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Birthday dinner...with a baby?!

My birthday is this Thurs and a friend of mine will be joining me...as will her 2 month old. I have NO child experience. We are looking for a place to have a nice dinner with 4 adults and the infant. I live in Richfield, she is in Rosemount, so I am hoping for something in the south metros, either Minneapolis or St Paul. I eat anything and want to avoid traditional child havens, such as generic chains or suburb fare.

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  1. Depends upon the temperament of the baby. Our baby/child went everywhere with us and did fine. Just ask your friend what the parameters are. I wouldn't make it a really long, multi-course dinner, and there should be room enough at the table for a child carrier of some sort.

    Is there a budget or type of food that you have in mind?

    2 Replies
    1. re: sandylc

      I eat everything and anything (and I am also collecting a list of places for future outings with said child). Looking to keep the price point under $20 a plate. Though if we're avoiding fine dining that probably won't be a problem.

    2. At two months, they don't need a lot of amenities. They sleep, eat, cry, and need to be changed; repeat. It's when they get older and need highchairs to eat and kid-friendly things to eat, and drop lots of food on the floor and spill their cups, and they want to bang their forks on tables that they get more challenging.

      I think you'll want to go some place with a lively enough atmosphere that a crying baby won't cause everyone to turn and stare at you. A place with a some hustle and bustle. And a bathroom with a changing table. And a parking lot so your friend doesn't have to lug her heavy bucket car seat a long distance. And they should either take reservations or be able to accommodate walk-ins without a long wait.

      I'd say Salut on Grand Ave (it's a chain, but a local, non-generic one and they take reservations) or Brasa on Grand Ave at an off-peak time (when you wouldn't have to wait for a table).

      P.S. Happy birthday!

      ETA: I don't remember if they have a changing table in the bathrooms, I'm assuming they do, but Los Ocampo on Suburban in St. Paul? Pretty casual place, though.

      ~TDQ

      5 Replies
      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        What is the balance between bustling and too loud for a kid? Is a place like Masu too loud, or perfect for covering up a fussy baby?

        1. re: forgottendreamr

          I'm afraid I haven't been to Masu and so can't specifically comment on that. For the most part (depending on the temperament of the kid as sandy says above), babies will sleep through just about anything if they are in a mind to sleep. I would say any place you can talk at an ordinary volume would be okay.

          I was just recently at Pat's Tap in Minneapolis. My first impression when I walked into the restaurant was that it was defeaning. Even my toddler kind of recoiled at the noise, at first, (though he eventually settled in and was just fine.) I might not take a newborn there.

          ~TDQ

          1. re: forgottendreamr

            Does the dining area of Masu have regular chairs? I ate in the bar and it has high stools for seating - this would not work logistically with a baby.

            1. re: sandylc

              Yes, it has regular chairs ad booth seating.

        2. First Course in South Minneapolis. They have a Tapas menu so that you can mix and match. It's adult enough to make you feel as though you are celebrating a proper birthday, but casual enough to feel Ok with the baby. The entrees are over $20, but they also have quality pastas below that number.
          www.firstcoursebistro.com

          Cafe Levain would be another good choice with quality dining at an affordable price point. wwww.cafelevain.com

          The original 5/8 club is also over by the airport if you are in the mood for burgers/fries. Again, pretty casual so not too much trouble with the infant.

          As for Saint Paul, not much too far south to choose from. I'd say your best bet is Bennett's Rail and Chop House though it's a bit over your price-point of $20. But if you want a good steak, that's going to be the best value you can find. http://www.bennettschopandrailhouse.com

          Happy Birthday

          6 Replies
          1. re: Db Cooper

            What I'm trying to get at here is just because you have kids doesn't mean you have to go out for Applebee's French food (Salut), a place that does more take-out than in-store (Brasa which does its best work for Andrew Zimmern, the Travel Channel, and other food celebrities), and act like you have a cancer so that nobody notices that you have a kid.

            I assume that you and your guests have the sense that if the baby gets a little restless, you know how to handle it. Having kids doesn't mean you have to eat at bad suburb restos, in-city chain feeding factories, or only dine at off-times. There's nothing happy about that birthday. Pick a restaurant with great food and enjoy. If the baby acts up. you are adult enough to handle it. And most other guests will understand and be able to appreciate your attention to it. Picking a restaurant based on whether or not they have a changing station and how far you have to walk with your baby bag..... If that's the criteria, just make something at home.

