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Anniversary dinner with baby -- venue a consideration as well as food

t
trueblu Nov 10, 2009 07:56 AM

Dear CHers,

It's our third anniversary in January, and as usual, am looking for CH for help in deciding where. Both my wife and I love our food and there are few styles that we don't enjoy. However, although we don't mind casual dining, for our anniversary, I'm looking for a place with a touch of formality -- so it's not just about the food. Price-wise, ideally want to keep it at under $100/head including tax and tip -- but we're teetotal, so that should help.

To fill you in, for our first anniversary we went to the Oak Room -- the venue itself was fantastic, and they really looked after us, gave us free dessert etc, and overall it was great. I personally really like their steaks (I know it has some detractors on this board), so the food (aside from the greasy sides) was good too. Last year, we went to Hammersley's. The food was good, but the atmosphere left a lot to be desired imo. We were stuck in a corner, next to a very loud party of four. Despite their knowing it was our anniversary, it was not even acknowledged once -- we weren't looking for freebies, but a "Happy Anniversary" would have been appreciated. And my wife was pregnant, but again, the wait-staff didn't take any care with regards to steering us certain parts of the menu etc (that isn't critical, I can do that, but the attitude was v. different to many other places we dined at when she was pregnant).

So this year, I'm looking for a romantic venue AND great food. We'll have our (by then 6 month old) daughter with us. She's pretty good about eating out with us, and I don't have qualms about taking her to a formal venue, as long as the staff were welcoming.

I've thought about L'Espalier, but have a couple of misgivings. I've had lunch there a few times, never dinner, both at old and new venue. The old venue would have been ideal, and I would have overlooked the other problems, but the new venue is fairly uninteresting. In addition, although I think the food is fine, it is not outstanding. I've had many better meals for less cost (mostly outside of Boston admitedly). So I'd be hesitant to go way over budget for a good, but not unforgettable meal.

Aujourd'hui would have been perfect, but sadly is no more (if only I'd known, we should have gone last year).

Of the other places discussed on the Board that I'm thinking about.

--Troquet -- never been. Food looks interesting, but many of the posts point to the wine as a great plus for here, so that wouldn't be a draw for us. Is the venue romantic/ pretty formal?
--No 9 Park -- not been. Again, very mixed views on quality of the food, venue sounds more interesting.
-- Mama Maria -- not been. The food seems to divide posters, and we've not been to a really good Italian for a while, so that would be good for us. I think I've read about a small room just for two. If we can get the baby in there aswell, it sounds ideal, since we don't need to worry about disturbing other diners with our daughter, should she fuss.
-- Salts. This place really wasn't on my radar until a recent post, recommending it: what are people's thoughts?
-- O Ya. I know that the budget might be blown on this place. Is it too noisy for a romantic anniversary dinner? We both love sushi, and although this isn't a 'sushi place' as such, it sounds good. Is it worth all the hype though?

thanks in advance,

tb

  1. t
    Taralli Nov 10, 2009 08:32 AM

    I think Mama Maria could work: http://www.mammamaria.com/n_private.html

    1 Reply
    1. re: Taralli
      Delhiwala Nov 10, 2009 10:04 AM

      The Piccolo room is wonderful!

    2. m
      MParente Nov 10, 2009 09:04 AM

      I think O-ya is completely worth the money- if you got a babysitter. Not a good environment for a small child. I'm a huge fan of No. 9 (and everything BL does) but would suggest you contact the restaurants to see if bringing a small child is something they could accomodate. The only reason I suggest that is because I've seen parents with babies kicked out of similiar places in Boston (none on your list) but would hate for your anniversary dinner to take a nasty turn.

      1. cassoulady Nov 10, 2009 09:26 AM

        Prezza would be nice choice for Italian as well although would not be a place I would bring an infant.

