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Continuation from New York's Manhattan Board

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This is a continuation of a topic that began on the Manhattan Board. The thread started with an anecdote about parents bringing their small children to a restaurant in Manhattan (Amarone) and, after being served initially, then being asked to leave because their children were disturbing other diners.

In response to one of my posts on this topic, Yvonne wrote:

"...we're arguing at cross purposes. George, you say "Again, my point is that when I go to an upscale restaurant for an expensive meal, I really don't want it interrupted by very young children." IAPMHO ( i am pulling my hair out-thought i'd add one for the list!)-- amarone, where Michele Cindy went is not an upscale place (whether upscale places should accept infants and children is another matter, and probably should go to General Topics, but we're talking about a specific instance here. we're not talking about whether infants should be allowed into le Bernardin at 10PM). It was 5.30 PM ( i know, i repeat myself but the time of day is pretty important, don't you think?).

"oh, jee where's the acceptance of all things small and large? i've an aversion to kids, but funnily enough i like other people's and i've had some jolly nice meals out in europe and latin america with children present. cultural differences--whole other thread."

Actually, Yvonne, we're not talking about a specific instance here: you are, but I'm not. As I said in my original post on this topic, I wasn't there, so I can't comment. My comments are about the appropriateness of very young children in upscale restaurants at all.

Regarding the time of day, no, I don't think it matters, unless the restaurant has a policy of seating families with very young children before a certain time. If it is inappropriate for an infant to be in an upscale restaurant at 7:30 PM or 9:00 PM, why is it appropriate at 5:30 PM? Simply because there are fewer diners? If I'm one of those diners, I'm paying the same amount as if I were dining at a later hour and I think I'm entitled to the same expectations of a reasonably quiet and private meal.

You say you have an aversion to children but have had some very nice meals with them in other countries. I also have had very nice meals with children present, right her in the United States, but I still react with dismay when a family with infants is seated next to me in an upscale restaurant. Yes, very often the kids are fine. But all too often everyone in the restaurant is in for a "family dinner", whether or not they want it.

I don't think I have an aversion to children in general, but I do have an aversion to the inappropriate behavior of small children in adult settings. I'm not blaming the kids for acting up in restaurants; I'm taking issue with parents who bring six month- or one year-old infants to upscale restaurants and don't make any attempt at controlling the behavior of their kids. It happens so frequently that dismay is my first reaction, as unfortunate as that is.

To quote you, Yvonne, "...where's the acceptance of all things small and large?" All I'm looking for is to have my restaurant meal privately and not have the next table's kids inflicted on me. Isn't that a notion worthy of acceptance?

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  1. George, I think we can all agree that children who misbehave create an annoying situation regardless of the restuarant (except chucky cheese) and the time.
    Two issues remain from you orginal post. First, the jammed up folks at Cafe Luxenburg ruin there meal because they were childish and childless. The potential for a problem that night was much greater from other adult patrons then a sound asleep baby.
    Second, this notion of being able to tell the overtly child friendly restuarants from the not so is just plain silly. With the exception of places like Zoe' who came out in Bon Appetit as child friendly, it is impossible for parents to tell how restuarants will act toward children. My wife and I make it a habit to call ahead. The night we went to Cafe L, management went out of thier way to accomodate us. Calling in advance, they prepared us special table near a sill where we could rest a infant carrier. They keep the formula in the refrigerator. So, your agruement that people getting jammed up is all it takes as evidence to banish kids from restuarant just doesn't make sense.. Restaurants don't hang "child friendly" signs in thier windows the way they might hang "cigar friendly".

    13 Replies
    1. re: Shoeman

      I couldn't agree more. All this child-aversion stuff is strange. A poorly behaved child is different than a well-behaved child. Not all children are uncivilized in a restaurant - a lot of it probably depends on parenting. I bring my infant out with us frequently. He doesn't create scenes and we have always been welcomed by restaurants. We usually don't eat at terribly fancy places and I would find a sitter, as I will this week when we celebrate my birthday at a restaurant. The sight of a child at a restaurant, however, should certainly not send people into convulsions.

      Now on an airplane - that is a different story...

      1. re: Zephyr

        Zephyr, you are absolutely correct when you say "The sight of a child at a restaurant, however, should certainly not send people into convulsions." (I would, however, amend your statement to say "infant" or "toddler" rather than "child". A child could be 10 years old, which to me is a major difference from a six month-old infant or a two year-old toddler.)

        But the fact is that it does, in some situations. You can blame the people who feel that way for feeling that way, but it is a learned behavior. My feelings of dismay from being confronted with infants in what I call inappropriate situations (read: upscale restaurants) are because of my many negative experiences in the past in similar situations.

        Just as you wouldn't want to sit next to me if I were engaged in a bitter and excessively loud argument with my wife, I don't want to sit next to a table that has a loud, crying and disruptive infant or toddler. (Again I hasten to add that if I am in a place where kids and families are welcome, then I have no gripe. But I think parents who bring their very young kids to upscale restaurants place the restaurant in a difficult position and make many adults uncomfortable, including me.)

        1. re: George Lynch

          It has taken me years to get this: as soon as I leave my apartment, I relinquish some control over my environment - especially in public places such as theaters, outside smoky office buildings and, of course, restaurants. I have had many more bad dining experiences with loud, boisterous somewhat drunken diners than with young children. Just the other evening, I was sitting in a garden-style restaurant when a man refused to blow his smelly cigar smoke in another direction.

          Do I like howling children? No, not any more than stogie-puffing men or any other disruption. But to feel so uncomfortable at the sight of children or to say the parents are 'in denial' about their children to me is Silly. Children have a right to be in any restaurant as long as they're moderately well-behaved. If the child starts crying, I notice the mother usually takes them to a separate area away from the table.

          Where does this 'discrimination' end? Next, pompous restaurant managers won't seat you if they don't like your tie, your hat or your haircut. I have a distinct feeling that the manager at Amarone felt the large table of women might stop drinking and ordering food and figured it would be easier to make a stupid remark to the parents.

          Whenever I'm in Chinatown and see a large banquet table of Chinese diners, I notice how well-behaved the children are and how the kids enjoy their food. Let's lighten up - after all, all of us were "Jr. Chowhounds" at some point. -Ruby

          1. re: Ruby

            "Children have a right to be in any restaurant as long as they're moderately well-behaved."

