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January 13, 2014 6:51 PM   Subscribe

Parents Bring Crying Baby to the Restaurant Alinea and Chef Grant Achatz Considers Banning Kids Diners brought their 8 month old baby to Alinea. Apparently, this is a rare occurrence. The child cried during the meal. Chef Achatz is considering banning children from the restaurant. As you can imagine, a storm is brewing. This article describes the type of atmosphere Achatz tries to create. This gives a pretty great visual of the restaurant and the presentation of the food.
posted by zerobyproxy (864 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Parents of an 8 month old?
Probably so sleep-deprived and desperate for a night out that it overrode common sense when the baby-sitter canceled at the last minute.
posted by madajb at 6:56 PM on January 13 [22 favorites]


He has my support. Can we ban them from movie theatres as well?
posted by dobbs at 6:58 PM on January 13 [90 favorites]


Is the price per person?
posted by R. Mutt at 6:59 PM on January 13


Let the kids come. Treat them like any other patron and if their behavior is unruly, escort them out. Simple. They'll learn a lesson.

That said...8 months old? Really? Wow.
posted by kjs3 at 7:00 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


On the one hand, as a parent of several small kids, I tend to dislike no-kids-allowed restaurants, as I think they are elitist and full of themselves ("Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no,but.." sorry, those are not the same thing and it's just not a fair comparison).

On the other hand, I look at the sheer volume of pretentiousness and trying-too-hard on display in that last link and I think, oh well, I would have effing hated this place anyway, so no real loss for me. Enjoy your ridiculous food, you beautiful non-breeders (and the probably statistically tiny number of parents who can afford both a babysitter and a night at this restaurant).
posted by jbickers at 7:00 PM on January 13 [26 favorites]


Whatever happened to just taking the kid outside? You'll miss some courses but c'est la vie.
posted by muddgirl at 7:01 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]


My in-laws like to eat out at nice places so my kids have been going to fancy restaurants since they were newborns. However, we don't let them cry and ruin dinner for others. If one of us has to leave with a kid, we do so. We also try to pick the right restaurants and go at times that work for the kids. Alinea looks like the wrong sort of place.
posted by Area Man at 7:03 PM on January 13 [27 favorites]


sorry, those are not the same thing and it's just not a fair comparison

Restaurants like Alinea could be considered more like a play or concert than other kinds of restaurants. A large part of the expensive price is the atmosphere and the performative aspect of the tasting menu. It's not everyone's cup of tea, to be sure.
posted by muddgirl at 7:04 PM on January 13 [95 favorites]


This kind of food is as much theatre as it is nourishment and yes, the crying child ruins it for everyone else in the room. I would never spend my own money on this kind of thing but I've had a few thanks to the card counting days, and those are wonderful memories. If you can afford this kind of food you can afford a sitter.
posted by localroger at 7:04 PM on January 13 [28 favorites]


LOL : Fancy restaurants should not have to specify no babies in precisely the same way they should not have to specify yes pants.
posted by lalex at 7:04 PM on January 13 [132 favorites]


I'm willing to give the parents the benefit of the doubt. I mean I really doubt they wanted to spend this rare, expensive time trying to make their baby stop crying instead of having a pleasant, memorable experience. I guess they could have taken turns taking the baby outside. I'm just saying I really doubt they were sitting there blissfully oblivious. It's more likely they were in a tough spot.
posted by bleep at 7:04 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Obviously, the chef can run his restaurant as he sees fit, but I wouldn't eat at a restaurant that banned children. And I'm not yet a parent. But I'm sure he'd find plenty of supporters.
posted by Aquifer at 7:06 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


Remember Escape From New York?
Yeah.
posted by Ardiril at 7:07 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Alinea is also like plays and concerts in that you buy tickets to a particular seating. So your dinner is paid in advance, which may be what pushes a couple over to end up bringing a kid along if a sitter fell through.
posted by macadamiaranch at 7:07 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


@jbickers: On the one hand...On the other hand...

Those aren't different hands. You think pretentious restaurants are pretentious and deride them. That's fine, but it's not like you're saying anything more balanced or objective than "fuck those guys".
posted by kjs3 at 7:08 PM on January 13 [66 favorites]


I'm sure the child will be traumatized for life and will never be able to enjoy Scallop acting like agedashi tofu. There's the real tragedy.
posted by philip-random at 7:09 PM on January 13 [24 favorites]


A real restaurant would provide the childcare.
posted by borges at 7:09 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


I'm not crazy about crying babies, but, come on. You go out, it's a gamble. Don't like? Order in.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:10 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


This is a non-story. Pretty clearly, most people don't bring their babies to Alinea. For whatever reason, one couple did. Achatz tweeted what seemed like an honest question about proper etiquette. Nobody knows what actually happened.

But...it's a perfect opportunity for people to say "Let me tell you what I think" and hector whoever they think needs hectoring, so of course, it's all over the internet.

And, of course, the baby already has its own Twitter feed.
posted by neroli at 7:11 PM on January 13 [21 favorites]


@bleep: I mean I really doubt they wanted to spend this rare, expensive time trying to make their baby stop crying instead of having a pleasant, memorable experience.

And so they chose to spend this rare, expensive time making sure that everyone else in the room has as bad a time as they do. That's kinda the point.
posted by kjs3 at 7:11 PM on January 13 [68 favorites]


I fully agree with this decision.

These folks can go somewhere other than Alinea if they want to take their kids along. The ambiance is a big part of why people pay so much to dine there. There is no way an 8 month old can eat most of the stuff being served any way. It's simple selfishness on the part of the parents.

We have a society that is very kid and family centric. borges' comment perfectly illustrates this attitude. I can't count the number of times I've gone out to normal places like Starbucks, museums, or the grocery store, only to have children running wild while they obliviously walk around getting things. Or when I've got a limited time to pay for my lunch, and a parent decides it's a good time to let little Suzie count out pennies from her coin purse to pay for her meal. Or when I was drinking coffee and a kid knocked the table over and the coffee into my lap. These parents have the option to go almost anywhere else, and will be welcomed with smiles and open arms.

I know I'll get flamed for this, but it needs to be said: When you have children, you make a choice to restrict what you can and cannot do. Just because you want a nice night out doesn't mean that everyone else at the restaurant should be subjected to an endlessly crying child. You do not have carte blanche to put your own needs above everyone else's.
posted by reenum at 7:12 PM on January 13 [312 favorites]


Eh. As a parent of a 22-month-old, I want to assure the patrons of this establishment that we will be eating somewhere else... somewhere with booster seats and food that comes in a plastic basket.

There should be places for adults to go and do adult things. Or basically what reenum said.
posted by selfnoise at 7:13 PM on January 13 [52 favorites]


I find myself in the uncomfortable position of defending the wisdom of the market in situations like these.

Should most restaurants ban kids? No, of course not.

Are there a few restaurants where the experience is sufficiently [long, precise, expensive] that it makes no sense to bring children, and the restaurant makes that expectation clear? Seems fine.

The vast, vast majority of restaurants will still allow children. I don't see the problem here.
posted by mercredi at 7:13 PM on January 13 [24 favorites]


Those aren't different hands. You think pretentious restaurants are pretentious and deride them. That's fine, but it's not like you're saying anything more balanced or objective than "fuck those guys".

You're probably right. And muddgirl is probably right that an evening at this particular place is more akin to a night at the theater, where a crying child would indeed not be appropriate.

But I think borges has it, and not just restaurants - I'm willing to bet that a cinema chain, for instance, that invested in a small on-site child care room with a couple of staffers, would see an enormous increase in ticket and concession sales.

And it would likewise be cool if this place also had a childcare center in the back, but I'd be worried about my kids being traumatized because all of the babysitters were wearing Eyes Wide Shut masks and had Bauhaus playing on the stereo.
posted by jbickers at 7:14 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


I'm not crazy about crying babies, but, come on. You go out, it's a gamble. Don't like? Order in.

How about instead of the parents imposing their screaming infant on everyone around them, to deal with it as they can, the onus should be on the people who are disrupting the entire restaurant to not do that in the first place?
posted by kafziel at 7:15 PM on January 13 [34 favorites]


Achatz's twitter is really hard for me to parse and strangely hesitant for a hotshot chef. And all the ??? marks make me imagine it said with uptalking and vocal fry.

In general, I wish American society integrated the generations better (South Korean kids barely seem to have a bedtime, which means I can be headed to the neighborhood bar at midnight in Seoul and see a 7 year old coming back from the corner store with an ice cream bar) and that we didn't mind the potential mayhem of children as much. Generationally isolated spaces are too common I think, and parenting trends seem to keep many of my breeding buddies stuck at home. That said, I wouldn't have picked a fine dining restaurant as a place to bring the baby out. My parents took me to Koreatown restaurants a ton when I was an infant, but again, Korean culture has a much higher tolerance for children-produced noise.
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:16 PM on January 13 [17 favorites]


Or, now that I posted, exactly what reenum said.
posted by kafziel at 7:16 PM on January 13


Pretty much every parent I know considers whether or not a place will be "kid-friendly" before bringing their kids. Hell, Yelp even has a "good for kids" category.

My guess? The offending parents were simply oblivious. Some people just are. Should we be surprised that a subset of those people can afford to eat at Alinea?
posted by evil otto at 7:17 PM on January 13 [8 favorites]


Sometime in the mid-aughts I read an article by a journalist who visited a somewhat high end Chinese restaurant in Manhattan, who noticed that all of the patrons with children had been placed in a single room. She asked the staff about this and was told that they had noticed the trend of parents ruining other peoples' nights out and so created this space, which they called by a Chinese phrase that translated roughly "cage for baby pork."
posted by localroger at 7:18 PM on January 13 [127 favorites]


This is one of those cases where people make up rules in their heads and pretend they are universal norms.
posted by LarryC at 7:18 PM on January 13 [16 favorites]


The chicken tenders at this place are awful anyway. AND THE PORTIONS!
posted by The White Hat at 7:19 PM on January 13 [15 favorites]


There wouldn't be a sighted nurse I know could partake of the Hamachi: thai banana, sea salt, kaffir lime, unblindfolded. Eww
</aside>
posted by de at 7:19 PM on January 13


I've gone out to normal places like Starbucks, museums, or the grocery store, only to have children running wild while they obliviously walk around getting things.

I don't understand. Are you claiming you shouldn't have to encounter children at "normal" places or are you just complaining about the behavior of those kids who are particularly ill-behaved?
posted by Area Man at 7:19 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]


Had to bring my own catsup, too.
posted by The White Hat at 7:19 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


Weeellll, I'm all for children staying at home from what appears to be clearly an adult experience...except the offending couple paid in full, in advance. No refunds. From the first link: the table was pre-paid: the ticket price, tax, and a service fee are charged when you book the table, and wine and other beverages are charged when you dine at the restaurant. Three, in case something comes up (like, say, a babysitter canceling on you), the restaurant allows you to either sell or give away your ticket."

Give it away, how much does eating at this place that makes food out of helium balloons cost, anyway? Ah, a few hundred per person, not including drinks. I don't know about you, but I'm not giving that away.

The restaurant brought it upon themselves for making it so damn difficult for their customers.
posted by jamaro at 7:20 PM on January 13 [15 favorites]


I fully agree with this decision.

What decision? As far as I could tell Achatz just asked the public what he should do.

For a place like Alinea, where you prepay by the person, they should just enforce that you have to have a ticket per person. Including babes in arms. Although I have a sinking suspicion that there are still people who would pay hundreds of extra dollars to have their babies present.
posted by grouse at 7:22 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


She asked the staff about this and was told that they had noticed the trend of parents ruining other peoples' nights out and so created this space, which they called by a Chinese phrase that translated roughly "cage for baby pork."

This is gonna get a ton of favorites and "hell yeah!"s but it is also deeply unfunny and inhumane. Ask yourself what your reaction would be if the ladies room was the "cage for lady pork." Whether you like being around them or not, children are not animals, they are little human beings that just haven't been fully socialized yet, through no fault of their own.
posted by jbickers at 7:23 PM on January 13 [15 favorites]


...the ticket price, tax, and a service fee…

Why is there a service fee and how much is it?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:24 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Being a parent sucks sometimes, because babysitters fall through. Do you give up the rare evening out -- and the cost of theater tickets, restaurant reservations, or what-have-you? Okay, but what if I'm single and I have to sit next to loud-racist-drunk-guy's table?

As a parent, then, I would have killed for a 20% surcharge that allowed me to cancel if need be. Doesn't fix the loud drunk racist guy problem, of course, so perhaps an immaturity policy: if you're disruptive (baby, child, or childish adult) you get one warning then asked to leave. That would benefit everybody.
posted by davejay at 7:24 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Prepaid, huh?

Well that sucks all the way around.

Still, I'd probably give the tickets away rather then screw it up for all those other folks who prepaid.
posted by notyou at 7:24 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Seriously, people. Look what you have to do to buy a damn ticket to this place.

Who knows what came up that they felt they had to bring the baby with them, but eating the price of the ticket didn't really seem to be an option to them. Maybe they should offer to reschedule in these types of situations, but you can only sell or give away your ticket after "formally transferring" it online. (Read the FAQ! It's ridiculous)

I would never eat here. Not because of the children but because they are too cool for school.
posted by Roger Dodger at 7:24 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


But I think borges has it, and not just restaurants - I'm willing to bet that a cinema chain, for instance, that invested in a small on-site child care room with a couple of staffers, would see an enormous increase in ticket and concession sales.

