Children and restaurants

During our corporate friends recent visit we took them to Etta’s.? This is one of Tom Douglas’s many restaurants in Seattle.? (For those unfamiliar, Tom Douglas is a well known Seattle chef with a slew of fantastic restaurants and he is best known for his Crab Cakes.? I now know why.)? Etta’s is a casual fish house 1/2 a block north of Pike Place Market.? The food is fantastic, the views outstanding and the atmosphere warm.? We had no reservations about taking a 3 year old to such a restaurant.? We browsed their online menu and found they served simple fish dishes and that either the trusty husband or I could share our meal with the boy if need be.? In the end there was no need because when seated they handed us a delightful children’s menu with tons of choices.? The boy picked chicken and fries (shocking*) and only ate the fries (also shocking*).? We had a wonderful dinner.? The child played with the fork and butter knife, per his usual dining out routine and colored for quite a bit.? We only had to tell him to sit up once and only moderately prodded to actually eat his dinner.

The next night we were at the Harmon Hub (sans child) when Jen (one of the corporate people) asked me if the previous night’s experience with a well behaved child in a nice restaurant was unusual for us.? Our reply was an emphatic “no.”? You see, we’ve only had three major outbursts in restaurants with the boy.? One he flung a plate of mac n’ cheese across the room during the great I won’t eat for three days episode of 2006.? The other two were at our favorite Thai restaurant and one of those was because he hadn’t napped that day.? The other I had to physically remove him from the restaurant and do holding time on a bench outside to get him to calm down.? Besides those episodes the child is extremely well behaved in restaurants.

Now I don’t mean to go on and brag about how good my kid is.? You hate me enough as it is for having a child that isn’t a picky eater.? But I have to say there is a reason my child is well behaved in restaurants.? He was taught sternly that we practice good table manners and well behaved in restaurants.? Not only am I the food Nazi, I’m the public outing Nazi.

I take offense at people who say that children don’t belong in fine dining establishments.? Or that families with children should only be seen in restaurants earlier than 5:30 p.m.? Why sequester those of us with kids away?

I have taken my child to some of the best restaurants in town and get repeated compliments from wait staff about his behavior.? We’ve eaten at Pomodoro, Il Fiasco, The Cliffhouse, Benihana (actually the one in Anchorage) and Stanley & Seaforts.? There are other nice places we’ve taken the boy or places that other local parents suggest are for the 12+ set.? We aren’t afraid.? Sure, there are a few places that are truly adult dining establishments that we love such as Marco’s Supperclub, Oceanaire and El Gaucho (although we’ve only been there for drinks) that we wouldn’t even dream of taking our 3 year old to.

I encourage parents to get out with your child.? Use dining out as an opportunity to practice good manners with your child.? Dining out can be a great experience and trust me you don’t have to pack a whole arsenal of things to entertain your child.? The boy is perfectly happy to play with a fork and butter knife.? I may throw one hot wheel in my hand bag.? Better yet, you never know what restaurants will have children’s menu and provide you with paper and colors.? There is no reason to sit around home and eat frozen fish sticks when you could be dining on world famous crab cakes.

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*said in only the most sarcastic tone I can muster.

10 Comment

  1. Yep, we also use eating out opportunities to practice on manners. My kiddo isn’t perfect by any stretch…and there are definitely times that I won’t take him out (when he’s tired, etc)…but I agree. There’s no perfectly good reason to make parents feel secluded from the rest of the world!

  2. Maggie says: Reply

    Sigh. I wish it was that easy. For my kiddo it has nothing to do with table manners. For Slugger, restaurants are overly intimate and terribly overstimulating. He just flips out in restaurants. He does better when it’s just the two of us, and he does best in restaurants where he can get up and move which means we do a lot of Chinese buffet. His anxieties and fears are just way too big to handle restaurants.

  3. Elle says: Reply

    Margaret, I know there are exceptions to the case. I know of a few children myself that are not good in crowded situations or quiet places. In fact, my boy does wonderfully in restaurants, but try to take him to the bathroom in said restaurant and all hell breaks loose. And let’s not mention the hour leading up to the dinner at Etta’s. Airport, mall, walking in downtown Seattle and Pikes (even if it was at closing time). Enough for me to deserve that drink I had at dinner.

  4. Jenny2 says: Reply

    There were four of us growing up and we were often taken to nice restaurants/etc… and we were perfectly behaved. So much so, that people would actually come to the table to tell my parents how well mannered we were. Hell yes, we were because we knew what would happen if we weren’t: WE’D NEVER SEE DAYLIGHT AGAIN.

    Good manners can be taught and are never forgetten.

    Good job.

  5. We have been very lucky to not have any bad incidents in restaurants with Sabrina. The only places we hesitate to take her are the ones we aren’t sure will have high chairs (she gets squirmy if in our laps for that long). There was 1 place in Pittsburgh we didn’t take her to because they didn’t have highchairs and because it was a special occasion thing for us so doing it sans child was lovely.

    And a truly good crab cake is a rare thing. I order them and am repeatedly disappointed. There is one place that still has me dreaming of their crab cakes.

  6. Wendy says: Reply

    We have always taken our kids and expected them to behave no matter where we go. We have had a few meltdowns and kids removed from public view, but in the long run it has just gotten easier and easier to go about our business with kids in tow. Recently I flew across the country with the kids and it was a joy, but only because by now they know what is expected and what will happen. But…each child is different and comes into our lives with their own personality and sometimes past experiences. I don’t expect the two we are adopting to get it anytime soon, and it took longer for my second daughter to be public-approved than the other two. In the end the hard work is worth it and we all benefit. But there have been times……oy!

  7. When I only had one child, I think (if I can truly remember those days…) that I could brag about a well mannered, well behaved child at a restaurant. Now that I have four…you just never know what will happen. Sure enough ONE of them is bound to misbehave, and it’s not always the same one. It’s like rolling dice.

  8. Lauri says: Reply

    I agree that it is good to get kids out & about.. we eat out often and besides for wiggly feet and kicking Mama… overall my kiddo has excellent manners, but so far we have not been to anyplace really upscale, Livi’s fav thing is to stack coffee creamers… so that alone should tell you we are going to local Mom & Pop joints for our meals… fine by us…but we do plan to branch out on vacay and get a really fine meal

  9. Debbie says: Reply

    I couldn’t agree more. My nieces and nephew have always been great while eating out. I hope we’re able to instill similar table manners in our little one as she grows.

  10. Patti says: Reply

    From early on we’ve taken our girls to fine dining establishments and expected them to behave, so they did. Never once have we had to walk out or even take either one of them outside to correct behavior. I know this can’t be the case for everyone because kids are so different, but my girls know what’s expected and are very capable of following our rules whether we’re at home or out & about. We’re very lucky and many of our friends hate us. 😉

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