            Yep, Amen.

            1. re: Shoeman

              As someone who lunches daily with a couple hundred of the little varmints, I probably have a high level of tolerance, but I enjoy dining with decently behaved kids a whole lot more than I do boorish grownups.

              At some point in kids little lives they need to begin experiencing public dining in nice places. They need to learn how to eat with flatware (which they don't get at school - one piece only) and take more than the allotted 15 minutes to eat it. (we teachers also need to re-learn eating slowly - I only get 20 minutes for lunch). And they need to realize that the peer expectations in restaurants differ from that in the cafeteria.

              Sometimes we have to be patient with people who are learning new things.

              Betty (who watched a styrofoam bowl of mashed potatoes fly across a room today. The kid was swinging for me and hit a bowl being "traded" instead!)

              1. re: Betty
                j
                Janet A. Zimmerman

                ..."At some point in kids little lives they need to begin experiencing public dining in nice places. They need to learn how to eat with flatware (which they don't get at school - one piece only) and take more than the allotted 15 minutes to eat it."

                Perhaps I'm being naive, but shouldn't they learn this at home? I don't think you can expect anyone to learn appropriate behavior from something that happens only occasionally (e.g., eating at restaurants). If a child can't sit through a meal without whining, use flatware and sit still at home, what makes anyone think he or she can do it at a restaurant?

                1. re: Janet A. Zimmerman

                  Betty wrote "they need to begin experiencing *public*
                  dining in nice places" and I gather she means in addition to the home.

                  After reading some of these posts, I must admit I haven't seen such zero intolerance toward children in a long time. I am more put off by smokers or loud, obnoxious cell phone diners than a child in a restaurant.

                  Actually, I think it's kind of nice that parents take their kid(s) to a decent restaurant instead of McDonald's or Pizza Hut or leaving them with a sitter. Some of my earliest pleasant childhood memories involve food and being taken to a nice restaurant. Why begrudge this to children if they're well-behaved.

                  1. re: Ruby

                    "After reading some of these posts, I must admit I haven't seen such zero intolerance toward children in a long time."

                    Um, I think you meant zero tolerance. In any case, it's pretty obvious by this point that the discussion no longer has anything to do with food, eating, or restaurants and instead has primarily become a nasty lifestyle debate between those with kids and those without (two camps who always seem defensive about each other). I think it's also obvious that nobody's mind is going to be changed by any further discussion, since people are now talking *at* each other, not with each other. Perhaps it's time to table this debate..?

                    1. re: Paul Lukas

                      Thanks for the correction - yes, I meant 'zero tolerance.'

                      I don't get the vibe at all that Chowhound people are talking *at* each other; in fact, IMO both camps raise some thought-provoking points on this issue. If people want to table this debate, I suppose the posts will cease but they continue because children in restaurants seem to press a few hot buttons both ways.

                      I don't consider people with children an "Us against Them" group. Incidentally, I'm in the camp without children but I like them and welcome them in any restaurant as long as they're fairly well-behaved. I've yet to see a parent who hasn't left the table with their child if their child starts to cry. This is more than I can say for nearby boorish diners who incessantly yak on their cell phone, talk over my dinner conversation, etc. I know we've all sat next to way more inconsiderate adults than loud children.

                      1. re: Ruby

                        I'm also one of the tolerant ones in the camp "without children". And it makes me a little crazy (I am not referring to this conversation) when people "with" children assume people without them: a. know nothing about kids and b. don't like kids, c. didn't want kids or d. don't know how to buy them cool presents.

                        I guess my point overall is - let the kids go to nice places. Put up with it, and hope that one day they'll say - "why are we going to chuckecheese all the time? let's go back to that nice place".

                  2. re: Janet A. Zimmerman

                    Perhaps not naive, but no, they often don't learn it at home at all. They don't learn a LOT of things at home. And there are things they Do learn at home I wish they would not.

                    A lot of what we (at school) do has to do with "exposure". We try to give them experiences of various kinds and hope that it adds up to something...like knowing they have access to a larger world than the dark chaos some of them live in every day.

                    Exposure is really important, and not an easy thing, but if we want to have even a slightly civil society, we have to do things that parents are not doing, even if it seems hopeless.

                    I have a student who has pending charges and does court time, etc. I took her to an art museum and rose garden because she met the qualifications for the trip. She behaved beautifully, was completely in awe of all that beauty, and of all the students I have taken there, she's the only one who has ever written me a thank-you note (today - made me cry). Something like that makes it all worthwhile.

                    I hope this makes a little sense. The school year ended a few minutes ago, so it is a miracle I can type.

                1. re: Ruby

                  I agree with you Ruby!

                  Diners that have been so loud as to be disturbing have rarely been families in my experience, but tend to be parties of 6 or more, usually drinking, and single sex groups tend to be louder than mixed for some reason.

          2. Except for the extraordinary case, I think people who bring kids to restaurants other than the most informal of places or places that specifically cater to family groups (Chinatown restaurants or the Two Boots of the world, for example) are in denial.

            Even the most well-behaved kids lose it from time to time. They may go through phases when they conveniently are able to sleep through a meal, or sit still, or whatever, but this is not predictable. MOST kids simply can't moderate their voices, stay neat and not spill or remain in their seats for more than a short period. Spilled drinks, crumbled rolls, jello and chicken skins on the seat and floor, frequent trips to the bathroom or outside to calm down, etc. etc. are all part of the usual experience when little kids are in a restaurant.
            Because they ARE children, going through that developmental stage, there is not very much we can do to moderate this behavior. They are not yet civilized.
            Thus bringing them into what is supposed to be a civilized environment usually does not work. We as parents need to be realistic and responsible where our children our concerned. This means not setting up situations which are likely to be displeasing to fellow restaurant patrons, and extricating ourselves rapidly when our kids become a nuisance.
            None of the above justifies the type of behavior Michele experienced at Amarone, which was neurotic and unpleasant in the extreme.

            6 Replies
            1. re: jen kalb

              "...are in denial" Wow, crazy stuff. I don't deny my son sometimes cry. I've even stood outside and have left restaurants early. BUT, We've NEVER disturb a single patron other then the ones who choose to get upset by his presence. To which I say tough.

              "They are not yet civilized" Again, that seems to be more of an adult problem then a childs. My son is far less likely to present a bad situation then the guy with the unlit cigar dangling from his lip.

