No shirt, No High Chair, No Service: A New Parent’s Perspective On Dining Out.

 

Daphne_Menu

“Get that filthy baby out of here,” my husband would joke under his breath whenever we went somewhere, a plane, a concert, a restaurant, and there was a baby in the crowd.

I’d laugh, of course, because, well, it was funny.  This would egg him on and he’d say something else like, “Just filthy,” or “Look at that disgusting thing.”

A regular comedian, that husband of mine.  Even though we were in the midst of fertility treatments, I could still take a joke (thank God!).  In fact, it was his silly nature that helped get me through all of that.

Babies aren’t particularly known for their dirtiness, obviously, but when you don’t have kids yet, didn’t grow up around little ones, and don’t have a large circle of friends with kids, most still looking for mates on Match.com or trying their luck with Tinder, babies do seem kind of gross, all cry-y and snot nosed and poopy diapered.  They seem inconvenient.  They seem boring.  They seem like dangerous reminders that at some point you might want to seriously think about caring for some one other than yourself so that you actually have visitors to your rest home when you’re 90. And that’s no fun, no fun at all, especially when you’re three mimosas in to Sunday Funday, nursing a vodka Red Bull hangover.

Even though we’d joke, having a little chuckle fest behind the backs of what I now know were harried parents, regular people just like us, trying to have fun, food, or a safe flight themselves, baby in tow, we really were just kidding Sure, no one likes a baby screaming its head off, no one, but whatever, it happens, it’s life, like the very essence of it.  Even back then, before toting around a miniature pants soiling person of our own, we knew that.  We never would have taken the joke where Malaysia Airlines did in 2012, or where Larson’s Steakhouse did last night when we tried to dine, with our baby, at their establishment. 

Though we took a trip when our daughter was just three months old, back then we didn’t stray far from the hotel, and planned our every move around her nap schedule.  It wasn’t until recently, the 7 month mark I’d say, when she started eating solid food comfortably, sitting up in her high chair steadily, and enjoying meal time like a foodie in training, that we finally started venturing out to restaurants regularly, lunches mostly, but more and more dinners, as our baby girl’s naps grew less frequent and her table manners improved.

With all of that said, it’s still kind of a big deal when we, and likely any new parent, still adjusting to that first year as those now totally responsible for the safety and well being of a helpless infant, decide to go to dinner, at a nicer restaurant.  After all, we still like good food, good service, and good wine.  We still like ambiance.  We still like a little scene.  And frankly, our almost 9-month old does too.  We haven’t had any crying fits, while out and about, since she was four months old, and if we did now, at a fancy steak house like Larson’s, or any place for that matter, we’d promptly remove our child, and take our food to go.

But I know not everyone’s like us, that people let their baby’s cry it out in public, in Walmarts and at Theme Parks everywhere.  I know there have been sick, unhappy babies on many a cross country flight.  But I think those situations are the exception and not the rule.  I think that most of the time, babies wouldn’t be out with parents unless a) they’re well behaved in social situations, or b) there’s no alternative (think weddings, funerals, and family illnesses for flights).  If I have trust enough in my parenting and my baby’s penchant for good restaurant behavior, then so should Larson’s.

Well, Larson’s had no clue what to do with me when I arrived, baby tucked in one arm, asking for a high chair.  The host wasn’t rude exactly, but he wasn’t helpful either.  He looked at me like he’d never seen a child before. Apparently, Larson’s has a “no high chair” policy, which essentially translates to a no baby one.

You can imagine that then and there, at the grandma dining hour of 5:45 PM because that’s when you eat when you’re a parent if you want to enjoy a meal with your 9-month old before bedtime, the three of us were hungry, but mostly embarrassed.  The waiting area was surprisingly packed, and I know several patrons probably overheard me awkwardly ask to speak to the manager.  I was, and still am, pissed.  We moved to this bedroom community because it was supposed to be family friendly.

Things continued to get weird when the manager arrived five minutes later, saying he’d be happy to borrow a high chair from BJs next door, as if hinting that that’s where I belonged.  At that point, the mood was ruined, and we took our money, and our baby, elsewhere.

So this morning, we left our little suburb and drove to the hip Pershing Square area of  downtown Los Angeles to have brunch at the trendy Bottega Louie patisserie.

There weren’t any other babies at Louie, but there were plenty of high chairs.  The host even joked that he’d be happy to “valet” our stroller.  Bottega Louie’s was charming, and most importantly, delicious.  And we will definitely go back.

Companies should rethink how they treat those of us who have made the choice to embrace what sometimes feels like a four letter word, B-A-B-Y, in this increasingly Dual Income No Kids society.  We’re parents now, not second class citizens.  Our taste for quality in service and selection has not changed, if anything, it’s likely gotten more discerning considering our beautiful little limitation.

What do you think about “no kids” policies?  You obviously know where I sit, and it’s not at establishments that don’t welcome well behaving people of ALL ages. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

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20 comments

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  1. jonsie13

    I was having lunch in a local Chili’s while Christmas shopping a few months ago. Oliver was in his carrier, 5 1/2 months old, sitting, just looking around quietly, being a baby. They brought a party of 2 to be seated behind me. The 2 women saw the baby & asked to be seated elsewhere. It kind of made me sad.
    On one hand, I get it. When we were prebaby, if I wanted to go out, I didn’t want to have to deal with babies in a restaurant. Whether crying, squealing, giggling, whatever. On the other hand, people with babies (myself included) have to go out. I now lug Oliver around everywhere with me. Like you said, if there is a meltdown, I’ll take my meal to go.
    I guess there are some places I expect not to see babies, but I certainly wouldn’t expect them to have a ‘no baby’ policy.
    Then again, I have been to weddings that did not allow children of any age.