Those restaurants exist. In large numbers. Chuck-e-Cheese, every pizza joint ever, etc. There are any number of cinemas in my area that are kid friendly, toddlers up. Hell, even the Ikea has daycare. But your comment implies some sort of economically laughable argument that every single venue must pander to infants, and that's ridiculous. The strip joint down the road should not be obligated to cater to patrons children.

And it would likewise be cool if this place also had a childcare center in the back, but I'd be worried about my kids being traumatized because all of the babysitters were wearing Eyes Wide Shut masks and had Bauhaus playing on the stereo.

Oops...your bias is showing.
posted by kjs3 at 7:24 PM on January 13 [29 favorites]


One of the links quoted someone at the restaurant saying that people had brought babies before -- it's not the baby that was the problem, but the crying.

Personally I love babies and wish people would bring them to even more places... but would also be faster to take them outside if they start screaming. "Letting them cry it out" is fine at home, but not so great in a cafe.

The Times article about the NY version of the restaurant mentioned a $495/person price. If you are spending $1000 on dinner, surely a babysitter is affordable?
posted by Dip Flash at 7:24 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


I get that not everyone is into Grant Achatz and the weird molecular gastronomy thing that he does, but the guy had late stage tongue cancer and had to learn to cook by smell because he couldn't taste anything. Achatz is hardcore, and as other people have said, Alinea isn't so much as a "restaurant" as it is a "dining experience," as pretentious as that sounds. I'm going to give him a pass on this.
posted by infinitywaltz at 7:25 PM on January 13 [19 favorites]


("Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no,but.." sorry, those are not the same thing and it's just not a fair comparison).

Alinea is not a place you stop to have a quick bite to eat. It's dinner as theater, with elaborate, well-rehearsed presentation of dishes, only some of which resemble food. Seatings typically last between 3 and 5 hours. It is every bit as much of a cultural experience as concerts or plays.

This is not the kind of thing for which taking babies is even vaguely appropriate, and if your babysitter cancels, those tickets can be sold on the internet in about 28 seconds.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:25 PM on January 13 [78 favorites]


Oh Poo. I have a small child, and am not offended that she is excluded from some places like this. If I get a chance for a nice night on the town, you can bet I am picking the places that don't have little kids running around.
posted by nasayre at 7:26 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


had Bauhaus playing on the stereo.
So, um, I resembled that remark when I was a teenage babysitter, and I think all the kiddies came through unscathed.
Enjoy your ridiculous food, you beautiful non-breeders (and the probably statistically tiny number of parents who can afford both a babysitter and a night at this restaurant).
I think it's a statistically tiny percentage of people, period, who are going to spend $200 a plate to eat at Alinea. Some of them, though, are going to be people who have saved their pennies for a long time to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it would suck if you'd done that and then spent the whole time listening to a crying baby. I'm generally in favor of babies and kids being welcome in most places, but this seems to be an exception.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:26 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


Ask yourself what your reaction would be if the ladies room was the "cage for lady pork." Whether you like being around them or not, children are not animals, they are little human beings that just haven't been fully socialized yet, through no fault of their own.

I don't like this comparison. Most adult women (and men!) are fully socialized.
posted by lalex at 7:26 PM on January 13 [30 favorites]


@LarryC: This is one of those cases where people make up rules in their heads and pretend they are universal norms.

You are truly a philosopher. This exactly.
posted by kjs3 at 7:26 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


I'm childless, but I have so, so much tolerance for babies since I turned 32 and got out of a difficult relationship a year ago in which I simply didn't want children with the man I was with (he wouldn't have been a great dad at all) even though I lived him. I used to be vocally anti-baby as a means of dropping clues to him, I think.

But now he's not in my life and I can't tell you how much I adore babies. Also my boobs got huge all of the sudden, yeah. I think Mother Nature's trying to prepare me for something. So I'm okay with crying babies. Parents usually take them out anyway.
posted by discopolo at 7:27 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


When this story was posted over at NBCChicago.com, someone in the Comments section said that Alinea's tasting run $250 a head, PLUS a 20% gratuity, and that once you pay for valet and get wine pairings it's easily $1,000 for two people.

Add on top of that waiting for months to get a reservation.

So on the one hand, I can understand the couple balking at giving up on the Alinea experience.

But on the other hand, your baby's needs come first. Period. It doesn't matter if the parents spent five million dollars and a spare kidney for that meal--if their child is that fussy over the course of a three-hour tasting menu, then it's clearly tired or cranky or gassy or colic-y or whatever, and you have to take care of it. If you miss your hyper-expensive dinner out, well, them's the breaks when you have a baby. When the baby's a teen, he or she will wreck your car, too. That just comes with the parenting territory.

...But I think borges has it, and not just restaurants - I'm willing to bet that a cinema chain, for instance, that invested in a small on-site child care room with a couple of staffers, would see an enormous increase in ticket and concession sales. And it would likewise be cool if this place also had a childcare center in the back,
posted by jbickers at 10:14 PM on January 13


Pretty sure borges was being sarcastic, there.

Were I the restaurant manager, I would have asked the parents to leave. If they refused, I would've simply billed that table for three meals, instead of two. Treated the baby just like any other disruptive customer that insisted on staying for the meal.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:29 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Area Man, I'm referring to ill behaved children and busy situations where parents hold up queues because they want to indulge their children in some way.

Kids in general are awesome, there are just certain places they shouldn't be taken and they should be taught to act properly in public.
posted by reenum at 7:29 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


I would have walked out.

When I pay several hundred dollars for a restaurant experience, part of what I'm paying for is the exclusion of people who are looking for just another night out. This is my hobby, and I don't want to share it with people who think we're at Chili's. I am willing to pay big money in part because those people aren't. For what it's worth, when I'm at Chili's I don't get uppity about about crying babies or hyuck-hyuck drunks or waitstaff singing birthday songs.

The closest I came to walking out of a Michelin restaurant was at Eleven Madison. They served us not one but two vegetarian courses, which irked me to begin with, and then at the end of our meal we were kept waiting twenty minutes for our check. (We were not drinking coffee, etc.) Finally I stood up out of my chair and stopped someone. That would be eye-rolling at Red Lobster, but it's pretty damn egregious in a Michelin room. You're expecting and paying for a different level of experience. (By the way, no one apologized.)

Moto in Chicago is a phenomenal, smart evening and I recommend it unreservedly, but while I was there I considered reprimanding a fellow diner. We were seated next to this loud-mouthed tool making toilet jokes. I let it go because we were nearing the end of our meal, and his date appeared uncomfortable and I didn't want to make her night worse.

But I've walked out of restaurants, complained to and about patrons, and docked tips for serious screw-ups. Sometimes it's called for. I don't dislike kids; I've seen well behaved ones at Per Se, and I thought that was awesome. I'm also not immune to being disruptive myself. I had an allergy attack at Daniel and couldn't stop sneezing; so I excused myself to the restroom and missed a course or two, because that's what you do. Nobody addressed a crying baby? That's the restaurant failing its end of its contract with me. I've already lost the experience I wanted to have at Alinea, so I would stand up and leave.
posted by cribcage at 7:29 PM on January 13 [37 favorites]


jacquilynne: "This is not the kind of thing for which taking babies is even vaguely appropriate, and if your babysitter cancels, those tickets can be sold on the internet in about 28 seconds."

For more than what you paid for them. The parents were being totally selfish. Their sitter cancelled, but they wanted what they wanted, everyone else be damned.
posted by danny the boy at 7:30 PM on January 13 [25 favorites]


She asked the staff about this and was told that they had noticed the trend of parents ruining other peoples' nights out and so created this space, which they called by a Chinese phrase that translated roughly "cage for baby pork."

This is gonna get a ton of favorites and "hell yeah!"s but it is also deeply unfunny and inhumane. Ask yourself what your reaction would be if the ladies room was the "cage for lady pork." Whether you like being around them or not, children are not animals, they are little human beings that just haven't been fully socialized yet, through no fault of their own.


Geez, chill. It's called cultural differences. "Xiao zhu" is a slang that we use to call someone endearing and chubby-cute. It's like calling a kid a "rugrat" in English. You're not literally calling them vermin.
posted by Conspire at 7:31 PM on January 13 [115 favorites]


When you have children, you make a choice to restrict what you can and cannot do. Just because you want a nice night out doesn't mean that everyone else at the restaurant should be subjected to an endlessly crying child. You do not have carte blanche to put your own needs above everyone else's. posted by reenum

This this this, a million times this.

What selfish jerks!
posted by Salamander at 7:32 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Ah, well, in that case

Metafilter: Cage for baby pork
posted by gwint at 7:32 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: "Why is there a service fee and how much is it?"

It's the tip. It's included for you when you buy a ticket, because everything is prepaid. On the night of your reservation you just show up and eat.
posted by danny the boy at 7:33 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


I just assumed that it was a joke akin to calling it a "pig pen." Some sort of slang, not calling your dang kids meat.
posted by explosion at 7:33 PM on January 13 [8 favorites]


I have a 22 month old and when we take him out I make sure it's a place with high chairs and such. When I want to go out with my husband and have a drink and a meal sans-kid and as adults, we get a babysitter and a crying baby in another table would very much spoil what I'd planned as a couple of hours of NOT having to listen to crying kids. We rarely go to expensive places, but when we do, for example on an anniversary celebration, I'd be ok with that restaurant banning kids.

Banning kids from such places isn't just for the benefit of adults with no kids, but also benefits parents trying to take a break from their own.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 7:34 PM on January 13 [29 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the restaurant should be blamed for not asking them to leave rather than hating on the baby and parents. Parents make mistakes. Babies cry. It's expensive, but if no one had the balls to address the situation, then the restaurant should be held responsible.
posted by discopolo at 7:34 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


In a recession, every restaurant should be baby-friendly
posted by Renoroc at 7:35 PM on January 13


In a recession, every restaurant should be baby-friendly

Not if they want my dosh.
posted by pompomtom at 7:36 PM on January 13 [40 favorites]


In a recession, every restaurant should be baby-friendly

Alinea's not exactly hurting for customers.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:37 PM on January 13 [21 favorites]


This is my hobby, and I don't want to share it with people who think we're at Chili's. I am willing to pay big money in part because those people aren't. For what it's worth, when I'm at Chili's I don't get uppity about about crying babies or hyuck-hyuck drunks or waitstaff singing birthday songs.

This kind of nails it, to me. You wouldn't let a baby cry through an opera, no matter how much you'd paid for your tickets. And you wouldn't expect stern silence at a Saturday Disney matinee.
posted by maryr at 7:37 PM on January 13 [21 favorites]


But the real point is, why would anyone think that bringing an infant with no control over their bodily functions to a three-hour ANYTHING is a good idea
posted by danny the boy at 7:38 PM on January 13 [32 favorites]


My husband and I are foster parents, which is a choice we made. A few months ago the rules changed and now all our babysitters have to be finger printed and run through an FBI database. They already had to be 21, CPR and First Aid certified, state background checked and go through 8 hours of training.

All of this means we basically never have a sitter. So we've given up movies and restaurants with waiters and quiet museums and all that super good adult stuff that helps you hold on to your identity, your marriage and your sanity when parenting a young, traumatized child.

And we probably don't need to avoid all those places. We could probably manage a few of them just fine. But we're so fearful of the wrath, not unlike some of that shown here, of people who think we're being indulgent and selfish assholes.

But to look at our family eating in a casual restaurant you wouldn't know that we're doing even harder work than the average parent (who is doing really hard work) or that we feel bad but we miss our lives and just wanted to remember for a minute.

I agree that these people made a bad choice but I also think we don't know the whole story. It almost never hurts to look at people's behavior in the most charitable light. It costs you nothing.
posted by Saminal at 7:40 PM on January 13 [87 favorites]


I don't know, I kinda like this screaming kid situation. Some of my best restaurant memories, are expensive dinners at stuffy places interrupted by something out of this world. I treasure those. That time in San Francisco, when a naked man ran into a high-end Thai restaurant and overturned a couple of tables before being tackled. I'll remember that dinner long after I've forgotten what I had to eat. Or that time in London, with the wedding-type party of 20 or so guests and the absolute scandal in a high-end Greek restaurant when the new British bride broke down in tears and at the top of her lungs accused her new Greek husband of infidelity and all sorts of things, started pitching plates and glasses - oh, it was glorious.

So I would definitely enjoy sitting at a stuffy high end restaurant and have a baby scream bloody murder while the appalled chef is running around in circles and the guests are staring agape.

Nothing like the unpredictable and scandalous intruding on a dusty routine. I'M LOVIN' IT!
posted by VikingSword at 7:40 PM on January 13 [26 favorites]


I know what you're saying, VikingSword, but I think apple-scented helium is meant to be pretty damn memorable without a sideshow.
posted by maryr at 7:42 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]


Nothing like the unpredictable and scandalous intruding on a dusty routine. I'M LOVIN' IT!

The next time you're dining out, I hope a baby is changed at the table next to you. THINK OF THE ADVENTURE.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:43 PM on January 13 [52 favorites]


There were children at the next table during the fanciest meal I ever ate. They were very good; had I not seen them, I would not have known they were there. The boy was wearing a little navy blazer. There I was, eating my fancy foods for my special birthday dinner, and those little bastards were just like, yawn, Thursday.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:44 PM on January 13 [62 favorites]


babies don't exist in the bizarre, hedonistic rich-people-live-in-space-stations-now future that Alinea is set in
posted by theodolite at 7:48 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


Saminal: But we're so fearful of the wrath, not unlike some of that shown here, of people who think we're being indulgent and selfish assholes.