              1. re: Shoeman

                "We've NEVER disturb a single patron other then the ones who choose to get upset by his presence. To which I say tough."

                What a lovely attitude. Look, if there's a screaming infant a few feet away from me, I don't *choose* to get upset -- in fact, I have NO choice in the matter except to be upset.

                -- Paul

                1. re: Paul Lukas

                  Paul, You need to read my post more closely. My son has never cried, misbehaved or annoyed any other patrons. In fact, 99% of the time he is asleep or sitting silently on my wife's lap. So, if someone chooses to get upset at his very presense, I repeat TOUGH. Remember, its not my attitude that leading people into this crazy childphobia.
                  It would be like someone sitting in the non smoking section getting upset for seeing a pack of cigarettes sitting ontop of someones purse.

                  1. re: Shoeman

                    I don't really want to get involved in this myself, but just in the interest of fairness, I should point out that the discussion has been somewhat skewed: all the parents who have posted so far just happen to have angelic, perfectly behaved, non-crying children. I think the parents who have uncontrollable feral monsters should be heard from too. So where are you, moms and dads?

                    1. re: Steven Stern

                      Well my baby isn't of course crying all the time, he's almost a toddler now but he is approaching a point that he is asserting himself a lot more and seems to be going through a fit stage, I suppose it can get frustrating but I know it's all part of the course and that if he didn't do these things he wouldn't be normal. Hang in there moms! http://www.naturallymoms.com/member/d...
                      Iliana

                      Link: http://www.naturallymoms.com/member/d...

                      1. re: elsol08

                        This discussion belongs on "Not About Food". This board is for general FOOD topics.

            2. 3 points, although I must declare an interest as a parent of 3, who takes his kids to restaurants.

              1. We pay a lot of money to eat at up market restaurants, so why should there be anything which is annoying allowed on the premises i.e. a 50 year old child paying for a meal for two clients who neither liked the food at the restaurant in question nor wanted anything more than to have money spent on them spoiled a recent celebration. Personally I would take any child over that.

              2. I was in a restaurant recently which accepted a party of 8 mothers and children, without advanced booking. Not only did we have a perfectly nice lunch, so did they. Its not the end of the world.

              3. Go to France or Italy and experience lands where families and children are given proper respect. My eldest once cried in a French restaurant, not only did the proprietor ask us back, he gave us his best table when we returned.

              And another thing, if a place has a adult, child policy i.e. encourages them or at least welcolms ( we would never go anywhere we thought we where not welcolme ) children, you don't have to go there, its not a violation of human rights.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Phil Laurie

                I suspect that you are responding to my statement on this board, which was a lot narrower than my first posting on this topic on the Manhattan Board. Let me begin by asking you to check this thread on the Manhattan Board and read my comments there more carefully.

                If you do you will see that I have taken great pains to say that I have no gripe at all with restaurants that accept and welcome children. I agree fully with your observation that I don't have to go to such a place, and because of that, no complaints from me.

                I also acknowledge that a lot of adults can be as bad or worse than small children in restaurants. However, I don't see that as an argument in favor of parents bringing infants (6 months to 2 years old) to upscale restaurants. I have tried to state all that very clearly.

                I also acknowledge that some cultures (and a lot of American restaurants) have no problem with loads of kids in the dining room. However, I still tell you that when I am in an upscale restaurant and a family with infants is seated near my table, my first reaction is dismay.

                This may be one of the (many) great failings in my life, but it is a fact, and it appears that a number of others feel the same. I think this is so because of the frequent times I have had meals jarringly interrupted by very young children, who, I contend, don't belong in upscale restaurants in the first place.

                1. re: George Lynch

                  I agree, George. We brought up 2 sons and would never even consider taking them to an upscale restaurant..at ANY hour. Children are just naturally energetic and vocal and I don't think it's fair to subject either them or the restaurant clientele to discomfort/restrictions. There are numerous restaurants who make accommodations for children. Even there, I think it is up to parents to discipline their children and teach them how to behave in a restaurant..of ANY caliber. Too often, unfortunately, I see children who are allowed to be bothersome with no restrictions. I wonder what kind of non-thinking adults they will become.

                  1. re: Kit H.
                    c
                    Caitlin Wheeler

                    I am writing not as the parent who did or did not take children to restaurants, but as the child who WAS taken to restaurants. Not all children are energetic and vocal all the time. Children can be taught at an early age that there are times to be quiet and times to be loud (hence the concept of bedtime). As a child, my parents took me out all the time, but they always made sure I had had my nap so I wasn't especially crabby, that I had eaten a decent dinner, and that I WASN'T BORED. Bored children will naturally run around or cry (bored adults probably would too) and my parents always brought my dolls, or my blocks or later my books to restaurants. I think because I was included in "adult" activities at an early age, that allowed me to develop greater maturity and my current chowhoundiness. (When I was five, my parents would take me to restaurants in Paris, where I would order escargots, Duck a l'orange and mousse au chocolat with much aplomb)
                    When I have children, I will take them to restaurants. I am not going to take them to Le Bernardin, or any other very quiet or subdued restaurant, but I won't confine myself to TGI Friday's either. There are several restaurants in Manhattan whose "vibe" is noisy, and if my child starts crying, it shouldn't unduly break the quiet in the short time it takes to get him or her out of the restaurant. If you never want to see my kid in a restaurant, don't go so early. I'll be out of there by the time most people eat normally. And I'll take stuff for the child to play with. I don't think restaurants are or should be an "adult" activity, though they are a well-behaved activity.

                    1. re: Caitlin Wheeler

                      Great post! Excellent perspective.

                      My parents treated us the same way as children, which is why I think I'm such a foodie now.

                  2. re: George Lynch

                    George

                    As one of the people who has disagreed with your original post (at least, as I read it) let me state that I *DO* agree with your narrower position above.

                    Parents should not bring babies to "upscale" restaurants (if by upscale, we mean places where there is quiet, where there are few large groups, and where sitting for a long time is expected).

                    Your original post, as I read it, was more like (and I am paraphrasing) "Children should not be brought to restaurants unless the restaurant explicitly welcomes children".

                    I also agree that, at any restaurant, children who misbehave in ways which would disturb reasonable other patrons should be removed by their parents. I think ADULTS who misbehave in this way should also be removed, but that is harder to arrange, logitistically.

