I enter on all sides of the conversation here: I’m an operator who deals with families all the time, I’m a Dad who loves to eat out with my daughter, and I’m a diner who often likes eating out with just grown-ups. A lot of you fall into the latter two categories, so you can surely appreciate how nuanced the topic is.
Here is the deal: some kids are angels eating out, some kids have a hard time in restaurants, and sometimes it’s the same kid on different days. Some parents are like Baby Whisperers with their kids, some parents struggle more, and sometimes it’s the same parents. Also, we could all probably stand to take a deep breath and relax just a little bit.
It’s just that simple. And it’s just that hard.
As an operator, I love kids. Their parents spend money, after all, and there are a ton of advantages to marketing to families. In Arlington, families represent a very lucrative demographic; I’d be crazy to ignore them. Also, as stated above, today’s family at brunch could turn into next week’s anniversary dinner or next month’s mom’s night out in the bar. We have always prided ourselves in welcoming kids into Eventide and Spider Kelly’s. We have families ourselves.
And let me be very clear to point out that the responsibility for ensuring everyone has a good time is on us. It’s our job to make all our guests happy, and that’s what we try to do.
But we could all use a few ground rules.
When I became a parent, I realized that the restaurant business had actually prepared me well. For work, I had to learn to be ready for anything at anytime. I had to learn to keep calm and trust my preparation. Parenting was the same except infinitely more wild and unpredictable. The best part about kids is you never know what will happen next, but that can make plans and events and dinners maddening. A sense of humor helps a lot, but it won’t always save the meal.
Here are a few tips that I valued as a dad, and that establishments will value as they do their best to accommodate you:
Okay, that should be enough fodder for the comment section.
I also wanted to give some praise to spots in town that my daughter and I love. She has been my breakfast, lunch, coffee, dinner and dessert date for as long as we have had her. She is almost six now, and a seasoned pro at going out. It’s always been something fun for us to do together to get out of the house where we seem to drive each other, and my wife, crazy. We are at our best out and on the move. Her tastes have changed (along with her patience) as she gets older, so certain places have gone in and out.
Our favorites and the times we usually hit them up:
Faccia Luna (Lunch)
Quick food and good variety. Great beers for Dad, coloring stuff always on hand for the little one. I’ll admit this one is heavily favored because of nostalgia. My wife and I had our first real date here, and when our daughter came along, it was one of the first places we were brave enough to venture out to. Dinner or lunch here is always kind of a mile marker.
Eat Bar (Brunch)
They serve an amuse bouche, and it’s a doughnut! They play old cartoons on the big screen which keeps the kids at bay. The quizzical looks my daughter gives Elmer Fudd and Foghorn Leghorn are priceless.
Iota Café (Breakfast)
The most peaceful place for breakfast in town. Quiet, usually with classical music playing. Daily papers laid out and the most killer breakfast sandwiches. Room for restless kids to run around (stage dancing, perhaps?).
A shout out to a chain albeit a regional one. This café concept is out of Richmond. Nice building, comfortable seating and lots of good stuff to choose from on the menu. They slash the food and drink prices for happy hour, so you can get some drinks, food for you and the kids and be out of there way before bedtime with barely a dent in the wallet.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.