            1. re: Db Cooper

              "Picking a restaurant based on whether or not they have a changing station and how far you have to walk with your baby bag..... If that's the criteria, just make something at home."

              Can't reasonable people agree that a changing table is a necessary condition, not a necessary & sufficient condition?

              Just one opinion from someone who recognizes that parents are doing the best they can in the moment, but who never wants to glimpse, ever EVER again, diaper changes happening at the table or in the booth.

              1. re: Db Cooper

                I personally like Brasa --the dining room has a nice warm energy and gets great light--the food is well-sourced and (especially the sides) delicious. I have no idea what you mean about Zimmern. I've never dined there when he was there so I haven't personally been able to observe him having a better experience than me, though I'm pretty sure he gets star treatment wherever he goes.

                Brasa is certainly not worse than, get real, the 5-8 club (a bar) or Bennett's, which has wonderful hospitality but only a notch better than average food and totally crammed together tables (a booth might be okay if it were enough for 4+). (Bennett's does have a parking lot, though! I don't honestly remember whether they have a changing table. I remember the bathroom being awkward and small, but it's been a couple of years so I could be misremembering or things might have changed.)

                I understand your point about Salut, though, and refused to eat there before I had a child because of an anti-corporate bias I have. It's a chain (of two, or is it three? but also part of a restaurant group), but a local one and a well-run one. But, they have exceedingly attentive service when it comes to diners with small children and a nice range in menu options. I can get a salad and my husband always wants a burger. And they have a full bar.

                To each her own. The OP is not the one with the newborn, her friend from Rosemount is, so I assume the OP was looking to make her friend with the newborn feel comfortable, especially since, two months in, this might be one of the new mama's first social outings with this child. It has nothing at all to do with "no one noticing" there's a child (on the contrary, I like people to make a small fuss over mine), but making the mother feel comfortable and allowing her to relax and enjoy herself. The OP personally says she has no baby experience, and she's seeking input on that basis.

                I'll tell you what, when my child was about two months old, a person who shall remain nameless scheduled a brunch at a place on Grand Ave with no parking. I had to shlep my child in his car seat and my overstuffed diaper bag(I didn't really know what I needed to bring along back then, so I brought everything, a typical first-time, new mom mistake that the OP's friend might also make) for 6 blocks from Summit--there, and then back again-- in the sleeting rain. The car seat weighed 15 pounds and the infant weighed another 8 pounds, and that's a lot of weight to carry in the rain or on the ice or over a giant sidewalk berm, especially when you're not used to it. I didn't enjoy it and I will never let that person choose a restaurant again.

                The truth is, though, there are tons of places you can easily take a child, especially a newborn,I just personally can't think of that many restaurants, child-friendly or otherwise, that are well-situated to both Rosemount and Richfield. I do believe that some places welcome children and others just tolerate them, and as my child is a person, and a paying customer (we forgo the child's menu if it's deep-fried craptacular), too, I prefer to eat at the former when my child is along.

                As far as a baby acting up, my child is usually better behaved at restaurants than some adults. (One time, I took him to Meritage for brunch, and a trio of lunching ladies audibly huffed when we sat down; they then proceeded to carry on a loud, boorish conversation, knock their flatware to the floor several times, and bump our table repeatedly. My child was beautifully behaved and when we left, the women apologized to us.) Nevertheless, there have been three occasions (I remember them all very clearly) we have dined out with our child that, for whatever reason (no fault of the restaurants certainly!), he has been an uncharacteristically, absolute, screeching or food throwing terror and we've had to pack up and leave or spend nearly the entire meal walk around outside the dining area because he was just not going to calm down. (Sadly, two of those have been at Ngon Bistro, through no fault of restaurant's, one of them very recently, and now I'm kind of feeling jinxed about bringing him there).

                What I've noticed is that those three occasions were when we ate out because we were determined to eat out, period, because we had reservations or were meeting friends, and we were less in tune with my child's needs. Those have been my worst dining experiences. I was "adult enough" to handle it so that hopefully others meals were only minimally impacted, but I had a miserable time. M.I.S.E.R.A.B.L.E. Those are the occasions when I've been glad I was dining at place that wasn't hush-hush quiet, where I didn't have to wait for a table for 15 minutes in the crowded entry and then again for my check, and where I didn't have a long trek from and to my car.