                    My experiences at upscale restaurants don't conform with yours, however. I've eaten in a fair number of upscale places, and I've yet to have a meal disturbed by a baby or toddler (indeed, I've rarely SEEN a baby or toddler in such a place). What restaurants are you calling "upscale"?

                    1. re: George Lynch

                      In the interests of trying to introduce some relative objectivity into this discussion. let me try the following:

                      If the restaurant in question

                      - offers booster seats
                      - or has a kids menu
                      - or provides paper table cloths with crayons on the table

                      then feel free to take your kids of any age.

                      For any retaurant that does not meet some of these criteria (as subsequently modified by ensuing posts), at the very least call ahead and make sure you will be welcomed.

                      If, on the other hand, you can truthfully answer "yes" about the children you are proposing to take to a restaurant to ALL of the following questions, feel free to take them wherever you like:

                      - Does the child use appropriate utensils when eating?
                      - Is the table and floor surrounding the child reasonably clean when they finish eating?
                      - Has it been at least three months since the last "zero to sixty" episode in which the child went from smiles to unconsolable tears in a few seconds?
                      - Does the child know how to modulate their voice and keep it modulated?
                      - Does the child remain at the dinner table at home until the family has finished the meal, or do they need to get up and run around?
                      - Are there things on the resular menu that the child will eat happily - or at least without fuss?

                      I don't think this is strictly a question of age - parents do and should have different theories of child rearing and children therefore reach this point at different times. Our 6 1/2 year old granddaughter is getting there, but has not quite made it -- the three-year old seems light-years away. On the other hand, I was recently at a wedding with a 5 year old who clearly could be taken anywhere of interest to his parents.

                      Of course, you could also apply these criteria to family and friends when deciding whether to invite them to dine out with you!!!!

                      Pat

                  3. "I'm paying the same amount as if I were dining at a later hour and I think I'm entitled"

                    i realize i'm quoting this out of context, but nonetheless it's an attitude that drives me nuts. the family is paying the same as you too, and they think they're entitled to eat wherever they want!

                    this sense of entitlement is really problematic. what exactly entitles you to anything? the fact that you want something? what if a family with small children feels that since they're raising the next generation of adults who will make the money that supports you in your old age they're entitled to eat in restaurants? does their feeling that way make them entitled?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: emily

                      I'd like to say that you are responding to a quote you definitely are taking out of context. You are taking me to task quite diligently for something I didn't quite say. The original quote is: "If I'm one of those diners (an early arriver), I'm paying the same amount as if I were dining at a later hour and I think I'm entitled to the same expectations of a reasonably quiet and private meal (as someone dining later)."

                      All I said was, and I quote myself here: "...I think I'm entitled TO THE SAME EXPECTATIONS..." (caps mine). That's not quite the negative implication you attribute to me.

                      Just like anyone using the word "entitled" drives you nuts, people who attack a partial quote taken out of context drive me nuts.

                    2. George, I've followed this thread as it evolved over the last few days. You've stated your position logically and with great flexibility. While some of the people who are on the other side of the issue have responded in kind, unfortunately there appears to be significant minority who seem to be responding out of emotion and self interest.

                      In short, they choose NOT to hear you. So be it. I think you've taken this discussion as far as it can go.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                        "....unfortunately there appears to be significant minority who seem to be responding out of emotion and self interest."

                        Thanks goodness! I'd hate to participate on a board where people didn't care (emotionless) and didn't offer thier own individual opinion (self interest).

                        1. re: Shoeman

                          Shoeman, I don't object to the emotional content of this discussion. It's the absence of logic that frustrates me. George Lynch has made his points logically and thoughtfully. He leaves plenty of flexibility for "kid friendly" restaurants and other special instances. But some people choose to grossly distort his position and then beat up on a straw man.

                          This discussion isn't about children - it's about adults, and I speak out of experience as the father of 2 grown children. When you have young children your life changes. You no longer have the same level of freedom as before. You constantly have to remain aware of their needs and, if you are considerate, the effect your children have on others. Sometimes those effects are positive - most people like to see a cute baby. At other times those effects are negative - nobody likes to be seated near a screaming infant on a long airplane flight.

                          Tough as those flights are, I deal with it. It's neither the parents' or the babys' fault. Restaurants are different. In that case the parents are saying "I want to go to Restaurant "X" and I choose NOT to get a baby sitter. My little dumpling is a marvel of decorum so anyone who objects is a heartless fool." They believe their desire to have a restaurant meal outweighs my right not to have my meal spoiled by the real possibility that their children will behave badly. (According to them, badly behaved children are some kind of urban legend cooked up by snobby child-phobic adults. What amazes me is the number of posters whose children are all wonderfully behaved. What a coincidence.)

                          Let me sum up. If you want to go to an upscale restaurant, get a sitter. And if you can't get a sitter, rent a video and order a pizza. Being a parent is sometimes inconvenient, but you are being selfish by transferring that inconvenience to others by asking us to take a chance on the behavior of your child.

                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                            For the hell of it, I'll give my take on this:

                            As a single man with no children, my attitude is that I don't care what the ages of the other people in the restaurant are, as long as they behave themselves. I feel the same way at concerts. I'm a musician. I know that it is likely that a baby will cry or scream at some point during most of my performances (at the rest of them, someone will probably have a coughing fit - one hopes it's not me, suffering from allergies at this point). Now, if someone decides to KEEP their child in the hall while s/he continues to cry, scream, or talk incessantly in a normal conversational voice or louder, I get very angry, whether I am a performer or a member of the audience. Why? Because the adults are the ones who are supposed to know better. So let's take the example of a restaurant. If small children go to a restaurant and behave, there's no problem, and I generally find it quite pleasant to look at cute kids and, if they're old enough to understand, talk to them, if the occasion arises. If they disbehave, their parents/guardians have the obligation to get them to promptly stop misbehaving. If they are unable to get their children to cooperate, they should leave voluntarily. If they do not leave, the restaurant should throw them out. I don't spend time worrying that babies in restaurants will cry; that's the restaurant's job, in my view.

                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                              The logical extension of your argument that life becomes less convenient for parents once they have kids and therefore they must limit their choices of where to eat is that they also should not fly anywhere, knowing there is a possibility that their child might "act up". Why is it OK in your mind for parents to fly with children, instead of driving or taking a ship, but it is not OK to eat at a restaurant? Where any person draws this line (if indeed a line should be drawn at all) is a very subjective issue.

