Not too long ago, my husband and I went out to dinner after a long, hectic day. He is the Director of Education at the museum where I am Curator, and he deals with lots of kids on field trips all day long. We were looking for some peace and quiet, and a dinner we didn’t have to cook ourselves.
It was about 8:00 PM during the week, a little later than we normally eat at home. The restaurant wasn’t that busy, and we were seated right away. Not 5 minutes later, a couple with a small child – probably about two – came in and were seated directly behind us.
As soon as that kid sat down, he picked up the fork and spoon and started banging them on the table like drumsticks.
We sat amazed as his parents completely ignored him, oblivious to the disruption he was causing the diners around them.
I was incredulous. What the heck was a small child doing at a restaurant when he should be in bed? If you can’t eat in peace at that hour, when CAN you go out for a quiet dinner?
Despite the above situation, I do have a few tips that will increase your chances of finding the elusive child free dining experience:
1. Try to eat earlier or later than the typical “dinner time.” In general, families tend to go out after Mom & Dad are home from work, and all the kids have been picked up from soccer practice and ballet lessons. We get out of work at 4:30, so if we go out right away, we tend to run into the senior citizen crowd, not families. For some, that may be way too early. If you go out after 8:00, you will run into fewer kids too (the above family notwithstanding…).
2. Try going to lunch at 2:00 or 3:00. Families are on a schedule when it come to eating, so going at “odd” times might help you avoid them.
3. Avoid “family restaurants” and big chains. Families are much more likely to go to a restaurant that is “kid friendly,” with a children’s menu or special deals like “kids eat free on Tuesdays.” It should go without saying that Chuck E. Cheese should be avoided like the Plague!
4. Go upscale. I know, I know – it is more expensive. But families in general are on much tighter budgets than we child free folk. That means you aren’t likely to run into them at your local bistro on Jazz Night.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask your server to switch tables, if the noise is really bothering you. Be prepared for dirty looks from the offending family, and maybe even a few snotty remarks. Of course, this isn’t limited to families – my husband and I asked to move once when we were seated near a group of 10 drunk adults celebrating the holidays. They weren’t too nice to us as we slinked on by them, but our meal was far more enjoyable after we asked to move.
All in all, it is difficult to avoid families completely everywhere you go. But if you follow the above pointers, you might find a dining experience that is truly a night out on the town, and not a dress rehearsal for the next big rock n’ roll drummer of the future.