Really? I don't think I've ever seen or heard more than a "shh" after 5 minutes of a kid screaming at a movie. What wrath are you fearing? As far as I can tell, obnoxious kids are pretty much given free reign in public. I assume it's because parents are so used to it, and so tired that they really don't register the ear-piercing noise for a long time.
posted by spaltavian at 7:48 PM on January 13 [18 favorites]


> Achatz's twitter is really hard for me to parse and strangely hesitant for a hotshot chef.

Yeah, he's a quiet, introspective sort of guy. (I haven't met him personally, but know a number of people who have.)
posted by desuetude at 7:50 PM on January 13


If the baby is freaking out, and the parents are anywhere public by choice, they should probably excuse themselves and deal with it elsewhere.

A restaurant that has proper customer service, however, should also be able to accommodate those parents, in a situation that they are not happy to be in (we all know no one wants to be dealing with a screaming child, even if it their own), and help make everyone comfortable. I expect such understanding and discreet helpfulness from an expensive restaurant -- that would be the good meaning of "class".

Owners bitching about it and talking about bans just show how piss poor customer service.

If I have to choose between dealing with my child properly and making another person at a restaurant annoyed, I will choose to deal with my child properly. I won't do it happily, it will ruin my night, my child's night, and your night, but come on, we are the adults, we should know better.
posted by TheyCallItPeace at 7:50 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


Geez, chill. It's called cultural differences. "Xiao zhu" is a slang that we use to call someone endearing and chubby-cute. It's like calling a kid a "rugrat" in English. You're not literally calling them vermin.

Imagine the horror of non-anglophones when they find out that anglophones often refer to their significant others as bee vomit ("honey").
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:50 PM on January 13 [47 favorites]


If you brought an eight month old to a 3 hour opera and that child was crying, you would maybe not be the worst parents imaginable, but you'd be called selfish and a bad parent if you didn't do something about it -- not just for what you were doing to those sitting around you, those who were trying to present an experience for you, but for the kid themselves.

Why is this different?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:52 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


I'm trying to work out a position where I can feel superior to everyone in this scenario. "Those goddamn entitled parents eating that goddamn fancy food -- why can't everyone stay at home eating grilled cheese sandwiches quietly, like normal people? (Also, Chinese people use expressions I find offensive.)"
posted by neroli at 7:55 PM on January 13 [19 favorites]


Kids in general are awesome, there are just certain places they shouldn't be taken and they should be taught to act properly in public.

You know how you teach them those things? By taking them in public and letting them interact with clerks, waitstaff, other patrons, etc. You don't hide a kid indoors for 12 years until they magically learn how to understand social norms.
posted by chiababe at 7:56 PM on January 13 [18 favorites]


I am all for kids being in appropriate places. Which include museums, and most restaurants, and movies except late ones. I might find screaming or sobbing annoying -- because I am human and it is a very annoying sound, and anyone who says it isn't is lying -- but as long as the parents are doing something to try to take care of it, that's the price of living in a society ful of people, some of whom are still young. But that does require some thoughtfulness on the part of the parents, who need to do something when the kids are crying (I mean, there's not much you can do in a grocery store or a doctor's office, while there's a lot of options in things like restaurants and movie theatres). It also requires thoughtfulness on the part of people who design places -- bathrooms with a sitting area as well in a museum, a receptionist who will call you when it's your turn so you can walk outside, whatever.

Mostly people try to deal with the social contract, but there are always a few jerks -- a parent who doesn't take their crying baby out of a $600/person dinner, a restaurant that doesn't quietly speak to the parents and try to work something out, someone who starts yelling at a parent who is desperately trying to rush through the groceries and bring the kid home.
posted by jeather at 7:57 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


Really? I don't think I've ever seen or heard more than a "shh" after 5 minutes of a kid screaming at a Really? I don't think I've ever seen or heard more than a "shh" after 5 minutes of a kid screaming at a movie. What wrath are you fearing? As far as I can tell, obnoxious kids are pretty much given free reign in public.

What I've gotten is mostly nasty looks. Some people just seem to hate babies and toddlers and they will glare at you even if the kid is well behaved. And if your kid does start to misbehave or cry, which can happen to any parent, some people hate you.
posted by Area Man at 7:59 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


[A few comments deleted; let's just skip any further derail over the 'baby pork'/rugrats story? Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:59 PM on January 13


You know how you teach them those things? By taking them in public and letting them interact with clerks, waitstaff, other patrons, etc.
I'm pretty sure that you can teach kids how to behave at restaurants without taking them to $500-per-person (which is what Alinea costs with wine and service charge) avant-garde eateries.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:59 PM on January 13 [44 favorites]


A restaurant that has proper customer service, however, should also be able to accommodate those parents, in a situation that they are not happy to be in (we all know no one wants to be dealing with a screaming child, even if it their own), and help make everyone comfortable. I expect such understanding and discreet helpfulness from an expensive restaurant -- that would be the good meaning of "class".
posted by TheyCallItPeace at 10:50 PM on January 13


Agreed. The manager can simply say: "I know you had such high hopes that baby would cooperate for your special evening but sadly baby is now interfering with the special evening of the other diners. Thank you for coming by, we hope you're able to join us at another date."

You don't hide a kid indoors for 12 years until they magically learn how to understand social norms.
posted by chiababe at 10:56 PM on January 13


No, but the instant that kid misbehaves in public, the wise parent ejects him from that public space.

And just like you wouldn't send your Little League-er to pitch the first game of the World Series, but instead let him learn among others at his skill level, your kids can learn the finer points of public dining at places like Red Lobster and Applebee's before you take them to French Laundry.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:01 PM on January 13 [29 favorites]


Having spent the last 18 months eating out in Chicago I am a bit shocked that people can even hear a baby crying. I can't remember being at a popular restaurant in this city that wasn't at least 120 decibels.
posted by srboisvert at 8:02 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


It might have been much worse, they could have been potty training the child.
posted by unliteral at 8:02 PM on January 13


Yea it's not like option 1) kids inside for 12 years, never to interact with public or learn social skills, option 2) take 8 month old to Alinea.
posted by sweetkid at 8:03 PM on January 13 [47 favorites]



If I have to choose between dealing with my child properly and making another person at a restaurant annoyed, I will choose to deal with my child properly. I won't do it happily, it will ruin my night, my child's night, and your night, but come on, we are the adults, we should know better.


I genuinely do not understand this. I feel like the proper way to deal with this is to remove your child from the restaurant?
posted by lalex at 8:03 PM on January 13 [11 favorites]


I don't think anyone should take a baby to Alinea (and Christ, who would want to?), but the poster I was responding to was annoyed by kids learning how to use money at a lunch counter. This is how kids learn. By existing with other humans.
posted by chiababe at 8:05 PM on January 13 [15 favorites]


Having spent the last 18 months eating out in Chicago I am a bit shocked that people can even hear a baby crying. I can't remember being at a popular restaurant in this city that wasn't at least 120 decibels.

You were not dining at Alinea; am I correct? I have done so, and it's not that type of experience. "Hushed" would be a good descriptor for the sound levels in Alinea.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 8:06 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


area man: I don't think I've ever seen or heard more than a "shh" after 5 minutes of a kid screaming at a movie. What wrath are you fearing? As far as I can tell, obnoxious kids are pretty much given free reign in public.

What I've gotten is mostly nasty looks.


Well, I understand it wasn't your choice of words, but I wouldn't describe that as "wrath". I would describe it has significantly less annoying than loud kids.

The person who doesn't want to deal with kids has basically no power in these situations, given our culture's reverence for kids and parenting. Glaring when a kid is ruining our day is basically all we have.
posted by spaltavian at 8:10 PM on January 13 [14 favorites]


A restaurant that has proper customer service, however, should also be able to accommodate those parents, in a situation that they are not happy to be in (we all know no one wants to be dealing with a screaming child, even if it their own), and help make everyone comfortable. I expect such understanding and discreet helpfulness from an expensive restaurant -- that would be the good meaning of "class".

Oh, c'mon. Are you serious? How on earth is a restaurant supposed to 'accommodate those parents'? Practical ideas, please?

Babies being the inherently illogical little beings that they are (hence the problem in the first place) can generally only be dealt with by their parents. Baby makes noise. Parent needs to remove baby. End of story.

A restaurant is not going to provide trained nannies to whisk babies away to a soundproofed room. Unfortunate, but there you have it.
posted by Salamander at 8:11 PM on January 13 [18 favorites]


I don't have kids myself, but I've heard toddlers often have problems with being upsold by sommeliers. If children don't learn how to order a decent, affordable bottle of wine before their first birthday, they're probably going to have a rough time in kindergarten.
posted by neroli at 8:11 PM on January 13 [70 favorites]


@chiababe: You know how you teach them those things? By taking them in public and letting them interact with clerks, waitstaff, other patrons, etc. You don't hide a kid indoors for 12 years until they magically learn how to understand social norms.

Exactly. You start young with highly kid friendly spaces and teach them what's appropriate. teach them to respect the staff and how to read a menu and order. You move to increasing adult spaces making sure to go when 1) you can manage your child, and 2) you minimize the impact on other diners (going off peak hours and leaving if required). When they can handle that, they're good. My now 11 yo has been perfectly able to handle a fully adult, multi-course meals, in any setting since she was 8. She has been to more than one Micheline starred restaurant and is friends with an Iron Chef, who loves the fact that someone her age has poise and maturity in an "adult" restaurant, but who also has a palette to enjoy the food. Love my kid...but at 8 months? Please.
posted by kjs3 at 8:11 PM on January 13 [26 favorites]


"Hushed" would be a good descriptor for the sound levels in Alinea.

Yup. Like a church. The problem is that the parents didn't just try their luck at Schwa, which is also highly elaborate, ridiculously expensive molecular gastronomy, but with hip hop playing at top volume and a kitchen staff singing along. I can actually think of a few kids I actively intend to bring there, someday, when I have any money at all.
posted by like_a_friend at 8:12 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


As for 'the parents don't enjoy hearing a screaming baby any more than you do'...don't start me.

The difference is that the parents have the power to a) not bring the baby, or b) remove the baby when it cries. I, the random diner who is trying to enjoy the experience I have paid through the nose for (which includes the ambience), have neither of these options.
posted by Salamander at 8:15 PM on January 13 [15 favorites]


it will ruin my night, my child's night, and your night, but come on, we are the adults, we should know better.

I am an adult, I do know better, that is one reason I chose not to have children. I am not responsible for paying the price for your bad choices. And by bad choices, I don't mean your decision to have children, I mean your decision to keep them in a situation they are clearly not ready for.

You chose to have children, you chose to bring them here, you chose to remain here even when it is clear that they are not capable of handling this venue this evening. You want to make yourself and your child miserable, that's your business, but when you say you have a perfect right to make me miserable just because I happen to be an adult in your vicinity, you have crossed the line. You don't have the right to suck me into your family drama, take it somewhere else.
posted by pbrim at 8:16 PM on January 13 [51 favorites]


spaltavian I've, no kidding, had a neighbor call the cops when one of our kiddos was throwing a temper tantrum on the sidewalk in front of our neighborhood park. At the grocery store three weeks ago when my current toddler was yelling at me about wanting to open a box of Cheerios right then one person told me in a snotty tone that I should "handle" my child.

We've gotten looks, snide remarks, once a person grabbed the arm of a child and told them to "knock it off" leading to an evening spent dealing with their triggered PTSD.

Most of these are extreme examples but it absolutely does happen. I have to conduct my life even though I have children and though I don't want to annoy other people I do feel that many people act as though a child being noticeable at all is equivalent to my inflicting my beasties on poor, unsuspecting people.

I agree that taking a baby to an expensive performance of any kind is a bad idea but coming down on these people so hard makes even well meaning parents feel like they aren't welcome anywhere with their children.
posted by Saminal at 8:16 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]


The person who doesn't want to deal with kids has basically no power in these situations, given our culture's reverence for kids and parenting. Glaring when a kid is ruining our day is basically all we have.

Why should you have the "power" to never encounter children? I'm not keeping my kids locked up until adulthood, so you have to be the one to stay home. Giving me nasty looks because I've dared to leave the house with children is a lousy thing to do.
posted by Area Man at 8:20 PM on January 13 [11 favorites]


If you're unfamiliar with Michelin dining and you think this story is about "a restaurant," then sorry but you don't understand what's being discussed.

Most people have never been to a place like Alinea, and even with the proliferation of media like Top Chef and Jiro Dreams of Sushi most people still aren't really familiar with that world. That is totally fine. It's a world that is not for everybody, just like rare stamps or collectible trains or a Magic: The Gathering convention, any of which you may alternately think are cool or dumb. All fine. Just understand that because you go to "restaurants" doesn't mean you're informed to have an opinion about this. It's something different.

Also, the idea that you're teaching a baby about social norms by taking it anywhere...? On good faith I have to assume that comment is made tongue-in-cheek.
posted by cribcage at 8:20 PM on January 13 [52 favorites]


It's funny in that what we designate as hating kids is really hating on their parents...why are you bringing your 5 year old to an R-rated movie/keeping tired kids out late at night/letting them pull all the napkins out of the dispenser while you pretend not to see, Horrible Parent?

