Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Eating Out, Together

There is a restaurant not far away, quite well known for breakfast, that states on the menu something to the effect of "when dining with children, please order for them immediately". I have eaten there exactly one time and I broke all the rules, did not order for my children immediately, and was scolded by the waiter.

This very common child dining concept has never worked for us. You sit down,  flip open the menu to the children's section, quickly choose something from the limited and predictable options, close the menu and order for the children. You entertain them for the few precious minutes it takes to warm up some frozen chicken parts and then sit back and enjoy your time while they devour their meal. And then they are ready to go, because they are finished eating, just as your food arrives. I can't blame them; unless I am left with a lovely Pinot Noir and the company of wonderful friends, I am generally ready to leave the restaurant once I've finished eating.

Because our idea of eating out with the children has always been to actually eat with them, we learned early on to decline the invitation to order their food immediately. We sit down, we talk about the restaurant, we talk about the kind of food we think they might serve. We look at the menu. Even now, with two reading seven year old girls, often we must request menus for them because many places seat us with only two menus.  They read their own menu now, and we discuss their choices. When it is time to order they do so for themselves, even when the server looks directly at me and says "and what are they having?". We wait. We talk about the day, or the weather, school, upcoming vacations, places we'd like to visit, favorite places to eat guacamole, and who needs new sandals for summer. The food arrives and we eat it, together. And when we are all finished we leave.


Eating out together, not powering through a meal, works for us.

View more of my food related ranting here, at Chicago Now.


Suz said...

hmmmm I have never seen that on a menu....although I am old
and rarely dine with chldren
but when I am with the grandkids at a restaurant in the city I haven 't noticed this....terrible
Good for you for dining your way
Nasty that they diminish the chldren not giving them a menu
did they seat you by the kitchen too? seems when my kids were small they did that to us...or tried

MandyE (Twin Trials and Triumphs) said...

We always turn down the children's menus and make sure we're not given any crayons for the table...sometimes to the amazement (and occasional rolled eyes, even!) of the hostess / wait staff. I always think...what's wrong with sitting nicely with your children and chatting for 15 minutes??? At this age (3 1/2) we sometimes play word games or recite nursery rhymes together...but I just cannot allow toys at the table.

We usually order an appetizer pretty quickly when we sit down, as our girls are usually quite hungry by mealtime, but it's something we can all share. No warmed chicken parts here, either! ;)

[By the way, I thought of you this morning. We're going to the local dairy farm tonight to watch the Venus eclipse. We're planning to eat supper there, too. I have never eaten there myself, but I've heard about their wonderful sandwiches, soups, and salads. I thought the girls would probably have a grilled cheese, since it would be easy in a picnic setting...but then I saw it has American cheese on it. Ack! Never mind. ;) ]

northsidefour said...

Mandy, I knew you would comment on this! It wasn't always easy but we now have two dinner companions that we really enjoy, thankfully! Suz, glad you have not encountered the order immediately mentality. We had two offers this weekend, at one dinner, to order first for the girls, and we passed.

northsidefour said...

And yes, I do find it very dismissive when they don't even offer the girls a menu. Even before they could read I was happy to have them look through the menu.


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