment your child will flourish in.

My daughter cannot handle tableclothes (in the mouth), silverware (in the mouth), plates (in the mouth), flowers (in the mouth), etc. So we now take her to places where this absolutely will not be an issue. And when she is 2 (?) or 3 (?), we'll give fine dining another shot.

But first she'll have to pass the test of our home dinner table.

Congrats on your baby, isn't it wonderful?!

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From what I've seen recently, let the babies in, but keep out the 20-35 year olds. Especially those of the male persuasion with cell phones. :biggrin::cool:

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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ZenFoodist - You seem to be an exception among parents, being concerned and civil and considerate to others. As a former penguin, I observed that most of the problems are not with infants, but with older children. Frequently, the bigger the kid, the bigger the mess, up until about age 10. As a non-parent, it seems like it's really hard to teach kids good dining manners, because so many parents I've waited on have failed to do so. Somehow, our parents did it!

Clifford - Thank you so much for recognizing your child's age-appropriate behavior and choosing to refrain from taking her to restaurants until she can behave appropriately. As for numbing her to the noise: when a restaurant reaches a certain level of business, a person who is in the restaurant frequently can recognize a sound almost like that of a hum. That hum puts more babies to sleep than I can recall.

To both of you, it is so refreshing to see the courtesy that comes with recognizing that not everyone appreciates children everywhere. While you might have the means to dine out often, the couple in the corner who has saved up for this once a year splurge to an expensive fine dining restaurant (including babysitting costs) is probably not going to be too appreciative of an outburst from a small child whose parents are as oblivious to him as they are to manners.

That said, I do remember a family I waited on whose 5 year old and 8 year old were, literally, perfectly behaved. Little girl had on a ruffly dress with a ribbon in her hair, little boy was dressed in a shirt and tie. I asked the mother how she did it, and she said that the children behaved well because the parents expected them to behave well and set a good example for them. This woman had grown up as the daughter of the dean of a prestigious university, and since her parents had frequent formal dinners, she was expected to attend even though she was a child.

I took this as inspiration for when I have my own kids.

-Angela

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As the dad of a 6 and 3 year old, welcome to the 'hood. Parenthood, that is. swimming pools, movie stars.

No, wait, that's not what I meant to say.

We've taken the boys to fancy-shmancy places since they were born. But we've also never been afraid to leave. And we've only ever left twice. Once when the older one acted up, and once when the younger did. Once they realized that we would leave, there hasn't been another incident. They love going out, and love all the fancy stuff at nice restuarants.

Oh, and if you ever have to leave in the middle of a meal, remember to tip big. It's not the waiter's fault your kid is having a bad night.

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When faced with a noisy child that the parents will not remove, we just call over the waiter and request to be seated elsewhere.

Otherwise we tell the waiter we cannot tolerate the noise, and usually leave without a bill.

High end restaurants know they are making their bucks from people who want a quiet meal.

If they choose to allow children, it is part of the price of doing business.

But hate it when a special meal is spoiled by a loud kid.

If a kid is acting up in a 'posh' restaurant, the fault of him/her remaining there is not the fault of the kid, it is the fault of the parents.

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My kids are now 11 and 14 and have always gone to restaurants. Sometimes fancy ones for special occassions and mostly more casual ones. We generally go out as a family weekly and often more than once. When the kids were at the toddler age, we probably had to be more careful about the type of places we went, the hours we chose to go out, and what distractions or snacks we would bring along to keep the kids entertained while waiting for the main attraction. That said, we always, always left a bigger than normal tip if the staff was especially nice to the kids or if the kids had made a rather large mess. No matter how well behaved they are, toddllers always end up with a lot of crumbs under the table and seat. More recently, I really appreciated the service we got when we went out to celebrate my husbands birthday this past fall. We went to an old, classic steak place with rather large portions. Although the 14 year old is a forever hungry teenager, the restaurant obliged us with splitting a prime rib order for the kids. Nevertheless, each kid received a full serving of all the sides. They got a very nice tip.

Further, as soon as they were verbal enough, I have always allowed -- no required -- my kids to order themselves. While we often discuss their selection first, they have learned how to look the waiter or waitress in the eye, speak up clearly for what they wanted, say "please" and "thank you", and even ask for some variation. My daughter would always get a lot of mileage when she was younger and would explain at some "family type" restaurant that they could make her pink lemonade by putting a little fruit punch or cranberry juice in the bottom of the glass before adding the regular lemonade.

Though one is an adventurous eater and the other one is picky, they both know how to behave (most of the time) in all sorts of restaurants which is often better than many of the adults around us.

So long and thanks for all the fish.
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As the dad of a 6 and 3 year old, welcome to the 'hood. Parenthood, that is. swimming pools, movie stars.

