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Culinary kid conundrum

Post by News Tribune Staff on Jan. 28, 2007 at 7:10 pm | No Comments »
January 28, 2007 7:10 pm

Wednesday’s post about dogs in restaurants (d)evolved into a discussion about kids in restaurants.

One reader nailed the connection and the consternation:

Inconsiderate parents of misbehaved children are indeed similar to inconsiderate pet owners and misbehaving pets…

I don’t have kids. But I was a kid. My folks took me and my siblings to restaurants as far back as I can remember. I remember my dad ate steak and eggs at Denny’s while my 6-year-old brother and my 3-year-old self ate burgers and fries the morning my sister was born.

We behaved in restaurants because we were taught what was expected of us. We heard kids-gone-wild gripes and horror stories my parents brought back from the restaurants they worked in. My parents had more class than to hit us in public. But we kids understood action and consequence. I can tell you to this day what a strop feels and sounds like on young flesh.

Corporal punishment aside, I believe kids benefit when parents take them into restaurants. If the parents have learned, they will teach their kids the social habits of dining. If the kid’s a hyperactive jerk, chances are the parent(s) is too.

I was at McMenamins Spar Cafe in Olympia today. One of the hallmarks of McMenamins is its family- and kid-friendly atmosphere. I counted 8 kids in the Spar this afternoon. Two of them were shooting pool with their parents. The rest of them, mostly toddlers, were behaving themselves. At a McMenamins in Portland a while back, I was tickled when servers made make-shift sippy cups for kids – using plastic coffee cup lids on drinking glasses.

There’s an interesting story in today’s New York Times about “the growing wave of parents obsessed with all things culinary who are indoctrinating their children to the ways of gastronomy.”

“At Otto, they are capable of taking over without damaging the vibe,” said chef Mario Batali, adding that he sees plenty of children at two of his other restaurants, Del Posto and Babbo, both foodie meccas.

Eric Ripert, the chef at Le Bernardin, Zagat’s highest-rated restaurant in New York, thinks his dress code helps keep children in line. “They have a tie, so they are almost strangled already,” he said. “They don’t move much.”

I am neither a fan of child bondage nor a fan of children running amok in public. I am a fan of kids in restaurants of all kinds, however.

Last fall, I visited Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub in Victoria, B.C.

Prior to remodeling Spinnakers from an adults-only pub into a family-friendly restaurant and pub, “We noticed that a lot of our patrons would disappear when they had kids,” publican Paul Hadfield told me. “When we opened the restaurant, we saw dad sitting at the bar on Saturday morning with his kid. Dad’s having a beer, kid’s having a root beer. At that point, the next generation takes ownership.”

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