How to Eat Out with Young Kids

We got a (very hard to get) reservation to try Mario Batali’s newly opened Babbo Pizzeria e Enoteca for Saturday (early) evening and we are SO excited to try it. When I have been sharing the news with folks everyone has asked if we got a babysitter. No, we’re bringing the munchkins! We eat out at a nice restaurant at least once a week and it’s usually a fine experience.

Common-Ground-Arlington-1

Have we had meltdowns and debated getting our meals to go and leaving immediately? Yes (once, Z had just gotten shots at the dr and she was NOT happy). Have we had such a long dinner that our toddler gets beyond cranky and we’ve had to put on a Disney Jr show just so we can finish our meals? Yes. Has our 4 month old baby had an unending crying fit when we went out to a hibachi steakhouse and the onion volcano terrified him? Yes, but that one was a poor parenting call (oops). But for the most part when the four of us go out to dinner we can sit, have a drink, an appetizer, and our meals without any over the top meltdowns. I thought it was time that I put a little list together of how we’ve gotten to this place and how to eat out with young kids in case anyone needs help in this department.

the girls-2

1. Start em young. When Z was less than 10 weeks old we went out to dinner at Chez Henri in Cambridge (which doesn’t exist anymore, sad). We got a couple looks but most people just thought she was a cute baby. She slept, ate a little, sat in her bucket carseat – it’s a good age to start a restaurant routine because they’re not doing much anyway. If they’ve always been going out to restaurants they will be used to it.

2. Let them order what they want. It’s a #treatyoself situation. Most of us go off our normal diet or eating routine and treat ourselves at a restaurant to something a little special so let your kids do the same. These days Z pretty much chooses between a meal with fries or noodles.

3. Go early. Your kids eat early anyway and there is no shame in arriving at 5pm so your meals are out and you’re eating by 5:30.

4. Come armed with distractions. Most non-chain restaurants are lacking in the complimentary coloring book and crayons department so we always bring our own items to play with – similar to the type of toys you’d want to bring on a plane: anything soundless, mess-less and small. We love these Water Wow coloring books, I always have one in a Ziploc in my bag. Our Z also brings an arsenal of “girls” (little plastic Disney princess figures) that keep her busy forevvvvver.

5. Lower your expectations. You can bring your young children most places but maybe get a sitter if you’re going to L’espalier. Right? A great reference locally here in the Boston area is the site KidNosh (for whom I write reviews!) to learn which restaurants are more welcoming to children.

What tips do you have for dining out with your kiddos? I assume all my tips will change when my kids are older but for now this works for us! Happy dining out and I will definitely be blogging about Babbo next week….

London Recap, part II – Dining Guide

Hotel-bar-snacks

So enough about the sites of London – let’s talk about the FOOD!

I often hear from people that, especially when traveling internationally, they tend to frequent places that are familiar (US chains), end up being disappointed (crappy hotel restaurant), or end up spending way too much (concierge recommendation). We always make the effort to do some research before we leave to have a few reservations made for the trip.  Then, once you’re there fill in the rest of your nights with places you find yourself in travel guides, recommendations, or simply places you see on your journey. This trip, we ended up buying a 1-month phone and data plan from a UK provider and converting an old iPhone we brought with us so we could check in with Z and hear from my parents how she was doing. Having this was SO helpful to have the internet to get around the city and be able to research places to dine. Truth be told, it was only about $23 and we had unlimited data for the 8 days we were in the UK. Plus, we could then text with the friends we were visiting in Scotland.

All of that said…here’s how we ate our way through London (good thing we walked and walked ALL day!!):

Anchor-and-Hope-London

Our first night in London we hopped right over to Anchor & Hope in Waterloo, an authentic English gastropub with communal table seating and all sorts of English classics on the menu – it was great. To start, we split this goat cheese and beet salad with mint, an unexpected bite we will be sure to add to our homemade version.

 

English-breakfast

English breakfast of a scone with jam and cream at a French patisserie right near our hotel.

 

crisps-3 crisps-1 crisps-2

The flavors of crisps (potato chips) were unbelievably unique…and odd. We tried the fish & chips in the middle photo and brought the beef burger home for our Z (hamburgers are her favorite).

 

the-Grazing-Goat-London

Sunday-Roast-London

We had made a reservation for The Orange, but then decided to visit their sister restaurant The Grazing Goat on Sunday night for an English Sunday Roast – so many restaurants serve a traditional Sunday Roast menu on Sundays (of course) that we wanted to try it. I had the chicken and it was to die for!

 

Hyde-Park-picnic-London

I mentioned in my first London Recap that we picnicked in Hyde Park. Well the full story is that we stayed around the corner from famed department store Selfridges – where they have the most fabulous food store with amazing prepared foods from around the globe, cheese counters, meat counters, bakeries, florists, everything you can imagine! It’s like a Whole Foods x10. So…we went there to grab some yummy treats for our picnic lunch. Notice we’re eating on my Turkish Towel – the perfect travel companion! Also – yes, we tried more crisps, these roast chicken crisps were not good. =(

 

Salt-Whiskey-Bar-1 Salt-Whiskey-Bar-2

We used Yelp to figure out a well-liked Indian restaurant since Indian food is so big in London. We ended up at Salt Whiskey Bar – which from the appearance just seemed like a place to drink whiskey and smoke with a hookah, but when we got our food, we totally agreed with all the reviews. We started with the cheese balls, left (SO much better tasting than their name would lead you to believe) and then got the classic chicken tikka masala.  Yum…

 

Clos-Maggiore-London

The nicest restaurant we dined at was Clos Maggiore, voted the most romantic restaurant in London! We were celebrating our wedding anniversary, so we figured, why not? We made this reservation before we left and mid-week at 6:30 was the only time left! Anyway…the food was amazing, I had the Scottish Monkfish pictured above.

A few notes:
– for lunch every day we ate on the go, usually a little sandwich from one of the “on the go” places.
– unfortunately we never had dessert so I never tried sticky toffee pudding!
– You’re probably wondering where fish and chips are on this guide!  Well, we did have fish and chips at a pretty nice place for lunch one day – it was a gourmet version and I didn’t take a photo because I thought we’d go to a try the dish again at a pub. I found this list helpful when trying to find a place. We had planned on going to Sutton & Sons, but…we ran out of time and meals. Next time!

breakfast

So there is my London dining guide – I hope you find it helpful the next time you cross the pond!

*top photo of some bar snacks at a hotel bar down the street from where we stayed.
*bottom photo of breakfast-on-the-go one morning at Selfridges Food Market.