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Dining Out With Toddlers

Mar18

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Advice Smackdown ArchivesHey Amy,

As I was sitting in Ruby Tuesday’s yesterday feeding my 25 month old son lunch from my plate, I figured I should ask you:

At what point does it become frowned upon to bring your child his own food to a restaurant (I usually bring his own milk, and a fruit cup or some applesauce, and some Cheerios)? And to give him pieces of food from your own plate instead of ordering his own?

I mean, I CAN order him some mac and cheese, but he won’t eat all of it, and I am perfectly happy to share whatever I have with him instead of paying four bucks for a box of Kraft Mac and Cheese.

But when do servers start getting salty about that kind of thing?

Thanks!
Ruby Tuesday

Oh, it depends. It depends, it depends, it depends. Depends on the kid, depends on the server, depends on the restaurant.

We eat out as a family quite a bit. And we’ve done it all — brought stuff from home, shared our plates, had the kids split a meal, had everybody order their own individual meal, and taken home plenty of doggy bags.

Personally, I no longer carry snacks and drinks with me to restaurants. (Other than a spare sippy cup for Ezra, just in case the restaurant doesn’t have cups with lids and straws for the kids.) It’d be one thing if I had a child on a special diet, which of course gets you a pass on EVERYTHING else I’ll say in the remainder of this column…but I personally don’t feel comfortable bringing things to restaurants that I know I can order there — like milk or juice, which EVERY restaurant has. We’ve probably made an effort to leave most kiddie/baby staples at home since around Ezra’s second birthday (later for Noah, but more on THAT in a bit).

This is my own weirdness — I’m sure plenty of restaurants and servers do not care in the slightest, but since we take up a table for four, I’m possibly a bit overly-sensitive to what it would look like if only Jason and I order food and then crack out a buffet from the diaper bag. Jason and I both waited tables, and while I don’t ever remember minding the occasional table full of kids, I do remember how much it can sting a server’s take when all their four-tops essentially rack up only two-top checks and then don’t tip any extra for for the fact that you still spent all that time fetching extra napkins and crayons and dipping sauces for the kids, and then the table takes extra-long to bus because of all the crumbs and wrappers and packaging from non-restaurant food gets left behind, thus further dinging your turnover.

At some point, I think we can all agree that it’s RUDE to bring your own food to a restaurant, or sit there and just eat from the bread basket without ordering anything…but no, there’s certainly no SET, universally-agreed-upon age when it goes from okay to not-okay in regards to very little kids. Maybe once they’re out of a high chair and taking up a real seat? Once they start showing signs of independence and decision-making? Once they read a menu? No idea. But I can tell you our current Restaurant Philosophy, which you are of course free to disagree with or decide it’s not applicable to your kid and family.

Noah is five-and-a-half, Ezra is 29 months. My children are old enough, I think, to start listening to their food options and making their own choices about what they’d like to eat at a restaurant. Ezra’s borderline for sure, and we still make the decision for him a lot if he isn’t cooperative, but he’s so independent and aware of what’s going on around him that not having his very own plate became absolutely unacceptable sometime right after his second birthday. At the least, he needs to split something with someone, but he’s such a voracious eater that we don’t do this much anymore. (We would end up ordering ANOTHER kids’ entree mid-meal because he wolfed it all and wanted more. SLOW DOWN, CHILD.)

Plus, Ezra is a very good eater, and I didn’t want to jeopardize that with a constant offering of Cheerios and cheese sticks at meal times, because even the best eater can become a very lazy eater, particularly in the two-year-old phase, and settle into a preferred-food rut. I did the always-have-acceptable-snacks-in-the-bag thing with Noah, who was INSANELY picky, and I regret it, because while it may have made that particular meal out a little easier, we handed over too many battles and lost the war, so to speak. Plus, packaged kiddie convenience food really isn’t THAT much cheaper, and I’m past the point where I’m comfortable bringing in tupperware containers of homemade options for them. (For all the neurotic etiquette reasons mentioned above.) Now, we go to restaurants and you find something you like on the menu. We promise, as parents, not to take the boys someplace where there’s absolutely NOTHING for them, but then it’s their job to choose something acceptable and go from there. (Basically taking the Ellyn Satter feeding philosophy on the road.)

