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Family Cuisine: Dining Out with the Pint-Size Set

By Jackie Burrell
Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 at 6:09 am in Cuisine.

A kids menu and crayons at Caffe Venezia (Photo by D. Ross Cameron, Bay Area News Group) It’s week 4 of our family cuisine series – and what fun! We’ve talked about a great family cookbook, Weelicious and Yumminess (those are both blogs, not just me being cutesy). Now, we’re turning to the topic of dining out etiquette because we’ve all been there – either as diners, staring askance at someone else’s kid having a meltdown, or as the poor parents, dying a thousand deaths as our kid yanks the tablecloth off. But, says Mary Ladd, in a great article that ran in our papers recently, there’s hope!

“There are manuals on how to dress and diaper your child. But advice on going out to eat with your kid is not generally covered at a typical baby shower,” she writes. “It takes time to figure out the dos and don’ts of eating out with young ones.  So, what can parents do to promote the peaceful coexistence of their pint-size diners and fellow restaurant patrons?”
The answer?
Start early, and do it at home first. Berkeley mom Kathryn Cohen, for example, has always stressed consistency and respect with her two children, Ben and Hannah, ages 9 and 11, whether the family is dining at home, in a casual eatery or a swanky restaurant.

“No getting up and walking or running around,” she says. “No rude comments about the food being served. Polite voices. No banging silverware. And no tantrums.”

Remember the real estate mantra: location, location, location. Steer away from the serene, white tablecloth establishments. Aim instead for a vibrant, even noisy place. Kids, says Jason Hubert, the manager at Oakland’s Adesso, a bustling Italian wine bar and small plates place, “blend in with the general din here.”

Don’t shrink from beating a hasty, if temporary exit. “When my kids were young and a tantrum erupted,” Cohen told Ladd, “one of us would always take the kid outside until they calmed down and could behave appropriately.”

Make sure you pack a busy bag – crayons, paper and a readiness to play “I Spy.” And, says Pleasant Hill mom Pamela Dawkins, make the restaurant outing feel like the treat it is.

OK, now it’s your turn… what are your tricks for dining out with kids?

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