        -----
        Prezza Restaurant
        24 Fleet St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

        4 Replies
        1. re: cassoulady
          r
          rosiebcook Nov 10, 2009 10:00 AM

          I am a mom of two whose children were taught at an early age to behave appropriately in a good restaurant; however, I don't believe, for the sake of other diners, that an infant should accompany you to any of these restaurants. Most importantly, you clearly want a romantic evening, not easily done with the stress of anticipating baby's needs; everyone else in the restaurant that night will be spending as big of a sum for a special meal as you and probably don't wish to anticipate your little one's needs as well. I say spring for a trusted sitter and enjoy a couple of hours with your love!

          Lori

          1. re: rosiebcook
            w
            WilderPenfield Nov 10, 2009 03:07 PM

            At three months, our daughter was great in restaurants; at six months, she was knocking drinks off tables. If you definitely want to take the baby, I'd vote for Fuloon in Malden. It's substantially less of a special occasion restaurant than the places you mention, but the food is great and they are very very baby friendly -- I've seen people mixing formula at the table, and they once gave me the party room to nurse.

            1. re: WilderPenfield
              t
              teezeetoo Nov 10, 2009 05:17 PM

              do the rest of us a favor and consider not taking a six month old, however great she is, to an expensive restaurant, when she might decide she just does need to cry, as babies sometimes do. if you insist, i'd consider mama maria, il casale, or perhaps blue ginger. l'espalier is not baby-appropriate

              1. re: teezeetoo
                noradeirdre Nov 10, 2009 05:21 PM

                Yeah, not to pile on, but... it might be best all around if you got a sitter and had a nice romantic meal the two of you.

        2. MrsCheese Nov 10, 2009 05:57 PM

          I think I was one of the people that steered you toward Hammersley's last year (and heard about it afterward), so you can take my opinion with a grain of salt. Like other posters have said, I take my (now 3 year old) daughter *lots* of places, and she is extremely well-behaved, but if I'm looking for a romantic anniversary at any of the places you mention, I'm getting a sitter. Not only for myself, but for everyone else. If I'm paying top dollar to eat at O Ya (and paying a sitter for the pleasure), I'm not going to be thrilled with a baby at the table next to me.

          -----
          O Ya
          9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

          1. t
            trueblu Nov 12, 2009 06:38 PM

            Thanks for the feedback -- I hear you all -- leave the baby at home. I can't speak for a couple of months' time, but for now, we've never taken a babysitter -- our general policy is that she goes where we go -- but if at all possible, we try to go. Clearly, we don't go to the cinema or concerts, therefore, and I guess some posters are suggesting that fine dining be in the same bracket. I'm not convinced that is the case. For the former, listening/ seeing are the main activities, for the latter it's eating. As I mentioned, for last year, we were sat next to a very loud table. It did diminish my enjoyment substantially, but not iredeemably, and if I'd suggested they be quiet or leave, people would think I was mad. To date, our daughter's never been anywhere as loud as they were, but if she did fuss, the posters would no doubt have given us dagger looks.

            With regards to the specific suggestions, as a case in point, I remember being at L'Espalier once in the old venue, and this woman came in with her daughter (<1yr) and the staff were very charming and accomodating. Perhaps dinner is different, but the poster that suggested that it's entirely inappropriate is wrong I feel. I've been to Fuloon, and although the food was good, I wouldn't say the venue was even ball-park for the type of place I was thinking of.

            For those that have done so, with regards to the piccolo room at MM, does it cost extra to book/ is there a minimum (high) charge? It sounds sort of ideal for us (a recent post detracting the venue entirely not withstanding, which is a bit of a worry). That should sort out the don't bring baby brigade (not offended in any way, just mentioning) in that we won't be disturbing others.

