There are a few philosophies regarding taking kids to restaurants, ranging from ‘don’t bother with anything but fast food’ to ‘I’ll take my kids anywhere I please and I dare you to criticize’. I never bought into the cult of fast food—even as a kid I didn’t think anything at McDonald’s tasted like food—but I’m also not a militant. I like a meal at a kid-free restaurant myself, so don’t feel the need to take my children where they don’t belong.
I have developed my own middle-way philosophy of kids and restaurants. With newborns, I have been known to call ahead to warn them that I am bringing a little one. Especially while traveling, this has worked well. In Portland, when D was six months old, we received a hearty welcome every time, and I got to enjoy some of Portland’s cutting edge restaurants. No Chuckie Cheese for me! It also helped that Portland is a pretty casual and family-friendly place, and the restaurants we went to were very much neighbourhood hang-outs.
Closer to home, I was able to gauge the level of welcome for kids by the number of servers or owners who, much to the surprise of my dining companions, would sweep up my baby and take him on a tour of the kitchen. This happened regularly at Keo’s, as well as Konga Cafe.
Now that we have a toddler, our dining options are more limited, especially if both my husband and I hope to sit through most of the meal rather than trying to contain our rambunctious two-year-old. We normally go to locally-owned places with fast service, or room to run around (or both). I have started to try this approach: go to family-friendly neighbourhood restaurants (preferably where the owners know me and are happy to see me) and bring other families with kids, so that mine isn’t the only obnoxious one.
On our trip to E.E. Burritos on Thursday, this approach worked well. We braved a nasty snowstorm to get there, and found the restaurant virtually empty. We met up with my sister and her 18 month old, and our friends who have kids the same age as ours (one three month old and one two year old). The kids scarfed down chicken quesadillas and then spent the rest of the time running around and playing under a table surrounded by a fake grass skirt. They had a great time, and the server just laughed at their shenanigans, saying, “I have a two-year-old, I know what they’re like!”
My own meal of a Negro Modelo (ah, the joys of no longer being pregnant!) and hard tacos filled with beef (Alambre) and marinated pork (Cerdo Adobado) were most enjoyable. I had never tried their hard tacos before, and the shells were house-made—deliciously crispy and not greasy at all. They were the best tacos I’d had in a while, topped only by some that I’d sampled at the Los Angeles farmers’ market a few years back at a little kiosk called Loteria—and that won out mostly because I got to eat pork skin as a taco filling (don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!).
I was tempted to order one of the soups—I’ve heard the Posole is fantastic—but I’ll have to go back another time, since I couldn’t convince my husband to order it (I hate when my dining companions don’t cooperate!).
I got to see the benefits of my philosophy first-hand: I didn’t feel so bad about my child’s behaviour, compared to the others. My kid wasn’t the one who picked up a half-eaten mint off the floor and popped it in his mouth. My kid also wasn’t the one who knocked a bottle off the shelves in the grocery area. Mine was just the one whose ‘hugs’ for the other two toddlers looked more like WWE manoeuvres. Sure he made the other kids cry. But at least he didn’t break anything.