Food & Wine editor Dana Cowin recently tweeted about not being able to get a reservation at Palm Beach Grill because her party included 5 children. Olde Salty in North Carolina posted a sign saying "Screaming children will NOT be tolerated" last fall. And many restaurants, including the otherwise child-friendly Odeon in New York City, don't allow strollers tableside. Then there are the establishments who welcome kids enthusiastically, offering coloring books, children's menus, high chairs, and changing tables galore. But what about when the lines aren't so clear? How should restaurants balance the needs of diners seeking an enjoyable night out with diners who bring pint-sized patrons who may disturb that same enjoyment?
"Monday through Friday, we get quite a few businessmen and women," says Frederick Lesort owner of Plein Sud in New York City. "If I have customers with children, I will try to put them in an area where other diners won't be affected. But on weekends we have children everywhere."
Obviously it helps when parents use good judgment when toting the tots to dinner. I once saw the most adorable little girl quietly eating edamame dumplings on a loud Saturday night at Buddakan in New York City's Meatpacking district—not the first neighborhood that springs to mind when thinking kid-friendly. The same with trendy Gjelina in Los Angeles, which is particularly accommodating during breakfast hours. How should restaurants deal with children? Does an establishment have the right to refuse a reservation to a party with kids?
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