            And Mrs Cheese -- still value your opinion. The food at Hammersley's was very good after all, the venue was just lacking imo. Finally, I appreciate I'll eat humblie pie on this one at some point, but for now, it's far more romantic to be WITH our daughter on a night out. I'm far more likely to be stressed worrying about her if she's not at our side, then if she was with us. I know this will change over time, and probably as she gets more mobile, we'll definitely have to look at baby-sitting, but in the spirit of being honest, that's where we are currently.

            thanks again,

            tb

            -----
            L'Espalier
            774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199

            4 Replies
            1. re: trueblu
              d
              dulce de leche Nov 12, 2009 07:17 PM

              I am very child-tolerant (and loud adult tolerant, usually). So I don't at all think that a priori you couldn't bring your baby. I did also find that going out with a 3 month old baby was no big deal, but at 6 months, it was a real challenge. We went once to Hungry Mother at that point and it was agony--there was nowhere to to to even try to get ourselves sorted out. Honestly there was a period starting then where it was a real challenge to be out with the baby, but also really hard to not have her with us. We didn't go out much then! But it gets easier again...

              So rather than looking for a place that would tolerate a baby, I'd look for a place that has ample room to move around and some place with relative privacy to soothe your child if things get bumpy. I don't think it's a big deal if she squawks a little, but if she gets going, then you'll really want somewhere to go with her. So someplace like Salts would be a challenge because it's so small.

              The place I usually suggest to people with kids who want an excellent meal is Gran Gusto. The atmosphere does not rise to the level you're seeking, but the food is great and there is a kind of sitting room that is a good place to go with baby if she needs a break.

              -----
              Gran Gusto
              90 Sherman St, Cambridge, MA 02140

              Hungry Mother
              Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

              1. re: dulce de leche
                h
                hckybg Nov 12, 2009 07:49 PM

                Or what about Henrietta's Table? I thought the food there was quite good last time I went, the room is elegant, but the vibe is a little louder and feels a little less restrictive because it is in a hotel (so draws a more diverse crowd). I personally would get irritated if I were at a very nice restaurant and there was a very loud guest, be he or she a baby, a screamer, or a heavy drinker. But I do think this is ultimately your call, and it is up to you (not us) to balance your own needs against those you are dining amongst. That said, I don't think you are exactly right that eating is necessarily the main activity at the restaurants you mention. It is certainly the primary activity, but at a top-tier place atmosphere is just as purposeful as the food itself. So you should definitely not feel like it is crazy to ask an extremely loud table to quiet down. I have done so politely, asking the waitress or maitre d' to ask nicely when a table is simply taking up more atmosphere than they are allotted. When you are celebrating a special occasion at a fine restaurant, it is well within your right to expect other guests to heed your needs as well as theirs. That is good policy whether you are with a little baby or with your obnoxious uncle ;).

                -----
                Henrietta's Table
                One Bennett St., Cambridge, MA 02138

                1. re: dulce de leche
                  t
                  twentyoystahs Nov 13, 2009 04:54 AM

                  Yeah, I'm with dulce on this one. When our little one was a newborn, she went everywhere with us and we loved it.....even 2, 3 months, she was ok. Then she started to get more mobile, more interactive, and yes, by 6 months she was no longer interested in hanging out in a car seat placidly watching us eat dinner. She was also beginning to crawl at that point so sitting still was not an option for her. Depends on your child, and chowhound is not really the place to get into a deep discussion about that; but I would agree with others that by 6 months you may change your mind about it being far "MORE romantic with her than without her" ---just saying. Once we hit the 9 mo. point, my partner felt it was more stressful to go out with the baby than to leave her at home for a couple of hours while we actually sat and enjoyed our meal together --not really an option when the chatting, crawling, squealing baby was around.
                  Personally, if you are committed to bringing her along, I'd focus on somewhere a little less high end but still really good food ---maybe a place like Hungry Mother as I previously posted ---and hope for the best. Of course, your call in the end though.... Good luck!

