Saturday, October 2, 2010

Eating Out with Kids (and having a positive experience)

We eat out more than we probably should.
We are sort of food lovers here.
We like to eat things we some substance.
If I am having a dragging day & didn't get any decent food together,
we aren't the sort to say, "Let's just eat PB&J for dinner".

We take our kids out to eat.
At sit down restaurants.
And, it is usually a pleasant experience.
We rarely have people around us show irritation about our wee ones.

Tonight we took a stroll to our neighborhood sushi restaurant - Miyuki's.
Things went really well.
Even though little Mo had neglected to take her afternoon nap.

Another favorite for our family is The Whole Enchilada.
Here we are last month, post a sit down meal.

Everyone was still in pretty good spirits.

Okay.  
So, things to consider when choosing a place to sit down with 
a handful of little ones - 
  • Try to choose a place where the folks on staff are kid friendly.  The Whole Enchilada is a favorite for the kids.  A big reason being that the owner comes by & says hi & gives them each a cheap pair of sunglasses. Oh.  And, they get a mermaid in the straw of their drink cup.

  • Choose a place that has a lot of interest for little ones.  You know, the places that may seem a bit kitschy to you.  Stuff on shelves, on the wall, hanging for the ceiling...  the more the better.  It keeps the kids occupied, looking at all the amazing decor.
  • Choose a place that serves some sort of food right away.  Chips & Salsa or bread or soup or whatever.  If you kids are like mine, once they are seated at a table, they expect food.  Pronto.
  • Choose a place that serves food your kids like to eat.  (Obviously).
  • Choose a place that has a noise level to "mirror" the noise level of your family.
  • It's a nice plus if their is kid friendly entertainment.  (Our kids love these guitarist guys.  So cute!)

  • Don't forget to tip extra if your child(ren) leaves more mess than normal.  They staff be happy to see you next time.

I'll tell you something else about eating out with kids.  
If you have kids who really are quiet & mild mannered, 
I don't think you should be afraid to take them to nicer joints.  
Take the tiny one out on date night.
We did that a lot when Gillian was a little one.  
We took her to nice, quiet places.  
Places that would never be described as family restaurants.
We went on vacation to Carmel Valley when Gillian was nearly one year old.  
We wanted to enjoy some good food.  
And, we even went to a winery.
And, she was well behaved.  
If she was fussy, one of us just stepped out with her.
But, one tip on dining at places that aren't deemed kid-friendly - 
Go early.  
Your baby will be happier.
The restaurant will be less crowded.
There probably won't be as many romantic date night dinners out yet.
Plus, you may get in on some happy hour type discounts.

What are your tips for eating out with kids?

5 comments:

Melissa Joy said...

We love taking our boy out to eat with us. "Family dates" are one of our favorites. :) You obviously mentioned some really good tips and key points. A couple things I do? I order him something fun to drink right off the bat, and ask for it to come pronto. Usually chocolate milk. (But occasionally juice. And he really loves root beer.) And I also make sure to bring a couple fun, distracting toys/activities in the diaper bag (because the crayons restaurants offer don't always entertain him): stickers, etch-a-sketch, magnadoodle.
I've always wondered... is it okay to just share your food with your kid at a restaurant? (if you give a bit of an extra tip anyway) Because I never finish my own, and Gabriel just picks & eats a small amount... so I usually do order him his own small thing (even if it's just a small side of fries with bbq sauce - his current favorite), but wonder if it would be okay to just share? But think maybe that wouldn't be appropriate...? Any thoughts on that?

Nicola S. said...

We don't go out to eat all that often and the restaurant that we go to is the Locsha Lodge (which is the only restaurant within 55 miles of our house) but it's a lot of fun for the girls because it has lots of animals hanging on the walls and in the log rafters! This last time we when out the girlies did really well and eat all their food (which we have the girls share)chicken and fries with ranch of course. But the time before that Audrey spilled water on herself and screamed the most amazing scream I've ever heard and the restaurant was packed and everyone looked at Lucas and I like what have you done to your child. Not so great! But we'll keep trying! We do tend to go really early, around 4:30 so the girls are real happy after getting up from their naps.

Stef said...

We love eating out too! But, we don't do it very often at all.
I think a good seating host(ess) will do their job well and sit you in a good area for small kids. Like near the kitchen :)
I also bring crayons and coloring pages and Ethan's new favorite is to play hangman while we wait for the food. We just write on napkins.
And yes, tip extra for sure. At least we do, since our family leaves quite the mess :(
We've had a couple experiences like Nicola mentioned, over the past 5+ years. Thankfully they're rare, but we've had them. Where you're sure someone has cranked the heat up in the place and put huge signs on your head that read "PLEASE, STARE AT US LONGER!" OK, I'm exaggerating, but in the moment, its sure felt that way :)
Kara, as a newborn, did not like to be out of the house, so restaurant eating wasn't something we did much until she was old enough to actually enjoy it.

Melissa, I'm sure some waiters would tell you they don't like when you share, since it makes the bill smaller, but hey, its part of the joy of living in a free country!
We once went to eat at a place that heard we were going to let Ethan eat off our plates (he was like 11 months old) and they refused to let us do that, so we left.
SNOBS! I cannot enjoy myself at places like that :(
Also, maybe they should serve less than humungous portions if they don't want us sharing. Goodness.

Erin said...

Nicola - Sometimes a freak out / melt down seems to come from out of nowhere. I hear you! We have those sometimes, too. And, the screamer has to be taken out for a bit!
Melissa, I agree with the others that it should be fine for you to share.
Our kids share a plate, usually. And, when just Gillian was little, we just shared our food with her. Some places may charge a small fee for "plate splitting". I don't know how it would be inappropriate to share, unless it was an "all you can eat or drink" deal.

Stef said...

We love eating out too! But, we don't do it very often at all.
I think a good seating host(ess) will do their job well and sit you in a good area for small kids. Like near the kitchen :)
I also bring crayons and coloring pages and Ethan's new favorite is to play hangman while we wait for the food. We just write on napkins.
And yes, tip extra for sure. At least we do, since our family leaves quite the mess :(
We've had a couple experiences like Nicola mentioned, over the past 5+ years. Thankfully they're rare, but we've had them. Where you're sure someone has cranked the heat up in the place and put huge signs on your head that read "PLEASE, STARE AT US LONGER!" OK, I'm exaggerating, but in the moment, its sure felt that way :)
Kara, as a newborn, did not like to be out of the house, so restaurant eating wasn't something we did much until she was old enough to actually enjoy it.

Melissa, I'm sure some waiters would tell you they don't like when you share, since it makes the bill smaller, but hey, its part of the joy of living in a free country!
We once went to eat at a place that heard we were going to let Ethan eat off our plates (he was like 11 months old) and they refused to let us do that, so we left.
SNOBS! I cannot enjoy myself at places like that :(
Also, maybe they should serve less than humungous portions if they don't want us sharing. Goodness.