And we’ve found that most places DO have something. For awhile I admit we became overly tied to places with your typical kiddie menu offerings, thanks to Noah’s pickiness, but once he improved at home (I mean, he’s still not great, but still SO MUCH better) we started challenging him a little while dining out and were surprised that hey, we don’t HAVE to go out for pizza for the millionth time. Check the a la carte sides for applesauce or mashed potatoes. Sushi restaurants are usually happy to send out a side of udon noodles. Noah loves the bread stuffed with dried fruit and nuts at Indian restaurants, or a mango lassi and the crunchy papadam crackers. Meanwhile, Ezra eats pretty much anything we put in front of him, and prefers more “adventurous” restaurant offerings over boring old grilled cheese. We still share from our plates, split orders, request the occasional substitution, but we all eat off the menu, with no cheating with the fruit-n-cereal bars I have secretly hidden in the bag for emergencies. (SHHH DON’T TELL THEM.)

Sure, it’s not always going to be the most nutritionally balanced meal of the week, and I HATE when restaurants send out processed options like Kraft or those horrible Smuckers Crustables instead of just whipping together their own mac-n-cheese or pb&j (and it’s usually the last time we’ll go to that particular place). But for us, it’s the experience of eating out as a family that we like. They eat plenty healthy at home. Some might even say obsessively so. One non-organic cup of milk or all-crunchy-carb meal isn’t going to hurt them, though we’re pretty fortunate to live where we do, because there are actually a ton of family-friendly options that are also devoted to organic, local food, and we patronize them whenever possible. The kids may add another $10-$15 onto our bill, but the pleasure we get out of seeing them enjoy their food and color on placemats and talk to us about their day (without us having to get up a million times to fetch a refill or turn off the stove or get another spoon)…and then rapturously behold the dessert menu makes it worth more than it.

Though…yeah. We still go to a LOT of pizza joints. Not gonna pretend otherwise on that one.

__________________________________________________________________
If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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36 Responses to “Dining Out With Toddlers”

  1. Olivia Mar 18 at 11:55 am Reply Reply

    My daughter is nearly 2 yrs old (in 2 weeks) and we don’t eat out very often. But I think the last time I brought food for her she was under a year old and still eating the mushed stuff. We usually order a side dish like refried beans at a Mexican restaurant and also give her bites from our plate. But, if we go to a buffet place or a Thai place that I know will give me plenty of noodles to share I have her eat off my plate. If we went to a burger joint, I’d probably still feed her off my plate because I can’t see ordering another serving of fries when I know I’ll have plenty.

  2. Bethany Mar 18 at 12:21 pm Reply Reply

    As the girlfriend of a former server, I LOVE Amy’s advice. Also, if you do feel the need to bring your own food, tip extra, say 25% instead of 20%. I know it really meant a lot to my boyfriend and the other waiters (who shared their tips with the busers) when families with messy kids left a little extra in recognition of the fact that clearing a table with cracker crumbs everywhere and crayons on the floor does take more time/work than a table where 4 adults sat and ate. He worked at an Irish pub and they did make an effort to make things easier for families with kids. They have mashed potatoes available a la carte, they have plastic cups with lids for milk, the waiters even will let you know if most kids like the boxty or whatnot. They obviously don’t do anything or say anything about the tables that bring food in, but it does make them happier when parents recognize what Amy said about a 4 top table turning into a 2 top bill.

  3. Rebecca Mar 18 at 12:33 pm Reply Reply

    My Daughter is 22 months and we usually order her own children’s meal, but in addition I keep a fruit cup/applesauce pack in my bag as her “appetizer”. This way she gets in some fruit that isn’t necessarily an option on the menu and it gives her an activity to entertain her for a bit before the food comes. And my husband and I overly aware of the clean up after we finish eating and try to assist as we gather our belongings.

