Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Babies and fine dining: What could go wrong?

Social media controversy of the moment, re: restaurants: Should people be allowed to bring babies to fine-dining restaurants?
A couple's babysitter cancelled at the last moment Saturday night, or so the story is going, and the two decided to bring their 8-month-old to their dinner at uber-fine-dining Alinea in Chicago, where chef Grant Achatz dishes up internationally renowned creative fare -- and the prices are equally impressive.
You can guess the rest: Baby cries. And cries. And CRIES. Achatz, appearing on "Good Morning America" Tuesday morning, says he could hear it in the kitchen.
He doesn't ask them to leave, but he does tweet:

He later tweets:

Twittersphere, and accompanying media go berserk, including the creation of a hilarious @Alineababy on Twitter. (Thanks to colleague Kathleen Purvis for waking me to the baby.)

My only question: What's the question? There IS no question. No sitter, no meal at a nice place. Period.

Disagree? Help me understand you...


Kellie said...

Totally agree, Helen. If there's no kids menu, don't bring your kids. And if I'm paying $250+ just to get on the waiting list (like at Alinea), I'm expecting a calm, peaceful, grown-up experience. I'm sorry their sitter canceled, but you make sacrifices when you're a parent. I also can't imagine they found it enjoyable to be there with a crying baby, so it doesn't even seem worth it to the parents.

Elizabeth in Belmont said...

I totally agree. Fine dining is not just a meal...it is an experience. That experience should not be ruined or interrupted by several things including ringing phones, drunken patrons, or crying babies.

Michael Snyder said...

My kids are in their 20's now. When they were babies we would bring them to family establishments (ie: Olive Garden/McAllister's, etc). We would not bring a baby into a fine dining establishment. Should there be a rule against it? No. But a little common sense rules here. If you can't get a babysitter you probably should stay at home.

Anonymous said...

Fine dining-- heck I am tired of the kids experience when I am any restaurants. My kids are all grown up and on their own- but they were never allowed to make carry on at the lengths that today's parents permit, and then act like they are entitled to inflict their kids on the public at large. Here's a simple rule, if your child can't walk into a restaurant under their own power, or must be TAKEN to the bathroom then they need to be at home. Spend the money get a sitter - thats part of having children- but please, please stop bringing your yelling, screaming, simply not taught how to act in public kids out of restaurants.

Willy Loman said...

Did the parents have a good time? If so, they need to be spayed and neutered. Also, this kid needs to be taken away from them.

Anonymous said...

I agree! Especialy with Anonymous - it's totally anoying anywhere where you have a screaming child. When I go out to treat myself I want to enjoy the experience, not listen to screaming brats!

Anonymous said...

My wife & I have two childen (almost 3 yr old and a two month old), so this topic always interests me. We have NEVER taken our childen to a fine dining establishment - we save that experience for when we have a sitter and can have a wonderful adult date night out without the kids.

We do take our childen with us to casual dining restaurants with kids menus, because we feel it is important to teach our childen how to behave in public. We've been lucky so far that we've had very few problems taking them out, and if the baby cries, one of us takes him outside until he is settled down.

We remember how annoyed we felt at bratty children before we had kids, and we do our best to make sure we don't ruin anyone else's dining experience. We just feel it's common courtesy.

That being said, I really wouldn't mind if a restaurant made "No Kids" a formal policy, especially a high-end formal dining establishment. It helps everyone to know that this is a place for adults to enjoy their dinner without screaming, running, throwing, or the random crayon landing on their table. We'd be sure to frequent that sort of restaurant on nights when we've got a babysitter!

Anonymous said...

There used to be smoking and non-smoking sections in restaurants, I'm all for creating kids and no-kids sections. Well behaved children are not a problem, but they seem to be the exception these days.

Anonymous said...

What about no kids at the Bar. That should be 21 and over. I'm tiered of people waiting for their tables with 3 kids at the bar. It just doesn't seem right.

Chris said...

As a parent of a 2.5 yo and a 5 mo, we don't even take them to regular restaurants.

I don't have the patience to deal w/ my kids when I'm at a restaurant. When I go out, I want to enjoy my dinner, not constantly worry about my kids.

