Dining out should be one of the top three pleasures of childhood (along with breaking expensive electronics and bossing people around). But sadly, many parents today deny their children the opportunity, or offer a subpar experience filled small boxes of crayons, helium balloons and sticky high chairs. Why? It’s hard to say, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that it’s a lack of education on the topic. There are right ways and wrong ways to dine out with children, and as my gift to the world, I’m going to school you.
When Quinoa was presented with not only a kids’ menu but a plastic cup with a bendy straw too, she promptly left the restaurant because she couldn’t even.
TIP #1: Waiting is for the weak. A reservation is an absolute must when dining out, since asking children to wait is akin to asking for a kidney. We were not made to wait, and we certainly shouldn’t suffer because of your lack of forethought. Do your homework, download Open Table, make a reservation and always include a special request: “We’d prefer the best table in the house and a personal visit by the chef.”
TIP #2: Give me linen napkins or give me death. We’re children, not dental patients. We need our faces dabbed softly with freshly laundered fine spun fabric. A flimsy piece of sterile paper, wrapped around plastic utensils and tiny envelopes of salt and pepper contained in a noisy plastic cocoon is an affront. How are we supposed to get your attention during the meal without the loud clang of silverware on fine china?
TIP #3: Kids’ Menus = Are You Kidding Me Menus. Let’s get this straight: pan-seared salmon with blistered spring asparagus for you, and dinosaur-shaped deep fried chicken by-products with a side of high fructose corn syrup for us? And you wonder why we throw tantrums. Make like a French parent and order us some foie gras, crostinis and pickled heirloom root vegetables. STAT.
TIP #4: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. This is a learning process for all of us, so remember to be patient and bring some helpful tools and distractions in the event that something goes awry. My go-to emergency pack includes two iPads, three magic tricks, noise cancelling earphones, and a family therapist.
TIP #5: Think like an A-list celebrity. Everybody needs a mentor, and yours should be Jessica Biel. Now, legally I can’t confirm or deny that I was a consultant on her LA restaurant Au Fudge, which caters to the needs of parents and children, but you’re welcome to assume whatever you want. By providing everything from organic foods and floor cleaners to paparazzi screens and au pairs on hand to make kaleidoscopes with restless children, this restaurant sets an example of the ultimate parental dining experience.
Fandango was in a bit of a stupor after the fact, but Quinoa has always said that if she is handed a menu with chicken nuggets on it, it’s going to get thrown, and hard.