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Fine(er) dining but family-friendly?


RebeccaT
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My father-in-law will be marking his 70th birthday this weekend. A big milestone by any measure, one that my husband and I wanted to celebrate in fine style. We had considered many of the usual suspects in Houston - Mark's, Cafe Annie, Brennan's...

The good news is that it's looking like my brother-in-law and his family may be able to come in from Baton Rouge and join us. However, this makes places like Mark's seem a little, well, inappropriate, since his children are 9 and 3 years old. These are not children who have had much exposure to dining out in nicer establishments.

Does anyone have any ideas for where we could go to celebrate FIL's big day, but still include the whole family? Or is this asking too much?

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Wow, that's a tough one, fine dining with kids. I guess it depends on the kids and how upscale you want. If they are well behaved, maybe Brennan's. I have seen children there with their parents. Rio Ranch is considered kid friendly, although I don't know if that counts for your desired level of dining. Maybe an Italian restaurant that serves family style dishes -- Bupa di Beppo? Or maybe a steakhouse -- Sullivans? (Is San Francisco Steakhouse open, and is it any good?) The typical places you will see suggested are Lupe Tortillas and the Swinging Door, but those don't seem upscale enough. You also might consider going during the day.

About a year ago, there was a big to do in Whining and Dining about taking children to nice restaurants. It arose from a complaint from someone about an experience at a The Stables where the parents did not control their children. One woman wrote in saying that she was appalled by the comments because she liked taking her 1 year old to nice restaurants to expand her pallet. Huh?! :blink: My sense of the consensus was kids are fine as long as they behave themselves.

Good luck. Let us know what you decide.

"As far as I'm concerned, bacon comes from a magical, happy place" Frank, John Doe

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The tough one will be the 3 year old. I don't think experience makes much difference at that age. Even though I was a pretty tough mom when mine were young, especially behavior in public, I wouldn't have even tried to take a 3 year old to anything beyond Chuckee Cheese. (And I drew the line at that!) They just aren't old enough to reason with, especially when cranky, and they are old enough to really raise a ruckus. Even my daughter, who was a quiet but precocious child, was only good for about an hour and a half at a "real" restaurant. My son, on the other hand, should have been locked in a freezer until he got to about 8. :laugh:

The 9 year old will probably be fine if he isn't a hellion. At that age, your only cue is the kid's general sense of manners.

Maybe get a sitter for the 3 year old. Rio Ranch sounds like a good option. Great atmosphere and the food is certainly ok. (Just don't order the CFS. Bleh.) Going for lunch on a weekend is certainly an idea. Perhaps they have a Sunday brunch. Those usually attract more families. It may even work with the 3 year old. You could call them and ask.

Actually, any place you choose, calling for advice is always a good idea. But please preface your inquiry with something like "Please be candid. If this is not a good idea, I will certainly be back without the kids." so they don't feel that they have to lie to you or miss some business.

It may take some doing but remember, a nice dinner in an appropriate place will trump a tense and/or embarrassing experience at a Cafe Annie any time.

Rio Ranch

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Thank you both for your ideas. When the kids were introduced to the mix, we knew right away that a true "fine dining" experience was out. We just want to find a way to celebrate and do something a little more out of the ordinary.

I actually think that my FIL will be more pleased that he gets to celebrate his birthday with his grandchildren than he would be at a really nice restaurant. :smile:

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I just had an idea. Last Sunday, my sister and a friend of ours had lunch at Felix's on Westheimer. It is THE historic Tex-Mex place in Houston. There were lots of families there. The food is good and the atmosphere is friendly. Ask for one of Carlos's tables. He has been there for 30 years. It isn't "fine dining" but you will have a good time and it will be "special" because of the history. Felix's was included in Robb Walsh's book.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Maybe you could call Quattro in the 4 seasons and see if you can get a private dinning room. I'm sure they would prefer to have a wine drinking group in the "wine" room but if I remember they have a couple private/semi private rooms. As a bonus you will get GREAT food at the four seasons along with great service.

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