  4. Bridget Mar 18 at 12:57 pm Reply Reply

    My general rule on bringing my own food is “how long will the food take”. If a place has a salad bar or a bread basket or whatnot, then I’m good, we don’t bring anything for my 21 month old. But if I know it’s going to be 20 minutes between ordering and actually getting food, then I will bring a small snack for my son so he’s not getting all of those food smells and not eating – he lacks patience, to say the least. In general, all I need to entertain him is some cars and crayons and we’re usually good to go. I do bring our own sippy cup (just in case) and a toddler sized fork though :)

  5. ras Mar 18 at 12:58 pm Reply Reply

    My younger daughter is 25 months old now, and it seems like we’ve been ordering her her own meal for about 6 months now. Frankly, most of the time it turns out to be a waste of money because she’ll only eat two bites, but I definitely felt weird bringing my own food for a kid older than about a year and a half. Plus, we do feel like it’s important to nudge our kids out of their comfort zone, food-wise, and ordering them their own dishes is one way to accomplish that.

  6. Stefanie Mar 18 at 1:40 pm Reply Reply

    As a former server and current mother of a child with food allergies, I have definite opinions and advice on this. My philosophy is, if they can eat the food off the menu, you shouldn’t bring food with you. My daughter has a dairy allergy (actual allergy, not lactose intolerance) and we’ve tried ordering food at restaurants and asking them to be sure there is no dairy in it, but she always ends up sick afterward, so I just don’t bother anymore. If we took her to a nice place that would cater to that (which, yeah right, she’s 15 months) I might consider ordering from the restaurant. I just tell the server she has severe food allergies, feed her what we’ve brought, and make sure that I’ve cleaned up whatever mess she’s made before leaving. Being a server and having to crawl under the table to pick up food that a kid has thrown on the floor is always irritating, but there’s something about cleaning up food that isn’t even served in the restaurant that’s all the more aggravating. We make sure to clean up, and if we get shooed away while we’re doing that, we make sure to leave an extra nice tip.

  7. Ms. K Mar 18 at 2:01 pm Reply Reply

    My daughter has never eaten baby food – we went straight to offering her food from our plates when she was eight or nine months old, and never looked back. Makes restaurants so easy. When she was about 15 months old we would often order a side of, say, collard greens or applesauce for her, and supplement with whatever we were having.

    Now that she’s over two, we’ve just started occasionally ordering her own meal for her. It’s hard though – kids’ meal offerings are so borrrrriiinnnnnggggg. Daughter’s more on the Ezra continuum of eating, but it’s still a little early to order her her very own main course.

     Buffets (Indian and Chinese buffets are very common here) are great for eating with kids. Not only do they usually not charge for kids under five, but they have a huge variety of interesting food. A win-win situation for toddlers.

  8. Bethany Mar 18 at 2:02 pm Reply Reply

    My son has some weird food allergies and intolerances. He’s 22 months old and we’ve been ordering him his own meal for about a year. At 10 months, he wanted whatever everyone else was having. And his appetite is such that he’ll finish a whole kids meal. He is lactose intolerant so I always have a sippy cup of his milk. And he takes an allergy medicine with dinner that has to be mixed with something soft. I usually bring a container of applesauce just in case the restaurant doesn’t have any. With the allergies, I did A LOT of research at the beginning to find out where we can go without a lot of issues. We stick to those places and don’t try somewhere new without having time to research. I guess my point is that we do half and half. I bring part and order part. And I always have a toddler spoon and fork in the bag.

