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Little People, Big Restaurants

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Christina Montoya Fiedler: Just when people thought New York was "anti-parent" for banning babies at bars, a whole new breed of five-star restaurants are catering not only to foodie parents, but to their pint-sized gourmets as well.

This trend, highlighted in a recent New York Times article, is causing quite a stir and has parents divided -- those who welcome children in their favorite upper-echelon establishments vs. those who got a sitter for a reason and want a REAL date night.

baby in a restaurant

As a first-time mom, I've been on both sides of the debate. Starved for a good meal and a night out in our Los Angeles suburb, we hit the town with our 4-month-old in tow and headed to a much-talked-about, hipster-studded Italian restaurant. Our little one was asleep -- or so we thought.

His eyes shot open as soon as we crossed the threshold. We spent the entire meal taking turns holding a fussy baby, and the stares were enough to make us pack up the rest of our meal to go. Never again. Not only was the experience "memorable" for anyone sitting within a five-foot radius of us, but it was downright miserable for my husband and me. We have not been back there since, and our son is almost 2.

Now when I'm out with my husband at a nice restaurant, I try to savor our time alone, to talk about things other than the banal day-to-day life of housework and chores. It's "us" time to reconnect. After all, we're paying that babysitter good money to watch our little guy, and when we hear a baby squeal in the corner, we can't help but wonder why those parents didn't do the same. Perhaps this is their first venture out, and once will be enough for them -- as it was for us.

Moms, what do you think? Do babies have a place in swanky restaurants?

next: Are Fathers Focused on Family More Attractive?
7 comments so far | Post a comment now
kpaige May 20, 2010, 9:04 AM

I think trying to take your baby out to a nice dinner is just fine, if you know that if the baby starts fussing and becoming a distraction to others, then its time to leave. I have worked in the high end food industry (in the Hampton’s) for years, and the disasters parents let their children make can be appalling! Some let the scream until we have to ask them to calm the child down outside, some let the run around the restaurant and talk to other tables, and some just let their children throw food across the place. Its so disgusting to me.

Anonymous May 20, 2010, 11:29 AM

We’ve taken our child to numerous restaurant, grant it, nothing too swanky, and really haven’t had a problem, but we’ve been lucky. I can’t help but wonder why these places, especially really nice places that will accomedate small children, don’t make a seperate area for families. That way those who are child free can enjoy their food and those with kids don’t have to worry about bothering other patrons. I understand the cost factor, but I can’t help but think it’s an idea. I have been to a red lobster where kids were acting up, their parents would correct them, but that only settled them down a little. I feel for parents who’s kids make a scene, but I’m also annoyed with those who do nothing about it.

kim May 20, 2010, 1:21 PM

I think it would depend on the kid. I know when my daughter was very small I could take her anywhere and she would just sit as happy as could be. Until she turned three and then it was like a switch, the only place she goes with me to eat has a red haired clown as its patron saint, (Which in all actuallity she only gets once every few months). Until I know she can behave herself at a restraunt again I will not make other people who go out to eat put up with Temper tantrums. Maybe when her terrible three’s (I always thought 2’s were bad) are over we will try out somewhere small, until then she is grandmaing it.

Charlene May 20, 2010, 1:34 PM

I don’t have children so I never had to decide if I was going to take a child to an upscale restaurant but I can tell you, that it is very disturbing to me when parents bring their children to a restaurant and allow them to run wild or scream and cry through the whole meal. Many times, I have gotten up and walked out of a place because of screaming children. And I won’t pay the bill at these restaurants either. I believe it is the restaurant’s job to ask patrons who are disturbing others to leave. If they won’t, I refuse to pay for a meal I ate while a child screamed or misbehaved as the parent looks on, apparently unconcerned.

Danielle May 20, 2010, 1:58 PM

My kids love food. Give them gourmet food and they are your best friend. They would be good in any restaurant setting as long as they are allowed to eat….even without crayons etc.

Liz May 21, 2010, 7:55 AM

We always took our children out with us. They never were allowed to run around in the restaurants. They also learned to eat nice food in nice places. They knew to dress well at the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island, meant that they were complemented on being a nice little gentleman (11 years old) and a Lovely little Lady (8 years old). They loved the food, and yes we never had a sitter for the kids. We worked 5 days a week and i felt that, that was enough time spent with out us. And at 21 and 18 if proved the way to go with us. They both know how to act and dress for where they are going. They have become fine adults and were great kids. They knew that at Breakfast with Santa, you did not pick up your sausage with your hands (you used you fork and knife). They only learn when taught and we chose to be the ones to teach them proper maners.

tennmom May 22, 2010, 5:29 PM

I was just lucky, I guess. Even as infants and toddlers my daughers were generally calm in stores and restaurants. They either snoozed or sat there looking around. They were calm even when servers wanted to touch the wild, crazy thick hair they were born with.
Each child is different.

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