By Gabrielle. Images of little June and her hot cocoa by Blue Lily.

Do fancy dinners and crying babies mix? Not when social media gets involved! According to this article and lots of play on Twitter, Chef Grant Achatz publicly broached the question all parents ask themselves — usually while blushing in the middle of a lovely restaurant when their child transforms into something not-so-lovely! — and the responses were surprisingly heated.

His original tweet:

To give you some back story, the restaurant in question is Alinea, a Michelin-starred spot that charges $250 per person upfront to reserve a table. Does that detail matter? It does when the couple in question was set to lose $500 just because their babysitter cancelled!

Have you ever experienced a similar situation, whether from an embarrassed parent or an annoyed diner perspective? Has there been a time when you either sensed or were told outright that your children were not welcome in a particular restaurant? Were you understanding or outraged? Depending on where you live in the world, children are either welcomed with open arms and a kids menu, or the complete opposite, right?


In France, children are raised with such impeccable table manners — learning to eat with a fork in their left hand, and a knife in their right from age 2! — that I was always so nervous about taking our big circus of a family to French restaurants. But we worked hard on our table etiquette as a family and ended up eating out freely. Still, even with great table manners, in our little town, restaurants were either considered family friendly and kids were welcome, or they were fancier and with few exceptions, we simply didn’t see kids there at all. (As I type this, it occurs to me, that that divide doesn’t sound too different from New York.)

I can’t wait to hear your own stories and opinions!

99 thoughts on “Reservations”

  1. I’m a bit torn about this. We recently toured Canada with my parents and 8 yo cousin. He is well behaved and eats everything. My family enjoys fine dining and had a list of restaurants they wanted to try out. A few places flat out refused us, others made us feel very uncomfortable about brining a child there, even though he never screamed, ran around or made special requests. (I should point out some places were very welcoming, including one of the fanciest restaurants in Montreal).
    It was frustrating that, because we had a child with us and no practical babysitter solution, we were expected to eat a McDs for the whole trip.
    At the same time, children younger than five can be touchier. And very upscale is not just “nice not family oriented”, its a whole different category. So yes, there is a line here, but that does not mean that all families should be stuck eating dreadful food for their entire life.

  2. I would wish to see such things left up to the common sense of each parent. Alas, common sense seems to be sorely lacking in this day and age. A number of comments ago, Kate mentioned an anti-child bias. I think of this every time I find myself in an entertainment venue with rude ADULTS (and I seem to attract them like magnets). Ballet, live theater, movie theater, philharmonic, YOU NAME IT! Adults don’t seem to be able to behave appropriately anymore, yet the anti-child bias persists.

  3. Please, please tell me what you did to work on your table etiquette with your children. Mine are 9,7,5, and 3 and I feel like I spend the majority of every meal correcting behavior over and over and over again and I hate it. I don’t think my husband and I are being overly picky, but my kids just don’t seem to remember some of the basic table manners I really expect they should know. Maybe your methods would be better than mine…please share what you did.

  4. Times and Seasons

    Who are these people that have little kids and money to eat out at a place that requires that much money for a reservation? After my third I realized that each season of life has pros and cons. Enjoy the wheels on the bus and look forward to quiet dinners out in the future.
    PS: My kids eat our regularly and have great manners (mostly…) but when I asked my FAVORITE (and very fancy) restaurant if kids were welcome they said “…cough…of course…cough…but we don’t have high chairs sooooo…” Implied that older well-mannered kids are welcome, but Littles should stay home or hit IHOP.

  5. After reading the follow up article, these people need lesson in manners.

    It simply amazes me the number of parents that bring young children out with nothing to entertain them. I see this at my son’s martial arts class, baseball games, etc. If you are bringing a 2 year old to a baseball game, it isn’t fair that you expect them to sit still in the bleachers for almost 2 hours watching a game. I have a hard time doing that as an adult. Bring them some toys, let them play in the dirt, whatever. I think this applies to restaurants as well. And if you take a child to a movie theater, please make sure the movie is age appropriate. I expect noisy kids at a Disney flick, not so much at anything rated PG 13 or above.

  6. My parents took me EVERYWHERE with them when I was little, including some very high-end restaurants that were not necessarily “kid-friendly”. By all accounts, however, I was very easygoing, easily entertained, and content to sit still, rarely cried and liked to stay up late. In other words, I had the right kind of temperment for them to do that. Most kids (my own included) do not. Sounds like these parents didn’t use good judgement about their child’s readiness.

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