  9. AJU5's Mom Mar 18 at 2:24 pm Reply Reply

    I sort of follow the buffet restaurants’ age limits. Most of them have under 3 are free, so I have no problems bringing food for a child under three with me. My daughter is now over three, and it depends on where we go. We don’t go out often, and she really doesn’t like kids’ food. So, we often order an extra salad for her and give her some of our meat (which she may or may not eat). The last place we went to was Japanese, and we ordered her a salad and then just shared everything else, and we still brought home doggie bags. Oh, and my son is 15 months and we bring something for him because it is normally cleaner than him trying to eat restaurant food. Plus, most places don’t have the things he likes because he hates being fed but can’t quite use utensils yet…

  10. Stephanie Mar 18 at 2:31 pm Reply Reply

    My daughter is 21 months old. We’ve been taking her to restaurants and we’re mixed. She has some food allergies (to sesame seeds, which of course are on every single bun!), so we have to be careful about that. Generally, we share fries, order something off the kids menue if available, or order something small. We always bring a snack because she’ll have a meltdown if she’s hungry and food isn’t there THE second she wants it. I’m very disappointed by the ingredients that are used in kids meals. Take Panera for example. How hard is it to put REAL cheddar cheese in the kids’ grilled cheese, as opposed to Kraft? I mean, the real stuff is in my sandwich! So that really bugs me. We also always try to clean up because yeah, she still makes a mess. Most waiters have been really accommodating.

  11. Becca Mar 18 at 2:50 pm Reply Reply

    My general rule is that if the kid is able to eat regular food at home, the kid is able to eat regular food prepared at the restaurant. My nephews are now 2 & 4. When the kids were under 2 and we were going straight from the house, I’d often pack a sippy cup with milk in it if I did not know for sure that the place offered milk. Otherwise we packed an empty sippy cup and just transferred the drink into it. We still (try) to bring child size silverware. Once they were over 1 we usually got their own kids meal because they do like to eat. Before that we packed the formula/baby food and did not order for them.
    Of course, if the child has specific dietary needs (severe allergies, celiac, etc.), then yes, bringing outside food in would not bother me, but do be respectful of the fact that your child is taking up a paying seat. In other words, make sure the tip covers what a meal for that age should cost :-).

  12. Alissa Mar 18 at 3:17 pm Reply Reply

    Thanks for answering my question, and for the good advice from commenters.  I thought of you again today and DS and I ate out AGAIN (we need to stop this going out to lunch thing).  We split a pizza today, and I had a cup of applesauce for him in the diaper bag so he could have a snack before the pizza arrived.  I think I do need to be a bit more careful about trying to order him his own meals, or at least a side of something.  I do, though, always leave extra tip – I was a bus girl when I was a teen and MAN did I hate cleaning Cheerios up off the floor!

    Those who don’t bring anything for your kids – do they wait patiently for food to come out?  DS is only entertained by crayons for just so long…

  13. Amy Mar 18 at 3:19 pm Reply Reply

    Starting at about a year, when our son had been eating regular food for months, we started ordering his dinner from the kids’ menu. Since, disappointingly, most kids’ meals come with fries we ask if they can substitute with steamed veggies (with nothing on them), and try to avoid the grilled cheese/Kraft mac ‘n cheese options (can Kraft mac ‘n cheese make the restaurant any lazier?). We often take his leftovers home and use them for part of a meal later. He also eats a bit off of our plates. And yes, always tip extra because even though I try my best to pick up all of the breadcrumbs and thrown pieces of broccoli, I can’t get them all.

  14. EW Mar 18 at 3:41 pm Reply Reply

    “do they wait patiently for food to come out?”

    My daughter (23 months) will drink her water, which keeps her entertained for a bit, but she does tend to get a little difficult before the food comes.  If there is bread or something, that helps.  We don’t bring snacks, and whether she gets her own food depends on the place.  Mostly, we just try to keep her in her chair and quiet, but she does better if there are crayons.

    You might ask if they can bring you something before the entree, like bread sticks at a pizza place that you can get quickly.

  15. Lydia Mar 18 at 4:19 pm Reply Reply

    I waited tables for a long time and I’d say just leaving a little extra is really all you need to worry about. The side dishes you are ordering for your one kid are not making or breaking the check (or the tip) for a server. But no matter what you bill total is, leaving a few extra dollars that says “sorry about all the nurtigrain bar wrappers!” is a really nice touch.
    Though I’ll also say, that while kids aren’t your favorite table to wait on, it’s WAY better than rude adults.