But since there is no certification you and your kids can get for being Able to Act Right in Public, there's no way to discriminate between parents who mostly keep their kids in control and parents who do not give the smallest shit what their kids do.

And you also can't tell when a usually-good parent is having a really bad day and just can't handle any of it, or got stuck somewhere with their kid thanks to accidents or bad planning or what have you.

I guess I don't really have an opinion here. It would be good if our reaction to "Kid being loudly unhappy" wasn't just "Stupid parents/stupid kid!" but "Man, that poor kid, I hope its parents are able to get it calmed down soon for everyone's sake." Maybe instead of calling it a "baby ban" they could just make a policy that loud babies/children have to be taken out by someone? If you have a preternaturally quiet child, good on you, enjoy your apple-scented helium. It would seem to be just as effective. And in a place like this one, I can't imagine bringing a baby happens all that often. Nothing put me in a cold sweat like the idea of sitting still for three hours and hoping my kid would not fuss at that age.
posted by emjaybee at 8:20 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Well, I hope the baby had the foie gras formula. I hear it's divine.
posted by nowhere man at 8:22 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I agree that taking a baby to an expensive performance of any kind is a bad idea but coming down on these people so hard makes even well meaning parents feel like they aren't welcome anywhere with their children.

Well, sorry Saminal, but if that's how parents feel, then they must be having some kind of reading comprehension failure. Extrapolating 'please don't bring your baby to an expensive performance' to mean 'you and your kids aren't welcome anywhere' makes no sense.
posted by Salamander at 8:23 PM on January 13 [28 favorites]


If you're unfamiliar with Michelin dining and you think this story is about "a restaurant," then sorry but you don't understand what's being discussed.

Yeah, if I'm dropping several hundred dollars for a meal, I'd be furious if there was a crying baby there the whole time.
posted by empath at 8:24 PM on January 13 [14 favorites]


I have three children that I love beyond measure. Which does not stop me from thinking that --here in the US anyway-- we reverence children and parenting beyond any form of reasonableness. Any f'ng moron can breed and many do. Children are frequently loathsome and ill-mannered, though decorum prohibits saying so generally. Ban them from everywhere you wish to have an adult atmosphere. As a parent, I agree.
posted by umberto at 8:25 PM on January 13 [20 favorites]


Also, the idea that you're teaching a baby about social norms by taking it anywhere...?

My 15 month old found the uni risotto at Masa to be a bit cloying.
posted by ryoshu at 8:26 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


I ate at Alinea before the iPhone. I think I'd be more disturbed by the Michelin Star-chasing looky loos that are busy framing and snapping and uploading photos of every goddamned course. The full menu is 24 plates.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:27 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Area Man: Why should you have the "power" to never encounter children?

I didn't say anything like that. If your kid is screaming in a public place, I am completely at your mercy to do anything about it. Maybe glaring at you might make you notice that your kid is being a nuisance, but usually I just have to leave.

Giving me nasty looks because I've dared to leave the house with children is a lousy thing to do.

That's not a reasonable reading of my comment. As much as I would love to never see or hear a child again, I don't expect that to happen or expect you to try to make it happen. I do expect you to remove a screaming kid from most public places. I expect you not to have your little kid push the shopping cart (somehow invariably into my ankle) despite how cute it is. I expect you to say something to your kid the first time he runs into my table and spills my drink, not the fourth time.

If you do those things, congratulations, you don't have to face the "wrath" of my "come on, man" glare.
posted by spaltavian at 8:29 PM on January 13 [43 favorites]


Giving me nasty looks because I've dared to leave the house with children is a lousy thing to do.
posted by Area Man at 8:20 PM on January 13 [1 favorite +] [!]


[patiently] No, they're giving you nasty looks because you dared to bring your child into a place where other people have paid for an experience, when you are not willing to remove your child once it starts ruining that experience for them.
posted by Salamander at 8:29 PM on January 13 [17 favorites]


I think I'd be more disturbed by the Michelin Star-chasing looky loos that are busy framing and snapping and uploading photos of every goddamned course.

Some people are older than eight months but they are still children.
posted by localroger at 8:29 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]


And to address the whole prepaid/reservation/ticketing thing, there's a good explanation at eater.com.

Alinea and Next (Achatz' other joint) are high-ticket stores with an insane amount of overhead. This system was set up mostly to stop last minute no-shows that were hurting business. In Alinea's case, two no-shows would wipe out the entire day's profit.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:32 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


I guess I don't understand why it's so difficult to conceive of a restaurant as a sort of "high culture" space like an opera or a symphony, where it seems generally accepted that crying babies are not welcome. To be clear, I am not anti-child, and I generally agree with spamandkimchi ("Generationally isolated spaces are too common I think, and parenting trends seem to keep many of my breeding buddies stuck at home"). However, there are certain things where we seem to have a consensus that it's appropriate for the adults to enjoy a night out and leave the kids with a grandparent or sitter or something. Why can't some dinners be like that? This has mostly been done to death in this thread, but Alinea is not a casual dining restaurant. It is not even a "fine dining" restaurant like the white-linen steakhouse in the business district of every midwestern town. It is a deliberately-crafted culinary and cultural presentation offered by a chef and staff who have trained and prepared extremely hard to make it the absolutely perfect expression of everything they've learned and intend to convey, no less so than a ballet or a book reading.

Why is it so hard to acknowledge this and recognize that certain accommodations must be made for it to work out properly? Again, just like an opera or a ballet, where I think a lot fewer people would insist they should be able to take their infants (and it really is about infants and toddlers - these events don't have "adult" themes like sex and violence; the only real requirement is that you be able to control your bowels and your screaming). I think in America we are just way too judgey about food; anyone who doesn't do it exactly like us is clearly doing something wrong. If I usually go to "fast casual" restaurants, and my baby is not welcome at your 2 Michelin star dining room, clearly you're "pretentious" and probably a bunch of dicks anyway. I wish there were more tolerance of other peoples' approaches to food and eating here.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 8:33 PM on January 13 [25 favorites]


[patiently] No, they're giving you nasty looks because you dared to bring your child into a place where other people have paid for an experience, when you are not willing to remove your child once it starts ruining that experience for them.

Maybe you should read what I've actually written in comments above?
posted by Area Man at 8:36 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Extrapolating 'please don't bring your baby to an expensive performance' to mean 'you and your kids aren't welcome anywhere' makes no sense.

Most favorited comment is talking about grocery stores. Grocery stores! Where the carts have a special small seat with a belt!*

Anyway, Saminal, you are doing incredibly important work and I admire the heck out of you for doing it. Any disruption to anyone else's day is utterly dwarfed by the good you're putting into the universe by choosing to parent a child whose parents weren't doing the job. Just close the window. The crowd here does not at all represent reality-based humans on whether a disruptive child in a chain coffee shop is a cause for fury.

*I know, they said no kids should be permitted to "run wild" there. No idea what that means exactly, but anyway, all kids get wild on occasion, and usually at the worst time, like when you absolutely have to stop at the grocery store with all of them in tow. I'm certain that despite being a may-I-say stellar parent to excellent kids, I have fit this grumpy person's definition of a selfish person whose children misbehave in public. I will just have to live with the shame!
posted by palliser at 8:37 PM on January 13 [18 favorites]


If a parent is actively trying to intervene/calm their child, I might heave a sigh or grit my teeth (c'mon, NO ONE founds the sound of a kid whining or screeching to be pleasant) but I'll appreciate their efforts. Especially in public places where we all have to be at times: the airport lounge, the park, the fast food restaurant, etc.

But c'mon: some entertainment doesn't have to be "adult entertainment" to be pretty clearly meant for only adults. While I think it's easy to dismiss a lot of the Alinea patrons as rich assholes, maybe there are also a lot of people who have saved up all year for this singular experience, and they don't deserve to have the night disrupted.

And let's also be honest: lots of parents get numb and worn out and aren't very good at controlling their kids. I'm looking at you, parents who let their toddler scream for the entire hourlong evening "lessons and carols" church service last month and who even let their kid kick me in the back--hard!--and didn't apologize. Parents like that are assholes. There is no reason, short of complete physical disability or FAA flight restrictions, that you can't walk your child out of whatever's going on until they calm down.
posted by TwoStride at 8:38 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


Maybe glaring at you might make you notice that your kid is being a nuisance

Mentioned here previously, I was at a screening of one of the Harry Potter flicks and directly behind me was a girl about 5 years old who decided to very loudly inform her dad what the next scene was going to be about, for EVERY SINGLE SCENE. I tried various levels of shushing with no effect until finally, at a point when the girl's commentary was followed by a quiet moment, I very loudly announced HOW LUCKY I WAS TO HAVE GOTTEN THE DVD COMMENTARY FOR NO CHARGE IN ADDITION TO MY TWELVE DOLLAR ADMISSION. Amid much snickering the father finally told his Precious to keep it down.

The first time I posted this I got some snarky comments about how I showed my manhood by shaming that little girl. No, she was five years old and probably won't even remember it. It was the father I was shaming, and he fucking deserved it.
posted by localroger at 8:38 PM on January 13 [50 favorites]


I guess I don't understand why it's so difficult to conceive of a restaurant as a sort of "high culture" space like an opera or a symphony, where it seems generally accepted that crying babies are not welcome

I think people sometimes want to ignore context in order to push ahead with the viewpoint they want to talk about. In this case, the context is a very high end restaurant with a specific dining experience. The topic is not really "should babies be allowed in restaurants ever."
posted by sweetkid at 8:40 PM on January 13 [29 favorites]


kids inside for 12 years, never to interact with public or learn social skills

Social Skills and Public Interaction will be the cornerstone of the educational opportunities offered in the baby prisons of my totalitarian dictatorship.
posted by elizardbits at 8:43 PM on January 13 [24 favorites]


If for some reason you have an infant who doesn't cry -- just sleeps or nurses all dinner long -- I don't see the issue with bringing the baby. The problem is that babies are curiously unpredictable creatures with no emotional control and if your baby starts screaming/crying, you pretty much have to leave (until they calm down or, on the third time, permanently), which is a massive risk for that kind of event.

And yeah, kids should be learning to pay cashiers. But not during the lunch rush. Kids can go to grocery stores and push carts, but not unsupervised and if they keep hitting adults or if the store is packed, maybe not that time. There's nothing wrong with children in a cafe, but if they're running into tables and knocking things over it's time to go. Even in places which should be kid-friendly, there are limits to what they can do in those places.

(I don't have kids. I like kids sometimes, just like I like adults sometimes. I don't want kids.)
posted by jeather at 8:44 PM on January 13 [17 favorites]


I very loudly announced HOW LUCKY I WAS TO HAVE GOTTEN THE DVD COMMENTARY FOR NO CHARGE IN ADDITION TO MY TWELVE DOLLAR ADMISSION.

Yes, how lucky for all the other patrons that you decided to be loud and irritating as well! Who knows how many other people would have missed out on having their films ruined too had you not decided to share the experience with everyone.
posted by elizardbits at 8:45 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]


Yea I don't understand how the solution to loud is More loudness.
posted by sweetkid at 8:46 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


The restaurant that I run has a high end tasting menu. It's a much more casual vibe than Alinea, but still pretty particular in it's own way. I know for a fact that a crying baby would send our chef over the deep end. He once tried to refuse to serve a guy that showed up in sweatpants, but in the end reason and diplomacy prevailed. We have yet to have any babies show up, but we did once have a couple who were very openly high on ecstasy. They were surprisingly well behaved.
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:48 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


If I have to choose between dealing with my child properly and making another person at a restaurant annoyed, I will choose to deal with my child properly. I won't do it happily, it will ruin my night, my child's night, and your night, but come on, we are the adults, we should know better.

Again, this goes to my earlier point that if you choose to have kids, you choose to restrict your life considerably. You do not have the right to bring your kid and ruin everyone else's time simply because you need a break or don't want to eat at Applebee's. This attitude is absolutely unacceptable.
posted by reenum at 8:49 PM on January 13 [11 favorites]


Was that baby annoying ? It's lucky it didn't get shot.

Personally, I'm of the opinion that kids are people, too and if a restaurant allows people in it, then kid people are allowed in.

The world is choke-a-blok with annoyances and irritations. Adults forgive these trespasses.

The last time this came up, though, we got some real tough guys.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:50 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


I don't understand why this has to be an all or nothing thing. It's NOT HARD.

1) People should understand that there are places children will be seen and heard possibly in disruptive ways. Sometimes those children will have issues and not be invisible silent tiny adults. Those are the places that most if not all of us have to go - grocery stores, banks, doctors offices, malls, etc. If you encounter a crying, screaming, damp or otherwise non-silent child there, deal with it. It's part of life. You don't know what the kids and/or parents are dealing with.

2) People should understand there are places that children are welcome, and seen and heard - in non-disruptive ways. These are places designed for families or capable of including families. They range in price and accommodation. Families need to ensure their children behave appropriately for the setting. Adults without children need to ensure they don't assume a child cannot behave just because of age. A child can climb all over the playplace at Burger King but should not be climbing on the wine rack at Local Bistro. A child may be able to order, eat and be polite at Local Bistro and should be assumed to be able to do so without evidence otherwise - and age is not the only or primary factor in determining that a child is capable of this.

