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Jul 18, 2011 11:59 AM

NYC--Restaurant with Toddler

Any suggestions for a somewhat nice restaurant that we could feel comfortable taking a toddler to? I generally feel like you can take a toddler almost anywhere for dinner if it's early enough except for maybe a few really fancy places, but maybe I'm wrong about that. For example, would it be okay to take a toddler to Talia's Steakhouse for a 5:30 pm dinner?

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    1. I agree it is definitely Ok to go to Talia's. However too many people don't realize that other diners are not thrilled when their children are fussy. It is not cute, nor acceptable. You or your husband should be ready to get up and take the toddler out if they are not behaving. Too many people, especially in kosher restaurants, ignor their childs behavior.
      Children should learn from an early age to enjoy restaurants. They should also be taught how to act in one.

      6 Replies
      1. re: jeffrosenbaum

        Thanks Jeff. May I add when you tske them out, it means OUT not to the front by the door where everyone can still hear youtr child's shreaks. (can you tell this happened to me the other day???) I am understanding if the child is shreaking when you are carrying your child to a place that wont disturb the customers, but do go to a place where your child hopefully won't be heard.
        Hope you have a wonderful meal:)

        1. re: jeffrosenbaum

          Agree 100% with this post. My husband and I went out for an expensive dinner and though the food was great, the couple at the next table didn't seem to hear their three screaming children. But we did! These poor kids cried for an hour and a half--it was unreal. It really detracted from the meal. Either spring for a babysitter or get take-out if your children aren't restaurant-ready!

          1. re: noya

            I'm the original poster, and I didn't intend for this to become a bash-the-children thread. I think there's a difference between a screaming child (who should definitely be removed from any restaurant, whether fancy or fast-food), and a regularly-behaved child who might make a little bit of extra noise. I would never take my 18 month old out to an expensive/fancy restaurant where people would be expecting a quiet ambience. I would, though, consider taking a basically well-behaved toddler to a middle of the road restaurant at 5:30 pm. Even before I had children, I was aware that 5:00-6:00 pm, especially on a Sunday, is family hour at restaurants, and that if I wanted a quieter time, I should go later. I just wanted to know if people thought of Talia's as one of these middle of the road kind of restaurants and if not, if anyone had suggestions for other restaurants.

            1. re: NYclw

              We took my 2.5 year old to Noi Due. They have highchairs, great staff and food that is somewhat kid friendly (btw- i wrote a prior posting on noi due and terrible experiences- they seem to have upped their game A LOT since then).

              1. re: NYclw

                Talia's should be empty at 5:30. You should have no problems with your toddler.

                1. re: NYclw

                  I did not mean a bash-the children post. I was speaking about common courtesy. I took my daughter out when she was young. Sometimes to "nice places" sometimes to family type places. If anything, I am doing a bash the parent reply. I like children. I like going out with children. What I don't like is children whose parents think that everyone else should enjoy their children when they are not behaving.
                  My Favorite Food is a good restaurant to go to with children. Most Indian restaurants welcome children (kosher or not). Indians take their children to restaurants. Go anywhere that your level of kashrut is comfortable with.
                  Take your child out to any restaurant. At some point go beyond the "children's menu. Kids like things other than chicken nuggets if they try them. Just keep in mind that a restaurant is a public place where others are also present. Just as an aside I am not thrilled at any bad behavior in restaurants...adults or children.

            2. La Marais is also great at that time for you and your little one.

              1 Reply
              1. re: kosherjewishfoodie

                I have to disagree about Le Marais. It's a pretty expensive place and I don't think it's appropriate for a young child (that's not to say that people don't bring kids there- they do). The menu is not kid friendly either.

              2. Dining out in a nice restaurant with a toddler is an interesting challenge.

                On one hand, you have some fundamental contradictions. Toddlers are happy when they are allowed to be in constant motion and able touch, climb on or manipulate all objects in the vicinity. Until they need a nap. Even with the best parenting in the world, many toddlers become cranky when they need a nap.

                Nice restaurants earn their living by providing environments in which adults can enjoy fine food and quiet conversation.

                That said, small children can be taught to sit still in a restaurant, not to disrupt the other diners, to speak quietly, order pasta primavera, and not make a mess or play with their food.

                Just as they can be taught not to speak unless spoken to, to rise when their elders enter the room, to sit silently beside their parents in shul, and many other things that contemporary American children are rarely taught. Much of this is a matter of style. An earlier generation of Galitzianer shul-goers found the silent stillness of Yechish shuls appalling - and visa versa. But the fact is that contemporary American parenting styles are child-centric, aimed at enabling small children to make decisions and choices, not at training them to be seen and not heard or to sit still.

                That said, ordinary American children who are three or four years old can usually be induced to be sufficiently quiet and non-disruptive to be taken to a nice restaurant. Particularly if handed an Ipad.

