Eating out with a baby-Triangle/Triad NC
My wife and I are expecting our first kid any day now. While this is going to change just about every part of our life, we're hoping it won't end our lives (temporarily) as people who eat for fun.
In that vein- does anyone have experience with restaurants in the Triangle/Triad that are particularly baby friendly/unfriendly.
Now, we're not proposing fine dining at 8:15 on a Saturday or a bar on Franklin street at 10:30pm on Thursday. More like, casual dinner/snack/drink early in the service or at off times.
We don't want to put restaurants into a tough situation or impose our set of choices on our fellow diners (an eternal fear of being "those people"). Instead, we're looking for places where the staff are pretty open to the concept and where it makes sense for the vibe of the place
For instance, the General Store and Pub out here in Saxapahaw are both very welcoming.
I'm curious as well. Since you're posting on this forum I assume you're not into chains. I was not. We had our first baby girl exactly 7 weeks ago, and leading up to her due date we crammed in as many hip/fine dining as we could.
Now that we have her, we haven't been back to the Nana's and Lanterns of the area. We're scared to be the rude parents with a screaming monster. Although I do have a theory now that a baby/newborn might do pretty well in a fairly noisy restaurant. I hear it's common for a baby to find it easy to sleep when surrounded by white noise, and that's been my observation with my girl. I'll tell you where we've been since she was born. I'm assuming it's not the list you're looking for:
1. Cici's - We fit right in.
2. Mellow Mushroom. She pretty much slept through the dinner. No problem to report.
3. Moe's - There's a changing table the bathroom.
4. Vita - I believe this is the only independently owned restaurant we've taken her so far. We went there because I remember there being outdoor seating, and I figured we'd annoy fewer people. It worked out just like that, but she was mostly asleep. And when she cried we were outside so one of us could entertain her pretty freely. If I were to comment on the food, I'd say that the cocktails were weak and the pasta(dry)/pizza(bland) were so-so, but people were nice, and I enjoyed the bruschetta and I'm no bruschetta fan. I believe bruschetta is actually an italian slang for "waste of $7-$9", but here it was pretty good(and actually it was like $5). I have no idea how authentic it is. I like how they used the oil, vinegar, garlic and tomato on this one. Perhaps drenched, is how I'd describe it, but in a good way and it wasn't soggy. Also, it's pretty cheap. $41 plus tip for 2 drinks, 1 app and 2 entrees.
5. Mateo - Went there while MIL was watching our baby. I don't see it as a baby-friendly place.
Congratulations brokegradstudent and wife!!! I'm thrilled for you. The good news is that this is truly a lot easier if you start them early and stick to some rules early on that help them learn how to be good diners. And yes, dining at an early hour is always a good idea.
The first few months are actually really easy. Bring the baby into the place in his/her carseat and gently rock back and forth. Should give you an hour or two of peace while you eat and baby sleeps. Once this period is over comes the indoctrination part. You can take the baby with you almost anywhere (Lantern wasn't thrilled to have Lulu there in her first year, but she behaved the whole time so they didn't complain) as long as the moment baby starts to cry one of you gets up and takes the baby outside. Once the crying stops, you can go back in. Keep doing this and the baby will realize quickly that the fun is inside and that not crying means being with the fun. And you don't irritate the other customers. And then, you really can go anywhere.
That said, here are places that we go and have been going since Lulu was a baby: Panzanella, Tylers, Squids, Talullah's, Glasshalful, Vin Rouge, 501 Diner, Akai Hana, Merlion. There are more but these are ones that come immediately to mind, and were all more than happy to have your business with a kid in tow. Magnolia Grill used to have a sign up that said no children allowed, but that is the only place I've seen it implicitly stated. There are so many kids in this area that I think restaurants know they sort of have to deal with it.
It will work out just fine, and I'm thrilled for you.
Like the replies before, the first couple of months are the best time to go before schedules become too set. I think you would be fine at the Lanterns/Nanas/Watts sooner rather than later.
What everyone else said. I'd also add that in the toddler years we tended to go either for an early dinner or a late lunch so that the restaurant would be quieter and the staff would be less harried. I have to say, though, that there are quite a few restaurants to whom we owe spoons. It turned out that playing with a spoon entertained our kid no end and more than a few ended up wedged in the car seat, only to be found days later.
I never really cared what the staff or other patrons thought about our having a baby or small child in a restaurant. However, we were always quick to remove the kid if she started crying or fussing and we were sure to leave a "baby tip" when she made a bad mess.