3) People should understand there are some places that -small- children - or even non-small children/pre-teens are not welcome. A 500 dollar a head restaurant where the meal is several hours is likely to be one of those places. Parents need to understand that a child not being welcome at a restaurant catering to people who want to enjoy apple helium does not mean that that child would not be welcome in situations 1 and 2.
posted by FritoKAL at 8:51 PM on January 13 [25 favorites]


How dare @localroger not respect the apex annoyance theory. Once everyone is annoyed by one actor, everyone else should sit in silent reverence of the original ruiner of the evening.
posted by kjs3 at 8:52 PM on January 13 [17 favorites]


JoeZydeco: "I ate at Alinea before the iPhone. I think I'd be more disturbed by the Michelin Star-chasing looky loos that are busy framing and snapping and uploading photos of every goddamned course. The full menu is 24 plates."

Eh this shit used to bother me more but then... well, this explains it better.

I've never taken photos of any of my more memorable meals and I'm beginning to regret it actually.
posted by danny the boy at 8:52 PM on January 13 [13 favorites]



I don't think anyone should take a baby to Alinea (and Christ, who would want to?), but the poster I was responding to was annoyed by kids learning how to use money at a lunch counter. This is how kids learn. By existing with other humans.


I never said that you can't teach your kid how to count out pennies to pay for things at a restaurant. Just do it when there aren't 20 people in line behind you rushing to get back to their office. There's an appropriate time and place to do such things, and a busy period of the day is not it.
posted by reenum at 8:53 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]


3-12 year olds listen to what adults tell them. I come from a huge family, and I've done some teaching, so I have a bit of experience on this subject. If the father had merely told his daughter "hey, don't talk so much, it's bad for other people" she probably would have learned a good lesson in a totally nice way. Instead, her father was a weenie, and couldn't tell his precious what to do, so he got publicly shamed. I think localroger has a good point here - kids need role models, but sometimes their parents are bad ones, and those parents need to be taught that it's OK and necessary to teach the little one about basic human interactions.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 8:54 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


I've never taken photos of any of my more memorable meals and I'm beginning to regret it actually.

I took photos of my meal at Alinea. Why the fuck shouldn't I have? The kitchen puts a huge amount of effort into the presentation; I like being able to go back to my photos and remind myself of it. And it makes telling people about the meal much easier.
posted by asterix at 8:55 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]


I have kids, and I am fine with a restaurant banning kids. In fact, I would be thrilled to go there.

There seems to be a split between people who assume that kids are welcome unless explicitly banned, and vice versa. Maybe I'm too prissy, but my babies don't go anywhere unless I know it's kid-friendly. Forget the other diners; it's too stressful for me. It's just not fair to ask a two year old to sit quietly and behave for more than 45 minutes without something to entertain her. I recently had lunch with a friend who actively encouraged her two year old to run and play under the unoccupied tables. It was so nerve-wracking I'm seriously considering never eatig out with her again.
posted by snickerdoodle at 8:56 PM on January 13 [20 favorites]


I recently had lunch with a friend who actively encouraged her two year old to run and play under the unoccupied tables.

I'm sorry I know she's your friend and of course it's your choice to make but you should never speak to this horrible monster masquerading as a human being again.
posted by elizardbits at 8:57 PM on January 13 [31 favorites]


3) People should understand there are some places that -small- children - or even non-small children/pre-teens are not welcome.

Or hard-R rated movies. When I went to see Hannibal, there was a crying kid in the theater, and someone actually yelled out "You are terrible parents!"

They left a few minutes later.
posted by empath at 8:58 PM on January 13 [40 favorites]


Kid noise doesn't particularly bother me. A loud adult conversation can be just as bothersome. I wouldn't mind kids in public much if not for their erratic movements. I like to walk fast, and it seems many kids just haven't fully acquired the ability to judge trajectories and avoid collisions. Nor do they have the same ingrained rules about right-of-way that adults have. The last thing I want to do is bowl over someone's kid.
posted by mantecol at 8:58 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


@Pogo_Fuzzybutt: Personally, I'm of the opinion that kids are people, too and if a restaurant allows people in it, then kid people are allowed in.

How's that work for strip joints, manufacturing plants, land fills, nuclear reactors, coal mines, etc. There are, in fact, places kids shouldn't go that "people" (assuming adults) do.
posted by kjs3 at 8:59 PM on January 13 [17 favorites]


I've never taken photos of any of my more memorable meals and I'm beginning to regret it actually.

What an odd thing to say.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:59 PM on January 13


Mentioned here previously, I was at a screening of one of the Harry Potter flicks and directly behind me was a girl about 5 years old who decided to very loudly inform her dad what the next scene was going to be about, for EVERY SINGLE SCENE.

On the other hand, you're a grown man at a Harry Potter screening, and what did you expect?
posted by empath at 9:00 PM on January 13 [17 favorites]


I think in America we are just way too judgey about food; anyone who doesn't do it exactly like us is clearly doing something wrong.

I think this is insightful on the large scale, but in this context I don't have a problem with people thinking I'm foolish for paying four figures for mostly raw fish at Masa. I don't think I'm being uniquely victimized any more than any other hobbyist gets mocked for spending money on his passion.
  • You paid $3,000 for a camera? Dude, you already have an iPhone.
  • You paid $500 for a box of cigars? You are literally going to light them on fire.
  • You paid $2,500 for a bottle of wine? Does it make you more drunk?
Et cetera. It comes with the territory. And really it's a good thing, because like I said above, part of what I'm paying for is the exclusionary factor. When I sit down in a Michelin room, everybody in the room understands and respects why we're there. It's like listening to a great jazz band without having to contend with noisy patrons who showed up for the drinks.

I took photos of my meal at Alinea. Why the fuck shouldn't I have?

No reason. Unless you're using flash or an obnoxiously loud camera, people objecting to your photos might as well be objecting to how many bites you spent on the amuse-bouche or whether you requested a substitute for foie gras. (Yuck, btw.) What happens at your table is your business unless it's actually intrusive. Like say, a baby crying.

When I went to see Hannibal, there was a crying kid in the theater, and someone actually yelled out "You are terrible parents!"

The same thing happened when I went to see Heat at 10 pm on a Friday.posted by cribcage at 9:01 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


I was at a screening of one of the Harry Potter flicks and directly behind me was a girl about 5 years old who decided to very loudly inform her dad what the next scene was going to be about, for EVERY SINGLE SCENE.

You are a grown-ass man at a Harry Potter movie. Surely kids and kid noises are an expected part of that experience?

I suspect one of the consequences of living in such a generationally divided society is that a lot of parents probably don't have many models of good parenting other than memories of being a kid themselves. I've gotten a lot more mellow about annoying kids when I realized that the parents are almost always doing the absolute best that they know how, and are probably overwhelmed and (when the kid is outstandingly atrocious) embarrassed. It's not all that hard to give them a smile and move on with my day.

Could both the parents and the restaurant have done better? Yes, certainly. Is this a learning experience for both? I hope so.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:02 PM on January 13 [8 favorites]


@empath: On the other hand, you're a grown man at a Harry Potter screening, and what did you expect?

I, taking a pre-teen daughter, 6 neices/nephews, and assorted pre-teen friends. I expect them to behave. Why wouldn't you.
posted by kjs3 at 9:03 PM on January 13 [19 favorites]


Ugh. This reminds me of the time my in-laws insisted on bringing my one-year-old to a Michelin restaurant during bedtime. The appetizer was accompanied by a meltdown. Luckily we saw it coming and had her outside before the screaming started. I don't even feel guilty about going home and leaving them with the bill.
posted by snickerdoodle at 9:03 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


Sys Rq: "What an odd thing to say."

I don't have a photographic memory smart guy
posted by danny the boy at 9:03 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Could both the parents and the restaurant have done better? Yes, certainly.

Just another reminder that no one knows what the restaurant and the parents ended up doing. So statements like that are kind of fictional.
posted by neroli at 9:05 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


You are a grown-ass man at a Harry Potter movie. Surely kids and kid noises are an expected part of that experience?

If you want to carry on a conversation, like you'd do at home, during a movie, you are perfectly welcome to wait until it comes out on DVD, or Netflix, or whatever the kids are using these days, and watch it at home.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:05 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Not that I can think of any good rationale to take an infant to a several hundred dollar a plate dining experience, but the projection going on in this thread is bordering on parody. Literally all the information we have to go on about this incident is one tweet and yet several here are making all sorts of assumptions about the mindset of these parents which is just simply impossible to know without more details. It appears the urge to jump in head first to any "Breeders suck, AMIRITE" thread is difficult for some to resist.
posted by The Gooch at 9:06 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Yea I don't understand how the solution to loud is More loudness.


Calculated one-time loudness to stop otherwise un-ending loudness makes sense to me.

Harry Potter is for kids, but why did the other kids have to have their movie ruined?
posted by spaltavian at 9:07 PM on January 13 [29 favorites]


What an odd thing to say.

Do you object to all non-art photography, or is it specifically meals you have a beef with?
posted by asterix at 9:08 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


Just another reminder that no one knows what the restaurant and the parents ended up doing. So statements like that are kind of fictional.

Could the restaurant have done better than an odd and drama-inspiring twitter post? Yes. Are there good ways to help handle a crying baby by both restaurant and parents, short of kicking them out or ignoring it? Yes.

Hopefully everyone left happy; this story has just enough drama but no closure.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:08 PM on January 13


We took our baby to lots of fancy restaurants when she was that around age, and she would just sleep in her pram and be no trouble. Our baby does rule though.
posted by w0mbat at 9:10 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


localroger, you're doing the Lord's work. Good on you for standing up and doing what most of us are too afraid to do.
posted by reenum at 9:11 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I've never taken photos of any of my more memorable meals and I'm beginning to regret it actually.

Turns out that taking photos might impair your ability to remember the subject.

In days of yore you could ask to take the menu home. Last upscale place I went to, they rolled up the menus in ribbon and handed them to us on the way out. That was a nice touch.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:14 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


I guess I don't understand why it's so difficult to conceive of a restaurant as a sort of "high culture" space like an opera or a symphony, where it seems generally accepted that crying babies are not welcome

It's not just high culture. It's not the kids' fault, it's the parents.

A few weeks ago, I went in to get a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Yeah, that Starbucks. I was in line behind 3 or 4 people, the woman ahead of me was pushing a huge, expensive stroller through the narrow area, making it difficult for people to get around. But the stroller was empty, she was holding her baby in her arms, rocking him gently, and he was quiet. I don't know how old the baby was, but it was wearing only a shirt and a disposable diaper, legs bare.

Okay so finally the woman gets up to the front of the line. When it is time to pay, the woman plops down the baby's butt right on the 2 square feet of counter space, the kid sits there upright with his legs hanging over the edge, while she fishes through her wallet for money.

I had to bite my tongue. What I wanted to say: excuse me madam, the main counter at Starbucks is not a diaper changing station. I do not want to be served coffee on the same surface where your baby's diapered butt was sitting just a moment ago. I do not want to be forced to think if that diaper was recently changed, or dirtied, or if you washed your hands, or the baby's legs, before handling the diaper he is wearing. I do not want a thin barrier of disposable paper and plastic diaper of uncertain "leakproof" capability, between infant fecal matter, and the spot where I will pick up and handle food in just a few seconds from now, and will be used by other customers probably, unless the unfortunate clerk decides to take extra time and sterilize the counter. You have that expensive, monstrous baby chariot that you purchased as a location to for the baby to sit, put him there. I do not want to be thinking about any of this, I want to inhale the aroma of coffee and contemplate the brew I am about to drink. But that is not the brown substance I am thinking about now.

Just what the F goes through people's heads, when they casually, unthinkingly do something like this? Do they live in a lifestyle where they would put their infant's dirty diapered butt on their kitchen counter or dinner table before serving food in their own homes? No? Well don't do it in a public food establishment. They have to conform to Food Safety laws, which you are free to ignore in the privacy of your own home, or perhaps even while seated at a table away from the serving area. But not at the front counter where hundreds of coffee cups will pass through an area no wider than your baby's diapered butt.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:15 PM on January 13 [16 favorites]


How's that work for strip joints, manufacturing plants, land fills, nuclear reactors, coal mines, etc. There are, in fact, places kids shouldn't go that "people" (assuming adults) do.

Nuclear reactors are like restaurants ?

You, sir, are bad at making comparisons.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:23 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Literally all the information we have to go on about this incident is one tweet and yet several here are making all sorts of assumptions about the mindset of these parents which is just simply impossible to know without more details. It appears the urge to jump in head first to any "Breeders suck, AMIRITE" thread is difficult for some to resist.

Well we also don't know if the sitter cancelled, but a lot of people are making that assumption. Plus we have plenty of parents in this thread saying it's not appropriate to bring a baby to a place like this.
posted by sweetkid at 9:24 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Well, what's probably going through her mind is that past the very early newborn stage, diapers aren't that scary. My kid's diaper hasn't leaked in months, and I can tell you exactly which four days she will poop this month. Your random cashier's hands probably have more pee on them than my baby's legs, if the stats on hand-washing are to be believed.

On-topic, my most charitable explanation is that they were first-time parents whose baby had previously been predictably sleepy/easy and just reached the next developmental stage that night. Hopefully they removed it immediately and learned that going to fancy restaurants with their child isn't going to happen in the foreseeable future.
posted by snickerdoodle at 9:25 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


elizardbits: Social Skills and Public Interaction will be the cornerstone of the educational opportunities offered in the baby prisons of my totalitarian dictatorship.

