Restaurant Guru: Baby on Board

Dear Restaurant Guru,

We have a baby who does well out in public so we like to bring her with us when we go out to eat. She’s still too small for a high chair, and restaurant staff is usually helpful when we bring her in, though occasionally they seem annoyed at having to accommodate her, her stroller or stroller seat. Should we include the baby in our total party number when making reservations, even though she’s not taking up a seat at the table? Should we always give a restaurant a heads up that we plan on bringing a baby? How can we know if places really don’t want us to bring her along? We like to have her with us but we don’t want to be a nuisance to servers and other customers! Also, what’s the etiquette on bringing babies/small kids to bars and breweries?

Sincerely, Baby On Board

Dear Baby on Board,

I encourage parents to bring their sweet little cherubs to restaurants, but let’s keep it in perspective. Whereas you may consider your baby to be the cutest thing that’s ever graced God’s green Earth, others may have a difference of opinion. Dining with children is a wonderful experience for kids and will create fond memories, but perhaps the nine-course meal at Herons at the Umstead Hotel isn’t really appropriate? I always have a hard time asking the sommelier to decant the ’95 Chateau Lynch-Bages while ordering a grilled cheese with the crusts cut off.

Finding a kid-friendly restaurant is typically easy, especially if they put their kids menu online. During the reservation process, I would highly advise mentioning the baby, either by raising the total number of your party by one, or adding that information in the comments section of your reservation. Restaurants love to get as much information as possible when preparing for the evening. And they may end up putting you in the section with the server who actually likes kids! A little heads up makes it better for everyone.

Lastly, I like your style. You’re not letting a little thing like parenthood slow down your beer drinking. With that said, bringing a baby to a bar might be a little suspect. A bar is for adults, though I’m a fan of taprooms and beer gardens, which are opening all over town. Many of these places provide board games, corn hole and even produce non-alcoholic beverages like root beer and natural sodas (much to the dismay of previously elected officials). It’s a great place for multiple families to meet and socialize. Bear in mind, there are other adults consuming alcohol around your family, so be responsible and pay attention to the kids.