                I wish I could think of more places that are well-situated to both Richfield and Rosemount, but I just can't.

                I can't wait for patio season. There's not a patio in the Twin Cities that isn't child-friendly in my experience.

                Finally, I don't see why people with cancer shouldn't be permitted to dine out if they want. (I know sometimes food isn't always appealing...)

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  Whew, I didn't realize this would cause such a storm! You are right though...I am looking for a restaurant that the staff doesn't sigh when we walk in the door and the other diners will be irritated just from a child being there. My friend, the mother, is also an exceptionally accommodating person and would never tell me if she thought a place wasn't going to work...I want to avoid making assumptions that I don't have the context to fully grasp from lack of experience.

                  There are lots of good suggestions here...thanks everyone for all your help!

                  1. re: forgottendreamr

                    Well, apparently even the Chowhound Team thinks children in restaurants is a hot potato topic. The hardest thing for me in responding to your query is thinking of places that fit your parameters for location. Are the kinds of recommendations you've been getting so far generally ok, location-wise?

                    I think Meritage is great for brunch with an infant, make reservations and research parking before you go. I wouldn't do dinner there with a small child, though. It just feels too crowded and chaotic.

                    St. Paul hotel would certainly work and seem sufficiently special occasion'ish: hotels have to work with all kinds of diners because they have to accommodate anyone who stays in their hotel. Might be expensive and a little stodgy food-wise, but they will accommodate the heck out you.

                    Chatterbox Pub in St. Paul is terrifically kid-friendly and might be good for you location-wise. They have a parking lot in the back. I don't think the food is the best, but some people like it. I think of it as more of an everyday place than a special occasion place, but they do have a full bar if that helps you feel more festive. I think their Sunday buffet is pretty great if you've got kids of eating solid food age.

                    Honestly though, I'm sure once your friend adjusts to being a new mom, she will hit her groove about dining out with kids and it will be no big deal. I think a new, first-time mom's first couple of outings, speaking from recent personal experience, can be nervewracking. I think it's kind of you to ask.

                    Except for the possible nervousness of the new mom, newborns are pretty easy as the restaurant doesn't need to provide them anything at all in terms of food or beverage. It's great if they have some kind of high chair thing that you can put your bucket seat on, but even that isn't essential.

                    Here's a thread I found very helpful a couple years back: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/812912 As always, great advice from lots of hounds in this thread.

                    Happy birthday!

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Total tangent, but fun memories: My wife and I took our first-born out to a lot of stuff within the first couple weeks and he slept through 99.9% of it (including D'Amico 4 days after he was born and a Twins game at the Dome on Day 6).

                      I agree with you that it's kind of tough to make good recommendations not knowing how fussy the kid is, what kind of food/level of "fancy" they are looking for, level of adventurousness wanted, if it's more food-focused or just enjoying company focused, etc.

            2. Folks, just a quick note. We know that Children in Restaurants is an issue that's fraught with emotions and doesn't tend to go well on Chowhound, so we'd ask that people try to keep focused on suggesting restaurants they think are kid friendly. It's fine to share your reasons for thinking so, and even to disagree with other people's reasons, but please bend over backwards to be friendly and try to keep the focus on the restaurants themselves, and not on how others have chosen to post. Thanks.

              1. Andale in Richfield for Mexican? Or Hoban in Eagan for Korean? Satay 2 Go in Apple Valley? In my experience, babies are often welcome at lower priced restaurants run by recent immigrants.

                1. Nha Sang (Tibetan/Pan Asian) in Burnsville flies under the radar on here. It's equidistant from Rosemount and Richfield...very easy to get to. Outstanding food.

                  I was in there a couple weeks ago with my three kids. I don't think a baby getting fussy would bother too many people (especially since it's unfortunately not very crowded most often).

                  www.nhasangrestaurant.com

                  1. Having no children, this is just a guess but how about Masu at the Mall of America? I haven't been to this location but I would have to guess that, due to their location, they would be able to accomodate everyone.