Fine dining with a 3-month old?
Hello Chicago hounds!
I spend much of my days lurking in lieu of actively posting and I love reading about Chicago food. I have a question to which I cannot find an answer:
We have a birthday tradition with another couple wherein we take each other to a really special restaurant for dinner. We've done Takashi most recently. The other couple just had a baby and will need to bring the little pork chop along with us for their joint birthday dinner. We'd really like to knock their socks off with this dinner, as they are returning to Brazil to live next month. Where can we go with the pumpkin in tow? We are open to going early and on a weekday.
Here is where we've been to a lot recently and would prefer to avoid:
Here are places we would love to take them but we're not sure if they'd be appropriate with a baby:
Thank you for your help!
A 3 month old should be fine any where. While I can't speak to those places personally I took our son to comparable places with no issue. Babe in arms usually just sleep/eat and both are easy done table side.
The key is go on the earlier side (to avoid obnoxious grown ups that tend to eat later and drink more). Also consider having the babe in a sling/wrap. That way you don't need to bring in the car seat or block space with a stroller. Also much easier to feed the baby discreetly (if that is important to you) while you continue your meal.
I don't have children myself so I am not making judgements about their lack of interest in a babysitter. Thank you very much for the Blackbird recommendation. I have made a reservation. It's one of my favorite Chicago restaurants. I will call them ahead of time to ensure that the baby is welcome.
Obviously there are no right or wrong answers, as I'm pretty sure none of these restaurants forbid children/infants (does anywhere other than Sprout?). You asked about "appropriate", and that is quite subjective. Since you asked, however, I assume you are concerned about the comfort of others, so thank you. Weekdays and early are two steps in the right direction. The places you mentioned are amongst the highest end in town (average tabs probably $200+ pp). At those prices, people really don't want to be disturbed by infants (or drunk adults, for that matter). While I believe you that he is well-behaved, babes will be babes, and if he starts to cry, I'd expect him to be taken out of the dining area. Also, if the suggestion to "feed the baby discreetly" implies breastfeeding at the table, please don't at these locations. This is not as customary in the U.S. as in many other countries, and not expected at fine dining establishments. As for Blackbird, while I love the restaurant, I do not think it is a good dinner choice with an infant, as the tables are extremely close together. If by "welcome" you mean "allowed", I'm pretty sure the answer is "yes", but those words are not synonymous to most of us.
I'd agree about the tables, I would not want to try to bring a baby to Blackbird or Schwa, it would be very cramped and a car seat usually doesn't fit on a normal chair (if they use a swing that could work, but sometimes good meals last for hours). I have a toddler now, but 2 years ago when she was a baby we still took her to nice restaurants, but simply tended towards going earlier in the day, where things were less crowded, we could be courteous to the dinner crowd, and weren't as tempted to have a cocktail.
On the other hand, we would never take her to a place like Schwa, because frankly it make me uncomfortable due to the inevitable judgement of the foodies. Apologies to any foodies. I would veer towards a place like MK (not MK though), which has great food, a little more space, and is a little more chill. Have you tried Northpond? If I recall it's a little more roomy, and had a more low key vibe.
Good point about the tables being close together at Blackbird. The reason I had mentioned it as possibly being OK is it is louder and less formal/intimate than Tru and Everest (where if the infant became fussy - as infants often do, especially over the course of a very lengthy dinner - it would be disturbing to a large number of patrons, many of whom would be celebrating special occasions). El Ideas and Schwa are very adult, dinner party like atmospheres where it would be totally out of place to have an infant (and at Schwa the noise level likely harmful).
OP, have you considered doing something other than one of Chicago's highest end restaurants? There are many very good restaurants in Chicago where bringing an infant would not be inconsiderate. Ethnic restaurants such as Sun Wah (Asian), Ras Dashen (Ethiopian), Marigold (Indian), Los Nopales (Mexican) all might be worth considering or if not interested in ethnic there are several upscale (but not formal, fine dining) neighborhood venues you might want to consider, i.e. Browntrout, Sola or Deleece for example.
While some people feel that it is appropriate to bring an infant anywhere, most people feel that it is poor etiquette to bring an infant to a fine dining venue where most patrons are expecting a quiet, upscale, romantic, intimate dinner. There is just too much risk of an infant becoming fussy during the course of a 2-3.5 hour dinner.
Folks, we appreciate that everyone's being polite and gentle in how they bring up the etiquette of kids in restaurants, but it's always been a touchy subject for Chowhound, so we hope everyone will focus on whether any given specific restaurant allows or is appropriate for children, rather than on whether it is or isn't generally good etiquette, or whether nursing at the table is appropriate, etc. Those are subjects that are fraught with difficulties here, unfortunately.
I want to thank everyone for their input! We ended up cancelling our Blackbird reservation per the advice here and went to Markethouse. I called ahead and requested a table in the back. I was so glad we did because we really used the extra space to wheel the little guy around when he became fussy. We had a much more casual meal than we would have at Blackbird, but I think the couple was more relaxed than they would have been at Blackbird (where they would have worried about sullying others' experiences).
We went out with another couple who have a nine-month-old for an early Monday dinner at Central Standard. We had the restaurant largely to ourselves and enjoyed a delicious meal, particularly the savories. I highly recommend the short ribs and the shrimp 'n' grits. Although the baby slept throughout dinner, she woke up for dessert and the staff could not have been more doting.