When Dahlia was first born, I felt very isolated. She seemed to be in constant growth spurt mode and needed to constantly be nursing. I was uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, and as such I really didn’t take her out anywhere for months. As she got older and was able to eat solids, the idea of taking her to a restaurant was a little less daunting, but I still dreaded being the mom with the screaming kid that you read so many angry blog posts about.
But I’ve been very lucky to live in a neighborhood (Schenk-Atwood) that is full of baby-friendly restaurants. Both the staff of all our neighborhood restaurants and the patrons have always been incredibly welcoming and understanding of the challenges of taking a baby out to eat.
Probably the best dining experience we’ve had with Dahlia was at Monty’s Blue Plate Diner. Sure, there was a long wait on a Friday evening, but Dahlia was happy to run around the tables outside — it makes a nice little kiddy playground, and they even had chalk out! When we went in, the hostess immediately gave us a kid’s placemat and a cup of crayons. Dahlia was definitely too young for both (she ripped the placemat and tried to drink the crayons from the cup), but it was the thought that counted. They also had a kid’s menu that had things on it that a relatively young eater could stomach, even if it wasn’t the healthiest stuff I’d ever served her. At the time we went, Dahlia had just turned a year old and was getting pretty good at eating small chunks of table food, so we got her some chicken nuggets with french fries and she, of course, loved them. What toddler doesn’t love chicken nuggets? Dahlia was relatively well-behaved, but the noise level in the restaurant was such that any shouting she did was quickly camouflaged.
My favorite place to eat in our neighborhood is Alchemy. Alchemy is a bar and restaurant that is open for meals, drinks, and music late at night. The first time I went was with a large group of other moms for lunch. There were very few other people there, which was good because we took up a LOT of room with our strollers. Dahlia was about 5 months old, and the other babies were around that or even younger, so they were all in those huge travel-system strollers. But the staff didn’t blink, not from the gaggle of strollers or the few outbursts of crying, or when each and every mom breastfed (discreetly, but without covers). It was my first time taking Dahlia out to a restaurant, and it was a wonderful experience. We have been there twice since then, both times when Dahlia was old enough to eat on her own. The kids menu there is definitely aimed at OLDER kids — I don’t think a one year old could manage a grilled cheese sandwich on toasted sourdough, and though the PB&J sounded good it might be a no-go for parents worried about nut allergies. But they were fine when we brought our own food for her. She also ate the (DELICIOUS!) french fries from my meal, but was a little less enthused about the broccoli — but when I got on the floor to clean up the food she had dropped, the hostess waved me away and said they would sweep everything up for me. I love them!
I’ve also taken Dahlia to Dobhan, when she was younger, which wasn’t the most successful trip. But it was no fault of the Dobhan staff, who were happy to have her and very accommodating. I know that some of my friends have gone to Dobhan in a large group, much like we did at Alchemy, and everyone there was very welcoming of the moms and their little babes. For toddlers, it might be difficult to find food on their dinner menu that was appropriate, but their weekend brunch would work out fine.
The most difficult eating experience we’ve had in the neighborhood was at Lao Laan Xang, but, again, this wasn’t the restaurant’s fault. They had a high chair for her and everything. But the overall volume of the restaurant is quite subdued, and Dahlia was in a bit of a shouty mood! Also, there was no apparent kids menu, so I made the disastrous choice to feed her some veggies off my plate. She was NOT prepared for the spice level of Laotian food, unfortunately. At that point, my husband and I took turns taking her outside to yell and run around. But if you have a slightly older child who is a little less loud, Lao Laan Xang’s food is delicious. They also have outdoor seating for the summer, which would alleviate any noise concerns. If you’re planning to share, though, you might want to anything with a “native” spice designation.
Monty’s Blue Plate Diner is located at 2089 Atwood Avenue and can be reached at (608) 244-8505.
Alchemy is at 1980 Atwood Avenue and can be reached at (608) 204-7644 — they accept cash and check ONLY, but there is an ATM inside.
Dobhan is located at 2110 Atwood Avenue and can be reached at (608) 242-4448 . They are open for dinner Tuesday through Friday, as well at lunch and dinner on the weekend.
Lao Laan Xang is located at 2098 Atwood Avenue and can be reached at (608) 819-0140. They do not have their own website, but they do have a Facebook page with relevant information. They are open for lunch and dinner every day but Sunday, when they only serve dinner. There is also a branch of Lao Laan Xang a few blocks away on Williamson Street. And if you’re not in the mood for taking the kiddo to the restaurant, all these restaurants offer takeout, and Lao Laan Xang now delivers!