  16. Bear Mar 18 at 5:15 pm Reply Reply

    My experience is that feeding your kid from your own plate is received very differently than unpacking outside food.But you don’t have to get him mac’n’cheese. Even Ruby Tuesday offers sides of creamed spinach. 

    Our 14-month-old (well, as of Monday) demands to be fed whatever his dads have, and hates it when someone has a food or drink he can’t have some of, like something extra-spicy or espresso drinks. We generally feed him what we’re having, and either a) order an extra side of veggies, beans, cheesy something, or similar or b) just go to a nice buffet where he can have as many handfuls of saag paneer or ma-po tofu as he wants. If there turns out not to be as much fruit as we prefer, or if he spits out the tempeh at a certain place and there’s no other protein, well, he’s not going to die of it.

    Mmmmmm. Now I’m thinking about creamed spinach.

  17. JanM Mar 19 at 12:58 pm Reply Reply

    We’ve been ordering on-menu since our daughter was about a year. Toast and fruit cups were the best for awhile (we like going out for brunch). Now, at 2.5, she’ll eat off the kids menu or an appetizer or a side. 
    I like to tip extra to servers who are aware of how to serve children. It’s frustrating when they don’t. One time my daughter’s meal came to the table a FULL FIVE MINUTES after everyone else had gotten their food. Not cool. She was very frustrated and was only slightly appeased to eat some of mine in the mean time.
    We’ve learned since to request that her meal come out whenever it’s ready – not to worry about timing all meals to come out at once. 

  18. Tillie Mar 19 at 1:47 pm Reply Reply

    I have been a server for too many years. The most irritating things are easily taken separately or if reasonable thanks / compensation is given. I have a family of four that come in every weekend (usually with son’s friends in tow) and sit forever, making a mess & sharing items. They are very polite and try not to make me run for extras too much. They always say thank you & leave a fairly generous tip. Needless to say, they are always greeted affectionately.

    I guess the point is, I don’t care what you bring or what you order. Try to remember that you are in ‘my house’ and I am doing my best to help your visit be a pleasant one. Please treat me accordingly and I will remember you fondly.

  19. cagey Mar 20 at 9:59 am Reply Reply

    We don’t bring extra food and did not even when they were babies.  Eh.  I always felt silly doing that and I didn’t want my kids to start thinking it was an option.  Sometimes, I get irritated because we end up ordering a ridiculous amount of food “trying and buying” to find something they will eat (ugh – I’m still scarred from bad memories of a $40 bill from an Indian chaat place.!) but I try to swallow it and just remember the point of taking them out.  Which is to simply expose them to different flavors and options than what we cook at home.  So, maybe for one meal, they don’t eat a well-balanced dinner.  Eh.  They’ll live.

    Also, I am with you on the mac n’ cheese, Amy.  Let’s start a whole thread on how nasty kid’s menus are these days. Or how my 3.5 year old doesn’t want the kid’s menu, but wants the ADULT food and what the etiquette for getting her a decent meal without paying an arm and leg while still teaching her about appropriate portion sizes.  UGH.

  20. Katie Mar 20 at 5:14 pm Reply Reply

    Our daughter is 16 months old and loves all kinds of food. I find that we are just at the start of being able to take advantage of kids’ meals in some cases. But, the kids’ menu selections are often pretty bad.. I wish there was a way to order small/cheaper versions of normal adult entrees, complete with vegetables! I’d say it varies largely based on what the restaurant offers. We feed her from our plate sometimes, and I try to keep an emergency snack in the diaper bag. We’ve also done side dishes (like a single scrambled egg or fruit cup or veg). I opt for the large tip and hope that compensates for the mess around the high chair.

  21. Katie Mar 20 at 5:15 pm Reply Reply

    Also wanted to add that we routinely brought our own baby purees etc when our little one was around a year old. I guess I honestly never gave that a second thought!

