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Fine dining with children?

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I know 'fine dining' and 'with children' don't really go together, but my husband and I are looking for some places where we might be able to get some high quality fare and still be welcomed with our 3 and 1 year olds. Does any such place exist? We'd be willing to go during lunch or even mid-afternoon if that helps!

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  1. Try 5th Elementt on Bay and Wellesley. They're not 'fine dining' to the point where you have to dress up, but they do serve quality food there. They're also running a 2 for 1 prix fixe menu deal on weeknights. Worth trying.

    3 Replies
    1. re: pickymama

      NOOOOO!!!!!!!!! do not go to the 5th elementt....we did their 2 for 1 on sat. night with and it was possibly one of the most abysmal meals i've had (in a really, really long time)....it kills me that i can't get those 2 hours of my life back......

      1. re: todc1996

        Can you describe more on why it just didnt do it for yoU? Was the meal that horrible? Or was it the service?

        1. re: jennjen18

          the person who deals with the reservations was very professional & polite. he is likely the owner or manager which saddens me a little to completely trash the place but the food was awful.....the 'amuse' soup started tasted like campbell's with some rice krispies thrown in (don't ask). apps: the scallop (yes 1, cut in 1/2) was so salty it was inedible. the 2 small shrimp on the plate completely overcooked....some ridicoulous concoction of vegetable samosas baked with cheese on top. complete goopy mess that looked like someone's small child got into the kitchen and decided to 'create'.....really inedible. mains - some lobster dish (the tail)- totally overcooked with 2 overcooked pieces of asparagus & mashed potatoes. lamb shank -soooo salty....peanut creme brulee -totally congealed, minimal 'brulee' and some chocolate/raspberry mousse that looked like it came off of the buffet table at mandarin.....unbelievably marked up wines and a server that asked us 3 or 4 times -not, how every thing was with the food? but annoyingly asking 'how are the flavours?" -how do you answer that question.......don't get me started on the decor....i really can't under any circumstances recommend this restaurant

    2. The studio cafe is a great option, they even have different kids menu's for different ages.

      1. Speaking from experience, you can take children of that age pretty much anywhere as long as you go early, i.e. 5 or 5:30 for dinner. You'd be surprised how many "nice" restaurants have highchairs tucked away or are perfectly happy to help you set up a booster seat if your kids need them. And you will also be surprised how many other young families are dining at that time. Did you have any specific places in mind? And what area of the city were you thinking of? I think there is a real misconception about taking children to restaurants, if your kids are little monsters that can't go anywhere without being awful then that's one thing, but if they are averagely behaved and you go at the right time its perfectly fine and most of the time the waitstaff make a big fuss of them. One other tip, make sure to order all your food as soon as the waiter comes around for the drinks, and bring some books or coloring stuff for the kids to do while you're waiting. Have fun!

        1. I went to Romagna Mia on Front Street with my one year old on Friday and was absolutely blown away. The server (who I believe was also a or the manager?) gave my son a plate of melon at the beginning to chew on and even a small dish of ice cream at the end. During the meal he brought over some toys (hard plastic ones that they could run through a dishwasher) and even a couple of books for him to look at. The part that shocked me the most was when I went into the washroom I found a full changetable (ikea) with changepad in one of the handicapped stalls. They had quite a few highchairs and booster seats just on the side with was great (we always travel with out own though). The big plus was of course that the food was lovely. It was my first experience there, and I can say with totally authority it won't be my last.

          The trick with going to nicer restaus is go either right when they open (or around 5 if they are open all day) or on an off night. We went to Romanga on a Thursday and the place was really quite quiet. My experience is that serving staff are usually pretty easy going so long as the place isn't crowded and the kid(s) is/are relatively well behaved.

          Hotel retaus can sometimes be relatively accomodating as well. We went to the Studio Cafe at the Four Seasons at one point for lunch when he was about 6 months old. After the hostess sat us she actually came back over and brought a little teddy bear for my son to play with. It was a very sweet touch.

          Other good spots for taking kids (not as dressy) that I have been to are Terroni (make reservations or go early it fills up!). The place is usually pretty chaotic so it works well. The one on Victoria knew my son so well that they gave him a free dessert on his first birthday. Mill Street Pub in the distillery, Pomegranate on Queen east in the Beach, Toba on King. Just don't assume they have high chairs... Overall I find that if you know the times to go most places are pretty happy to help. I just know that when he has had enough, it is time to GO. Usually that occurrs right before we pay the bill. You get really good at paying and RUNNING! ;)

          My favourite time to take the munchkin out though is brunch. Barrio on Queen (even though they don't have highchairs) is a great spot for brunch and there is usually at least a few parents in there. I personally find that brunch sometimes is the best because it tends to be a family situation and you don't need to worry about keeping the kids out too late.

          Good luck! If you find any really kid gems, let us know!

          10 Replies
          1. re: Otonabee

            Thanks so much for the tips! Before I had children, I used to tell friends with children that it was ridiculous to worry about whether or not a restaurant was kid-friendly (after all, they are people too!), but now that it may be my children doing the fussing and making the messes, I have to admit I am hesitant to take them to the finer restaurants. My husband and I would love to be able to take our kids to Lee (Susur) Restaurant, Perigee for that dessert tasting menu or Rain, but I wonder if those might be off limits? We would certainly be open to going early as long as they don't give us any dirty looks when we bring along our portable booster seat!

