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11 January 2011

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Christy Porucznik

We don't go out much, but there are some key factors for success.

First is not having starving kids.

Existence of changing tables in restrooms for both genders!

I often ask if centerpieces (including tabletop dessert menus and decorative candles or flowers) can be removed for the duration of our meal. This allows for more space to free up a clear zone.


We tend to clear a zone of emptiness within Q's reach. I can always tell if the server is experienced or has children if they return with drinks, see the clear zone, and immediately put drinks or utensils in it.

I *do not* like kids' menus as they are generally filled with food-like substances that I wouldn't ordinarily feed my children. Neither one of whom has yet had the experience of a chicken nugget. Often I order a heavy appetizer for the kids' meal.

I really like ordering something for the kids immediately upon sitting down if I think that it might be a while before the food arrives. This is a trick I learned from you, BTW.

On a related note, we recently needed to buy lights for our addition and wound up at a light store in Utah County (home of Provo and many families with many small children). It was a enlightening experience in every way. They weren't freaked out by my small children wandering around their fragile inventory. They had a playroom with toys in it. The salesman said "we wouldn't judge you if you left the kids in the car with a DVD player" (we wouldn't do that). Unexpected benefit of driving farther to go shopping - the shopping experience was less stressful even though the drive was difficult.

Christy Porucznik

Bars also tend to have large appetizer menus and a flexibility about the notion of serving people at different times. They think it is ok to bring something for the kids right away - especially if you just call it an appetizer.

bearing

I too used to disdain children's menus, and am still thrilled to find a restaurant with a more interesting kid's menu, but I have loosened up on my disdain some after years of parenting multiple kids.

(I never was anti-french fries, though. I love them too.)

Christy Porucznik

French fries are fine -- actually often ordered since it follows my "Order something you wouldn't make at home" rule. I'd rather have a basket of garlic fries for all!

It's the dino-shaped chicken nuggets that get me. Or grilled American cheese on white bread with no substitution available even though they have a wide selection of buns/breads and cheeses for the adult sandwiches.

SE

As the mother of one baby, places where my baby can eat tidbits of finger food off the tabletop without having to worry about sullying the tablecloth or surface are nice. You'd think places with paper tablecloths or placemats would be kid-friendly, but I find they are a very poor combination with a grabby baby. I also like chopsticks because they're great for popping little bits of food into the baby's mouth, thus bypassing the messy finger-food experience. Asian places will also often give me a lidded disposable cup of water with a straw, which my daughter loves. And of course having highchairs, and a layout where they are not in the way, is helpful.

Christy Porucznik

One last thought -- hosts immediately endear themselves to me when we walk in as a family (2 adults, 1 4.5 year old, and 1 1.5 year old) and they say "4 people in your party?" or something similar. Great when children and toddlers and babies are counted as people!!

priest's wife

I find that ethnic restaurants with customers of that ethnicity seem to welcome my kids. Mexican, Chinese, Vietnamese- they don't have a kids' menu, so we split 2 entrees between 4 kids

Ellen

1.Restaurants that give free chips so the kids have something to eat while you wait for your food.
2. my kids did great in New Orleans, where all the restaurants were noisy. also, it seemed that the restaurants there weren't used to having kids come in, so when the servers did see kids, they made a huge fuss over them.

bearing

priests' wife -- Agreed! We always seem to have a great time at our favorite sushi place -- my 10yo loves sushi, and the 7- and 4yos are thrilled to eat edamame, rice, and "chicken on a stick." And everybody loves Vietnamese restaurants too -- I am raising at least one pho fan, and the little crunchy eggrolls are a favorite.

One really good Vietnamese restaurant in town is difficult, though, because of the rack of chopsticks, napkins, chili oil, sriracha sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, sweet sauce, pepper flakes, and spoons that's bolted to the table and can't be removed.

jenny

I actually live in New Orleans, and I'll second that comment about places being noisy!

For kids (we have 4-year-old twins, a 2-year-old, and a 1-year-old--all girls) we've noticed a direct correspondence between number-of-highchairs-available and happy-acceptance-of-kids. It's something we never would have paid attention to before kids, but once we had our twins, we went back to our favorite pizza place (pizza!) only to find that they only had one highchair. One! for the whole restaurant! It's as if the whole families-with-kids-coming-in was an afterthought (they also have a lot of two-seater tables...). (I will say that they weren't disdainful in their attitude--just not set up for kids.)

Our favorite place is Mexican (I agree with the "ethnic" comment above, too) where there are so many highchairs and boosters that I've never seen the stack anywhere close to depleted. Here, too, the servers will go out of their way to come by the table and "talk" to the baby. (Our other favorite is sushi--it's a local semi-stylish place, but the family-owned really makes a difference (and we go as soon as they open at 5 p.m.) (I was talking to the sister of the owner one day, and she told me there were ten kids in their family...).)

At any rate, that's my two cents: when we see a big stack of highchairs (and we only use one, these days) and boosters, we're pretty confident that the restaurant is kid-friendly. Simple, but so far, true!

Christy Porucznik

In SLC most places that have any highchairs have a stack of them, and yet there are some popular places where they still run out on weekend brunches. Good indicator variable! One example is Ruth's Diner where bearing taught me another important lesson or two about dining out with kids: coffee mugs make good kid cups if the other option is a 500mL water cup; relax about the mess or you won't enjoy your meal, and tip accordingly.

bearing

That was a really good restaurant. I love breakfast.

MelanieB

We always have the best luck at Asian restaurants. The staff always seem happy to see children. Especially small toddlers who are willing to eat the ethnic food. At our favorite Chinese place the hostess always greets us with a huge smile and chats with the kids as she seats us.

I've learned to bring some finger foods for the baby or small toddler to eat while we wait for the food: a bag of cheese chunks or cheerios or toast. Something easy and not too messy. But the most kid-friendly places are those that will bring the kids food quickly. My favorites are the places that bring a basket of bread as soon as you sit down.

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