                              For myself, I tend to agree with Pan (see next post). There is no reason that children of any age should not be permitted to eat at any type of restaurant, particularly at a relatively early hour, but it is the parents' responsibility to recognize when the child is becoming a burden on the restaurant staff or other guests. The sacrifice that parents should make is not giving up the opportunity to dine at a nice restaurant with their children, but rather the opportunity to eat their meals hot (or even in the restaurant at all). If your child is seriously infringing on others' enjoyment of the meal, then it is your responsibility to take them out (temporarily, one hopes) until they can get it back together.

                              1. re: Abrocadabro

                                I am a parent of two kids, 3- and 1-year old. The oldest flew once a month during her first year. We fly because it is practical. Likewise, we do not take the two of them out (except very fast food), because it is not practical.
                                It is much easier to keep them entertained on a plane than it would be in a restaurant. On the plane, they are our focus. Further, reading to them, and whatever else we do on a plane, is unlikely to interfere with other passenger's "enjoyment" of the flight. (We can still sit in a row for three since the little one does not have to buy a seat.) If we took them out to eat, that focus would necessarily be comprised by our own meal. And entertaing them would interfere with other's dining experience.

                              2. re: Bob Martinez

                                Thanks, Bob.

                                I've been reading this thread with interest and have started and erased a couple of notes expressing the same ideas you captured so nicely.

                                I find that people with one very small infant are quite intrepid in taking her/him out into the world. I was the same way with our firstborn, 20 years ago.

                                First of all, there's an eagerness to show off the baby. And, as Bob pointed out, nearly everybody smiles, which is a nice little bit of positive reinforcement for the poor sleep deprived parents.

                                Then, too, new babies are very portable -- if they're fed and warm you really CAN prop the infant seat in a windowsill and enjoy a romantic dinner for 2. This can lull you into the smug conviction that you're the best parent in the world, that all those OTHER parents with crying babies just don't have your talent and skill, that all those childless people are cranky, anti-family so-and-so's for scowling when they see you come through the door with your big honkin diaper bag, stroller, Snugli, and crib gym.

                                But another reason people tote their firstborns to KMart and hockey games and all sorts of restaurants is that the realization of just how much your life has changed dawns slowly on most of us. As the mom of 5 with 20 years of smug-busting child-rearing under my belt, I'm guessing that Shoeman and other new parents will have a different take on this in a year or two. The little darlings are simply NOT as portable at 18 months. They DON'T sit peacefully in the high chair while you take your time enjoying appetizer, entree, dessert, and coffee. They actually PREFER their own bowl and cup and their Telletubbies tapes and the comfort of their familiar surroundings. And when there's more than one of them, it's tag team midget wrestling. You don't stand a chance.

                                I love my kids and I love good food in beautiful settings, but at some point I was forced to admit that the the juxtaposition of those two concepts was not for us. We didn't enjoy entertaining them by playing I Spy With My Little Eye till our little eyeballs bled. We chose not to triangulate our conversation -- Do you want a piece of Daddy's duck breast, honey? Wait till I cut that for you, sweetheart. Look! Here's another escargot!

                                Bottom line: We didn't like spending money on meals that got cold while we were busy Bringing Up Baby. Been there, done that, bought the Wet Ones.

                                So: We hired a sitter every Thursday night and went out on our own. Babies were happy. We were happy. The marriage (so far) survived.

                                And when a party of two and a half (complete with bottles of Similac and wind-up music box toys) sits down next to us in the restaurant of our choice, we smile at the baby, play peek a boo with the baby, sometimes offer to hold the baby, but never hesitate to ask for another table if the baby makes a fuss.

                                What Bob said: good parents accommodate the children's needs. Your life changes. The limit on your freedom is not forever, but don't ever kid yourself that it's not for real.

                                Suky

                                1. re: Suky
                                  m
                                  Michele Cindy

                                  Suky - so well said! We too have someone who watches our kids and go out every Saturday night. I'm still am the "I can manage them stage with diversion stage" one of our best tools is my brother-in-law who loves to take them out for a walk if they get antsy.

                                  1. re: Michele Cindy

                                    That's great that you have babysitters you can rely on, because spending time together as a couple is the best thing you can do for your children. (Well, aside from feeding them and stuff...)

                                    It's also great that you take them out with you. Don't be put off by one crummy experience. You're a reasonable person, right? If you pick and choose your restaurants, and you pick and choose your times (not, for example, on the way home from getting a DPT shot) your family will have many happy meals WITHOUT eating happy meals.

                                    If you ever notice a conservatively dressed and otherwise dignified older woman making silly faces at your baby from the next table, it's probably me.

                                    Suky

                                  2. re: Suky

                                    Your point about my postion changing as my son reaches age 2 is well taken. I don't know how he will be but if it becomes a chore, we will curb our restaurant going. However, for now, he poses no threat other then to those who choose to be uncomfortable being in the presense of well behaved baby.

                                    With respect to offering to hold the baby of the strangers sitting next to you. Please don't do that. No parents like being ask, even if they hand you the child to avoid an awkward situation. I'm sure you wouldn't like someone putting their arm around you as you walk down the street. It no different.

                                    1. re: Shoeman

                                      I didn't say that I ask to hold the baby, but that I've offered to hold the baby. As in...would you like me to hold your little one while you strap the big boy in that high chair? Staff at restaurants can't be expected to help parents seat their children, and tables can be so crowded together that I might be more conveniently located than another adult in their party. I was thinking of one instance in particular when I wrote that note. It's not something I make a habit of.

                                      Sorry I didn't make myself clear. I am LOL at the image you must have of me...snatching babies and smooching them against their parents' will. But I will be on the alert in the future to avoid offending people with my offers of help. There are certainly enough germs and bad guys in the world to justify parents' cautiousness about peek-a-boo-playing middle aged matrons like me.

                                      Suky

                                    2. re: Suky
                                      b
                                      berkleybababe

                                      You are a wise woman--I agree, totally.

                                    3. re: Bob Martinez

                                      "It's the absence of logic that frustrates me."

                                      I don't think that this an If A = B... type discussion. Logic doesn't differ between "kid friendly" and "non kid friendly" restaurants, common sense does. And as you can see from my above Gramercy, Gotham...post, the answer is not as "logical" as George or you may think it is.

