Fine Dining with Babies?

The latest hot topic among parents here in Chicago (and, I think, around the country) revolves around a comment from highly-acclaimed chef Grant Achatz, owner of Alinea, one of the finest and most innovative restaurants in the world.  Diners at Alinea can spend upwards of $600+ for a night of culinary creativity, an indulgence I can only begin to imagine.  However, last weekend a couple brought their 8 month old baby to Alinea after a babysitter cancelled last minute, and Achatz turned to Twitter to vent his frustration and ask the world for advice: does a chef have the right to ban children from his or her restaurant?

I get it. The parents were probably starved for a nice night out. And, reservations at Alinea can take months to secure (with a non-refundable deposit!).  So, when their sitter cancelled they probably thought the only solution was to bring the wee one along.  And, now folks all over the internet are in a huff – because people love to complain about kids being kids.

We take our kids out to eat 3-4 times per month, but when we go out we go to “kid-friendly” places at “kid-friendly” times.  It isn’t always quiet and peaceful, but how else are we going to teach our kids how to behave in public if we don’t take them out in public?!  Kids are part of the community, and they have a right to engage with the people and places that make their community so special. And, it is the community’s responsibility to be understanding and patient with the little people who are learning to be big.

However, I think the parents who brought their 8 month old to one of the nicest restaurants in the world really are selfish and rude. Their actions were disrespectful towards the other diners – and the chef.  When parents put their kids in a situation that is destined to be miserable for everyone involved, there are no winners.  And, why would any parents want to bring a baby to such a fancy – and expensive – restaurant, anyway?!  There is a time and a place for everything, and Alinea is not the place for an 8 month old…just like Chuck E Cheese is not the place for a single 40 year old guy…


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3 Comments for this entry

  1. Keri Murphy says:

    I agree there is a time and a place for kids. They do need to learn how to act while eating out. I do admit there is nothing that spoils my kid-free night out than going to a nice restaurant, for a late reservation to be say next to a noisy table of kids. We need to teach children to behave in public but also that some situations are meant for adults only.

  2. Robyn says:

    I don’t know if agree with you. Some babies could go to dinner at a nice restaurant and would fall asleep and be peaceful. I think the real consideration here is that if you’re baby is unhappy and especially if they are crying or throwing a fit, as a parent you have an obligation to take them out of the restaurant particularly when it’s that nice of a place (vs a kid-friendly place where you might be able to work through the problem in the restaurant).

  3. Kelly says:

    Well-put! Adults need to be prepared to deal with a bit of “kids being kids” (within reason) anywhere that welcomes children–from restaurants to airplanes to swimming pools. That said, Alinea has no children’s menu–a clear sign to leave the kids at home. Not appropriate!

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