The fam and I recently went to Migas in Sanlitun. We wanted to get one last glimpse before this Sanlitun dining and nightlife mainstay shuttered their doors forever on January 1, and entered the lengthy list of venues that we once frequented as Beijing party monsters but are currently no more. With my one-year-old son in tow, it goes without saying that this experience was very different than those that usually ended with the sun coming up while disco dancing on their infamous rooftop.
When going to a nice restaurant with a toddler, there are numerous things that you often need to keep in mind to maintain the sanity of not only you and your spouse, but also the other diners, staff, and anyone else in your immediate proximity. This is why most people probably keep their fine dining outings to a minimum and usually opt for a more noisy and casual setting.
After all, keeping a small toddler occupied while trying to enjoy a nice meal out on the town can be a big challenge. Not only are the adults famished and trying to enjoy their food while it’s still hot, but you also need to pacify the child as to not upset other patrons in the restaurant.
How is this usually done? I believe that every family has their methods but it often consists of a variety of funny faces, feeding the baby a little from your plate, and of course, play! We try to leave the iPhone or iPad out of the equation, but can completely understand if this is your option to feast peacefully. I would like to think that my wife and I have it down to a science, but most of the time, we just end up taking turns between eating and putting on a show for him as he sits there occasionally yelling “dat” at slightly beyond the socially acceptable volume. It is very likely that we are the annoying ones to other restaurant patrons sitting around us, and not our child.
On this particular evening, he was behaving pretty well considering the hard, brutalist highchairs which are usually provided by a majority of stylish restaurants. What’s the deal with that anyway? My wife and I were paying close attention to his mood, giving him food, and dropping water into his mouth from a straw, which happens to be his favorite thing in the world right now. Even the staff couldn’t get enough of the little guy and were always dropping by to make funny faces in his direction. We were having a grand time, enjoying each other’s company and all of the delicious items we could get our hands on. We do our best in trying to have our child feel like he is participating in the experience, and not just ignoring his cries while we quickly stuff our faces with delicious Spanish cuisine.
Despite his simpatico behavior (for most of the dinner) we were greeted with some unpleasantness and stares from the table next to us, who preceded to give each other high-fives as we were leaving.
This got me a little upset and thinking for a moment about whether or not we should even attempt going out if we are to be met with such disapproval. In my head, I started to weigh out the benefits and drawbacks and ultimately decided that all of the nasty looks or condemnation in the world weren’t going to prevent me from taking my small family out for a nice meal on the town. I want quality food to be a part of my son’s life from the get-go, and not just burgers, pizza, or any other place that where a noisy child can blend in with the natural environment.
Many parents from around the world would probably opt out of many dining experiences because they don’t want to create a scene by introducing the infant wild card on to the fine dining atmosphere. This is understandable, and I get it.
Are we selfish for wanting to introduce quality food to our kid early on? Probably! I guess that makes us the problem for some people, but that’s not going to stop us from going out and enjoying ourselves, and this shouldn’t stop any of you out there wanting a nice meal with your young kids as well. So you better beware, diners. We are here and ready to ruin your meal, and we are totally OK with it. At least we aren’t sitting next to you on a transpacific flight.
Photo: Kipp Whittaker