Our restaurant critic, Stefanie Gans, has two young children (who, thanks to her career, love seaweed salad and other surprising dishes). Here, Gans shares 10 insider tips and tricks for eating in public with your kids.
1) Hank’s Oyster Bar gives out bowls of Goldfish crackers as soon as you sit down. // 1026 King St., Alexandria (plus DC location)
2) Don’t underestimate children’s sense of adventure in eating. Always offer everything on the table. You’d be surprised at what they like: seaweed salad, sashimi, (Takumi has sweet, friendly service), fried Brussels sprouts, chana masala or the spectacle of a whole fish deboned table-side (Nostos). // Takumi: 310 S. Washington St., Falls Church; Nostos: 8100 Boone Blvd., Vienna
3) Catch on the Ave features build-your-own bento boxes on the kids’ menu. // 2419 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria
4) Take walks between courses, outside if possible. Bathroom trips count.
5) Bring your own water bottle to prevent spills (and refuse single-use plastics).
6) While family dining can get hectic—and kids feed off each other’s tendencies to go bonkers—one-on-one dates with those as young as three are not only adorable, but doable. It’s a good moment, especially, to give attention to an older sibling with a new baby in the family. Use this solo spotlight to push culinary boundaries while children are glowing with attention. Of course, pack books, crayons and other quiet toys.
7) Eat outside, if possible. The backyard garden patio at L’Auberge Chez Francois is especially charming and can introduce refined French fare. Snails, anyone? // 332 Springvale Road, Great Falls
8) Try an Ethiopian restaurant (Enatye) and teach kids how to tear pieces of injera and scoop up split peas, carrots and slow-cooked meats. Rememer: Food is fun. // 275 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon
9) Introduce kids to restaurants early. The more they dine, they better they behave. Or, at least they know how they should behave.
10) Kids are people and they have a right to eat at restaurants, too. Sure, they’re messy, loud and don’t always/never listen, but they deserve a night out, just like we do.