Dining in a wine-list restaurant with kids

Possible? Oh yeah. It’s the only way to eat out with kids. Is it expensive? Around $30. (Not including the wine!), for dinner for six. Plus, you’ll probably have enough left-over for tomorrow’s lunch. Here’s how it works.

  • Pick a nice high-ceiling Italian Bistro, with low-light, that you and your husband love. Make sure it has one with a wine list.
  • The high ceilings in the bistro cause noise to echo around the restaurant, so if you’re kids are fussy and whinny, no one will even notice. The roar of the restaurant while drown out the noise to even your ears.
  • Plan to arrive around 5 or 5:30, before the kids are too tired, and the restaurant is not yet flooded with diners.
  • On your way to your table, ask the hostess to drop some of the bar’s bread-sticks on the table to keep the kids busy while you wait for the waitress.
  • The table is usually covered in white paper, which is a perfect canvass for the crayons your hostess will give each of your children.
  • Keep the flow moving. Know exactly what you want to order when the waitress stops by the first time to get the drink orders. This allows her to get your ticket up to the chef right away so that you can be served quickly. A key to keeping the whole evening low-stress.
  • You and your husband can pick whatever you like, so enjoy yourselves.
  • Order milk for the kids.
  • Toss the kid’s menu. You don’t need it and it’s much more expensive. Instead, order an adult sized pizza with the toppings your kids love. An alternative is to split an adult-sized pasta order — plain, or with their favorite sauce.
  • Ask the waitress to bring the kid’s food along with yours. I have never understood the rationale behind a waitress offering to bring the kid’s meal out first. Does this mean that as soon as the kids are done eating, the kitchen crew is coming over to entertain your children while you eat? What will the kids do, if they’ve already eaten, and then they have to sit around and wait for you to eat? That’s a recipe for disaster.
  • Instead, ask the waitress to ask the baker for a ball of fresh, raw dough for each child to knead while they wait.
  • Soon after the bread dough arrives, a basket of fresh bread, with dipping olive oil, will arrive. The kids will probably fill up on this, while they continue to doodle with their crayons and sip their drinks.
  • Before you know it, your entrees are served, the pizza arrives, and you’re thoroughly enjoying your meal.
  • Ask the waitress for a box to take home your pizza, which will probably end up being tomorrow’s lunch.

You are entirely pampered by the staff all evening, and the relaxed atmosphere makes it much easier to play that game of tic tack toe with your child. The thought of going to a fast-food kid-friendly restaurant with greasy fried animal parts is a world away. And, I think you might be surprised to see that not only will the fast-food meal be more calories, but is probably more expensive than this elegant evening out, when you factor in the the amount of food you’re really getting for $30.


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21 comments to “Dining in a wine-list restaurant with kids”
  1. You just described our dining experience at a fabulous place here in Denver! I can confirm that this approach really does work.

    And you’re right on about kids’ menus. They are good for coloring – and that’s it.

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  3. Brilliant! I never understood bringing the kids’ meals first either. That’s just a disaster waiting to happen.

    One of the local wood-fire pizza joints gives the kids dough to shape, then they take it away and bake it! They bring it back when it’s done and the kids can eat it or (like mine) keep it as a pet until it gets really dried out.

  4. The dough idea is simply genius. There is a Mexican place in LA that does this for kids with tortilla dough, but I’ve never thought to ask for it. You are a true kindred spirit with the Rookie Moms and I will definitely post this!

  5. I have a question … why not bring some playdough with you so you’re not wasting food (the balls of dough)? Just wondering…

    Well, playdough is simply flour and water… with a lot of salt… so they’re kind of the same thing. Plus, the novelty of the dough, something they can cook at home, is what keeps them quiet.

  6. I have to say that you have this down to a fine, fine art. What do you do when the boys start tossing the dough balls?

    Seriously, you have great advice. When all of a sudden the family table is more than four, waiting for a table is a huge hassle so go early is a good one, too.

  7. This sounds very much like the Spaghetti Factory restaurants we enjoyed back in California. The raw dough thing is always good…we get that at Chevy’s every time.

  8. Sounds great. A great way for EVERYONE to enjoy.

    But am not quite there yet…in 2 more years I guess. Still at the stage where the 2 year old will not stay put NO MATTER what.

  9. We actually like doing something like this with the boys. Our favorite is a Mexican restaurant where our favorite waitress is so sweet with kids.

    The part about knowing what you want right away is soooooooooooooo important. Ditto about the kids menu for coloring–they are good for that.

    I’d like to try that Italian place!


  10. I just take my kids at weird, empty times of day – three o’ clock! – and then the staff is much more relaxed and so are we. But my munchkins are fairly reasonable about that sort of thing. Except for the little one.

  11. Funny that I am just reading this. Tonight, my husband and I took our kids to one of our favorite Italian restaurants. We did everything right EXCEPT they brought the kids’ food first. Great tips. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Oh, Mama Bird, w hat are they thinking when they offer to bring the kid’s meal out first? Sure, I want to say, and then just wrap mine to go, cause I won’t be able to eat!

  12. $30? $30? Where the heck do you eat for $30?

    Italian food — Pasta — is really inexpensive. The entrees are usually around $12 – $15… times two, and the pizza is less than that.

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