:biggrin: You sound so much like us it's a little scary! Now that our 7 and 9 year old's are able to behave in any restauraunt, we now have an 8 month old who likes to scream, just for the sake of screaming! So, we'll be taking a break from the nicer restaurants for a while and maybe get that "cement pond" we've been talking about. :biggrin:

Melissa

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The other day as we, a party of six adults and one four month old boy, were leaving the restaurant, I overheard the young woman sitting behind me say, "What a wonderful boy." I will agree that my grandson is a wonderful boy, but from the perspective of a fellow diner, it's really nonesense. Her dinner was enjoyable because my daughter had him in the stroller and bundled up at the first silent tell-tale signs of a meltdown and I walked him around the block in freezing weather while my table companions drank up the best wine of the evening. You can be sure I ordered cheaper wine until I was sure he was asleep for the evening, but my point is not so much to pat ourselves on the back, as to say that no kid ever ruined anyone's meal in a restaurant--which is not to say a parent wasn't responsible. It's a heavy burden to take an infant, toddler or kid to a nice restaurant and one shouldn't do it without a willingness to forfeit one's own evening if that's what it takes to save everyone else's.

We got compliments from the owner/manager on the way out too. I said they handled the baby situation very well and that we were going to send all our friends with babies there. He appreciated the humor, but also said they were eager to entertain families. As they're still hot and have great word of mouth publicity resulting in a restaurant packed with both young couples and older uptown diners, I'm not naming names as those parents who know their responsibilities and their children can go almost anywhere anyway.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Reading this thread - I can only wonder who exactly owns the kids I have encountered at restaurants. The babies who cry. The somewhat older children who squirm in their seats - run around the restaurant - leave half of what they're supposed to eat on the floor. You know - I can appreciate it if you think you're being a hero by taking a screaming kid out of a restaurant 3 minutes after he/she starts screaming - but that is frankly enough to ruin part of a romantic evening for me. As for the stuff that winds up on the floor - well I guess the less said about that - the better.

By the way - I don't mind kids at so-called "family restaurants". After all - that is what a family restaurant is for. I reserve my criticism for people who bring small children to fancy restaurants - and expect them to act like adults (more often than not - they don't). Robyn

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Reading this thread - I can only wonder who exactly owns the kids I have encountered at restaurants.

Good question. I wonder what it is encourages or doesn't discourage this. I don't see it happening much in New York. I can think of a lot of reasons for this. The first being that good restaurants here are so expensive, few people are going to risk ruining their own meal. Those same restaurants are going to attract a certain clientele. As a matter of fact, there are so many restaurants in Manhattan that there are enough restaurants to cater to very specific groups and to allow people to choose exactly what sort of upscale place suits them. Families in New York City are not restricted to family restaurants with all the ethnic restaurants around.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I'm pretty well known on this subject, kids are a pain. EVERY reservation is taken with "four?, Adults?", then I lay out the rules. I love nursing moms, feed them anytime anywhere. I have no restraining seats, you must hold the child. You may take them outside. I do not have a special menu. I hope they are happy eating off your plate. There is a outside doghouse with a lease, I've never been sure if the child or the parent should go there first. I've been in business 15 years, if I went out to a table, so far, the child would shut up, or I've asked to hold the child while they ate. It's amassing how smart they are! It's the parents that I question, even my own children will go out with my grandchildren and not pay attention to them. This is not your time, if you have your kids with you, it's time that is meant to be shared. Restaurants are to be enjoyed. I will throw any-person out that changes the atmosphere of pleasant dining, without takeout containers. I found out with a child, Hanna, that was a child of late-year's parents, that throwing an egg on the floor shut her up. I then gave her one and helped her smash it. She had such a delightful giggle. Her parents told me later that they cleaned up a few eggs since then.

Edited by mantee (log)

Carman

Carman's Country Kitchen

11th and Wharton

Philadelphia, PA

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i am a baby of a different type so i'll ask this question here: should adults who are apt to get loud when they have fun also not go to fancy restaurants? what if my idea of a good time and a special occasion clashes with yours?

you don't want to be around me and my boys when we get going. however, most adults know when it's inappropriate to get loud, and also, occasionally, respond to requests from the management to keep it down to a low roar. children, i'm thinking, don't have those capabilities.

but yeah, some adults should clearly not be allowed out in public.

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Dined at a local, BYO Indian restaurant next to a table of two adults and one small child - maybe 3-5 years old. He couldn't sit still and constantly interrupted their conversation. Well, what looked like daddy and a date gave him some beer to drink. He quieted down and eventually slid off his chair under the table! They quickly got him back in his chair, but he had clearly had too much to drink! The adults continued to have their dinner and ignore this poor child. :shock:

KathyM

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