                Toddlers, however, are not naturally inclined to still and be quiet. Although toddlers are charming, funny, intelligent and generally delightful, they simply lack the developed capacities that enable even normally boisterous 3 and 4 year old children to agree to sit still and play quietly for a short time while Mommy and Daddy enjoy a nice meal. This is why we often speak of "training" toddlers (as in potty-training) whereas we speak of "teaching" things to older children.

                When you take a child with you to a nice restaurant, you are taking on the responsibility to insure that the child's behavior will conform to the standards of the restaurant, not that the restaurant, staff, or customers will accommodate themselves to the the needs and requirements of the child.

                If you decide that your child is not ready to meet that standard, it is wrong to subject the child, the other diners, or the hapless businessman whose parnassah you might harm to the noise that a normal toddler generates. Even early diners are entitled to expect a certain ambiance at nice restaurants.

                By going to a nice place with a child who is not old enough to dine quietly in such a place, you put the restaurant manage in an unfair position. If he declines to seat you, he garners your ill-will. But if he seats a family with a toddler and the toddler does something as simple as ask questions in a loud voice, the manager has antagonized everyone else in the restaurant. Many of these people will not complain, but they may not come back to that restaurant either.

                Children are toddlers for so brief a moment. Enjoy that moment with your child. Or get a babysitter and enjoy an adult dinner with your spouse. Take the toddler to the playground now, and out to dinner at a nice place when he or she is old enough.

                1. We live on the UWS and have 2 young kids (3yo and 6mo). We honestly take them almost anywhere. They are generally well behaved and no one at the restaurants ever really cares, except to compliment on how cute they are! As long as your child is reasonably quiet, I feel like anything goes... well, almost anything. I did take my oldest with my wife to 11Madison and that was a bit of a mess. But we have definitely gone to nice places and had a great time.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: FattyDumplin

                    oh yeah, we used to bring a toy for him to play with. but now, the oldest just eats with us - typically gets his own entree, so he has a great time. he loves the shrimp and grits at locanda verde.

                    1. re: FattyDumplin

                      Sigh. I suspect that while you were "having a great time" many of the other diners and members of the staff - the ones who you presume didn't "really care" - resented the noise made as your "reasonable quiet" children disrupted their quiet enjoyment as they "made a bit of a mess."

                      And that you would have been equally annoyed had you been at table with an important client and the children had belonged to someone else.

                      1. re: AdinaA

                        AdinaA- He said one child; and most kids do leave some mess behind them on a chair, floor/ whatever. That is part of teaching children etiquette and table manners.
                        I personally have been really annoyed by people bringing kids to a fancy restaurant in the past, but now I have my own son and obviously I am much more tolerant.. It is hard to exclude your own children when there is a mommy/daddy anniversary, or a grandma/grandpa party. And, why should they be excluded from a family occasion?

                        Toddler/ children should be 'seen but not heard??' Do this and you will have a child who will probably have a lot of issues in the future. Toddlers and children need to learn as well; not every toddler will make a huge mess, not every 12 y.o will be impeccably behaved.

                        What about older children with special needs? Should they be kept home and seen but not heard too because they are mentally impaired? Your post comes across as very intolerant, although of course I do not know if this was indeed your intention.

                        I am not saying to bring a child to a 3* michelin, nor would I bring my son to a place that I would not think of as having a kids menu (e.g. Prime Grill etc). That said, not all families are going to have parties in a pizza parlor to accommodate the one married child with a toddler/baby/children.

                        FYI- I wouldn't blame a restaurant that has a screaming child, nor would I have before I had a child; also given a child 'choices' in life doesn't reflect new-fangled 'teaching and training' methods, it reflects healthily raising a child. As an example, asking a child if they want a red pair of socks or blue pair of socks teaches colors, teaches independence and helps with speech.

                        Eating kosher means one can't just duck out to McDonalds or the like (not that I would want to) and sometimes people just have to suck it up. People have babies, people aren't always going to be appropriate/right/fair in everyones life.

                        BTW- most people with toddlers go out on a Sunday night to dinner, or perhaps a Saturday night. I don't know of too many people who decide to dine with an important client on a weekend, although admittedly I might be wrong in that dept.

                        Again-- to clarify. This post does not refer to an upscale joint; I am talking about a middle of the road place as OP said. I do not know of the restaurant '11madison' where the 'bit of mess was made'

                        1. re: marissaj

                          11 Madison Park is a four-star restaurant according to the New York Times. (Obviously, it's not kosher.) I am generally sympathetic to parents accompanying small children, and also found AdinaA's views somewhat intolerant, but bringing a child there seems really, really stupid to me. (I don't have kids myself, for what it's worth.)

