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Special occasion fine dining - with a baby - Cambridge

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Hi hounds,

I'm graduating from medical school in May (finally!), and my folks and in-laws will be in town. We'd like to have a nice meal to celebrate, but I'll be bringing along my then 8-month old son. What nice places in Cambridge would you recommend - places that would be willing to accommodate a baby's presence?

I've been wanting to try Bondir, TW Food, and Ten Tables...would any of those work, or do y'all have suggestions of similar places?

Thanks all!

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  1. We have dined out quite a bit with our 17 month old since she was born. Most places have been more accommodating than expected, and we are fortunate that she is fairly well behaved in these situations. That being said, we always plan for the worst and follow a few simple rules regardless of the level of restaurant:
    - Go at off peak times, meaning 6p or earlier for dinner (quite an adjustment, but better than not eating out sometimes). Handling a baby is going to be easier for both you and the restaurant when it is not at peak capacity. More room to spread out, get the food quicker and less people to be annoyed if the baby cries.
    - Bring plenty of activities to distract the baby, and be prepared to have one person paying attention to her most of the time.
    - Be prepared to pack up and leave at a moments notice if things go downhill, even if it is in the middle of the meal. If that isn't an option, one of us will hold the baby or walk around with her.
    - Tip very well. They will remember and welcome you back.

    That being said, we save the fine dining for when we have a sitter. Have you considered this option? It is relatively easy to find qualified sitters in the city. We took our daughter to a few nicer places when she was an infant and reasonably guaranteed to sleep in her car seat for the entire meal. That was over for us by the time 8 months hit though. Even if it wasn't potentially bothersome and inconsiderate to other diners, it would be more stressful than it is worth to take her to a fine dining type place now (or when she was your sons age).

    I DEFINITELY would not think to bring our daughter to any of the three places you mentioned. The rooms are all very small, with really no separate waiting area if someone needs to calm the baby. I'm not sure other diners or staff would appreciate having a baby crammed in at these places. We saw someone bring a baby into Bondir once and it affected the entire room.

    Two places to possibly consider in Cambridge are Rialto and Harvest. We took our daughter to both places when she was an infant and they were very welcoming. Both are a bit larger than the rooms in your original post, and both offer room to walk around, quiet or change your son.

    Good luck and congratulations on graduating.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Gabatta

      I concur - at 8 months, perhaps he's crawling? He'll at least not sit quietly in a carrier for the longish-type meal you are talking about. You need at least an escape hatch.. in Rialto, someone can take him out into the hotel if he's fussy.

      1. re: Gabatta

        We took our son to Rialto at three weeks (OK, that is a pretty quiet time if you just feed them occasionally). The restaurant was lovely, and I give my lovely but rather traditional father-in-law major kudos for staying put while I discreetly breastfeed the bambino in the corner of our booth!

      2. Hi- have been dining out with our child since he was 6 weeks old; he is now 9. Of course you want a special meal for your graduation from medical school, congratulations!!! But, at 8 months, I'd stick to a large, busy, loud restaurant, not a small, quiet room. If you really want somewhere smaller, maybe somewhere like Toro, which is loud anyway. Or Gaslight, Eastern Standard or Island Creek Oyster, all bigger and busy. I agree that Rialto and Harvest are also good suggestions.

        1. Thanks for the suggestions and advice. I haven't been to the places I suggested, so it's good to know that the atmosphere would not be conducive to having a baby around. Harvest and Rialto sound like good bets.

          Just for future reference, would the dining rooms of places like Bergamot, Hungry Mother, Gran Gusto, Tupelo, and East Coast Grill be good fits, or are they on the "small, quiet" side? I would love to have other suggestions for delicious food at venues that have a louder level of background noise.

          Thanks!

          6 Replies
          1. re: tigerswims

            All quiet, except East Coast Grill, which I was gonna suggest. You might also be fine at Gran Gusto, which has more of a "family"feel, IMO.

            1. re: justbeingpolite

              I've taken my toddler son to Gran Gusto a few times for lunch and everyone at the restaurant was great (and he can't get enough of the gnocchi). We always went on the early side (around 11:30) so the place was pretty empty. While East Coast Grill is certainly louder than, say, Bergamot, it's not so loud that a screaming baby won't have an impact (I know, I've had to endure a meal there under those conditions). In general, I agree with everything Gabatta said: if you can't get a sitter, I'd aim for something more family friendly than fine dining.

            2. re: tigerswims

              We ate at Bergamot when I was very pregnant and everyone made a big fuss over my preggertini and made us promise we'd return with the baby. We haven't actually gotten around to it, but in theory at least they claimed to be very welcoming. When eating with our now-15 month old, one trick we also always use is no multi-course meals. Everyone order what they want, tell the server you might have limited cooperation time, and fire everything at once and bring as ready. Don't count on dessert.

              We've taken our little one to Highland Kitchen quite a few times and it has the slightly noisy atmosphere that's best, very accomodating, and lots of babies/kids on the early side. The food is nice enough to feel celebratory. I highly recommend it for your situation.

