Food & Drink
Chef’s Tips for Dining Out with Kids
Published: March 19, 2014
I recently asked a Facebook group of bloggers in San Antonio which local, non-chain restaurants they find to be the most fun for young families. The Cove, the Friendly Spot, Beto’s on Broadway and Big’z Burger Joint were some of the more popular options for their child-friendly facilities, but a few others earned nods for their atmospheres, including Thai Dee—“because the space is very alive with chatter, nobody notices that your kids are talking at their typically loud decibels,” as Kim Murray McDonald noted—and Rosario’s, which “is so loud you’ll barely be able to hear your kids yelling,” as Susie Hamilton said about one of her family’s favorites.
To get opinions and advice on dining out with kids from the other side of the house, the Current turned to chef Jason Dady and restaurateur Chad Carey.
Dad to three young Dadys of 9, 7 and 4 years old, the chef’s family’s favorite place to eat out is Phoenix Chinese Café. “It’s pretty low key—if they’re up running around to look at the lobster tank, I’m not embarrassed or worried about them,” the chef explained.
Carey has two tiny foodies under his charge, a 3-year-old and 18-month-old, which makes restaurant excursions a bit more trying. “We just really don’t go anywhere but taquerias,” he said, “because you can’t discipline an 18-month-old—you just sort of contain them.”
Dady’s top advice to parents is to be in communication with the chef, as he, for one, is happy to have children explore his kitchen. “I think it makes kids feel more comfortable, and might give them the courage to try something new that they normally wouldn’t like,” he said. “We joke that we’ll babysit for a half hour to give parents some alone time.”
Carey uses subtle cues to indicate the kid-friendliness of the Monterey. “By only having a total of three high chairs and no booster seats, those are hints that this is not the place for your precious 5-year-old,” he said. “God created Chili’s for a reason.” Fair.
“Kate [Carey’s wife] and I are sympathetic to new parents,” he went on, “because kids under a year can sleep in their seat, and the parents get an hour of time together with food and beer that doesn’t totally suck. But you just can’t expect a 3-year-old to behave for more than 15 minutes. I’d rather not be the sort of parent who’s going to drink bon bon chardonnay while my kid bothers other customers.”
One final takeaway? Don’t just assume the menu will accommodate a chicken-fingers-only diet. While some have children’s menus or items, such as Local Coffee’s smaller, cooler kid’s hot chocolate for $2.45, others expect diners to stick with the menu they’ve been presented. “There are still, from time to time, people who will come in and dismissively say, ‘Give us something that would be on a kids menu.’ But sorry,” Carey said, “You order off our menu or you don’t.”
> Email Miriam Sitz