So you’re on vacation in one of the world’s best food cities and can’t wait to try that killer appetizer and signature cocktail you read about. But somewhere along the line, you sort of forgot you have two children tagging along.
Oh, what to do?
If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to navigate the high-end food world with kids in tow. You just have to do a little planning ahead of time.
1. Check out the menu ahead of time, and don’t forget to look at the side dishes and appetizers. If your kids are younger, chances are an appetizer or side dish might just make a great meal.
2. If you aren’t sure, call and ask. Don’t forget – chefs want people to like their food, and they’re in the business of pleasing customers. If shrimp and grits are on the menu (and they probably are in South Carolina,) you’ll likely be able to get plain grits if the kids are picky eaters. Restaurants are used to accommodating all sorts of requests. The key here is asking.
3. Think about what time is best to eat. If your kids melt down by 5 p.m. if they don’t eat, then make reservations early and plan your activities accordingly. In the summer, there will still be a couple hours of daylight after you finish to do one more fun thing before bedtime.
4. If you have several kids or are worried they’ll be rowdy, ask for a corner table, booth or seats outside on the patio. Everyone will be happy about this.
5. Take them to the bathroom before dinner is served, even if they say they don’t need to go. Just do it.
6. Make a scavenger hunt out of the menu. How many times does shrimp appear? Do appetizers become entrees when combined with other ingredients? How many dishes are from land, sea and air? The possibilities are endless.
7. Practice table manners at home. They might not remember it when you get seated, but it’s a good try.
8. Tell them a little about the chef and restaurant ahead of time. What’s the place known for? Does the chef have interesting tattoos or wear funny hats? Is there a dish that made the place famous? Or perhaps there is a ghost that haunts the premises. Let them feel connected.
9. If something goes wrong, remember. It’s not the end of the world. Apologize. Be nice. Ask the server for advice. They’ll tell you if you need to take the little one outside. And if so, they’ll box up your dinner.
10. Let them say thanks. Bring a notebook and crayons or buy a postcard and let them write or draw a thank you note to the chef and staff. It takes less than five minutes and is a wonderful gesture that everyone will remember.