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    • Steph Mignon

      You know, for some reason the wedding thing doesn’t bother me, as much. Though I personally never would expect guests to leave their kid at home. And while I’m with you that I wouldn’t have looked to fondly at people brought their unruly baby out somewhere, a behaved one wouldn’t have bothered me I don’t think! I l think those two women at Chili’s who asked to be seated away from you were lame, but hey, that’s their choice. Larson’s could do something similar – like seat the baby people in the back room or something, rather than failing to provide any accomodations at all.

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  2. Kathy Patalsky

    Wow that is annoying Steph! And pretty discriminating to have a no-high-chair policy. as a still babyless person, I do not often think about these things when restaurant-ing though I always notice when a baby is around AND well taken care of by the staff. It makes a restaurant look GOOD. But maybe that’s just me. And ps I certainly think babies are totally interesting and amazing and adorable and fascinating. Much cleaner and more interesting than a giant handful of adults I can think of. 😉 truth!! Miss you lady!

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    • Steph Mignon

      Hi Kathy! So good to hear from you! I happen to think you are a kind hearted soul, who OF COURSE would feel this way. A lover of animals like you is often a lover of all creatures great and small! I don’t blame anyone for getting annoying by the screaming baby, but discrimination, for any reason, just is not cool! Let’s plan a rendevous in 2015, with or without baby haha!

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  3. Daryl

    I was terrified that we would be THAT family on the plane, the one with the screaming infant on a 10-hour trans-Atlantic flight. But you know what? Baby girl did amazingly well and was so well-behaved. Same goes for the handful if times we’ve eaten in a restaurant with her. (Although, I must say, I’m super impressed Daphne has table manners of any kind. Our little one is still a huge mess by the end of her meal. As is the table, floor, high chair, and anything else within arm’s reach.) I think It’s ridiculous to have a no-baby policy, especially for one as well-behaved and adorable as your little Daphne!

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    • Steph Mignon

      I’ll be honest, it’s not like she has any clue about said “manners.” We’re just sure to bring small toys that can amuse her and offer her foods that aren’t messy. As we enter a new stage in her development I doubt things will remain this easy, as far as meals go… She’s now, suddenly, taking to spitting out foods she previously loved… I can only imagine what’s next!

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  4. journeyformybaby

    Wow! That’s awful that a restaurant would turn away business just because of a baby. I was really nervous when I flew with my baby at 6 months old and I could tell that some of our fellow passengers were just cringing. He ended up being pretty good on all of our flights but it still made me a little mad that he was obviously looked on as a noisy annoyance. I understand, but really people. We were all little once!!

    By the way, that picture is adorable. Little Daphne looks so precious just sitting there looking over her menu. How ladylike. 🙂

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  5. mylifeasacasestudy

    Uh…well…I love you Steph but I don’t feel that babies belong in “date night” restaurants, although lunch at a nice restaurant is fair game, IMHO.
    I actually pissed some Mom friends off when I complained on fb about my $200 dinner being ruined by a distressed infant–I felt bad for myself *and* the poor kid.
    And honestly, in my experience it’s mostly inconsiderate/careless parents that bring babies and small children out to nice restaurants *well past bed time* and they tend to ignore their poor child while the rest of us suffer–in my experience. So I think a “no baby” policy is far more polite than a “if your baby/child is disruptive we will ask you to leave mid-meal” policy.
    I know you would never be *that guy* who casually enjoys oysters on the half shell while their kid screams, but in my experience you are the exception & not the rule.
    For myself, we don’t go out to fancy restaurants often so I intend to have child care if/when the occasion arises. And I don’t feel left out by “no baby policies”. But to be sure, little D. is always welcome at *my table*! ❤ XOXO

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    • Steph Mignon

      I love that you are able to disagree with me is such an eloquent way! I guess I just wish that people would take it upon themselves to do what’s socially graceful so that restaurants/the government/the world wouldn’t feel the need to impose restrictive policies on those of us who know how to behave in public. At first I was like, I wish they had told us that when we booked the reservation, or I wish they had put something online to that affect. But then I realized, wait a minute, not having high chairs IS an implied no baby policy, and that IS age discrimination. Or is it? Legal research for another time I think. After all, 55 plus communities exist which is sort of a similar concept. And while I agree that unruly babies DO NOT belong in fancy restaurants, I’d feel more comfortable if that had a “section” for parents/kids/families. Or if they had certain hours set aside for people like me, who’d like to dine with their child because we haven’t yet found child care we’re comfortable with. Love you and thanks for weighing in!

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  6. mexanmommy

    Preach Momma! 🙌🏼
    Been there, done that. But you know what we sat Ethan right on our lap and ate. The “no high chair policy” won’t stop us, it also helped that the host/waitress were cool about the whole thing and apologized for the inconvenience.

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