Funny, I told my niece and nephews it was called "Charm School."
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 9:28 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


You will go far in the hellish bureaucracy of my Ministry of Education.
posted by elizardbits at 9:29 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


Just what the F goes through people's heads, when they casually, unthinkingly do something like this?

Sometimes when kids are tired and fussy you have to hold them in your arms or they will cry. Sometimes where you're tired and you've only got two hands and you have to use one to hold the carriage you have to put the kid down to reach in your pocket.

Do they live in a lifestyle where they would put their infant's dirty diapered butt on their kitchen counter or dinner table before serving food in their own homes?

Most probably. Of course, you know when you've just put a clean diaper on your own kid, and given the germ maelstrom most parents of young children live in, contact between a freshly diapered butt and a countertop is about #1,601 in the priority list of regularly encountered biohazards.
posted by Diablevert at 9:30 PM on January 13 [15 favorites]


Turns out that taking photos might impair your ability to remember the subject.

Not to derail, but that's not my understanding of what that widely misreported study concluded. Subjects who were specifically assigned to snap-snap-snap around a museum had poorer recall than subjects who were allowed to roam freely without that added assignment. However, subjects in the former group who zoom-focus-snapped—meaning, they paid detail-level attention to what they were photographing—showed no difference in recall.

In other words, the study concluded that if you distract someone with a rote task, they will exhibit signs of having been distracted.
posted by cribcage at 9:33 PM on January 13 [15 favorites]


Every time I go to some fancy restaurant there is some drunken loud talking moron. I fly all the time and very flight has some obnoxious lout. Yet these obnoxious white men can just piss all over the toilet seat and floor and no one tweets a god dammed thing. Scream their way through dinner and leave poor tips, no bans for them. Yet one eight month old peeps and suddenly its omg bam the babies!
Too bad baby banners. Your mother may deny it, but I know that on more than one occasion you cried for hours for no reason. You made scenes in public, causing discomfort for your loved ones and those around you. For many of you this behavior was seen to repeat in adolescence where you were an absolute shit in public.

So now it is your turn to quietly endure. Now leave a nice tip, talk in a reasonable volume and learn to use the toilet properly. Your a grown up now.
posted by humanfont at 9:37 PM on January 13 [11 favorites]


I wouldn't take a baby to a high end restaurant and, if I did and my baby cried, I'd take turns going outside. I am curious about how they handled it. Most people wouldn't want to spend the night with a crying baby.

However, when Vancouver chain Earls, which is fast casual, decided to remove the high chairs and change tables, my friends and I started a boycott. That was around 8 years ago. I used to go to Earls all the time - for business and social occasions. I haven't been back and neither have my friends. We eat out a lot and most of intend to boycott until they stop doing this, so that's several tables a week that they are missing out on. Just our little stand.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:38 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


My wife and I have a little one, and we have been blessed in the fact that he was (and still is) a very well-behaved kid. He's quiet and doesn't cause problems when we go out, generally. People remarked to us a lot that our son was well-behaved.

Part of it, though, was us, the parents. When he was a baby and he cried, we'd go down the mental check list (Is he hungry/thirsty? No. Is his diaper wet? No. Is he sleepy? No. Does he want to be held? Ding ding ding!) and do something about it. If we were out in public and, as a toddler (which now, at nearly five, I suppose he still is) he caused trouble in one way or another, we called him out on that and did something about it.

And that's what I find so amazing with some parents--their hands-off attitude to child rearing. They let the kid do whatever the kid wants, and like this couple at at the restaurant, they just let the kid wail on and on. 'Cause whaddaya gonna do? That's the attitude of so many parents who seem to think parenting lacks any kind of controlling agency at all; the kids seem to be this abstraction beyond their ability to control. Or something. But I see it all the damn time, and can't really wrap my head around it. When I rode a plane with my baby I was prepared to hold the kid and walk up and down the aisle as long as he was crying, and I did just that on trans-Pacific flight that lasted 11 hours. On the same flight there was a woman with a kid who cried for at least five of those hours, but she just flatly refused to pick the kid up.

The wife and I don't really have any access to babysitters nor family who can babysit, so since he was born, we just don't do the things we used to. We don't go to restaurants that don't welcome kids. We have seen maybe one movie at the theater in the past five years, and been to precisely one live concert. Some parents need to learn to sacrifice.
posted by zardoz at 9:41 PM on January 13 [20 favorites]


What do mean the place isn't kid friendly? It serves edible balloons for crying out loud! It's pretty much Willy Wonka!
posted by mazola at 9:43 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


I know that on more than one occasion you cried for hours for no reason. You made scenes in public, causing discomfort for your loved ones and those around you.

You know what my parents did in those situations? They left the premises (and took me with them, of course) because they realized that there are, in fact, other people in the world, not all of whom may want to be subjected to a loudly crying child for an unknown length of time. Apparently it's unreasonable to expect that in 2014.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:50 PM on January 13 [25 favorites]


You made scenes in public, causing discomfort for your loved ones and those around you. For many of you this behavior was seen to repeat in adolescence where you were an absolute shit in public.

Seriously I'm pretty sure we all recognize and admit that we were probably once terrible babies but my parents took us to, like, Chinese restaurants with names like "Silver Springs" and "Son of Duck Chang II" and by "took us to" I mean, they ordered takeout until we were old enough to shut up and behave. (They also had to institute a strict No-Cocktail-Sword policy, which removed the best part of eating out.) I deal with kids on a pretty regular basis and don't worry, I probably expend more energy hating grown-ups during meetings than I do anyone under the age of ten...but if you were to take away the pleasure of a meal that involved months of saving and scrimping and foam-based foods and ingredients I can't even pronounce, I would probably hate that moment in time quite a lot. There is no slippery slope between Alinea's heralded chef getting annoyed at a crying baby and BABIES BANNED FOREVER FROM PUBLIC EATERIES AND THE PUBLIC LASHING OF THEIR BREEDERS WHO DARED TO GET COFFEE IN A PAPER CUP. None whatsoever.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:50 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]


It serves edible balloons for crying out loud!

To be honest I'm feeling a tantrum coming on right now because all I have is half a bag of chocolate chips in my living room and not EDIBLE BALLOONS OF WONDER, how does that even work!
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:52 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


There I was, eating my fancy foods for my special birthday dinner, and those little bastards were just like, yawn, Thursday.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:44 PM on January 13


Oh no just because you can eats in special restaurants does not mean you can cast judgments on those babys parentages because that is not right and judgmental.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:57 PM on January 13


I don't know why, but I read this thread through every time we have it, even though it's always the same thread!

I would never bring a baby to Alinea. Heck, my oldest kid is 8, and I still wouldn't bring him there. And when my kids were babies, and we went out to dinner, and one of the kids cried, my wife and I would take turns going outside the restaurant and taking a walk with him. If I were Grant Achatz I guess I would say to those parents, "hey, if you want to take your kid for a walk outside, I will be slightly flexible about the way we serve the courses so that the walking parent misses as little of the food as possible."

On the other hand, I have eaten in several Michelin restaurants, and at the good ones, the food was so good that I don't think a crying baby would have been any more than a tiny dent in the experience. The only time I really remember being bugged by a patron was at Bouley in New York, where there was a loud drunk guy at a nearby table being loud and drunk. OK, it was annoying enough that I remember it, but my memories are 9/10 food and 1/10 that. And it would never even have occurred to me to say something to the guy, or expect him to be asked to leave. If somebody was smoking, yes, that would be pretty bad and I would expect them to be taken out of the place. (But I've never seen anyone try it in a really good restaurant.)

In other news:

1. Yep, my kid runs around in the grocery store. Alinea is like the opera but the grocery store is not like the opera.

2. The outside of a kid's diaper is as clean as the outside of your pants. Probably cleaner, because the diaper's new, and god knows how long you've been wearing those pants.

3. I feel bad that cribcage missed several courses at Daniel because he was sneezing. If I saw somebody leave a magnificent meal midway because they were sneezing and simply couldn't eat, OK, that's rough, but if they were leaving because they were sneezing and they thought I couldn't handle eating in a Michelin restaurant where someone was sneezing, then I would feel they were making a terrible mistake.

4. I too was just on a transatlantic flight. My kids were quiet and lovely. Lots of babies were there and a lot of them cried. But again, it would never have occurred to me to be mad at the parents. There are lots of things you can try, and sometimes they work, but in the end you can't make a baby not cry, especially if their ears are in pain from the air pressure change.
posted by escabeche at 9:58 PM on January 13 [15 favorites]


The outside of a kid's diaper is as clean as the outside of your pants.

Yes but the chances of my pants leg to suddenly leak runny shit everywhere while I squirm and struggle to evade all efforts to clean me up are very close to zero.
posted by elizardbits at 10:12 PM on January 13 [17 favorites]


As much as I love, appreciate, and agree with Saminal's take on things, if I am paying several hundred dollars (plus) for dinner, I don't care about my fellow patrons' backstory.
posted by yellowcandy at 10:14 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]


But again, it would never have occurred to me to be mad at the parents. There are lots of things you can try, and sometimes they work, but in the end you can't make a baby not cry, especially if their ears are in pain from the air pressure change.

That was my point previously, that the parent in question didn't in fact try. She was all "who, me? This is my kid...what?"
posted by zardoz at 10:17 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


If I'm spending 500 bucks on a meal, I'm making sure the restaurant doesn't allow children before my reservation is made. With that out of the way, I have no idea how their food actually taste, but their presentation seems more distracting than enticing.
posted by Beholder at 10:18 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


The only way I'll ever see the inside of a place like this is through the service entrance, wearing a white smock.
After reading some of comments in this thread, I actually find myself relieved I'm that poor.

Is it such a burden on all of you hobbyists and aficionados to share space with a crying baby for a little while? Honestly, are you really that fragile?

Yes, of course, crying babies and unruly children are annoying. That's nothing special.

Neither are you.

How about showing some patience for fellow humans, especially the brand-new ones? Is that too much to ask?

It almost never hurts to look at people's behavior in the most charitable light. It costs you nothing.


QFT.
posted by KHAAAN! at 10:19 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]


There are plenty of good and even excellent places to eat in Chicago where a crying baby would be no worse than a minor annoyance. Alinea just doesn't happen to be one of them.
posted by wotsac at 10:23 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


The only way I'll ever see the inside of a place like this is through the service entrance, wearing a white smock.
After reading some of comments in this thread, I actually find myself relieved I'm that poor.

Is it such a burden on all of you hobbyists and aficionados to share space with a crying baby for a little while? Honestly, are you really that fragile?


I'd have to save quite a bit of money to afford to go to a place like that, but I could maybe justify it for a really special occasion. I'd be really peeved if the one time in many years I splurge for an anniversary night out or something like that, if it was marred by a screaming child. We aren't talking about the Red Lobster here. This is something closer to a gallery opening than a meal.
posted by empath at 10:26 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]


Sometimes where you're tired and you've only got two hands and you have to use one to hold the carriage you have to put the kid down to reach in your pocket.

Man, someone should invent a way for the carriage to hold a baby. I bet a person could make a lot of money selling something like that.
posted by rhizome at 10:28 PM on January 13 [18 favorites]


On 3 very special occasions in my life I have had the pleasure of dining at Alinea. I would have been TOTALLY bummed if the very special experience (yes, more than just the food) had been marred with a crying baby, making the experience more akin to flying coach (which alas, is how I fly). Now, if I had been at a Denny's (or Red Lobster, TGIF, KFC, Noodles & Co, etc, etc, etc) and a manager reprimanded parents because of a crying baby, or insisted the family leave, I probably would be offended, after all, those ARE family restaurants.. But as others have said, this IS Alinea and most of the people fortunate enough to be dining there consider that a very special occasion (and no, I don't think anyone would categorize it as a Family Restaurant). Personally, I love the fact that Chef Achatz put this question out to his followers. Instead of taking a hard and fast stand (on either side of this issue) he invited his followers to submit their feelings on the matter, presumably so he can thoughtfully and fairly gage his customers' sentiments on this before making an impulsive or knee jerk decision on a difficult but valid issue highly relevant to the brand he has worked so very hard to create. Let's face it, certain chefs (especially the celebrity ones) can be very egotistical and opinionated. Hats off to Chef Achatz for asking for socializing this issue and ASKING for input, I think that was a classy way to get his followers to consider one of the many, many dilemmas faced by a restaurant trying to be the best while doing the right thing for as many people as possible, and let's face it....you certainly can't please all of the people all of the time.
posted by Lylo at 10:35 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]


> Owners bitching about it and talking about bans just show how piss poor customer service.

He didn't bitch about it. He didn't call anyone names or offer any judgement at all. He described a problem and expressed his frustration with a question.
posted by desuetude at 10:52 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


The headline of the article, however, is quite uncharitable as well with the hyperbolic "considers a ban." A more accurate read would've been "wonders aloud WTF to do about it."
posted by desuetude at 10:55 PM on January 13 [13 favorites]


Parent of a 3 year old and 1 year old here. Personally I wouldn't take my mini screaming narcissists within 100m of a place like that. They'd fuck the evening up for everyone, including me. Adult spaces should be for adults, and if anyone should know this it's the parents of small children. I LOVE kids, and yet if I'm getting a second mortgage to have some adult time around sharp objects and delicacies, I don't want some screaming 15 pounder 10 feet away from me. I paid to be away from that for a bit.