We've taken our kids out -maybe 4 times. I don't know how some parents do it. They just zone their kids out and let them go bananas.

One time our 2 yo pitched a fit at Paco's Taco right after we ordered our meal. I took him to the car and the wife got our meal togo.

Now we do takeout. My friends tell me not to worry what others think, but I don't want to be that family at the restaurant with the screaming kid.

Anonymous said...

So here is my two cents on the topic, feel free to disagree (disclaimer: I have a toddler that we have been taking to restaurants since he was an infant)- fine to take the child, BUT if he/she cries, screams, fusses, or otherwise becomes a nuisance to others, cut your losses and go. Fine-dining or otherwise, it is never okay to allow YOUR crying, screaming, etc. child to encroach on the dining enjoyment of others.

We have only once had to pack it up and go (at a mid-range restaurant that is considered somewhat family friendly), and that was more due to an untimely mild diaper blowout and a failure to ensure a second pair of clothes made it into the diaper bag. Rookie mistake. Our toddler knows how to behave at a restaurant (and in general most of the time). If he didn't behave, we would leave.

It is possible to teach a child how to behave at a restaurant (granted 8-mos it's not so much a taught behavior), but if said child has a meltdown, do the right thing and remove the child (and yourselves) from the situation. No debating. Go home.

James Edgar said...

I like peace and quiet as much as (if not more than) anyone else, but there are a couple of factors thus far unexplored in this specific discussion:

1) When was the "last minute" cancellation? If it was less than an hour before the sitter was to arrive, I understand why the parents decided to go anyway. They had probably been on the waiting list for a reservation for months, and just didn't want to wait until 2015 to dine there. I understand that.

2) This was an 8-month-old, not a 5-year-old. An 8-month-old has no concept of the surroundings. It's not as if an 8-month-old can say, "yeah, I heard you say be quiet, but I'm not gonna!" It is uncanny how infants this age manage to howl in quiet restaurants instead of the McDonald's playground, during communion at church instead of during the singing, etc. But it's not intentional, not at that age.

Not sure what actions the parents took, such as taking the baby to the bathroom or outside to try to calm the baby down, or if they were outwardly displaying any remorse for the baby's howls. I'm inclined to give the parents a Clinton pardon on this one. If they do it again, no pardon. But this one time, cut them some slack.

Maryanne Sweat said...

I think it depends on the "dining out" policy of the parents. We used to take our son out to nice places when he was a baby. I would order a veggie side for him and grind it in a hand babyfood grinder when he was old enough for that sort of thing.

When he was younger, we'd have bottles in case he was hungry.

but most importantly, if he started crying and could not be comforted quickly and I MEAN FAST. One of us would evacuate the restaurant with the baby and all the gear while the other flagged a waiter down and paid for the meal.

It meant from time to time that we had to bail on a wonderful meal midstream. BUT that's the price you pay as a parent.

DO NOT subject strangers to your child's tantrum.

Now my son is 12 and quite the foodie. We took him to this REALLY nice place a few weeks ago and found out later that the waitstaff and the kitchen were impresed that a 12 yr old was ordering the braised rabbit and a arugula/goat cheese salad.

He eats well and has a refined palette.

Anonymous said...

Maryanne--- great story- and you have the right idea- my parents did the same with me- although they did not find it as funny as my grandmother when I asked for a salad fork at the age of 4--- as I grew up I appreciated the time my parents took to teach me about 'grown up' places, and in my early jobs the things I learned early on helped me navigate the menus of fine dining establishments.

Anonymous said...

I agree with not taking kids to nice restaurants bc normally they have no idea yet how to act until about age 2 or 3 (I have two young boys myself), casual kid friendly restaurants are just fine and help them understand how they should be acting in public. But please don't call any 8 month old a brat...at that age, they usually don't know better..

Kim said...

I absolutely agree. It just isn't fair to other diners. If a restaurant does not have a kid's menu, suffice it to say they don't cater to children. Now if you have perfectly behaved OLDER children who are happy to eat grown up food & behave well - then by all means, bring them.

Keia Mastrianni said...

If you're paying that kind of money, I don't think it's fair to compromise your own dining situation or that of other diners. Wouldn't people dining at Alinea be privy to that kind of common courtesy? Hopefully they tipped well.