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Not About Food

What makes a restaurant child-friendly?

PollyG | Apr 5, 200503:05 PM     25

I see frequent requests on the various boards for child-friendly restaurants. I also get the feeling that there are widely varying standards as to what equates to child-friendly.

Some posters (often those who are childless, but not all) seem to equate child-friendly with "family" restaurants, as in places where your screaming brat will be one among many. The only time I will consider one of those is if we are with our niece and nephew, whose parents have some odd ideas about parental control in restaurants. This is McWendyKing, but with table service and higher prices.

Others seem to equate child-friendly with places that provide crayons, colorable menus, and kid's meals. These may or may not be family restaurants. I've seen some very adult places go totally overboard to entertain children, up to and including providing toys for the kids to borrow during the meal. Our kid likes the local brewpub for this reason.

And then, there are the places that don't have special provisions for kids other than booster seats and high chairs, but are sensitive to the special needs of families with young children. There may not be crayons, but the staff will know that they might offer to bring the child's entree when the appetizers come. Kids are welcome, and there are probably some other well-behaved children dining there. There may even be a kid's selection that mimics the adult fare, only modified for a child's sensibilities--fewer complex sauces and such. Or it might be something like dim sum, where the speed of the food's arrival and the parade of carts are fascinating to a youngster.

We tend to dine at places that are in the third category. I definitely consider them kid-friendly. Waitstaff hover over our kid, and we're constantly getting comments about how big she is getting. We're pros at scanning the menu and finding items appropriate for a 5 year-old who will try almost anything, but dislikes gooey sauces and a few particular spices. Even the most incendiary cusines have some less intense dishes. She knows to stay in her seat and will complain if other children are ill-behaved.

But I'm reluctant to call this third category child-friendly when people ask for child-friendly restaurants. I suspect this isn't what they were seeking. Do I just state that a place of this sort, "welcomes well-behaved children and has food appropriate for an adventuresome young palate?"

Is there a better code out there? A lot of posters seem to be asking on behalf of visiting relatives, and they don't necessarily have a clue as to whether little Bobby and Juanita can sit through a meal without errupting. Our area (DC) has a ton of ethnic places with kid-friendly dishes and staff; I hate to condemn Bobby and Juanita to the local diner when they could be munching the kid's sushi platter (all cooked) at my local sushi and sake bar.

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