When we go out with the kids, it's to a family restaurant where there's 12 dollar burgers and a kickass kids menu and crayons and high chairs and lunatic kids running around everywhere. If one of the children hurls a milkshake across the room everyone laughs because everyone is there to shove food into the kids mouths without having to cook and do dishes.

So, siding with the kid ban. Let adults have their space, please.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:17 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]


The wife and I don't really have any access to babysitters
posted by zardoz


Oh for shit's sake just bring a brutal into the vortex and come join us in second level.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:26 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


I don't understand the parents' choice here. I have brought my baby to nice restaurants, because he is easy and if we time it well he can be quiet for an hour or two. But a 20-something course meal that lasts 4-5 hours? In that time frame an 8 month old needs probably two full bottles, at least two hours of sleeping, entertainment, and several diaper changes.

I don't really give a crap about other people but I would never inflict that kind of evening on myself. The most charitable thing I can think of is that it was after bedtime and they were banking on the kid sleeping through the meal.
posted by annekate at 11:30 PM on January 13


Turns out that taking photos might impair your ability to remember the subject.

Did you read your link? They tested the people the next day. I don't take photos of memorable meals just in case I forgot what I ate before I poop it out; I take photos of memorable meals so I can help transport myself back a few years ago to the rainy afternoon at the amazing ćevapčići shop in Sarajevo, huddling under the awning and dipping extra kajmak.

How about showing some patience for fellow humans, especially the brand-new ones? Is that too much to ask?

How about showing respect for fellow humans, both the brand-new ones who are guaranteed to be cranky and bored and in a terrible environment for them, and for the more experienced ones who have spent hundreds upon hundreds of dollars, and planned for months for a couple of very special hours without a high-decibel siren going off in their ear?
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:34 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


This is the kind of place people save for years to be able to go to. Something people make plans for anniversaries, for incredibly special moments. Something that the people who are eating there, they plan to remember that meal, that moment, as (hopefully) a high point in a life time of experiences. If I'd been there, after saving, and scrimping (the only way I'd get there, and yes, I'd love to be able to), only to have the evening dominated by an infant crying throughout the meal?

My evening would be ruined. My wife and I wouldn't enjoy our meal. We'd be angry, then we'd feel guilty about being angry, because it's a kid. We'd be pissed at the parents. What we wouldn't do, because we wouldn't be able to afford it, would be to book another dinner at a later time, hoping there wouldn't be another screaming kid.

Restaurants like this are once in a lifetime experiences. With that in mind, unless you seriously, seriously don't consider other people in the world around worth of consideration, why in the hell would you take an infant there?
posted by Ghidorah at 11:44 PM on January 13 [21 favorites]


I'm just really upset that an 8-month-old child got to go to a place that I'll probably never in my wildest dreams have enough money to go to.
posted by gucci mane at 11:51 PM on January 13 [18 favorites]


In my experience, the people most likely to be judgy and livid at a shrieking child in a high end restaurant are other parents who've shelled out a small fortune for a sitter and are not exactly thrilled to be spending all this money for an experience they could have at home with take out.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:54 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


They served us not one but two vegetarian courses, which irked me to begin with

???
posted by kenko at 12:06 AM on January 14 [14 favorites]


After reading some of comments in this thread, I actually find myself relieved I'm that poor.

I find it amazing that there are people who actually revel in having fewer options in life, even to such an extreme that they cannot help rationalize dragging everyone else down with them — taking active pleasure in it, even. It's a weird kind of externally-directed or inverted anhedonia, where the subject can only take pleasure in life by denying it to others.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:23 AM on January 14 [15 favorites]


And yes, this has been mentioned before, but "non breeders"? WTF? God, I loathe that term, like, We're all weirdo creeps who haven't "bred" so we can't understand anything about...anything, especially if that "anything" has to do with children, so outside of *your* world are we non-breeders we might as well be spacemen from Mars, rubber antenna and all. I want to just scream, but I'm at best half a human with my halfling emotions so I'll just sort of, I don't know, grunt and scratch instead.
posted by but no cigar at 12:30 AM on January 14 [29 favorites]


You know how you teach them those things? By taking them in public and letting them interact with clerks, waitstaff, other patrons, etc.
I'm pretty sure that you can teach kids how to behave at restaurants without taking them to $500-per-person (which is what Alinea costs with wine and service charge) avant-garde eateries.

Anyway, there's no way this was intended to be a 'learning experience'. It can suck when parents end up having to change plans or other people let you down, but there's no excuse for the very high risk of ruining other peoples' experience because of that. When you decide to be a parent, you have to accept that life is no longer ruled by your every whim and your primary job becomes to shepherd one or more small humans to adulthood. That's often inconsistent with lots of pleasurable activities that adults enjoy.

Yes but the chances of my pants leg to suddenly leak runny shit everywhere while I squirm and struggle to evade all efforts to clean me up are very close to zero.
Well, not yet anyway. You're not getting any younger, though ;-)
posted by dg at 12:43 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


The Committee of Horrific Compromises has decided that Alinea is to be burned to the ground and the offending family sold into slavery. The ceremony will be concluded with a solemn treat of ice cream.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:49 AM on January 14 [22 favorites]


This is idiotic.

1. Alinea's Grant Achatz was trained by Thomas Keller. Both are non-liberals (at least, based on their writings in their books and articles, they're definitely less liberal than me).

2. Therefore it doesn't surprise me that the Chef would take out the issue in this way. Based on the twitter, he doesn't recognize it as the societal issue that it is at its core--the ideological nuances and conflicts going on. That is why he calls the baby "it", that is why there's the passive-aggression of "hate saying this but, no".

3. Customers and non-customers chiming in don't know any better about this. Most arguments are invalid because they don't capture the whole picture. Solutions are even more inane. There's a lack of empathy on all sides.

And I am writing this as a huge fan of fine dining restaurants. Want my foodie cred? P.M. me and we'll talk. But I also know a little about social criticism, rationality, and problem solving, and to me this uproar is narrow-minded and stupid. Through all the noise, only wise piece of advice I see is the humor of it. Let the baby bawl.
posted by polymodus at 1:28 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Marketing fail. Obvs at this Alinea they could have just said "Crying Infant Scented With Light Hint of Excrement Will Be Walked Through the Restaurant During the Second Course" and charged another $100.
posted by chavenet at 1:30 AM on January 14 [24 favorites]


Potential solution to this problem: decorate the interior of the restaurant with hard-core pornography. No more confusion about whether you should bring your child along.

You may end up attracting some unusual patrons, mind you, but that's what the "darkroom" dining area is for.
posted by LMGM at 1:43 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


Ah. "Full Catastrophe Living". I love thee so.
The Joker: I just did what I do best. I took your little plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Hmmm? You know... You know what I've noticed? Nobody panics when things go "according to plan." Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it's all "part of the plan". But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!

[Joker hands Two-Face a gun and points it at himself]

The Joker: Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I'm an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It's fair!

[still holding the gun, Two-Face pauses and takes out his coin]

Two-Face: [showing Joker the good side] You live.

The Joker: Mm-hmm.

Two-Face: [showing the scarred side] You die.

The Joker: Mmm, now we're talking.
posted by mikelieman at 2:04 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Alinea's Grant Achatz was trained by Thomas Keller. Both are non-liberals

What the hell does that have to do with anything?
posted by empath at 2:14 AM on January 14 [49 favorites]


The Gooch: It appears the urge to jump in head first to any "Breeders suck, AMIRITE" thread is difficult for some to resist.

Especially the amount of battleship-like shots flying past eachother at nonexistent targets or strawmen the "other side of the argument" hasn't even put up.

I mean, desuetude nails it. where does he even say he's considering a ban? It's more just "oh god, this sucks, what the hell do i do about it in the future?" and instantly it riles up a ton of people and rolls out a bunch of old hobbyhorses and microwaves old arguments from threads past.

Really, it's hilarious how much of the discussion here is entirely invented out of thin air based on stuff that was never really said, but is just projection/implied/etc. I think my eyebrow is actually jammed in that one-up spock position after completing the thread.

I'm just kinda miffed as to how this turned out. I mean, i expect it having seen threads remotely related to this issue in the past. But it just seems like a lot of people were ITCHING to have this fight and busted out of the gate like racing dogs at the first excuse or hint of it.

That said, as someone who has worked in food service i think the onus here lies squarely on the customers. The fact that any sort of ban would even need to be considered(which it doesn't seem like the owner/chef is even necessarily...) just leaves me kinda depressed for the future of humanity.

The entire problem here is 100% the types of parents who refuse to accept that being a parent means you have to give up on plans or accept that your life is limited in some way, and anyone who has worked at a restaurant from a hole in the wall fast food place to fine dining has encountered a LOT of those people over time. The fact that there's a distribution of them all the way up to the very nicest places doesn't surprise me at all. This kind of crap probably happens a lot more than you would think, and we just haven't heard about it because the "polite" nature of this level of service means it just stays in the back room for the staff to talk massssiiiveee shit about privately, and no one but the chef would have the balls to openly talk about it.

Anyone who doesn't think there's a huge amount of entitlement here hasn't really thought about this, or is looking at it in completely the wrong way. There is no way you can stack this that doesn't have an element of "Well *I* shouldn't have to stop doing this just because of my kid". There's simply no way to route around that, it's always there, elephant in the room style.
posted by emptythought at 2:32 AM on January 14 [12 favorites]


Reading this thread makes me miss smoking in public places. It's the only thing that would keep both infants and foodies out of restaurants.
posted by three blind mice at 2:54 AM on January 14 [13 favorites]


Given the circumstances, why couldn't he have approached the couple and said "Listen, this is not going to work out. Why don't you take your kid home and I'll comp you tickets for a subsequent sitting."

Yes, it would have been a financial hit for his restaurant, but it would have made everybody happier.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:59 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


I find it hard to believe that a couple with the money to pay for such a pricey meal would not be able to find an alternate babysitter if their first one cancelled (which is speculative, obviously, since it is unclear whether their decision to bring the baby to Alinea was related to child care "difficulties" or just their original determination that a baby of that age should be brought out for such a long meal).
posted by miss tea at 3:30 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


All this kids-in-restaurants shit is insane. I didn't take my kid to restaurants when she was a baby but I do now that she's a toddler, and she just has to act like the adults in their adult place. Which kids usually like playing at.

At other times I really like to act like a kid when we go to a kids' place like the soft play climbing frame. If your kid cannot refrain from running around and shouting in a restaurant then just don't bother - it's hardly like it's a necessity.
posted by colie at 3:34 AM on January 14


Has anyone said they think it makes sense to take a baby to Alinea?

As I read the thread, most (or all) agree it doesn't make sense to take baby to this restaurant. Also, there seems to be general agreement that babies can go to family style restaurants. I think the interesting questions are the tiers if restaurants in between.
posted by Area Man at 3:36 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Grant could have handled this in a number of ways - perhaps telling the couple to gtfo. Instead they rolled with the situation and continued the service. It says quite a bit about the place.

This could have been an entirely different thread. "Distraught parents thrown out of Alinea because of crying child."

Alinea will always be under the microscope because of who they are and the massive amount of press they receive. By going public and presenting it as a question, he's avoided coming off as the heavy handed jerk. He's acting more like the maestro (of food and press). It's become a discussion rather than a pr disaster.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 3:38 AM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: You are a grown-ass man at a Harry Potter movie.
posted by thelonius at 3:50 AM on January 14 [9 favorites]


As a kid, my parents did as I think most did:

1) We went out to Denny's (or the 1,000 Denny's clones like Vip's, Sambo's*, CoCo's, Random Possessive Noun's, etc.), or the pizza place. Why would you take a kid anywhere else? They want burgers or grilled cheese or pizza. Plus crayons and place mats you can color!

2) If we kids made any sort of scene (or in our case, didn't show proper table manners) we'd all have to get up and leave, whether mid-meal or before or whatever. Happened only once per kid, generally.

As far where the line to bring or leave the kids: Is the restaurant you're thinking about perceived as a "special occasion" to all but the top earners? Do people "dress up" to go there? Do they require reservations? If so, find somewhere else to eat with the kids. Occasional exceptions for actual well-behaved kids (not "oh my kid is well-behaved, he's just got a personality!" as the cretin is lighting the tablecloth on fire).

* We've progressed a bit as a society, anyway, in this regard, yeesh.
posted by maxwelton at 3:57 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Note to self: redouble efforts to get into Alinea. Leave extra large tip.
posted by Decani at 4:07 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


If it's too rich for your blood, don't do it. I'm not going there anytime soon, and I'm cool with that. I'm also cool with there being screaming children around when I go to Bob Evans, which I do all the time, because it's Bob Evans. Nobody's expecting you to be a hermit. There are great options for kids.

But you know, I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of Alinea's patrons do in fact have children. They are not all childfree adults who scream about breeders at the first opportunity. They are ordinary responsible grown-ups who have (or have had) children and still sometimes enjoy spaces that do not have small children in them. Such things exist. Such things are, more than that, really important for the mental health of parents of small children, when they're available. When my good friend who is nursing makes the elaborate arrangements to go out without her kids, I can tell you with a thousand percent certainty that a crying baby in the restaurant is a hell of a lot more uncomfortable for her than it is for me (google "sympathetic letdown"), and she is going to places that are generally not-baby-friendly for a reason.

