Should Children Be Allowed in Upscale Restaurants?

Julie Ryan Evans

messy toddler
Photo by brighteyesbryar
There's been a lot of talk lately about children in fine dining establishments -- should they or shouldn't they be allowed?

The New York Times seemingly started the this round of the ongoing debate with an article titled Fine Dining Where Strollers Don't Invite Sneers that talked about efforts by some upscale restaurants that actually cater to families with children.

"There are no children's menus at these places, where grown-up meals run as high as $100 a person, but they all have high chairs and find little ways to cater to the under-3 crowd," wrote the article's author, Shivani Vora.

Then came the backlash.

The comments flew in berating Vora and anyone else who could possibly think about taking their children to one of these establishments.

"People who force their toddlers on others in enclosed public spaces like fine restaurants (and airplanes) are even more selfish than those who insist on talking on cell phones in such places," stated one commenter.

I think I sat next to him on my last flight.

"Im sure the other diners, the majority without munchkins, enjoy the howls that invariably accompany little eaters and spitters. There are drawbacks to having babies, and one is that dining out is put on the back burner, so to speak. Or it should be," from another.


I've certainly felt a few daggers as I've strolled into restaurants with my children, but I figured it was just me being overly sensitive or a few grumps in every bunch. But the mere idea of children in nice restaurants brings out some really not-nice rage in people.

When my 6-year-old son was a toddler, we took him to pretty much any restaurant we wanted to try. We brought a portable DVD player, and he was a divine diner. Often those who sneered at us on the way in came over to compliment his behavior on their way out. I'd still take him to any four-star restaurant and know he'd use his manners and not disturb anyone.

With my 16-month-old daughter, one the other hand, I choose our dining options a bit more carefully. First, as I've told you, she's incredibly messy. But also, she's not as absorbed by DVDs as my son was. They only hold her interest briefly before she tries to reach for nearby objects ... which could include a neighboring diner's hair. Plus, she's just LOUD.

So I choose more carefully - both where to go and when to avoid tantrums. There may be times I think she can handle "nice" places, but for now, if there's not a children's menu then this child shouldn't be there.

Plus, I don't want to shell out big bucks for a nice meal when I'm distracted by her antics.

So I think it depends on the child. Some children can and do handle four-star restaurants just fine and shouldn't be shunned from doing so. Others can't (just like some adults I've encountered), and their parents should know better and act accordingly.

But for all the people out there so outraged by the mere thought of their dinner being interrupted by a child, be careful. Rages can cause heartburn, and surely that would ruin your meal too.

What do you think -- should children be allowed in upscale restaurants?

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