                  -----
                  Hungry Mother
                  Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

                  1. re: dulce de leche
                    b
                    BeanTown Nov 13, 2009 08:05 AM

                    We go out with our almost two year old to many restaurants, and echo the sentiment that dining with a 3 month old is not the same as dining with a 6 month old. Your night will be a lot more enjoyable if the restaurant you choose has some space to get up and walk around with your baby. Trying to find space at Salts or Troquet with small dining rooms and closely seated diners will add a level of stress to your meal. You also might want to consider whether there is any waiting area in front (as you can't simply walk outside in January.) That being said, maybe consider a more suburban restaurant or the private room at Mama Marias if that can work out.

                    -----
                    Troquet
                    140 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

                2. barleywino Nov 13, 2009 05:09 AM

                  If you do Troquet, reserve a table upstairs by the window overlooking the Common...you can probably do a tasting and still remain within your budget. Salts is a bit cramped imo. You can probably split about 8-10 orders of sushi/sashimi at O-Ya and still remain under budget, but you probably won' be full afterwards. Have you considered Clio?

                  -----
                  Troquet
                  140 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

                  1. p
                    Parsnipity Nov 13, 2009 07:07 AM

                    You probably don't need to make a reservation yet at any of the places mentioned for January. Your daughter will be 50% older by then than she is now! What about waiting a bit and seeing how things develop? We had dinner at Hungry Mother (although I wasn't so impressed with the food) with our friends' 14 month old recently and there's one table in the small side dining room with a nook in the wall- like a cubby with a cushion that he sat in and played. It was perfect.

                    -----
                    Hungry Mother
                    Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Parsnipity
                      d
                      dulce de leche Nov 13, 2009 11:53 AM

                      That was the table we had our six month old at and it was a disaster. The tables are too close, so if your kid doesn't want to be in the nook, it's all over.

                      1. re: dulce de leche
                        t
                        teezeetoo Nov 13, 2009 12:15 PM

                        i sympathize with the OP and wish them the best. I have many grandchildren, of all ages, and when they are infants (under 3 months) have taken them with us. When they reach an age where they can sit reasonably, I start taking them out to teach them public manners and the great fun of trying different foods (the age varies by temperament I've found). However, I have learned the hard way that almost all children between 4 months and 3 years would be much happier not in a fine restaurant, as would the rest of the patrons sharing that space. This lesson came when our then-9 month old grandson simply got sick, unexpectedly and without warning, and threw up at the Tuscan Grill. Everyone was remarkable kind but i had ruined their dinner. I do think its incumbent on adults to consider others and, while loud diners are darned annoying particularly in a nice space (just had that experience at L'Espalier where a party was so loud it really did interfere with our comfort) the mommies and daddies of such diners no longer bear responsibility for them.

                        -----
                        L'Espalier
                        774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199

                        Tuscan Grill
                        361 Moody Street, Waltham, MA 02453

                    2. t
                      trueblu Nov 13, 2009 12:36 PM

                      Fantastic feedback so far. I'm by no means a self-centred "I'm paying so I can do what I want" sort, and it's good to hear the experiences of people with children -- so often the 'anti-child' brigade weigh in, without the experience of having children themselves. I agree atmosphere is important at fine dining -- and would not want to ruin it for anyone -- our experience to date would suggest that we wouldn't, but as with all aspects of parenthood, we're learning that things change very rapidly at this age, so it would be good to re-evaluate nearer the time.

                      I don't agree that there's something fundamentally wrong with taking small children to decent places -- but I agree that parents must not abrogate responsibility -- and if we're clearly impinging on the enjoyment of others, I know that neither my wife nor I would be enjoying ourselves either -- hence no point in whole affair. We go out a couple of times a month or more at the moment, so nearer the time, it will become manifestly clear whether we should abandon the notion: and I should just cook a really nice steak dinner at home instead :)

                      Thanks for the other suggestions, however, which are very useful. Gran gusto looks promising in particular. And does anyone have personal experience of extra costs for the private dining option at Mama Maria?

                      thanks,

                      tb

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: trueblu
                        d
                        dlibes Nov 13, 2009 12:41 PM

                        Or head over to Aura on a Friday night where Chef Rachel Klein hosts kid-friendly evenings where "Adults can enjoy a delicious, grown up meal while the little ones can let loose without fear of offending other diners. There’ll be plenty of toys and Klein will be providing a kid friendly menu."