            Terra, up in Thornhill seems to be very accommodating to children and we may give it a try there. I'm not worried about my 3 year old, but you never know when my 1 year old might decide that she's not in the mood!

            1. re: Chocolatemama

              I would think that Lee might not be a bad place to try actually. I've been there on my own and it is a bit louder so even if the kids get a bit upset they would be less likely to annoy people. What about somewhere at Yonge &Eg like North 44 or some place like that. A spot that is used to bringing in whole families for birthdays & occassions might be a good place to try. (Terra would also likely be a good option though) If you really want to try Perigee I would call and find out when they are the least likely to be busy. Hey you never know. I wouldn't suggest going for the full meal (it was like 4 hours when we went) but an hour of dessert might be worth it!

              Really you could almost try anywhere. Just call and let them know that there will be kids coming and they might try and give you a quieter table and may even try to do something for them. You never know! I think that you have already accomplished half the battle by thinking about the people around you.

              1. re: Chocolatemama

                My wife and I have always taken the kids with us to dinner (they are now 4 and 6). We have been to Perigee, George, Lee, Canoe, Pangea, Boba, Scaramouche, etc. They are always very well behaved and we feel it is because we have always taken them to nice restaurants and most restaurants with the few exceptions have been more than accomadating. We always go early and we always try to find something on the menu or easy enough for the kitchen to make that it won't be to much of a stretch. My 4 year old asked to go to Canoe yesterday because she liked the bread and the view! One of the exceptions was Linda's, where we asked for a noodle to be made that wasn't spicy and we were told "we have a menu please order from it". We actually walked out and went to Lee Garden. I wouldn't worry about the dirty looks(even if you get them),because the kids learn so much about food and definetly become more adventurous, that it is worth it.

                1. re: lolo

                  Hi lolo,

                  You actually took your baby to fine dining when he/she is 1 yr old ?? I am really interested to know how it went, the baby did not cry and you did not have to comfort the baby in between your 3-4 courses meal ??

                  I would like to do the same thing if it works !

                  You know, it is a big difference between 1 and 4 yrs old.

                  1. re: skylineR33

                    my experience with a one year old is that probably one or two courses is the max, and that the whole experience should be start to finish under an hour. its really more eating than "dining" but it is fun and certainly better than the typcial family restaurant thing!

                    1. re: skylineR33

                      We have always taken the kids out with us to all sorts of restaurants including fine dining since they were infants. We have had very few problems, some times it can get a bit long (like Perigee, because of the tasting only, 3hours for 4courses, but they cooked one dish each for the kids and a dessert each). We try to not be there for hours, so we won't do a 6 or 8 course tasting with wine to match and we always go early. We don't go to fine dining restaurants every week, I can't afford it but we do try to go once a month and once a week we go to places like Terroni, Lee Garden, Different noodle palces and dim sum. The kids grew up at Kings Garden, we go twice a month for dim sum. Ocassionally they are grumpy to start, espcially if they fell asleep in the car driving there but they are generally well behaved. We try to find something they like, at the beginning it was mostly bread, fries and plain nooles,and pizza, but now they are more adventorous especially the 6 year old.

                      1. re: lolo

                        What kind of food do they cook for 1-2 yrs old ????? I am very interetsed to know.

                        1. re: skylineR33

                          I am trying to keep this short but obviously when they are 1ish or younger we would keep in mind the dietary needs etc. But for example at 1ish my daughter ate the plain rice noodle rolls at dim sum or plain broth or noodles, bread. We would also maybe bring something small or feed them before we went out. I don't recall to much more than that at the moment but if your that skecptical I will run it by my wife and report back. All that I can tell you is that we have never left them at home with a sitter when we have gone out. The better restaurants like Perigee and Canoe have been more recent, but we have always brought the kids with us.

                  2. re: Chocolatemama

                    I wouldn't go to rain with or without kids, I've never been treated more snootily (and no, I didn't have a kid with me!) All of those other places should be fine, and what kid wouldn't love a dessert tasting menu!

                  3. re: Otonabee

                    Barrio on Queen E. is a good choice for brunch with kids, particuarly if you go around 10 or 11 am. We've taken our 2 (2 year old and 4 month old) a few times (although admitedly the little one has just slept through brunch each time) We've also done brunch at Toba (although it was last year, before no. 2 was born) and the servers there were very great. We haven't tried high end dining with the 2 kids yet, but have taken them to places like Terroni and 7 Numbers. I am inspired to hear that there are people out there who take their kids to good restaurants. I was at Cava a few months back on a Friday evening and there was a couple dining out with young (7 or 8mths old maybe) twins. The staff seemed to be pretty accomodating...

                    Our best secret for keeping the older one occupied and in a good mood is simply to keep the bread basket coming!

                  4. Amuse Bouche is really outstanding with kids. We brought our 3.5 yr old, and they were totally awesome, brought out paper, BIC pens and highlighters when they thought we came unprepared (we were just holding back the goods until necessary) and when he got tired, they put down a pashmina on two chairs an it was like his own bed! The food and atmosphere is awesome if you haven't been yet. Good luck!