Looking for special place for mom's milestone birthday - with 2 well behaved kids
I'm looking for a place to have a nice dinner for my mother's birthday (just 4 or 5 of us). We'll be bringing our toddler and newborn, both of whom have done well in restaurant settings (no banging silverware or screaming... one of my 3 year old's favorite things is calamari)
I'd appreciate any suggestions you have for places that are on the special side, but are still somewhat kid-friendly. Anywhere in SF or in the northern peninsula is preferred.
Thank you, in advance, for your input!
I agree that Chez Panisse is an easier choice than the Ritz. Suggested the Ritz due to the milestone nature of the birthday. If the OP thinks a milestone demands something super swank, the Ritz can't be beat for that. I also think that being in a hotel, they're more prepared to deal with a wide range of diners.
I definitely agree that you should tell the restaurant what's up when making the reservation. If they're not enthusiastic about the project, you might not want to choose it. We found the Ritz to be beyond cooperative. I can't speak to whether they'd be as flexible today (but ask).
We also had very good luck taking Johnny to Oliveto upstairs when he was a baby. The tables are tightly packed, so it's hard to hide children's indiscretions, but the staff have been friendly toward children. On New Year's Eve at the age of six months, Johnny was taken for a kitchen tour. I was jealous.
And a tip to diners with newborns. If you take them a bit hungry, you can keep them quiet by nursing/feeding them when you arrive, and then they often fall asleep. Start nursing on the side of the hand you hold your fork in. Appetizers tend to arrive as you switch over, and it's difficult to reach over a suckling baby's head to eat. And big cloth napkins are very discreet.
The Chronicle's advanced restaurant search has an option of places with high chairs which is an indication that these places welcome and know how to handle children or are so loud that it doesn't matter.
Doing a brief search of highchair in a price range of $$$ to $$$$ turned up 32 restaurants in SF. Some you would never think would accomodate children like Myth or Coco500 ... the latter being one where the noise wouldn't matter ... but I wouldn't suggest Coco500 for a milestone birthday.
While places like The Ritz Dining Room may accomodate children, you might consider the possibility of an unpleasant run-in with fellow diners that might mar the occassion.
I was at a top restaurant which will remain unamed because it was the fault of the customers and not the dining room, but a customer made a major scene and walked out because someone brought a baby. They made it clear to THE ENTIRE RESTAURANT that they were not paying hundreds of dollars for dinner and have their dining experience ruined by someone's crying baby.
Not pleasant, but that happens occassionally, though most people don't make such a scene, more times than I can count I've heard diners make nasty comments so the people with a baby could hear how inappropriate the infant was at this particular restuarant.
So other than the link above, I'd work with the restaurant ahead of time to ensure you have a great time without having an incident with people who act like infants.
If you're determined to stay in SF, you might try the Dining Room at the Ritz. Seven years ago we took my son there for his fifth birthday. I can't speak to the current floor plan, but at that time they gave you a good deal of real estate in comparison to other high end restaurants. This allowed Johnny to orbit the table and chat with various relatives without disturbing anyone at neighboring tables. Additionally, they were very flexible and offered Johnny options from the menu in the Terrace.
If you're willing to come to the East Bay, Chez Panisse is generally kid friendly, especially upstairs.
Chez Panisse Cafe has a very nice semi-private room for 6 at the front of the restaurant over looking Shattuck Ave. You still get the energy of the restaurant but have a little privacy/isolation (i.e., containing kids). At sunset it might be one of the nicer places in the bay area to dine.
That room has several smaller tables. Have you ever actually been seated there with a group of six? Whenever I've gone with a group I've been seated either in one of the booths in the back room, or in the large booth near the entrance, along the wall.
I do think that CP Cafe is a good suggestion, however. I think it is more kid-friendly than the Ritz, for sure.