Is it okay to dine out with the kids in tow? Every now and again in Internet world, this debate comes up. Chow's Etiquette columnist Helena Echlin (soon to become a mom) asked her readers if babies belonged in restaurants.
Some restaurateurs weighed in, and most said they enjoyed having families visit their establishments, within limits. The comments are a different story. Some people just really hate kids.
It is possible to take your baby out to eat without causing a scene. A baby is much, much more fun to take to a restaurant than a toddler. But there are rules we should follow ...
1. Go at "early-bird special" hours. The restaurant is not usually too busy right after it opens, so it's quiet and the servers can get your food to you more quickly, minimizing the chances of a meltdown. And you won't get the stink eye from child haters out on a date (or, more likely, dining alone).
2. Plan to tip very well. Start at a 20 percent tip and go up from there, depending on the friendliness and efficiency of the waitstaff and how big a mess your baby leaves. One place we go always brings a little plate of fruit to the table for the baby without being asked; those waitresses get 30 percent.
3. Don't eat anywhere that doesn't have high chairs (even if you won't be using one). That's the dead giveaway the place isn't baby-friendly, and you won't be welcome even if they do seat you and take your money.
4. Always ask for the check and a takeout container as soon as your food comes. Maybe you'll be able to linger, maybe you won't, but if your baby becomes inconsolable, at least you won't be desperately scanning the place for your server as her wails get louder and louder and you can actually feel the hateful glares from other patrons.
5. Leave the Michelin-starred palaces of cuisine until they are much older. Or for date night. Brewpubs, neighborhood joints, and ethnic restaurants all tend to be more child-friendly, and you can have some outstanding food there, too.
Do you bring your baby to restaurants?
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