                                      "They believe their desire to have a restaurant meal outweighs my right not to have my meal spoiled by the real possibility that their children will behave badly"

                                      Absolutley!!! My desire to enjoy a restaurant outweights the POSSIBILITY of my son misbehaving. However, at the exact instant that a child misbehaves, the onus is on the parents to mind, tend to and ultimately remove the child, so not to interfer with your meal.

                                      "Let me sum up. If you want to go to an upscale restaurant, get a sitter."

                                      If you want to go to upscale restaurants, lighten up.

                                      "And if you can't get a sitter, rent a video and order a pizza. Being a parent is sometimes inconvenient, but you are being selfish by transferring that inconvenience to others by asking us to take a chance on the behavior of your child."

                                      This one implodes itself.

                                2. I can see both sides of this arguement have some merit. I have a few disjointed comments to make about the subject both specifically and in general.

                                  1. Amarone is not a very good restaurant IMHO. To call it upscale would be laughable. The treatment that Michelle received there is absurd and shouldn't be defended in any way.

                                  2. I agree that infants (note that I didn't say children) could potentially disturb a meal or evening if they are not well behaved.

                                  3. Adults shouldn't cringe, react with dismay, etc. when they are seated next to an infant. It seems premature to act that way. I sat next to a family at Artisinal last week who had two small children who were wonderfully behaved. These situations probably work themselves out at least 50% of the time with no problems. Its just not worth it to get worked up before anything happens.

                                  4. I have had a meal disturbed by an adult many, many more times than by anyone under the age of 18. Some examples include the following...

                                  -the pompous ass who bellowed at the top of his lungs about how San Francisco was so much better than NYC for four straight hours while my wife and I tried to enjoy our meal at the French Laundry.

                                  -the businessman who whipped out his laptop and started typing e-mails at the table next to me at Jean Georges.

                                  C'est la vie.

                                  Mike

                                  1. Just got off the phone with the following restaurants
                                    (Gramcery, Gotham, Babbo, Four Seasons).
                                    All provide high chairs and booster seats for children and infants during the dinner seating.
                                    As a parent, I consider them "child friendly" You don't need crayons and colorable placemats, a simple high chair will do.
                                    Interesting side note: The women at Babbo hestitated and put me on hold. When she returned she gratefully stated "they would be happy to provide a booster seat". However, the pause was enough not to make me take my son. The other three are fair game.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Shoeman

                                      And I hope that when you bring your child or children to these or any other restaurants you will take responsibility for their behavior. Praise them when they are behaving well and remove them when they are not.

                                      1. re: Deven Black

                                        I think you'll notice from my many prior post on this subject that I'm adament about NEVER bothering other patrons.

                                    2. I am not a big fan of children myself. In fact, I am sometimes ashamed that I *was* one. :) Generally, though, they don't bother me unless they misbehave, which I recognize sometimes happens with even the "best" children. What really inflames me, though, is when a child is not disciplined for misbehaving, so he continues to do so, as this story illustrates.

                                      A couple weeks ago, I threw a get-together at my house for several friends from work, following an all-day outdoor event I had organized. This wasn't a formal affair at all -- I cooked some jambalaya, my friends brought some beer, and we were able to enjoy a beautiful spring night on the patio. One co-worker of mine (for some reason) brought his 2 1/2 year old to the party, which was advertised as 7:30 till. The child had been to the previous event, so he and his parents had been away from their "routine" since 2pm that afternoon.

                                      The child went absolutely berserk at my house. I treid to be gracious by providing a game or two (whatever I could dig out of my very non-child friendly house), but he got bored and fussy very quickly, demanding that I cook his supper because he was very hungry. After about 6 tantrums before supper and 6 subsequent warnings from his mother that they would have to leave or he would have a timeout (warnings not followed up on), his mother turned to me and made a crack about watching her child being a great form of birth control.

                                      About 5 minutes before supper was ready, I heard a crunch. The child had CLIMBED up my door, using the mouldings for support, completely cracking off the paint and bashing the mouldings on the door. The child continued to climb as his mother laughed and finally told him to get down. His father later approached me while we ate and said flippantly, "Sorry about your house," and mentioned that his 2 1/2 year old had already been kicked out of 4 day care programs.

                                      The family finally left about an hour later, at 10pm. I would have been less upset by what happened if the parents had disciplined the child -- they threatened timeouts and leaving early, but never followed up on the threats. It is not the child's fault -- it's bad parenting, plain and simple.

                                      This extends to any circumstance where a child misbehaves, whether at a wedding, a nice restaurant, a gathering at a friend's house, at church, or in a movie theater. I would not be offended necessarily by the presence of a small child in these situations, but if the behavior of the child got out of hand, whether it be crying on the part of an infant, doing the terrible two's, or throwing a tantrum, it is the parents' responsibility to ensure their child is not a nuisance to others.

                                      This can be handled by leaving with the child, having a timeout, warning the child, or whatever it takes, but if a parent is unwilling or unable to ensure some sort of tranquility, then perhaps other arrangements should be made. That doesn't mean you must ensure the child doesn't act up, but rather you must ensure that you can properly handle the situation when it arises.

                                      Have I sounded completely like a child Nazi? I hope not, but patrons of any business should be aware that it *is* a place of business, and treat it with the respect they would any other.

                                      Blue skies,
                                      Catherine

                                      9 Replies
                                      1. re: Catherine
                                        y
                                        yvonne johnson

                                        Catherine, i would've been tempted to ask them to leave. presumably you won't be inviting them back. also, i would repair the damage and bill the parents.

                                        1. re: yvonne johnson

                                          Yvonne, boy do I second that! I think the parents needed a "time out". What a crock.

                                          As the owners of a restaurant, FWIW, we do not provide high chairs, booster seats or a children's menu. Our intention is to cater to a knowledgeable and adult audience, and the place is not generally appropriate for children. We tell people so if they call for a reservation. If children are part of a group, the chef will do a child's pasta but that's it. Otherwise they are expected to order off the menu. We feel that is appropriate for where we are, in that there are any number of restaurants in the area which are intended for families, and we wanted ours to be a place for "an adult night out".

                                          1. re: Barbara S

                                            What differentiates your restaurant from the place that started this who discussion is that you make your restaurant's policy clear from the beginning.