The only restaurant we avoided was Magnolia Grill and that was due to the length of the meals there. We felt that she wasn't up to sitting still for that long and we also wanted at least one place that was "just ours." We did get her there before they closed and she was annoyed we hadn't done it sooner.
Yes, yes, spoons or at least something (a baggie full of cheerios before they start eating much with you, crayons, something fuzzy but small) for the little hands to do. And engage the child in conversation once he or she is able. Make sure she's part of the whole event and it'll be much more exciting for her.
And please remember to clean up after if there are leftover cheerios, etc. And yes on the "baby tip."
ask for the check as soon as your entrees arrive. that way, you can make a quick exit if things fall apart faster than you expect/hope :)
most places have those high chairs, which you can flip upside down and put the carseat in if you want the baby at eye level. however, the last time we were at a place in carrboro, we were warned by the waiter that those are still not 100% safe.
if you are into babywearing, you can jiggle the baby to sleep, and wear the baby during your meal. i remember dripping garlic soup on my son's head at toast - whoops!
While left to my own devices I prefer establishments that are quiet where I can hold a nice conversation, I search for the opposite when dining with a baby. Anywhere with a constant din is easier to take a baby and/or small children. It doesn't have to be a chain. Plenty of trendy places are noisy. Failing a steady din, anywhere you can eat outdoors is usually a win.
I agree with everyone else. After you're done staying home (I think we stayed home three weeks), the early days are the easiest to go to restaurants. Then once you introduce Cheerios, those days aren't bad. A new eater will happy eat one Cheerio a minute for a whole meal.
After that, you need somewhere that is not only noisy, but relatively quick. I can't take my kids to any meal that is two hours, and we rarely make it long enough for dessert anywhere. If I have prepared well, and the meal is reasonably fast, we can have time for a main course with an appetizer and/or dessert. I don't ask for the check when I order, but I do ask for the check as soon as the main course is delivered. I also pay early, in case I suddenly want to leave quickly.
I disagree about indoctrinating and training children to eat out with you. While I am all for training children, my experience has been that they're all different. One of ours was trainable, one of ours IS NOT. Your success (or not) in going out to eat will largely depend on the baby.
We had friends whose baby slept every time they went out to eat. One of our babies cried every time we went out to eat. You'll figure it out! I would suggest restaurants, but I find that anywhere that has a children's menu is a fine place to bring children. Anywhere that doesn't have a children's menu is somewhere that other people patronize specifically to avoid children.
Definitely agree about the noise factor. We've been taking our daughter- now 3- to "non kid" places for a while, but we always base it on noise and try to go early enough to avoid interrupting anyone's date night. We've had success with Coquette, especially for lunch/ brunch. I also agree with the need to be able to make a quick exit. We've had to get boxes and dash before.
Another thing I look for is the table setup. If they're all high, pub style tables, or if the place doesn't offer highchairs at all, I take it as a hint.
While I generally agree with most everything you've said, limona, I most emphatically do not agree with your assessment of restaurants with children's menus. We've always felt that most restaurants (with a few notable exceptions, none of which are in the Triangle) which have children's menus are NOT places we wanted to bring our child. Not that I have anything against hot dogs, per se. It's just that when I want to give my kid a hot dog, it will be at home, at the ball park, or someplace like Char-Grill or Roast Grill, not a nice restaurant where the adults are eating "real" food and the kids are eating "kids" food.
I have a problem with the contents of kids menus in general. They are usually not smaller portions of the adult menu. They are usually hot dogs, mac & cheese, and chicken fingers. A particularly adventurous one might even have spaghetti with butter.
No ethnic restaurants in the area that I'm aware of have kids menus yet most of those restaurants are packed with families with kids. The children eat the same things their parents eat or, as we've experienced, less spicy versions of the same dishes.
Please don't use the presence of a kids' menu as a measure of a restaurant's suitability for children. There's no substitute for knowing your own child's behavior and likes and dislikes. I'll get off my soapbox now and apologize for the rant as, unfortunately, you've hit one of my major foodie hot buttons.
Ha. I don't like my children to eat hot dogs, either. In fact, I almost never feed them off the children's menu. But I find the presence of a children's menu indicative that it is fine to bring children along with me. A children's menu also generally means they will have a highchair.
Places like Glasshalful or Tallulah's, which have small plates (but no children's menus) are especially good. Lots of kids size portions, lots of different tastes. And even if a place doesn't have a kids menu, but you know that your child likes pasta with butter and parmesan (or some fairly easy thing to prepare) a lot of places will make them for you if you ask nicely.