Toddlers and Toques: Should Fine Dining Restaurants in Dallas Ban Children?

Tall toques and toddlers: good or bad idea?

Lots of chinwagging taking place in the webosphere. Fine dining restaurants, such as this place in Pennsylvania, are banning children under six years of age. I tend to dine early and have witnessed children who squeal and squirm while their parents sip wine and attempt to enjoy a fine meal. I believe it is a good practice to take children into fine dining restaurant. It’s important to learn manners at an early age. The only time it chaps my sass is when the parents don’t reprimand their misbehaving offspring or take charge of the situation. Take this recent example from a loyal Disher.

Jump for the shrilling report.

So I went to a restaurant because it is intimate, romantic, and adult. So why were there two tables with three year old (or younger) kids? One table was dining early – and they only had one child which was very, very well behaved. But about halfway through our meal (7:30ish) two couples came in with their two toddlers and were seated in the dining room. One mom whips out a bag of cooked, plain spaghetti and plops some on each kid’s bread plate, then another bag appears with sliced fruit. One kid won’t share the apple, the moms are trying to work it out, the dad’s are oblivious, or ignorant, continuing their conversation with their heads bent down, One kid wants out of her high chair, badly, and mom’s trying to coax her to stay, in the meantime sticky spaghetti is falling from the plate onto the floor. Every mom’s nightmare – it doesn’t work – and the kid erupts with about 6 shrill LOUD screams.

The dining room stops. The older couple seated to our left have sunk about a foot lower in their chairs, grasping their wines glasses with whitened knuckles. The parents glance over and with embarrassed shrugs kind of throw out an I’m sorry in the general direction of everyone else. The dads just smile, nod, and continue their discussion, going back to ignoring the moms and kids.

Yow. Zah. What is the solution? I think it should be left up to the parents. If I were one, I wouldn’t be happy if my kids were banned from restaurants. I’m still waiting to be able to take my dog to the French Room.


  • rubbercow

    It is a shame that we even have to worry about this. I remember back in the good old days (~30 years ago) that when kids became inconsolable one of the parents would take the kid outside in order to spare everyone else the unpleasantness. What was that called again….? Oh yeah, being considerate of others. I remember that concept; too bad it is gone forever.

  • DFWFoodie

    Yikes – such a touchy subject. Agree with you that I don’t think children should be banned from fine dining restaurants because it is good practice for them. However, at what age is it okay to bring them along? I don’t have children, but I cannot imagine bringing a 3-year old (or toddler-aged) child to a fine dining establishment. It doesn’t even sound as if it would be enjoyable for myself or my husband because we’d be worried and preoccupied the entire time. I say get a babysitter if you’re trying to have an “adult” night out at a nice place…wait until you teach your child good dining manners and he or she doesn’t pitch crying fits anymore.

  • DFWFoodie

    Agree, rubbercow. I distinctly remember my brother misbehaving at dinner when we were younger, and he was immediately taken outside by my dad and given disciplinary words. He didn’t act up after that…

  • Liz Landry

    I say, no outright ban, but if you don’t make them behave the restaurant WILL ask you to leave. A disturbance is a disturbance. I don’t care if they are pint-sized or not. We’ll give everyone the benefit of doubt, until the spaghetti starts to fly and the screaming ensues.

  • Bethany

    I do think that taking your well behaved child to new restaurants is a palate-expanding experience that is pretty awesome for a family. However, I also know that many, many people labor under the false idea that their children are well behaved. Those are the parents that have ruined it for everyone else.
    So I think if everyone followed these rules, kids and fine dining can co-exist:
    1. Know your child’s limitations. If your dinner reservation is at the same time as their usual wind-down-before-bed time, then get a sitter.
    2. Eat dinner together at the table at home. You can’t expect a child to behave if you don’t do the dry run at home as a matter of course.
    3. Explain to your child ahead of time that the menu may not offer chicken strips and mac and cheese. If they’re old enough, go through the menu if it’s available online, and talk about what things are. If they’re in the toddler stage, go through the menu yourself and see what ala carte items could be modified slightly to offer to a toddler.
    4. Take your child out of the restaurant if he or she becomes unruly.
    5. Tip well.

  • Foodie

    Since most folks don’t make their kids behave, I’m all for banning them after 6:00 p.m., or stick them in one area of the place, so they can raise all of the hell they want. Not everyone thinks it’s cute to have to listen to your lame parenting skills. Stop it Junior, stop it Taylor, stop it Jason, quit Mathew, sit down tammy etc……

  • Grouchy old man

    The problem is not the kids, it’s the parents. One does not need to take children to a fine dining restaurant to teach manners. It all begins at home. However, today, it’s anything goes. Misbehaved kids and dog poop, just bring it on. We are still in a “ME” first society where if someone wants something then they should have it no matter how offended someone else may be. So bring your kids, dogs, goats, deranged relatives, make as much noise as you want it’s your own world, the rest of us are just figments of your imagination. Dads have turned into wussies and won’t confront their kids. In fact, I think the kids and dogs are in charge now.

  • Kevin72

    I have a kid and I’d have no problem at all with upscale or high end restaurants banning kids. Gotta have someplace to go on date nights.

  • Borborygmus

    Bethany, you’re going undercover at the bar. Gage, you’re going to be a bartender. Sydney…

    That makes 2.

  • hhhmmm

    @ Bethany: Great ideas!!!!!!!

  • Scott–DFW

    I’ve had far more restaurant meals disturbed by drunk, boisterous adults or by women wearing too much perfume than I have by small children.

  • CB

    I think we should also ban (or kick out) adults who drink too much and become loud and obnoxious.

  • However, at what age is it okay to bring them along?

    The age at which they behave. It might be 2, it might be 20, and it may never happen.