              1. re: tigerswims

                East Coast Grill is a slam dunk with kids, of all ages.

                1. re: tigerswims

                  Regarding Hungry Mother- I would not take a small child there as the place is tiny. If you have to wait for your table (even with reservations, I've had to wait up to 30 minutes 3 separate times), the bar area is miniscule with barely any room to turn around. The tables upstairs are packed together, so there's really not room for a baby on a lap.

                  I'm not trying to downplay HM at all- it's one of my favorite restaurants in the Boston area. It's just not a place for a wee one, IMO. The food is wonderful, so get a sitter & enjoy a fine, fine meal there (and a yummy cocktail!)

                  1. re: tall sarah

                    Actually, I was going to suggest Hungry Mother. It's been a few years since I've been there, so my information may be old, but I recall them being very baby-friendly if you get there right when they open at 5 p.m. and call in advance to let them know.

                2. After having raised and eaten out countless times with my three children, here are my thoughts. Find dining and small fry do not mix. If you want to eat in a grown up restaurant, get a sitter. Everybody will be happier. The stress of worrying about your child at home with the sitter is much less than worrying that something will set your little one off and ruin the night for you and your fellow diners. Even if you make it through without incident, you won't enjoy the meal as much as you would have if the kid was not there. To me, it doesn't make sense to pay top dollar for a meal that won't be fully enjoyed. Having to spend your time entertaining an infant or toddler with toys, coloring books and the like really takes the fun out of an expensive meal.
                  The alternative is to go with the little one, but not to a fine dining establishment. There are plenty of great choices (almost any ethnic restaurant) where your child will be welcome and you can eat without fretting when the little one starts smearing food on his or her face or tossing it on the floor.

                  1. Every kid is different, of course, so what works for one family won't necessarily work for another, and I second much of the advice already given (go early, avoid Friday/Saturday, tip well, be prepared to take shifts walking around with the baby if he is fussy and leave if necessary, avoid long multi-course meals, definitely never go anywhere where there is a wait).

                    All of your suggestions have very small rooms without a lot of space and with a fairly romantic atmosphere, which is IMO the worst kind of place to try to bring an infant or toddler. I'm not saying that it definitely wouldn't work, but they might not be the best places to start.

                    Our two favorite "nicer" places in or near Cambridge that we've happily eaten with my son (now 22 months, we've been eating out with him since he was about 2 weeks old) are East Coast Grill and Posto. We usually eat out on weeknights before 6 pm, but at least at that time both of these places are very accommodating, not so crowded that you don't have a little space to spread out or move around, but still noisy enough that an occasional fuss isn't really noticeable (a full-on tantrum will be disruptive no matter what).

                    We had a very memorable meal at Scampo when my son was a bit older (15 months), but that was in the summer and we had a nice big table on the patio, with space to run around and easy access to the sidewalk if we needed to calm a fussy toddler. I'm not sure I would eat inside there, although hotel restaurants, even nice ones, tend to be pretty accommodating.

                    I also second the Highland Kitchen recommendation.

                    Other places that I've eaten at and think would probably work, but that we have not (yet) be out to with our son, include Rendezvous, EVOO, and Harvest.

                    As to your other ideas: Bergamot is kind of an edge case IMO -- it isn't a particularly loud room, but depending on how easygoing your child is it would probably be fine. Tupelo is very small, although it isn't quiet and romantic like, say, Bondir, you won't have much space. We have hesitated to go back there because of the space issue (went once and liked it before our son was born), but again it could work. Gran Gusto is quiet but has a pretty family friendly vibe, IMO. There are previous reports on Chowhound of people dining at Hungry Mother with their babies/toddlers, but again I think it would depend on how accommodating your baby is.

                    1. I would go to Gran Gusto. There's a separate lobby/room inside the restaurant with benches which is an appropriate place to hang out with a kid who needs soothing, and the dining room itself is roomy. There's a lovely park (Danehy) directly across the street to walk with your son, as well, if the weather is nice then.

                      It's also a favorite with the older generation who seem to be more interested in/forgiving of babies than the 20-30s crowd.

                      The food is delicious. The only guidance I'd give is that the pace of the meal is more leisurely than many restaurants, so think through the timing.

                      1. I would consider East Coast Grill in Kenmore Square or Union Bar and Grill in the South End.

                        Given that it is graduation, it goes without saying that you will want a reservation! Both of these places will take a reservation.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: bgavin

                          I think you mean Eastern Standard Kitchen in Kenmore? ECG is in Cambridge.

                          1. re: teezeetoo

                            We had an excellent celebratory meal at Tango in Arlington, with two toddlers in tow. They were very nice, the food was exceptional, and the room is noisy enough that a crying child will blend right in to the chaos. They have several long tables that accommodate larger parties.

                            1. re: Swankalicious

                              +1 for Tango. I've seen multi-generational family diners many times. Place is a personal favorite of mine. The room is lovely, and the food is great.