For this week’s Big Spoon, I thought I’d share some mail I received after publishing my “Dining Out With Kids” column. The tips will be put into practice later this week, so stay tuned for how I fare as a babysitter.
“After reading your column on dining out with kids, I figured I would throw in my two cents.
“My special lady and I have a four-month-old daughter, our first kid. We live in the Pearl area and take our baby out to different restaurants and other establishments pretty frequently.
“We are by no means experts on the subject, and everyday with an infant is a learning experience, but we have been pretty lucky in that our dining habits haven’t really changed all that much since becoming parents. Obviously, the situation will likely change even more to a degree when our daughter becomes more active and mobile. But I hope brand-new or soon-to-be parents can know that, despite what many of their parent friends will say, their lives are not, in fact, over once they have a kid.
“One thing that has worked for us is realizing that we need to keep an open mind about a number of things when we’re thinking about heading out to dinner:
“1) If the baby is already in a bad mood, her attitude probably won’t be changed by being in a restaurant setting. So if we’re at home and she’s throwing a fit, we’ll just stay in because it’s not worth the money or the stress of heading to a restaurant with a screaming baby knowing we’re not going to truly enjoy the experience of eating there anyway. Don’t force it.
“2) Know your restaurants. We’re lucky in San Antonio in that we can get some really well-executed cuisine in a laid-back atmosphere. Places with patio seating are great (assuming the weather is tolerable) because even if the baby starts getting upset, the other patrons will likely be blissfully unaware of what’s happening at our table and can continue enjoying their time, undisturbed by a crying baby.
“3) Have an exit strategy for less baby-friendly restaurants. One particularly memorable experience for us was when we attended a birthday dinner at Silo Terrace Oyster Bar. For those who haven’t been there, the dining room is only accessible from the street by elevator. Right after the waiter took everyone’s drink orders, baby went into nuclear meltdown mode, and every time we tried to take her outside to tend to the situation, we were stuck with a screaming baby waiting on the elevator to arrive. Not fun. Which brings me to...
“4) Save the fancy places for date night. The baby is the square peg, the fancy restaurant is the round hole. Most upscale places are not set-up for a baby and all the equipment you must bring along. They also tend to be quieter and more structured than your more everyday type restaurant, and bringing a baby along always makes your situation more fluid. And, of course, a baby’s happiness definitely has a time limit, and dinners tend to last much longer at the fancier places. So make sure you’ve got a babysitter lined up before you go for the tasting menu at Mixtli.
“5) Be prepared. Babies require lots of things, so we try to make sure we have everything we need before leaving home. Always have that extra bottle handy, along with pacifiers, fans, meds and anything else they require. If the baby is happy at the restaurant, everybody’s happy.
“6) Start early. We made a point to start taking our baby out and about as soon as the pediatrician gave the O.K. We would take her for walks on the river and make regular stops at The Luxury or another one of the neighborhood establishments. That helped to keep a sense of normalcy in our lives, and those excursions seem to have gotten the baby used to restaurant noise and being around people so she doesn’t get fazed when we’re out in public.
“Again, by no means is this a “how to” guide on parenting, but I just wanted to share what has worked for our particular situation. With a baby it’s almost impossible to stick to a routine, but by keeping an open mind and going with the flow, we’ve been able to go out to eat at least once or twice a week as a family and have had overwhelmingly positive results.
“So, in conclusion, it IS possible to have a baby and still keep a social life and support the San Antonio restaurant scene.”
So many restaurants, so little time. Find out the latest San Antonio dining news with our Flavor Friday Newsletter.