                                            As a parent and a restaurant manager I've been following this thread with great interest. My son has been going to restaurants since he was born. He has been taught how to behave at home and in public and he is a very pleasant dining companion. I still would not take him to a white tablecloth restaurant at any time. It is my responsibility as a parent to make sure he is in an environment that he can handle. At seven years he is not yet ready for fine dining, even though he has spent an incredible amount of time in restaurants due to my job .

                                            I believe the parents are responsible for the behavior of the child. Putting a child in a situation where the child either does not know how to behave or is incapable of behaving that way is unfair both to the child and to the others that will have to contend with the child's behavior. That said, restaurants that do not want children as customers need to make that clear in advance.

                                            The restaurant I manage has white tablecloths and the staff wears ties with their black & whites but we are still a casual, neighborhood place. We have high chairs and booster seats. We paper the tables and have crayons for the kids who want them. We do not have a children's menu, butwe do serve chicken fingers, burgers, and the kitchen will gladly do a plain pasta on request. We have many families as regular customers and they bring their children. We are happy to see them, but we do not tolerate any misbehavior: stay in your seats; no running; no crying; and no throwing things, which are the same rules we apply to the adults. Break the rules and we warn you once, then we ask you to leave. We seem to have a lot of happy customers of all ages so I think we're doing something right.

                                            1. re: Deven Black

                                              The problem is that most restaurants are child friendly but the patron aren't. Since, I called Gramcery etc, I been amazed at how many very high end NYC restuarants will accomodate kids at anytime.
                                              So as a parent, I call in advance, get a warm reception from management, only to find hostility from other patrons.
                                              I would love to call Barbara's restaurant to here how they would handle my request for a high chair. I would give her credit for being honest and helping me avoid a bad situation. I would also tell her she's far the minority.

                                        2. re: Catherine

                                          This thread has been interesting in going from ad hominem arguments to purely philosophical, however this post is over the top as an example of moronic and self-indulgent parents. This isn't about dining, or children in restaurants. This is a case of self-indulgent/congratulatory parents who can't step up and be adults with their child. Inexcusable behavior that I think should have been stopped at the second trantrum. Parents *are* responsible for tantrums -their children are too tired, too extended or too hungry or too pressed to fill their parents schedules. Which is why we see what I call "Kmart babies" (i.e. meltdown babies/toddlers) almost everywhere. It's the parents reponsibility to help their child cope with a big and widening world by 1) making sure they are rested before a foray into the bit world 2) making sure they're fed while out there 3) eliminating overstimulation when it happens, which is a corralary to 4) making sure *they* (the child)feels secure. It's not about parents' convenience, or entertainment, or even comfort. Period.
                                          This goes for movies, home visits, birthday parties, visits to family as well as temples of cuisine --lowly or exalted. Bottom line: if you view unruly young children, look to the parents --their schedules and purposes have taken precedence over the needs and comfort of the young ones. If the above list is met, the children are secure and good company--honestly, no 2 year old is evil - even in an "upscale" restaurant!

                                          1. re: berkleybabe

                                            Wise women seem to think alike. :)

                                            In addition to your 4 rules for venturing into the world with children, I would add one more: carry a well stocked pocketbook. Wipes, top cups, little scissors to cut a straw in half (and straws, for restaurants that don't have them), cheerios, stickers and paper (less messy than crayons), finger puppets, whatever.

                                            Gee...this thread really HAS wandered far and wide. We've gone beyond General Topics and even Not About Food. Pretty soon we'll need a whole new board...Life, The Universe, and Everything.

                                            Suky

                                          2. re: Catherine

                                            It's your house, Catherine. I don't understand why you didn't throw the parents out, along with the unruly child. They may have responsibility for their child, but you have the responsibility to determine what behavior you will tolerate in your house.

                                            1. re: Pan

                                              I offered a room far away from the "action" where a timeout could be had, but the offer was declined. The idea did pass through my head to ask them to leave, but in the end, tried to be as gracious as could be under the circumstances, and the father is a (higher up) coworker of mine.

                                              However, they certainly will not be invited back under any circumstances.

                                              Blue skies,
                                              Catherine

                                              1. re: Catherine

                                                Considering that you were dealing with a superior at work, I can understand your dilemma. Now, do you suppose he reads this board?

                                          3. Since all of the salient points have been made let me state as a server in an upscale restaurant that:

                                            The overwhelming majority of misbehaving children have at least 4 years of college and a mortgage.

                                            And now some anecdotes from Gramercy Tavern. As Dave Barry says (I am not making this up)

                                            1. The executive who came to lunch with infant in bassinet and asked that we "Check" the baby in the coat room. The mother pleaded and promise that her newborn would most certainly sleep throughout and wouldn't be a problem at all. If he did wake she could be summoned from the table as if she'd received a page. (Yeah, from childrens services)

                                            2. The mother who vanished into the women's room with her pump and returned with a container of breast milk which the table then poured into their coffees in an act of comunal bonding and sharing.

                                            3. The handful of very, very clever parents who realize that chopped sweetbreads on mashed potatoes DO resemble "Chicken Nuggets!"

                                            1. j
                                              Janet A. Zimmerman

                                              I’ve been following this thread with some interest, and for whatever they’re worth, here are a few thoughts:

                                              First, I have no children, but I have friends and siblings with children of all different ages. It seems to me that people who have children, or who spend much time with them, become accustomed to their behavior in a way that those of us without them do not. Well behaved or not, a child is still a child. I know I may regret this analogy, but I’ll present it anyway: my older sister has a big yellow Labrador, which she insists on bringing along on many occasions. For a dog, he’s moderately well behaved, but he’s still a dog. I don’t like dogs much, and dog behavior that my sister sees as “charming” I find annoying: I do not like slimy tennis balls dropped on my feet, or a big dog head shoved under my hand (or into other parts of my anatomy), or exuberant barking when he sees me. She’s used to it; I am not. In the same vein, I’d rather see my friends without their children being around. It’s not that the children are badly behaved, but I’m not used to the behavior of any children, and it gets on my nerves.

                                              That being said, I certainly don’t expect parents to keep their children at home until they turn 16 or 18 just because I may not enjoy their presence. As one of the other posts said, the minute I step out of my apartment, I relinquish a great deal of control over my environment. My only option is to do what I can to avoid annoying children OR adults – change cars on the subway, ask to change tables at restaurants, complain to theater managers when the behavior is totally out of line (that, by the way, has only happened when adults have been the offending parties).