                        1. re: dlibes
                          t
                          twentyoystahs Nov 13, 2009 01:07 PM

                          Though I haven't been yet, I think Aura is a great suggestion --esp if you'd like to go to a nice spot but don't want to part with your baby for dinner...

                        2. re: trueblu
                          t
                          three of us Nov 13, 2009 12:50 PM

                          While I fully agree with the posters suggesting baby be left with a relative or sitter, I have fond memories of taking my son -- starting at 18 months -- for many wonderful dinners out. He particularly liked Redbones, which is very family friendly in the 4:00 p.m. range. Chinatown was another good destination as were just about any ethnic restaurants. The key was to go for an early dinner when the restaurant wasn't busy and filled with couples out on date night..

                          -----
                          Redbones
                          55 Chester St, Somerville, MA 02144

                          1. re: trueblu
                            s
                            sallyt Nov 13, 2009 12:55 PM

                            I have a 3 year old, and we've had varied experiences with her at restaurants. Honestly, you're the best judge of your child's behavior, but I tend to agree with other posters that 6mths was a big turning point - at 8 weeks, she "ate" at Oleana (slept through the whole meal), and at 3 mths, we took her to Blue Room (at 5 pm!) and it was great, but since then, we have yet to take her to a "fine dining" place, although she eats out semi-regularly.

                            That being said - Mamma Maria is perfect for you. We booked a private room there (no fee) for this past summer when we had dinner there with two other families (3 kids total) and it was great - the food was delicious and they were SO tolerant re: our daughter, who loved sitting on the floor, talking to the hosts, etc. Then you won't have to worry about your baby's behavior... But - some final advice - look now for a good babysitter who will know your child as she ages - before your daughter develops true stranger anxiety. There's nothing better then when we go out to dinner, and my daughter couldn't care less because she LOVES her babysitters.

                            -----
                            Mamma Maria Restaurant
                            3 North Sq, Boston, MA 02113

                            Oleana
                            134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                            Blue Room
                            1 Kendall Sq Ste B2001, Cambridge, MA 02139

                            1. re: trueblu
                              MrsCheese Nov 13, 2009 05:26 PM

                              I guess I should have given you a suggestion too. :-) I can't remember where we went with our daughter when she was 6 months (you won't believe how time will fly) but one nice place that we eat with our 3 year old on a regular basis is Sel de la Terre. Not in the league of some of the places you've mentioned, but solid and extremely kid friendly. Might be one to keep in your back pocket for when the babe is eating "real food". My daughter adores their grilled cheese (it's seriously the best I've had - must have a stick of butter in it) and also loves their goat cheese/arugula salad.

                              1. re: MrsCheese
                                m
                                MParente Nov 24, 2009 12:54 PM

                                TruBlu- just curious where you went to dinner and how the blessid child behaved? :-)

                                1. re: MParente
                                  t
                                  trueblu Nov 28, 2009 04:47 PM

                                  MParente -- thanks for the interest. As I had outlined in my OP, the anniversary is not until January, so a way off yet. I was probably getting ahead of myself posting this early, but in case there were special circumstanced, I didn't want to be let down due to lack of reservations. Be assured that I will give appropriate feedback once the date comes.

                                  Have really enjoyed the feedback so far, and I'm leaning towards the private room at MM. As a brief 'update' to the child naysayers, we've continued to eat out fairly regularly as a threesome. Indeed, most recently at Oishii chestnut hill, which would not the first place that springs to mind as 'child friendly'. However, she was very well-behaved (whilst awake) and then fell asleep. I don't think the staff are too used to babies, but they had really seemed to enjoy her being there. The food was fantastic btw, and relatively affordable -- athough we did steer away from the toro -- for real or imagined sustainability issues. One advantage of sushi is that it is a relatively quick meal, which helped, and of course wouldn't go for the anniversary night.

