The debate over whether children belong in restaurants flared up again this month when a Pennsylvania restaurant banned all diners under the age of 6, citing noise complaints. "Their volume can't be controlled," Mike Vuick of McDain's Restaurant in Monroeville, Penn., told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Parents countered that their little darlings would never do anything to disturb other diners. When Time columnist Josh Ozersky called on local food blogger Rebekah Denn, former Post-Intelligencer critic and mother of three, to speak for the moms, she said, "In my hundreds of meals out around Seattle, I hardly ever saw kids screaming, kicking, running around unsupervised, or any of the other dinner-ruining crimes that the chat-board complainers seem to think are legion."
I have the highest respect for Denn, but I'm guessing a woman who shares a home with three very young children probably has a different sense of what constitutes screaming. Parents are no doubt accustomed to hearing shrill, outdoor voices. Or else they're so glad their children aren't making a vocal fuss that they don't notice when their kids are kicking the back of their booth or throwing heaps of Cheerios on the floor for a server to sweep up.
Children don't belong in a restaurant like McDain's, a steakhouse that borders a golf course. It's not fun for the children, who don't have the patience to sit quietly, and it's not fair to adults. I know, I know, your kids have mature, gourmet tastes. And how will they ever learn how to behave in restaurants if they don't patronize them? Same way all of us did: By staying home with a babysitter and fantasizing about a place so impossibly grown-up that children aren't allowed to go there. That's an instant etiquette lesson.
Fortunately, there are many wonderful restaurants where kids can indulge in all the merrymaking their parents allow. The web's lousy with lists highlighting them. But we've got the list for diners who don't ever want to encounter a child mid-meal. Here, the kid-unfriendliest restaurants in Seattle:
Bet you thought those shuffleboard tables and chewy pretzels were perfect for tykes, right? The Liquor Control Board would like to differ: All that beer and bourbon isn't approved for the under-21 crowd, so the shuffleboard table's yours.
If a child isn't old enough to handle the sharp knife needed to tackle a steak, he doesn't belong at a steakhouse. That's especially true at downtown's upscale chain steakhouses, where visiting executives and local corporate types come to conduct business. Unless your little one is riveted by eavesdropping on negotiations, parents are better off taking their offspring to a burger joint to get their red-meat fix.
There are parents who think it's a great idea to expose their children to scantily-clad women: I once knew a guy who took his grade-school-aged son's swim team to Hooters. But if your gender politics allow it, you're probably safe from children here.
Serious diners, chef Holly Smith has got your back. Contributor Sonja Groset recalls when Smith's toddler son barreled toward her table. Groset writes: "Smith saw him, saw us, and said, 'Come back over here, Oliver, some people dine out to get away from kids.' I couldn't have said it better myself."
Sure, some kids are crazy for molecular gastronomy. But they're not getting any liquid nitrogen at this Belltown spot: Spur's covered by the same alcohol laws that prohibit kids from entering Brave Horse Tavern. Enjoy your imaginative cocktail.
Many thanks to Voracious contributors Sonja Groset, Lacey Chenault, Laura Onstot, and Julien Perry for their suggestions. Do you have a restaurant to add to the list? Comment away.