                                              Third, I don't think that every public place is equal when it comes to appropriate behavior -- for children or adults. I do not expect children to be quiet on the subway or walking down the sidewalk, even though I still dislike their chatter. But I expect somewhat better behavior in stores and most restaurants, and I expect the most from situations where a quiet and atmosphere is crucial (movies, theater, and formal restaurants).

                                              All of which brings me to the topic at hand -- are restaurants appropriate for children? I have to agree with George that there are some where children are not appropriate, period. Neither are drunken adults, or those who talk at top volume on cell phones. I hesitate to use the terms "upscale" or "high-end" because those terms seem only to refer to price, and there are (at least in San Francisco) some expensive restaurants that are loud and casual enough to accommodate well-behaved children without other patrons being disturbed. But there is a type of restaurant that cultivates a quiet, formal atmosphere – perhaps romantic, perhaps businesslike – and at those restaurants, I don’t think children fit in. I think it’s the responsibility of the parents to ascertain that the restaurant to which they want to bring their kids is not that sort of restaurant. If I were to walk into a such a restaurant and see a table with children, I would indeed be dismayed at the very sight of them (although I believe I'd be less dismayed at the sight of an infant than of a two- or four-year-old).

                                              And when, you may ask, do I think children are old enough for that type of restaurant? Some of them probably never will be, and those are the ones who grow into the adults who shouldn’t be there either. But maybe parents can ask themselves some questions about their kids: can my child sit through a 2-hour dinner at home, with company, without complaining, or needing to leave the table numerous times, or interrupting in a loud voice? Can my child sit through an entire full-length movie quietly? When the answer is yes, then I’d say they’re ready for such “adult” restaurants. Until then, I think their parents should take them to less formal, noisier places, which can still be great restaurants, and which are much more appropriate for them.

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: Janet A. Zimmerman

                                                Just wanted to add here that the local NYC paper, The Spirit, recently ran an article by a woman totally frustrated with parents allowing their children to run out-of-control in restaurants and coffee bars. But the really INTERESTING story here is that it provoked about the largest amount of responses the paper has ever received! So, it's not surprising that this Chowhound thread is so lively! Basically, everyone agreed -- it is those indulgent PARENTS who are giving kids a bad rep. And it is also up to parents to make intelligent decisions as where little ones will be welcomed (and how well they will blend into an 'adult surrounding.') By the way, I do like 'nice' children, but I will be forever grateful if I never hear one more parent LOUDLY (like to the rear balcony) singing along with their child on public transportation: The wheels on the bus go round and round. Thank you for not sharing. LOLOL! :->

                                                1. re: Janet A. Zimmerman

                                                  I don't mean to be obnoxious, but you're correct: Few things are more annoying to parents than the child-free extrapolating their experiences with pets to one's experiences with children. The difference between the degrees of responsibility couldn't be greater. Although I admit to worrying more than I ought about the social maladjustment of my cat.

                                                  But I do largely agree with your post: reasonably well-behaved children are appropriate, and in my experience joyfully welcomed at almost all ``sceney'' restaurants, such as Babbo, USC, Olives, Esca, Sea Grill, Balthazar, Bolo, Artisanal, the Cub Room, Bistro du Nord, etc. And it is hard to imagine anybody (except for perhaps a French family) bringing kids to March, Felidia, Ducasse or Le Bernardin.

                                                  When in doubt, ask yourself if a restaurant is likely to serve either French fries or spaghetti marinara. If the answer is yes, children are undoubtedly welcome--and expected.

                                                  1. re: Apidistra

                                                    So childrens diets should be limited to pasta and french fries?

                                                    1. re: Shoeman

                                                      Yes, I'm sure that's -exactly- what that poster meant: nothing but pasta and french fries for every single meal. Even when they beg and plead (as children so often do) to be taken to Le Bernadin.

                                                      1. re: Steven Stern

                                                        Children can -- and do -- eat anything. My own daughter loves nothing more than the grilled octopus at Olives. But the presence of pasta or fries on a menu almost always indicates a certain informality in the restaurant itself, and there is bound to be somethingelse there that even a finicky kid will eat.

                                                        1. re: Apidistra

                                                          When my daughter was four, she was eating sushi off the platter-for-two at the local Japanese/Korean restaurant. I started by only giving her the cooked/vegetable ones. Soon enough she was insisting on the pretty ones I was hoarding for myself. The employees were astounded and enchanted.

                                                          1. re: ironmom

                                                            I have a daughter who routinely ordered "wack of wamb, medium ware" at age 3, and a son who loves ceviche. OTOH, one of my sons (now 14), though exposed to the same variety of home and restaurant cuisine as his siblings, now orders 2 or 3 children's menu chicken finger platters (ugh) to support his adult appetite.

                                                            If there's one thing I've learned from my kids, it's that you can't always credit (or blame) yourself for how they turn out. Individual temperment also plays a part. Some of us are adventurous eaters; others, not.

                                                            Suky

                                                        2. re: Steven Stern

                                                          What I was reacting to is the notion that you can tell (or should tell) whether a restuarant is child friendly by what they serve or by the presence of a "kids menu." First, I think the availablity of a high chair is good enough. Second, even if a restuarant offered a kids menu, I doubt my son would ever order from it. As you can see from the following posts, some children eat like adults. Some kids are even outright foodies. My 1 yr old has eaten more varieties of food then my wife. So having pasta and chicken wings or french fries on the menu is not any help to some families who are trying to raise thier kids in a broader perspective.

                                                  2. y
                                                    yvonne johnson

                                                    George,
                                                    Bob Martinez writes that you’ve made "your points logically and thoughtfully…but some people choose to grossly distort your position and then beat up on a straw man". In fact, your initial post created a straw woman, me. I hope you can see that you took my views on the acceptability of Michele Cindy and her family eating at her neighborhood pasta joint at 5.30 PM where she and her children had been welcome before and then generalized my comments to all settings. I said nothing about my opinions about infants and children at high-end places. i fear i'm misrepresented in your opening post. Oh well, water under the bridge

                                                    now the irony. in terms of high-end restaurants, I tend to agree with you for the most part!