    I bet that if the maitre d’ had asked this group to leave (and with the shrieking and bringing in their own food would be plenty of cause) he or she would have made life-long customers of the rest of the room.

  • Loopy

    Im constantly amazed by the bad, disruptive behavior that parents allow from their children in any public place. I think restaurants should address with parents when it becomes disruptive. It’s not cute when your kids shreaks and yells or when they jump up and down in a booth or can’t stay in their seat or when they leave a disgusting mess on the floor. If the restaurant doesn’t have hichairs, crayons or sippy

  • Loopy

    Im constantly amazed by the bad, disruptive behavior that parents allow from their children in any public place. I think restaurants should address with parents when it becomes disruptive. It’s not cute when your kids shreaks and yells or when they jump up and down in a booth or can’t stay in their seat or when they leave a disgusting mess on the floor. IF the restaurant doesn’t have hichairs, crayons or sippy cups, they probably don’t want your kid there.

  • marisa

    Grouchy Old Man…… are on target. These are the same parents who take their children at age 5 to R rated movies. Wonder if they take the same kids at age 12 to “Men’s Clubs”?

    Parents……if a children’s menu is not offered, children probably do NOT belong.

  • rich

    We’re fortunate to have a 5-year-old son that is very well behaved. He’s fortunate to have parents that have always emphasized behavior, in public places and at home. That said, my wife and I choose to dine with our son in restaurants where the clientele would not initially think “oh no, a young kid” upon our arrival.

    I’m opposed to limiting where adults can bring their children. However, it seems reasonable that (1) parents should exercise common sense regarding their choice of restaurant, (2) parents must maintain control and remove the child in certain situations, and (3) restaurants should politely monitor guest behavior.

  • alyb

    A few years back we had a nice Christmas Eve dinner with family at an upscale restaurant. Nice until the child at the next table shrieked nonstop with no parental intervention. I asked the manager if we could move. He said there was no reason for us to disrupt our dinner, and instead quietly approached Shrieking Child Family and moved them to another room in the restaurant that had no other diners. Deftly handled and much appreciated.

  • Sammy

    I’m confused by the concept that these sets of parents thought that ANY of this was okay. I mean, they had to plan the entire excursion – and at no point not a single one of the four of them said “Um, you know what? Maybe hauling these kids AND BRINGING THEIR OWN FOOD might not be the best idea?”

    I would hate to think how they lived the rest of their lives. Scary.

  • Stacy L.

    Good grief…don’t ban kids. God forbid we should upset parents. If your precious snowflakes disrupt my dinner with my husband though, and you don’t rectify the situation to our satisfaction…you pick up our check. Win-win.

  • b

    Food for thought: I’ve seen many, -many- more annoying, loud, disruptive drunk adults in upscale Dallas restaurants than I have seen bratty children…

    They’re worse to me, because a restaurant could throw out a family with bratty kids, but they’re never gonna throw out a table full of people buying alcohol.

  • Kessler Porker

    I believe children should be served – with a creamy cheese sauce, asparagus and some fingerling potatoes.

    Obligatory Chianti in the glass.

  • Foodie

    The loud, drunk adults aren’t usually screaming and crying, or running around the restaurant either, so they aren’t quite the pain bratty kids are. It’s called Happy Hour, not Unhappy Hour!

  • Loopy

    And the loud adults are in establishments that cater to them– adults!

  • b

    I’ve got no problem with happy hour, but when a table of drunk idiots is so loud I can’t hear myself think, then there’s a problem.

    I’m not saying bratty kids aren’t a problem – I’m saying that I have to deal with loud adults a lot more often than bratty kids.

  • Frank

    I find it amazing the hubris of the comments here as if everyone can just tell everyone else what to do. The restaurant is someone’s *private* business and can do what they like. If *you* don’t like it, then dont’ spend your money there, that’s how you show your disapproval. And if *you* have a restaurant then *you* can set whatever policy you want. Otherwise, please, just stfu.

  • Twinwillow

    Simply, no.

  • earp

    Sounds like a City matter to me…

    banning kids = banning cigarettes

    Both are wrong, but if you have the ability to ban one, I guess you can ban the other.

  • Misty

    Being around other human beings can trend on the side of annoying now and again, but I guess if I don’t want to deal with other human beings I can just stay at home.

  • Kelli

    My husband and I have a two year old. We haven’t taken her to a “fancy restaurant” because at this age it will test her (and our) limitations. However, regardless of where we go, she has to behave. We won’t let her meltdown and tantrum at Chuy’s. Manners are universal. She throws a fit, we take her outside. It’s not my right to ruin another diner’s meal.

  • 1. Go early.
    2. Get a booth so you can box your kid in.
    3. Always remember, no one thinks your kid is as cute as you do.
    4. Order dessert as soon as you sit down.
    5. In the absence of upbringing, get a babysitter.

  • Does anyone teach etiquette classes anymore or is that a 1950’s thing? They need to bring those back for both kids and some adults who don’t know how to behave. I have children under 5 and am reluctant to take them to a fine dining restaurant because I can’t enjoy my own meal if they act up. If a business wants to ban them, then let them. It would make it easier for me as a parent to know up front. If you can’t afford a babysitter then eat somewhere else or stay home. Also, there are restaurants that cater to children – Like the Bistro at American Girl which I did a review on. They have decent food and cater to children – win, win for establishments that cater to children! Duh!

  • Martha

    A smart approach an good marketing tool would be to have indoor playgrounds. With plexiglass around it to keep the area enclosed and the dining area noise free. Children have a very short attention span and are very active by nature. Wherr I am from there are many restaurants that offer fine dining and children are happily playing in a safe area.

    Currently in the US only fast food chains and very very few restaurants offer this option to play after they eat.