  22. Lizzie Mar 20 at 11:31 pm Reply Reply

    My daughter just turned 1 year and we’ve just started ordering her own meals out. She does have a dairy allergy (like someone mentioned above…protein allergy, not lactose intolerance), so I always bring food in case there’s not something I feel comfortable feeding her, but she does not like being fed by us anymore so it’s so much more pleasant for us when she eats table food. Usually we end up with grilled chicken and baked potato. And I’ll usually order her meal when we order our drinks, so it comes really quickly and that also gives us time to get her set up (we still break up her food into tiny pieces) and then she spends the rest of the time we’re there grazing. She’s super happy getting to feed herself and we’re happy getting to eat and not worry about having baby food slapped out of our hands in public!

  23. Caitlyn Mar 21 at 12:07 am Reply Reply

    the biggest tip I ever left (proportionally, anyway) was when I took my year-old daughter out for breakfast.  Everything went fine (my husband had been doing this for months, giving her pieces of pancake usually) until the very end when she managed to dump a ton of pancake scraps on the ground.  And then she started wriggling badly enough that I couldn’t do much to clean it up.  So I left twice as much as the bill (a 100% tip) and hopefully it didn’t take her too long to take care of.

    Anyway, we’re feeding her off our plates at this point (she’s 14 months).  I do bring cheerios or other small snacks to keep her from fussing before the food comes – or one of us will walk her around to look at things, if the restaurant isn’t too crowded.  We’ll probably have to start ordering an appetizer or side for her soon.

  24. Kate Mar 21 at 12:31 am Reply Reply

    My son is almost 2 and I will probably continue to bring food for him for a while yet because he has some “issues” with eating. He insists on food that is either room temperature or cold, that he can eat without assistance (he likes forks but will only sometimes use a spoon) and that won’t get his hands messy (he won’t eat chocolate chip cookies if the chips are still melty!). He also doesn’t really eat in restaurants anyway because he is too busy watching all the people. I’ve tried ordering things that I thought he would eat because he eats them at home but I’m tired of wasting money and food because he either doesn’t like it or the food arrives too hot and takes forever to cool down (note to servers, do not serve burning hot pasta to an 18 month old).

    We always tip generously anyway (25% is pretty common) because I was taught to tip on the service, not just on the price of the food (for example I grew up only drinking water at meals but was taught to tip as though I had ordered a soda because it was the same amount of work for the server). I also clean up after him as much as possible so we’re not making a lot of extra work for the staff.

    In the meantime we’ll continue to work on his minor sensory issues since I’m a former special educator and they’re making me paranoid.

  25. Amy Mar 21 at 4:33 am Reply Reply

    Amy here again. We went out last night, and while the restaurant didn’t have a displayed kids’ menu, there were at least 5 kids under 5 when we got there. When we asked the server if there were any kid-friendly options available he said they had pasta (with butter, with cheese, etc.) or could do a small portion of their fabulous mac ‘n cheese (with bacon, need I say more?). We went for the mac ‘n cheese, and should have gotten a full order to share with him (yum!). Our server has 4 kids himself, and he put the order in for the mac ‘n cheese before we had even decided on the rest of our dinner, so while it arrived early and hot, there was plenty of time for it to cool down.

  26. Olivia Mar 21 at 11:54 am Reply Reply

    Cagey, I just had a thought about ordering for your daughter since she wants her own plate of what the adults are having. Could you order a full meal and ask them to doggy-bag at least half of it right away? Still a lot of money for you, but less hassle and now you have lunch for the next day. 

  27. Babs Mar 21 at 2:02 pm Reply Reply

    We are a family of 6. We invariably order 3 full meals. We tip 50%. I figure it evens out on the expense, but the server gets more than the restaurant, and I’m okay with that. However, if we eat “family style” we order for 4 and tip 30% since we aren’t asking the kitchen to split meals.