                                  Will hopefully report back in Jan -- and of course, keep the advice coming.

                                  tb

                                  PS wrt to chickendansak and whether 'anti-child' comments are as valid from those without -- twentyoystahs pretty much answered it: I myself am relatively new to this parenting thing, and I can say that many of my preconceptions were just totally wrong. And not second guessing you -- but I've seen many people do quite the opposite of what they supposed over matters of much less than $1000.

                                  1. re: trueblu
                                    Kat Nov 29, 2009 05:25 AM

                                    Throwing my my two cents - we have been dining out with our son since he was 6 weeks old. We travel often and since we enjoy good restaurants, we have no choice but to take him with us. I think at 6 months you still have a good chance of an enjoyable anniversary meal out as she'll probably sleep through it. Once they start walking, however, it gets harder as there is no stopping them without a loud struggle! Most of our meals out from 12 months to four years (when he could sit still at the table) were eaten in shifts while one of us walked with him outside. Re: a restaurant suggestion: for a really lovely venue and good food you may want to consider Sorellina. Wherever you go, I would mention that you are bringing your child when you make the reservation. I learned that lesson the hard way when we showed up for an early dinner one night in Portland, ME and were refused entry to a (currently defunct) restaurant. Luckily, ended up having a wonderful meal next door at our now favorite place. Have a wonderful dinner!

                                    1. re: Kat
                                      t
                                      trueblu Nov 29, 2009 03:12 PM

                                      Thanks Kat,
                                      Excellent advice, and as I had suspected, best to get the dinners in before she's too mobile!

                                      tb

                            2. The Chowhound Team Nov 30, 2009 07:39 PM

                              We have removed a number of posts offering opinions on whether it is appropriate to bring a young child to a restaurant. If you have specific suggestions for restaurants you think would work for trueblu, please make them. We will not allow a debate about the propriety of his request, however.

                              1. t
                                trueblu Jun 29, 2010 12:57 PM

                                OK, this must rank as being one of the latest report backs ever...
                                I'm sorry that I didn't see the response and action from the CH team on 1st December, because the tone of some of the responses made me stay away from CH a long, long time. However, my daughter turned one on Sunday, and I decided that bygones should be bygones, and I miss the chow chat!

                                So: we actually took the advice about not celebrating with our daughter. We were visiting my in-laws in Minnesota over Christmas, and a couple of days before our actually anniversary, we left Miss tb with her grand-parents, and the two of us enjoyed dinner at "La Belle Vie" in Minneapolis. Although not too relevant for this board, I would heartily recommend it as a very decent option.

                                However, with regards to celebrating with a small child: with an additional 6 months' perspective, I can certainly vouch that a) not children are the same and b) differing ages and temperaments (i.e. knowing the child in question) is paramount. Our daughter at 6 months was perfectly content to spend significant time in a restaurant with us (we went out for several family meals on that trip). By 9 months, she was very good for the first hour and a quarter, but over an hour and a half, and she was very restless: lunches rather than dinners became the thing. We haven't ventured anywhere too fancy with her in the last couple of months, but with ever increasing mobility, and greater interest in the world around her, I would say that 'family friendly' venues will become de riguer with the little blighter for the next year.

                                In summary, I'd like to thank the CHers with positive encouragement, AND a voice of reason: the evening was more enjoyable without our daughter. However, I would certainly stipulate that having a fine dining experience with a small child is both possible and enjoyable, without having to compromise the enjoyment of other diners.

                                tb

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: trueblu
                                  s
                                  STL BOS Jun 30, 2010 01:11 PM

                                  Thanks for the update, and the insight :-)

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