High-chair anxiety

Dear Ace: Why do so many restaurants not have high-chairs? My wife and I discovered five that didn’t—and could have kept looking. Shouldn’t high-chairs be standard equipment? Is this town so pro-student that it can’t permit serving more people with children?—Sourpuss in Booths

Sourpuss: Ace immediately posed your question to the experts, seasoned local parents. Consensus (after they finished laughing): They figure you and your wife are new to the parenting scene. The care-free life before kids can be hard to let go of, but unless you get a babysitter you’ll never be able to go out to dinner like you used to. Taking infants and toddlers out to dinner, parents suggest, is like going on a hiking trip in the Himalayas! The onus is on parents to map the “kid-friendly” restaurant territory themselves and prepare accordingly. Expecting your favorite pre-kid restaurants to accommodate you is simply wishful thinking. But never fear! Ace is here to help!

   The restaurateurs Ace spoke to said there are plenty of family-friendly restaurants in town—they just might not be the ones you liked pre-kid. Red Robin, Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse and most of the other big chain eateries in town are set up to handle the wee ones. They even have kids’ menus.

   Some restaurants simply choose not to accommodate kids. And it’s not so much pro-student as it is anti-kid. They just don’t want to deal with the special orders and the mess. If you insist on going local, your best bet is to call the restaurant to see how kid-friendly they are. For example, Southern Culture (yes, they have high-chairs) on W. Main Street uses paper tablecloths and will hand out crayons for kids to draw on them with.

   Ultimately, use your common sense, Sourpuss. When you do find a kid-friendly restaurant, make sure you go at your kid’s normal mealtime. Call to see if they have high-chairs. Carry a booster in your car. Make sure you change diapers beforehand. Sit near other parents if you can, or outside. Bring something for your child to eat or drink before the meal comes. Bring toys or books. Most importantly, tip big. Families tend to leave a big mess for their servers and you’re more likely to be treated well the next time if you show your appreciation now.

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