  28. Deanna Mar 21 at 2:09 pm Reply Reply

    Having worked as a server for several years (some spent in the immediate vicinity of Disneyland), I would suggest checking out the menu before you go. If they have something that your child can/will eat, then don’t bring your own food. Or compensate with the tip because cleaning ground up cheerios out of the carpet is horrible. I would recommend ordering the kid’s food when you order drinks. If a table doesn’t, I usually suggest that they order the child’s food before their own so when their food comes they can actually eat. When my sister was really little, my mom would order her food with the drinks then let her sleep in the booth when she was done eat. Worked like a charm.

  29. cagey Mar 21 at 4:28 pm Reply Reply

    Olivia, that is an option.  The real problem, is that she wants to eat whatever we are eating.    I guess I could fake her out and pretend to be eating that extra adult meal!

  30. Jordan Hall Mar 21 at 11:30 pm Reply Reply

    Yes, this is a challenging situation. Pretending is always an option. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do to keep things civil.

  31. Rachel Mar 22 at 1:33 pm Reply Reply

    No kids but I waited tables for 3 years, and it never bothered me when parents didn’t order a separate meal for kids. It did bother me when they left a huge mess of rice and beans (i worked at a mexican food place) and a shitty tip. Honestly kids meal are overpriced and too big for a kid…as are adult meals. Share as long as you can lol.

  32. Ali Mar 23 at 12:10 am Reply Reply

    I’m glad you noted that children with special diets get an exemption. My daughter has multiple life threatening food allergies & we always have to bring her food. Not only that, but I have to wipe down the high chair & table & use our own place-mat. It is a huge pain, & sometimes embarrassing (like I’m implying that the restaurant isn’t clean). I would love to be able to order food for her – it would mean we could go to a restaurant spontaneously & it would make her feel more included.

    We do try to order a drink for her whenever possible so she gets to enjoy the experience a little more.

  33. JennyMooMeow Mar 30 at 6:31 pm Reply Reply

    For me, my hubby, and two kids, here’s what we do. Regular item for me, regular item for hubby, kid item for 4 YO son. 2 regular drinks, 2 kid drinks. Then, my 2.5 YO daughter usually shares my food. Yesm there are places we go and get her own plate, just so the kids have the same thing and don’t fight. But sometimes she eats like a bird and her own plate is such a waste! I’ve had some waiters be absolute jerks about giving me an extra plate, but I persist. I’m not forking out $5 for a plate of “kid-fare” that will go untouched when she is perfectly happy sharing a few bites of mine. I will still bring an occasional applesauce or packet of gummies, just in case she won’t touch anything. Also, I make mental note of places that are cool with this arrangement. Places that give us less helpful service, we just don’t go back. I mean, I even bring our own crayons so it’s not like they are out the 10 cents for their junky two-pack of crayons.

  34. Calee Apr 05 at 12:41 pm Reply Reply

    I’m all for ordering off the menu for kids, but I bring food just because sometimes it takes FOREVER to get our food (much less order) and while my kids are pretty good, they don’t do well with an hour wait when they’re hungry (I’m thinking of you Buca di Pepo…) My 4 year old has definite opinions about what she wants to eat and we started ordering her own plate (preferably a California Roll if she has any say in the restaurant pick) around age 2. The baby (10 months) is still a baby and so while he might eat a bit of my bread or fruit or veggies, really, he’s best with something that makes less mess.

  35. Julia Apr 09 at 8:52 am Reply Reply

    Before child I didn’t order an appetizer AND a main, but now I do because I share my meal with my two-year-old. She’s a voracious eater who could totally demolish a kid’s meal on her own, but most of the options are just appalling.

    I just could never bring myself to leave a huge mess for a server. You know those receiving blankets that you probably have 100 of but no use for once you no longer have a baby that spits up 27 times a day? They make fantastic restaurant drop cloths. Put it under the highchair and then when you’re leaving, fold up the corners and put it back in the diaper bag to shake over the compost bin at home. Our favourite local restaurant LOVES us for it.

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