One More Bite

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What makes a grown-up-friendly restaurant kid-friendly?

July 10, 2011 | Cory Webb | Around Town
What makes a grown-up-friendly restaurant kid-friendly?

I've spent the last five-and-a-half years discovering the answer to this question. I have two kids: a five-and-a-half year old daughter and a two year old son. Dining out with them can be an adventure, to say the least. As a parent, I want to take my kids to places that they enjoy, but I also want to be able to take them to places that my wife and I enjoy. My kids love places like Chuck-e-Cheese and fast-food restaurants with play areas, but let's be honest. Those aren't entirely grown-up-friendly.

Over the past few years, I've discovered there are a few key elements that make a grown-up-friendly restaurant kid-friendly. Let me know if you agree or disagree, or have some to add to this list.

1) A reasonably priced kids menu

Most places have a kids menu, but few are reasonably priced. McAlister's kids menu is a great example of a kids menu with reasonable prices. A good example of an unreasonably priced kids menu is one with a $5 bowl of Kraft Mac & Cheese, not including the drink. For places like that, I'm tempted to bring my own bowl of Kraft Mac & Cheese for my kids to eat, just out of principle.

2) Activities for the kids while we wait

Most sit-down restaurants have a kids menu/coloring book hybrid that's great for keeping my kids entertained. Mama Baris in Hewitt has those paper place mats that our kids use for coloring, although we have to bring our own crayons for them to use (hint hint, Mama Baris). Cracker Barrel goes a step further and provides a fun little peg game, although it's pretty advanced for my two-year-old. Honestly, I don't care what they provide, as long as it keeps my kids occupied while we wait for our food. That brings me to the next point in the list.

3) Little to no wait for the food

I realize that this isn't entirely feasible for all restaurants. Most sit-down restaurants have to cook your food to order, and that takes time. But really, how long does it take to cook a bowl of mac & cheese, some chicken nuggets, or some spaghetti? I don't mind if you bring my kids' food out before my food. The sooner they are fed and happy, the better.

4) Plenty of high chairs with belts that actually fasten

This is a must-have for a kid-friendly restaurant. There's nothing worse than walking into a restaurant with one high chair that's already being used by someone else's kid. Sure, if you are the parent that gets the high chair first, it's no big deal. But the rest of us have to suffer as we try to corral our kids in a regular chair and get them to sit still and eat. This may not be an issue for everyone, but try getting my son to sit still without the help of a tightly buckled high chair strap. It can't be done.

And then there are those places with plenty of high chairs, but most of the straps or buckles are broken. Without a good buckle, there is no high chair that can contain my son. Which brings me to my last point.

5) Plenty of ambient noise to drown out the noise my kids are making

Most of the time, my kids are relatively well behaved. At least, I think they are. But I'm sure there have been occasions when our kids have disrupted other customers' dinners by making a lot of noise. Side note to the lady that glared at us a couple of weeks ago when my son and my nephews were screaming. I apologize for making your lunch a little less pleasant, but the glare was a bit much. It's like you've never been around kids before. Build a bridge and get over it. But I digress. Quiet restaurants with little or no ambient noise make noisy kids stick out like a sore thumb. Turn up the noise a bit. Don't ask me how. Just do it.

Ok, so that's my list. Other parents out there, have I left anything off the list? Do you agree or disagree with any of these points? I'd love to hear from you.

One More Bite: Parents, don't be afraid to take your kids out to eat. The only way they are going to learn how to behave in a restaurant or any public place is by doing it. Sure, you may have awkward moments when ladies glare at you because your kids are too loud, but that's part of the learning process. Embrace it.