While it’s a bit nerve wracking to take a baby to a restaurant, here are some lessons we have learned to make it as enjoyable as possible. We took Birch out to dinner with us this weekend to Junction in Belmont. And we had a fun, romantic time! (Note this post is dripping with sarcasm!)
A Dozen Tips For Taking A Baby To A Restaurant
Get ready at 2:00
Seriously!! Don’t wait until it’s go-time to start packing up your diaper bag. When baby is napping, get all of his foods, bib, toys, and high chair ready. Take it from us – we’ve had way too many times when I’m yelling “Did you pack the Cheerios?!” and he’s yelling “Yes but what about the bib?!” when we’re trying to get out the door before everyone else.
Go at 5:00
Really 4:45 would be even wiser. You have to be earlier than the early crowd. This is a good idea for many reasons:
- Baby won’t be hangry
- The restaurant will be mostly empty so baby won’t disrupt the 7:00 date nights
- You’ll be able to actually get a table and the kind that fits with a high chair (not bar stool height!)
- You’ll get home in time for baby’s bath and bedtime with plenty of extra time for you two to relax with a movie
Pick a restaurant that is loud enough that little squeals won’t bother
Our favorite places to take the kids are big brew-pubs that are loud enough that other patrons won’t hear them. Mid-level restaurants work too, but we avoid anything with a white tablecloth. Because those are usually whisper only and because baby will try to pull said tablecloth off!
Pack whole bags of favorite foods
Don’t just pack a tiny container of Cheerios. Pack the whole damn bag! Because if your baby is like ours, he’ll eat his 25 Cheerios in three minutes and start signing for more right away. It’s always better to have twice as much food if you need. We either share our entrees with Birch, giving him bites of soft foods, or order him a kids meal, but sometimes what we order isn’t baby friendly or he just doesn’t like it. We always pack a backup assortment of somewhat healthy baby foods to supplement his dinner. Pouches are great to keep in the diaper bag for this kind of situation.
BYO high chair
This is optional, but highly recommended! We have the Lobster that clips onto the table and it’s so nice for a handful of reasons. For a younger baby who can’t sit in a wooden highchair, it’s more supportive. Wooden high chairs also sometimes don’t reach the table, so it’s would be extra hard for Birch to reach his food. We like that it brings baby to table height and comes with its own carrying bag. And it fits in your diaper bag. It’s also great to have if you’re in a booth so you can put the baby between you or if your restaurant is so busy it’s out of high chairs! (It happens.) Or ya know, the straps don’t work and you’ll spend the whole meal trying to get baby to sit down.
Bringing our own means we know we have what we need. We don’t use the little tray that it came with. We’ll either use a restaurant plate or one of these stick-on placemats (that are also great to keep baby entertained!) Depending on the restaurant, we also bring our ezpz mat in the washable carry bag they come with. Don’t forget to pack your bib and baby’s water cup if he’s too young for a kids’ straw.
Remove all throwing hazards from baby’s reach
This might seem like an obvious one, but I once saw a baby throw a glass of wine! Their little arms can reach much farther than you think, so do be sure to double the length you guess they can reach and remove all table decor.
Pack a few toys in a wet bag
Pack washable toys that can be cleaned with soap because your baby will toss them all on the floor one by one! The wet bag serves as a place to store dirty toys until you can get home and wash them. A ziplock also works! Like food, bring more than you think you need because you probably won’t want to hand your baby his chew toy back after it’s covered in floor hair and food grime.
Don’t take the baby hungry
You might be tempted to wait until you get there to give baby some snacks, but you might encounter a wait or a melt down in the car. It’s best to give him a small snack before you leave and then the other 75% of his dinner when you get there.
Look at menu in the car
Do not dilly dally with the menu! It’s best to order right away since your ticking time bomb might decide dinner is over at any minute. If you can, check out the menu in the car so you have an idea of what to order and can get dinner on the way ASAP, especially for the baby if you’re ordering them something from the kids menu.
Learn to eat super fast
Because taking a baby to a restaurant is one of the most unpredictable activities (even with a good plan!) you need to make sure you actually eat. See above notes on packing enough food and toys that they stay happy long enough for you to finish your meal.
Ask for check when entrees come
Since you’ll be ordering your meal shortly after sitting down, you might as well ask for the check when your entrees come. See ticking time bomb statement above. Just make sure you’ve thought about dessert first!
Order dessert to go
One way to carry the date night home is to bring a little dessert back in a to-go box. That flourless chocolate cake will taste a lot better if you can savor it bite by bite after baby is asleep!
Clean up the floor before you go
A quick swipe with your biggest napkin will get the majority of the big food off the floor that baby has rejected or tossed with delight. A small courtesy.
Leave a large tip
And the final key to taking a baby to a restaurant: leave a large tip. The wait staff at Junction was so nice and helpful when we asked for our food to come out “as fast as possible” and requested extra napkins for clean up. We are always thankful for great service, so a large tip is a must.