Getting The Stink Eye in Restaurants

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You know how sometimes there can be so much cutlery in the road it seems like every which way you turn, you’re getting stabbed by a fork?  Me too.  It’s enough to make you want to just sit down and have a slice of pie.  So tonight I sit with my pie (wine) and discuss an issue that has come up recently.

Apparently kids in restaurants can be a real nuisance for those who don’t have kids or for those who have chosen to leave theirs at home.  Now before I had a little one, I must admit I was one of those people whose shoulders sank the second a baby would board the plane.  I did my very best to keep my unintentional stink eye to myself but it was not easy.  This same pattern went for restaurants.  I wanted to embrace the fact that we are all in this big ‘ol life endeavor together, maybe sing “Joy to the World” and hold hands or something but God help me folks, that was nowhere near gonna happen as the 2-year old sitting next to me screamed bloody murder because she had to stop putting her hand in her water and throwing it at me.

Now with my, ahem, sweet and perfectly behaved 15-month old, I am on the other side of the fence.  We have gone out to dinner the last two Saturday nights and we’ve,  gasp, brought our son with us! 

The first outing was to the restaurant, Street, on Highland.  Let me first off say that everyone around us was so sweet to our son.  There was lots of cooing, smiling and contorting of faces to make our child laugh.  I find this kind of stuff so endearing.  I mean the chef even brought Luca a bowl of strawberries and little appetizer puff balls instead of bread.  Now, we have a delivery company that delivers all organic, local food to toddlers throughout LA twice a week so we always have prepared meals in our fridge for our son which is a pretty awesome perk for me.  I like to cook ok but Luca’s dad is the chef and I’m happy to leave that duty to him.  When we venture out we usually pop some food from home in a container and take it with us but on this particular Saturday night we forgot. 

While at the restaurant my son ate whatever we ordereed which was a lot of different things to share (side note: I love the food at STREET! If you haven’t been, just go and get the appetizer grilled cheese with coconut butter, soy, and egg.  IT’S TO DIE FOR – and order two!).  But as soon as his last slurp of sesame noodle went down, he was finished.  We weren’t of course, but that was it. 

He screamed at the top of his lungs for what in reality was probably only five seconds, but felt like 20 minutes.  The two guys that loved him twenty minutes earlier gave each other a look and then politely avoided my apologetic glance.  The waiters wouldn’t look at us.  The bartender kind of did but then realized she had and unintentional stink eye going on and quickly turned away.  We got the check within a matter of seconds and got our butts out of there. 

Ok so the next Saturday slid even more into the down low and went to El Compadre on Sunset for simple, old school Mexican food.  We were in by 5:15 and out by around 6:30.

Here’s how it went:  The second Luca got in his high chair he screamed.  Ok.  So we quietly moved to the outside patio and for some reason he liked it out there.   All he seems to want to do lately is run and laugh and run and play and run and run, so the fact that he was chilaxing in the high chair before any food came was good.  Then of course the ants in the pants arrived but luckily so did the chips and salsa.  We gave him chips.  We bribed him with chips.

Within 2 minutes of ordering our meal, out came Ben’s salad that had some ranch dressing on the side.  Luca quizzically looked over at the white goopy goop and of course dipped his chip in it.  I would have done that had I been him too.  The look on his face was one of wonder and ecstasy and fear, fear that we would take that ranch dressing anywhere but underneath his chip. 

I tried to get Luca to partake in some beans, rice, and avocado that in my grand scheme were going to be right up his ally.  But no.  He looked at me as if I were a crazy person for thinking he was not going to just eat ranch dressing off tortilla chips for dinner.  In order to avoid any kind of screaming and me reasoning with him, of course we let him eat the tortilla chips and ranch dressing.  In exchange we got to eat our dinner in some kind of peace and actually have a little conversation. 

Since we were outside no one bugged us and we didn’t bug anyone.  We did our best to clean up, leave a sizable tip, then skedaddle. 

I am not sure about the whole taking kids out to eat scenario. I’m not sure it’s fair to ask a 15-month-old  or even a 3-year old for that matter to sit still for an hour or more while grown ups have civilized conversation and enjoy their food.  

But who wants to stay in every night?  And who wants to pay a babysitter a bunch of money a couple of times a week, on top of what we pay our nanny, so you can go out?  And who wants to put up with screaming kids eating next to them when maybe they did suck it up and pony up for the babysitter? 

Maybe there is a happy medium.  Maybe there should be a cut off at 7 pm.  Parents with kids under seven must vacate restaurants by 7.  The 7/7 rule.  So that means if someone’s kid is screaming at 5:45, other patrons can’t get mad.  And if there is a big ‘ol mess where the little one ate, you must tip at least 25%.  There, a happy medium.  I could be a politician.

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