Eating Out!

We have had many restaurant adventures with our kids, some good, some not so good. Here are a handful of things that have helped.

Above, Brian with our kids in Victoria BC’s Chinatown. I love how Brian looks like he has had enough. There are definitely some days when I would rather do anything else but take our kids to a restaurant. When living on the road as a nomadic opera family we have not had other options at times (only so many meals you can eat in a hotel room).

1-We love appetisers, or if we are going to a place we are not familiar with, we bring some food to keep kids happy. At times this can ruin kids appetite but we enjoy quiet, happy children while eating out.

2-It feels like lame parenting, but we have used our portable DVD player and my husband’s smart phone to keep kids quiet and happily plugged in when needed. We try to use this as the exception but at times it is necessary (and nice). We were in Italy not long ago and thanks to the bread sticks and the cartoon Pinocchio on my husband’s phone, we were able to wait for our food in relative peace in a restaurant we were dying to try. (It was worth it too for this restaurant! We had these amazing stuffed squash flowers that were unlike anything we have ever eaten! We had amazing food in Rome and really bad food too. Beware of restaurants that speak to you in English and serve dinner early!)

3-At times, I feel like whatever works and keeps kids happy is worth it, even if a little gross. The above photo is from a Mexican restaurant in San Angel just outside of Mexico City. Our son was about 16 months old and kept himself busy for a long time making the above concoction. It was a water bottle layered with corn tortillas, beans, orange rind and anything else that was in front of our son. My husband and I were able to eat relatively calmly, even with this disgusting thing on our table. Our son continued to drink the water even when it was full of stuff.

4-Sometimes all your best efforts will not be enough. The above photo is our son on the floor of the famous Opera Bar in Mexico City. He was done and had started exploring and saying hello to other people trying to have their meals. Lucky for us he is cute and Mexicans loved him.

5-Bring a good bib while your child is little to keep them and yourself cleaner. I LOVE the bibs with sleeves! Ikea sells some good ones or we have had a couple of these brands, they have lasted very well too. Bring lots of wipes to clean up after yourself and tip your server well!

6-Especially in Europe, we have typically brought our own baby chair as many restaurants do not have children’s chairs. We travel with a booster chair that is a little bulky but is worth it to take with us. (We have yet to get a phil&teds clip-on chair as many times we have been in apartments or hotel rooms where we could not clip on such a chair. We do have a new wriggle wrapper for baby #3. I wish we had the wriggle wrapper for #2 but we did not know about it in time!)

7-When possible, ask if it is possible to sit away from other people. We went for some great Ethiopian food in Tel Aviv (there is some amazing food in Israel!). Our son had some extra energy that night so we asked to sit on the patio. It was very nice for him to have a little space and not bother other in the restaurant.

Below is our son at the Ethiopian restaurant. You can see in his eyes he was up to no good that night!

We had a funny time in Paris when our son was just about 2 years old. We were at a restaurant that had many mustards and condiments in the middle of the table. We moved them out of our son’s reach but every time the waiter came to our table, he very fastidiously re-positioned them in the center of the table. He seemed very disapproving that we would move them as I suppose our 2 year old should know not to touch them. Oh well, it was not a great restaurant and we ended up eating a lot of street crepes in Paris.

We also found you can’t believe everything you read in a guidebook. One of our books for Warsaw, Poland claimed that “Rooster” was a great family eating establishment. There was one a short walk from our apartment, so we ventured in one evening for dinner. As it turns out, “Rooster” is modeled on the American “Hooters” experience, where the waitresses do not have much to wear. After being seated, our waitress came to take our orders and our three-year-old son wanted to know why she wasn’t wearing any trousers. However they did have a baby chair, crayons for kids and popcorn on the table. Our kids had a good time and the food was pretty good (we were hungry). We did not need to go back however.

Ok, just one more story from our first day in Jerusalem. It was very hot and from a lot of walking we were starving and out of water. I saw a sign for the Cafe of All Nations , so we headed up to it. It was a very funny little place. We walked in and it did not seem like a cafe at all. They had some old ice creams and drinks, but it did not seem like there was any food. There was a glass display case that seemed like it would have food but it was empty. We asked the man if they had sandwiches as the sign had suggested and he said yes, or course, and listed off what we could have. We asked for two falafel, so he made some phone calls and seemed to have sent a fax, and a few minutes later a car drove up, handed the man a black plastic bag from which he produced our lunch. It was a very strange little place and Brian asked me if I wanted to go there because I suspected it might be strange. But the food was pretty good (Brian liked the hint of lemon on the hummus), we had a place to sit and drink cold water. The man was very sweet with Colin and had him laughing a lot with ‘gimme five’ and some rather alarming vocal noises.

Brian and Colin at the Cafe of All Nations.

What are your best, or worst experiences eating out with kids?

Ann