Whitney and I both love Picante. But sometimes you want to go to a place that feels a little more grown-up.
There are fancy restaurants with linen tablecloths and eerie, romantic silence and there are groovy, funky, cool restaurants that make you feel like an adult again while being a sensory treat for your older baby. I’m talking about taking your highchair-sittin’ baby to the latter. T-Rex BBQ in Berkeley is such a place with its high ceilings and a lengthy cocktail list. We went there last week and were pleasantly surprised how baby-friendly it turned out to be.
All that being said, go out with a big noisy group when you can. Or at least with understanding, kid-loving people (who will want to give you and your spouse a break and take the kid to look around) and the meal will seem that much smoother.
My tips for a good evening at an adult dinner establishment:
- Go early. It does not pay to egregiously push anyone’s bedtime here. Besides, going early will lessen the number of patrons you’ll potentially annoy if things go south.
- Bring only the most favorite baby foods to the restaurant, preferably neat foods. My son is crazy about breadsticks and hummus (“dip, dip, dip!”) so some of it got on my arms, but he was otherwise quite content. This is a bad time to experiment with foods he does not like at home.
- Bring baby spoons and bibs. duh.
- Ask for extra spoons and napkins when you sit down so you can keep the toddler relatively content and tidy.
- Consider laying a napkin down around the highchair. We do this to catch most of the shrapnel from Holden’s food throwing. We can’t catch everything, but it shows we’re making a good-faith effort… and at nicer places, you really don’t want to feel like you need to scrub the floor.
- Cut up some of your food and share it. Holden likes salmon, fillet mignon, sweet potato french fries, and other small foods not requiring teeth. It’s fun for him to join the experience. Sometimes, I feel like he’s a puppy that likes “people food”, but really he’s just a toothless human.
- Scope out an area for the kid to explore. Is the restroom spacious? Is the bar empty right now? Is there a safe patch of lawn? For long meals, it’s great to let junior stretch his legs. On our vacation (pictured), my mom walked Holden all the way down to the lake and all the way back up. It might have been a full half mile outside… not every restaurant will have this but you can get creative.
- Have a plan to walk the kid around during any lulls… my husband and I take turns looking at the wine bottles, cars through the window, live lobsters about to meet their doom, birds in the trees, whatever! This is also when it helps to come to the restaurant with people who love your kids and want to do this for you.