I never intended to be that parent. The one who thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to bring a kid everywhere with them. You will never see me with a baby at the opening night of the summer blockbuster. I won’t be the one with a kid at a boozy “fest” concert. And before Tuesday night I would have never, ever been the parent leading her toddler to a table at this city’s best-known posh restaurant. But circumstances were such that our not-quite-3-year old daughter has now been to one of Cleveland’s premier high-end restaurants.
Usually when it’s not abundantly clear that kids are welcome and expected (usually evident by a kids section on the on-line menu or by seeing it for myself during a kid-free visit), I will call a restaurant first. I got a green-light from the Greenhouse Tavern before we sampled their fare. I called Crop Bistro first when we were thinking about a family dinner there and I stopped by Saravá one day to see if kids are welcome. However, there are some places that I don’t think I would even ask – places that cater more to the date-night or adult-night-out crowd and even if they allow kids, I don’t think it’s appropriate*. One Walnut, Fahrenheit, & Michael Symon’s famed Lola would all make that list. But Lola is exactly where we found ourselves on Tuesday evening.
A friend was in town from San Francisco for one night and was staying right by E 4th Street. When he realized that the Iron Chef’s place was right there, he wanted to see if we could get in. To be fair, Mark did go in and talk to the hostess before we even took M inside and she gave us the all-clear. But oh boy, the LOOKS we got as we crossed the restaurant! Some of the other patrons seemed to recoil in horror when they saw our cute sundress-clad girl. I felt awful because in all honestly I would totally be recoiling if the situation was reversed. I went into hyper-mom mode – being very alert to every sound and movement she made, and doing my damndest to make sure she didn’t disturb anyone around us.
Once we got settled into our booth (thank God we had a booth!) things were fine. We are lucky that 80% of the time M is very good in restaurants. I had toys and snacks in my purse to appease her and without even asking the server brought her a glass of milk. When she did start to get a bit lively Mark & I took turns bringing her outside to see the people, flowers and street musicians of E 4th Street. She tried a bit of the beef cheek pierogi but then decided that those awesome Lola fries were all she wanted to eat (can’t really blame her!). And sometimes the price you pay for bringing a kid into an adult restaurant is that they eat a dinner of french fries and milk. But it keeps them quiet and busy so it’s all good.
Dinner was fabulous if a bit hard to enjoy with all the toddler wrangling. Mark and I knew from a previous visit that the portions are large so we split the pierogi appetizer and the pork chop entrée. Once again we both wanted to lick our plates clean. And to anyone who was also in the restaurant on Tuesday night – I hope the presence of our little girl didn’t bother you too much, I promise it will never happen again.
*edited to add: I don’t think it’s appropriate for two reasons: 1) Most people go to places like that for a relaxing evening away from kids and 2) it’s really hard to fully enjoy the meal when you are busy making sure your kid doesn’t cause a scene. So even though Chefs Widow – someone who has lived and breathed the restaurant scene from the inside – says not to sweat it, it still do.