                          That said, IMO there are very few kosher restaurants in NYC where it'd be inappropriate to bring a toddler to an early dinner. Obviously this depends on the child, and the child's temperament that particular day, but at 5 or 5:30, the restaurant will be almost deserted. As I've often said, I wouldn't take anyone to Talia's at any time, including a toddler, but I don't think you'd be committing a faux pas by doing so. The only NYC kosher restaurants that I can think of right now where I wouldn't bring a child at an off hour are the most formal and expensive: Mike's, Solo, Prime Grill, Prime KO, La Carne, and Tevere. Abigael's might be OK because it's very large, so a fussy child isn't a foot away from your table, but it'd probably be best to avoid there as well. Beyond that, I think anywhere else is probably fair game.

                          1. re: GilaB

                            GilaB- Thank you for clarifying the 11 Madison Park. I do not think I would bring my son there even if it was kosher for all the reasons listed before.

                            To add to your list, I would also recommend not bringing a child to Va Bene. We went once at lunchtime on a Sunday and there were no high chairs which proved to me that clearly they did not want to cater to or for children. Unfortunately we were meeting 3 other families (parents friends from the UK) who were already seated and there was no way of moving the entire party at that point. We got a lot a dirty looks and mad waiters, so needless to say we will not be bringing our son with us to Va Bene at any point again soon.

                            ITA with u, btw, about Talias.. Unless it has drastically changed, I do not think I would go there again.

                            1. re: marissaj

                              The one positive I can say about Talia's is I have had better food and service when I go early. I think there staff just doesn't know how to handle a crowd well. So a 5/5:30 dinner will probably have better food than a 7:30 dinner.

                              Also, Talia's has a children's menu, which should be a good indication that children are welcome.

                            2. re: GilaB

                              In retrospect, I agree... but only because it's just not a meal you can really enjoy with a young child. Unfortunately in that case, it was a b-day dinner and my babysitter canceled, so we made the lastminute decision to go.

                            3. re: marissaj

                              Marrisaj, Please re-read what I wrote. I did not write that "children should be seen and not heard" but, rather, that manners are a manner of style and training children to be silent in the presence of grown-ups has gone out to style. I will uphold the proposition that a wide range of cultures and historical eras have employed a wide range of child-rearing styles. A great many well-adjusted, good people used to be brought up in cultural traditions that taught children to be silent in adult company unless spoken to; your own great-grandparents may well have been among them. There are many, many ways of producing healthy, well-adjusted, menschlich children.

                              I did not criticize parents who take small children on airplanes, or grocery stores, or onto the subway, or to other unavoidable destinations. Parents usually try to do the best they can under often difficult circumstances.

                              But we are talking here not about a harassed parent who works long hours, has no household help, and has no choice but to take a tired, unhappy child into a highway rest area or onto a public bus. We are talking about privileged people with the means to choose to dine out in a nice restaurant.

                              I can imagine very few situations in which an American, shomer mitzvot parent has no choice but to take a toddler into a fine restaurant.

                              Taking children to such restaurants is not "part of teaching children etiquette and table manners." Table manners are taught at home, especially at the Shabbos table.

                              People who go out to "nice" restaurants have certain very reasonable expectations that the staff of those restaurants work hard to fulfill.

                              So, as I said, before, the OP and, by extension, other parents should consider the age, mood, and probable behavior of their child before deciding to take a toddler to a "nice" restaurant. (If a usually well-behaved 4-year-old "loses it" , just do your best) But before going, think twice, Just as they would think carefully about taking a loud group intent on drinking themselves under the table to a fine dining establishment, or any other guest to a place where that individual cannot be reasonably expected to conform to the expected level of decorum.

                              1. re: AdinaA

                                As I said in my post, certain fancy restaurants should be avoided. Would you, for example, bring a child to NoiDue? What about Cafe K? Point is, what do you define as a 'nice' restaurant? Do you define 'Talias' as a 'nice' restaurant? Does the hour make a difference to you?

                                I do not think that table manners are taught solely at home... Children need to learn to behave in all manner of places, and restaurants and etiquette at restaurants are included.

                                1. re: marissaj

                                  Agreed. Were I to do it again, I would not have brought my son to eleven madison. Not because he was misbehaved, but simply because my wife and I were so paranoid the entire meal that we couldn't enjoy it. Certain places just aren't conducive to a more laid back meal...

                            4. re: AdinaA

                              Your suspicion would be wrong. I can't tell you how many times adjacent diners, waitstaff and even the GM have stopped at our table to comment on how well behaved my son is. The receptionist when I call to make a reservation asks me whether my son will be dining with them so she can get us his favorite booth.

                              Then again, this is the same child who routinely sits through 6 hour flights to the Bay Area with nary a peep...

                              Sorry to be defensive, but it's rather silly to generalize and hypothesize about a situation in which you have zero insight, aside from a generic preconception that "all children misbehave in public." At the end of the day, some very young children are able to handle themselves better than the vast majority of adults in public spaces. Sorry if that offends your "delicate sensibilities"... "quotes" added for special emphasis just for you :)