October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, special features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food. Bon appetit!
Molly Snyder Edler brought up a topic yesterday that is potentially near and dear to many of our hearts in, Are These Restaurants Kid Friendly?
It's actually a topic that Dan Harmon of WUWM and I will discuss in our upcoming radio interview, but I wanted to address it here on OnMilwaukee.com, as well, since Molly does such a great job of talking about parenting on this venue and the topic seemed to draw a lot of positive attention.
As a food writer and parent, my perspective is not so much is a restaurant kid-friendly, but more so, "Is my kid restaurant-friendly?" Let's face it. We're all, with kids or without kids, paying the same price for the food and service at any given establishment, so why should it be any different for us if we have our 6-year-old with us?
There are certainly great things a restaurant can do to make themselves more adaptable to well-behaved kids -- for example, offering half portions, serving milk and juice in rock sized glasses (or even plastic glasses for the super-kid conscientious dining experience), having crayons, or even just asking the children for their orders (kids are people, too!)
But, ultimately, most of the onus lies on us parents to teach our children what is and isn't acceptable restaurant behavior, and taking the steps to make sure we're prepared if things don't go as planned.
I'm by no means a model parent, but after taking Alex to a ton of places over the years and watching others' children dine, I've picked up a few things that may assist with taking your little ones along to dine:
- Host sit-down dinners at your home with cloth napkins, please and thank yous, and no elbows on the table to set expectations for good dining manners.
- Start kids off at a Chancery or a Red Robin, or somewhere else that is decidedly kid-friendly so they can learn by doing.
- Investigate the venue and menu out online before you go: locate the bathrooms, decide what you think your child may like to eat there, and determine off the bat if you may need to bring along child-friendly items like sippy cups or a box of crayons if you think the wait may be a little long.
- Bring along a fruit snack or a banana to eliminate potential "I'm hungry" whines while you're waiting for your food.
- Wet naps. Never a bad idea.
- Have a reminder conversation about what is and isn't appropriate in a restaurant before you get into the car to go. Getting out of your chair and in waitstaff's way is never, ever appropriate. Nor is yelling, or spitting out or throwing food.
- If things get rough with a tired or cranky child, consider getting your food packed up to go, and leave.
- Clean up after yourselves if you make an extraordinary mess. Or at least tip very well.
- Most importantly-have fun! Dining out together should be an enjoyable treat for all!
Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.
The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.
Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to OnMilwaukee.com.