Dining Out with Baby
How and where to do it gracefully.
Dining out with a baby. I do it all the time. Sometimes you need a meal on the go (please no fast food), and it can be a real challenge getting a babysitter at a moment’s notice. And because if I didn’t dine out, I’d lose a part of me that makes me who I am. I also think bringing baby out to restaurants will teach him how to behave well in a public setting, so by the time he’s two or three, he’ll already know what’s appropriate. So the trick is: how to dine out gracefully.
Rule number 1: Don’t choose a fancy restaurant (sometimes brunch is okay though). You want to pick a restaurant that’s middle of the road or lower in terms of price point and atmosphere. Why is brunch okay? Because it’s a convivial atmosphere and many of the guests might be too hungover to care if baby makes a peep.
Rule number 2: Go early. What time does the restaurant open for dinner? If you want to go, it’s most considerate to go when it opens. Not only because the restaurant likely won’t be too busy at that time, but also because if baby makes noise, you won’t be interrupting date night. Plus, your little one likely goes to bed by 8 p.m. anyway, so it makes sense to avoid disrupting his or her schedule.
Rule number 3: Choose a loud restaurant. Do a test run and walk in before getting a table. Check out the noise level. Do they have sound-proofing carpeting? Is there a lot of activity and loud conversation? Laughing even? Good sign. Do they have music playing? All the better! Avoid restaurants where you can hear a pin drop.
Rule number 4: Along the same lines as a test run, send mom or dad inside the restaurant before sitting (or call first), and ask, “Do you have high chairs?” If they don’t, say thank you, turn around and get out fast. That means they probably don’t want you there. And you don’t want to be some place you’re not wanted.
Rule number 5: If your baby is still small enough for an infant carseat, it’s wise to dine out around nap time. The car ride might coax little one to sleep, and it’s very possible you can seamlessly transport baby from the car to the restaurant without waking him or her up.
Rule number 6: Now that the weather’s getting nicer, patio seating is open for business. This is perfect for dining with baby. Oftentimes, you can pull right up with your stroller, and baby will be thrilled looking around at his or her new surroundings, and the noise level of the street (or nature) may drown out gleeful shrieks.
Rule number 7: Bring snacks. If you’re going to eat, baby should eat, too. It’s wise to come prepared (you’re a parent now, so this should be your thing). Pack a bottle, baby food, puffs, whatever it is that will keep baby satiated at the table.
Rule number 8: Bring toys. Most likely baby will be happy to sit at the table facing you and be a part of family dinnertime. Make funny faces. Include baby in your conversation. Offer up his or her favorite toys like a crinkle book, an Oball or even a mirror. But please leave musical toys and thing that beep and buzz at home (Sophie the teething toy might be an exception).
Rule number 9: If baby cries, and if there’s nothing that will stop him or her, send one parent with baby outside for a walk to soothe him or her. Communicate by cell phone (texting is best, because you already have that one-handed skill down), and if baby won’t calm down, then it’s time to be an adult, ask that your food be packed up to-go, get the check, pay and go.
Rule number 10: If baby makes a mess with bread, food or what have you, be courteous and try to clean up as much as you can off the floor. The best thing to do is to try to keep it under control to begin with so you avoid leaving a mess for others to clean. At the very least, attempt to clean it up. Or better yet, give baby food that won’t create crumbs or stickiness everywhere in the first place (I’m a master at spoon-feeding applesauce). And if all else fails, leave a really nice tip for your server.
Places where we have had a great experience: Julians, Rasoi, the Wurst Window, Beehive Cafe, Red Parrot, Brick Alley Pub, the Grange, Olga’s Cup and Saucer, Angelo's Civita Farnese and Flatbread Company.
Have any other suggestions or criticisms? Sound off below.