Those other parents want grown-up time more than I do, because I get grown-up time 24/7, and they don't. It is not just the unreasonable expectations of those of us who don't have children that make this rude. My daily restaurant experiences are full of kids and I'm cool with that. I am enthusiastically in favor of women like my friend getting to occasionally have restaurant experiences that allow them a bit of peace and quiet.
posted by Sequence at 4:28 AM on January 14 [13 favorites]


The article doesn't mention what happened. Was this a kid who screamed for 20 minutes straight? It seems to me that a server would have asked the parents to take care of that. Or was it a quiet kid who was sleeping, woke up, cried for 30 seconds before a parent soothed him or her back to sleep, and were the other patrons mostly not happy because "Oh, the horror, someone brought their kid here!" and not because of any actual real inconvenience?

The FPP says this is a rare occurrence, so I wonder why so many people are all up in arms about this. Personally I rarely go out to dinner, and still on numerous occasions when I did there was a group of loud people there who were just having fun, but were definitely interfering with my idea of a nice evening out. But somehow, if it's a group of 50 year olds who had just a tad too much to drink or were excited about something, nobody proposes to ban all baby boomers.
posted by blub at 5:06 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


nobody proposes to ban all baby boomers.

Sign on door:
NO BOOMERS
NO HIPSTERS
NO CHILDREN
posted by colie at 5:21 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


People are weird about food. Yes, people are starving else where, but there is actually a lot less waste going into fine dining meals than the bowl of slop you get at the Cheesecake Factory. They aren't exactly serving the sorts of food that were going to feed some subsistence farmer in Cambodia.

Most of the cost is in labor.
posted by empath at 5:23 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Some of those dishes seem like parody.
posted by The Deej at 5:24 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I never said that you can't teach your kid how to count out pennies to pay for things at a restaurant. Just do it when there aren't 20 people in line behind you rushing to get back to their office. There's an appropriate time and place to do such things, and a busy period of the day is not it.

I totally agree. This is what I told the Spanish-speaking couple in line in front of me the other day when I was at the store. I made it clear that in this country, there is a time and place not to know, a time and place to learn, and at the store with other people in line is not it. I let the cashier know that I thought she was a bad person for indulging it, too. Those folks were clearly on vacation. They could have learned any time how to pay for a Luna bar.

I felt the same way this morning getting off the subway. There is a blind guy who gets off at my stop every morning, and every single morning he has trouble finding the toll gate. He dithers around with the mechanism, someone always has to help him (never me!), and it delays the other commuters. And that's just at the gate. He's also slow to get off the train, and blocks people in the door, and he can't even make it onto the escalator without a big production. Society would be much better served if he just would admit that his desire for a little job to do is fine, but he's getting in the way of all the real, productive citizens. I'd have no problem if he waited and chose to ride off-peak.

The subway is sometimes also trying because there are some Indian families who ride in every day on the same train. I try to get into a different car, but I can't always, and the truth is: they stink! They smell like their food or whatever, and that's fine, in a normal place, but in a subway car, first thing in the morning, it's a little much. I honestly don't mind them eating whatever they want, I even really like Indian food, but I do think they should realize that there is an appropriate time and place to smell like that, and the subway in the morning is not it! They could choose to eat differently, or take a shower or something.

And I can totally sympathize with the coffee place issues, too. When I go there, my confirmation bias allows me to overlook all the people taking up the public tables to do private work, but what I can't abide are the people in wheel chairs. Whenever I go (ok, just once, but generalizing seems like the best policy) someone in a wheel chair knocks into my table and spills my coffee. I know the tables are close together, and it's a jammed space, and I know that it can be tough to manouver a chair in those situations, but c'mon! If people in wheel chairs would just realize that there are certain places they just can't go without inconveniencing others, and chose to avoid them, things would be better for those of us who think of ourselves as being rational and without restriction.
posted by OmieWise at 5:25 AM on January 14 [11 favorites]


["You shouldn't care about this" derail removed. Also, maybe not so much with the hyperbolic revenge fantasies featuring effigies of infants, thanks.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:27 AM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Oh for the love of all things, what a terrible set of hyperbolic and slimy projections, Omiewise.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:29 AM on January 14 [97 favorites]


Between Alinea and Bob Evans, there must be many roads.
posted by jquinby at 5:31 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


actually a lot less waste going into fine dining meals

El Bulli cost at least 300 dollars a head but was running at a loss for over 10 years, including at all the times it won 'world's best restaurant.'
posted by colie at 5:36 AM on January 14


Well, you've all given me a lot to think about. I have an 8-month-old daughter, and was just about to call up Scopa in Healdsburg to make a reservation for when we're there on vacation next month. After reading the thoughtful commentary on both sides, I have instead decided to quietly lay in a ditch and wait for the sweet release of death.
posted by Mayor West at 5:36 AM on January 14 [35 favorites]


I have instead decided to quietly lay in a ditch and wait for the sweet release of death.

way to inconvenience the swamp monsters, dude


but seriously maybe just call and ask? if they're rude about a baby in advance then why patronize it and not somewhere that does welcome kids?
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:43 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Something that is worth emphasizing is that screaming kids in fancy restaurants is largely a theoretical problem. I eat out a lot, mostly at nice places (not $500 a person before drinks, but not Olive Garden either), and I can remember maybe one time or two times there was a fussy kid, and the parents just walked it outside and things were fine. Drunk and loud adult patrons are a nightly occurrence, as are socially awkward people who won't stop talking to you no matter what -- but crying kids, nope.

These are places where people just don't bring lots of kids, most of the kids they do bring are perfectly behaved, and where the social expectations around children are really clear. Same thing at the theater and art galleries -- most people get a babysitter, so most of the kids you meet are precocious little tykes who have been going to see high art for years and are all "yawn" about the experience.

I think what's happening here is that we are bringing experiences at places like Starbucks, cheaper restaurants, and Harry Potter movie nights where kid expectations are less clear and imagining them onto the situation in this FPP, and it honestly just isn't applicable.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:47 AM on January 14 [7 favorites]


They served us not one but two vegetarian courses, which irked me to begin with

???

Daniel is known for it's vegetarian food. So is Cribcage really one of the people (who I had thought semi-mythical) that has to eat meat not just for every meal, but for every course? Probably best to avoid c.$200 tasting menus at restaurants known for their vegetarian options. Not going to be a problem for me tbh, even if I could afford it I don't think I would be able to relax in a restaurant where you aren't allowed to take your jacket off.
posted by asok at 5:49 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


We are more than 200 comments in and I can't tell if anyone is actually disagreeing with anyone else.
posted by kyrademon at 5:57 AM on January 14 [17 favorites]


I've seen a horrifying new trend developing in the family-friendly type of chain restaurants (e.g. Pizza Express in the UK), which is where 2 or more sets of highly middle-class parents breeze in with 3 or 4 kids, of 4-8 years kind of age - who they then get seated separately from the adults.

A bit like flying business and putting your kids in coach class on the same plane to be looked after by the stewards.

I've then overheard the kids acting like they've presumably seen their parents do to waiters during the course of their unsupervised meal: I saw one send his cupcake back because it only had 4 chocolates on top when one of the other kids' had five.
posted by colie at 5:57 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


We are more than 200 comments in and I can't tell if anyone is actually disagreeing with anyone else.

Not really. Everybody is agreeing that crying babies (or babies more generally) don't belong in Alinea. For some people, like me, this comes with a side of "while it's legitimately annoying, you have the choice whether to let it ruin your meal" while for others, it comes with a side of "crying kids also don't belong in any restaurant that takes reservations / Starbucks / grocery stores."
posted by escabeche at 6:05 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


cribcage: We were seated next to this loud-mouthed tool making toilet jokes.

KNOCK KNOCK
Who's there?
TOILET LOL
posted by dr_dank at 6:10 AM on January 14 [13 favorites]



If you're unfamiliar with Michelin dining and you think this story is about "a restaurant," then sorry but you don't understand what's being discussed.

I'm actually pretty surprised they were seated.

I first took my son to the pub when he was three weeks old and to a restaurant when he was six weeks old. Most places are extremely welcoming of babies which is great because as a recent parent you would go insane if you were trapped inside. But you need to keep up your half of the social contract which means that if your baby is crying or unhappy you need to stop them (play with them, feed them, etc) or one of you has to take them out. You also need to be able to tolerate eating your food whilst its hot, eating it one handed, etc.

When he was three months old, I went to a Michelin-starred restaurant and obviously I didn't take him. We certainly wouldn't have been able to enjoy ourselves and logistically, its just not feasible. I mean, these restaurants will usually insist everyone at the table has the same menu so they can manage timings and they take hours. If he cries and I take him outside, I've probably missed two courses. And whilst my wife will happily breastfeed in the middle of a pub, a Michelin-starred restaurant is an entirely different environment. Plus she's all dressed up so it isn't practical to just slip a boob. I guess she could strip naked in a toilet and stay in there with him for half an hour but she doesn't need to pay several hundred pounds for the pleasure.

I guess this couple were desperate for a night out. But if you take your kid with you, it isn't a night out. And if you kid cries - and how could they not? - then it isn't a night out for anyone else either.
posted by ninebelow at 6:10 AM on January 14 [12 favorites]


...In a recession, every restaurant should be baby-friendly

I actually thought this was a A Modest Proposal joke at first.
posted by oulipian at 6:14 AM on January 14 [8 favorites]


This looks like the kind of place that would have a vodka that's served in the form of a flash of light.

The parent's should have known better to bring their kids. If their sitter cancelled last minute, they should have sold the tickets to friends/co-workers or at the very least taken the kid out of the restaurant when it started crying. If the chef needs to explicitly ban kids to keep this from happening again, they should go ahead and do it.
posted by VTX at 6:15 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Our 5 year old is crazy well behaved in restaurants, having eaten at one at least 2X per week her whole life, and there is no way in hell we'd take her to somewhere like this, now or when she was younger.

General rule of thumb: if there is no specialty seating for kids, do not take a kid.
posted by gaspode at 6:17 AM on January 14 [5 favorites]


The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the couple with the baby.

-Vulcan saying
posted by Splunge at 6:19 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Restaurants are a public accommodation. A restaurant that refused to seat a woman with her baby would potentially be violating the civil rights act.
posted by humanfont at 6:24 AM on January 14


Those food pictures from the last link are disgusting. It's like if David Lynch's Dune had a restaurant scene.
posted by jabah at 6:25 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


"Hi, this is Alinea here. We love children (aka our future diners), but don't love bad behavior. If you bring a child and that child starts crying, we will ask one of your party to leave with the child until it stops crying. If the child returns and then starts crying again, we will ask one of your party to leave with the child."

This is really not a difficult problem to solve.

I'm pretty sure the restaurant should be blamed for not asking them to leave rather than hating on the baby and parents.

Yes. If a child was allowed to cry in this restaurant/performance space for longer than 5 or 10 minutes, it was a complete failure of restaurant management and a huge disappointment in a place that considers itself high-class.
posted by mediareport at 6:32 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Coming from Chicago, I think people overestimate the wealth of people who eat at Alinea. Sure, there are one percenters there, but it's enough of a culinary institution in the city and worldwide that you'll find plenty of people for whom it's a significant luxury in their budget.

Another thing is the increasing arrogance of Nick Kokonas about his ticketing system. In the beginning it actually seemed like an inclusive thing. He would release pretty cheap tickets for his restaurant Next and in general offer a range of prices based on the time, the day of the week, etc. It made up for the fact that the system was obnoxiously rigid. But after about two years that has stagnated and the system really only offers the premium prices. Next tickets are now pretty uniformly >$500. He defends it saying you wouldn't expect to cancel an opera ticket and get your money back, but honestly not that many people are spending $600-$800 on two opera tickets.

Because of that, you not only see babies at his restaurants now, but other motley assortments of people who really don't want to be there a la "Sally had to go on a business trip, I never would have normally asked you to dine with us because you are very annoying and you get more so when you are drunk, but there is now a seat at our table at Next/Alinea and I know you are a social climber so you'll plunk down the $$ last minute."

Babies/drunks etc. are all inevitable in a situation like this. The baby I saw did not disturb anymore, and certainly was preferred to some other adult diners. There are nice bathrooms at both restaurants where anyone not-rude would decamp with a vomiting drunk, crying baby, etc.
posted by melissam at 6:35 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Restaurants are a public accommodation. A restaurant that refused to seat a woman with her baby would potentially be violating the civil rights act.

Having a child isn't a disability, nor does it grant you status as a protected class, and restaurants are allowed to discriminate based on age.
posted by empath at 6:40 AM on January 14 [42 favorites]


....when Vancouver chain Earls, which is fast casual, decided to remove the high chairs and change tables, my friends and I started a boycott. That was around 8 years ago. I used to go to Earls all the time - for business and social occasions. I haven't been back and neither have my friends. We eat out a lot and most of intend to boycott until they stop doing this, so that's several tables a week that they are missing out on. Just our little stand.

posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:38 AM



With all due respect, Chausette, I think you and your friends may be doing exactly what the management of the Earl's chain was hoping you would do.


Years ago, I stumbled on some forums set up for food service employees as safe spaces for them to go online and both socialize and vent their frustrations about work. It might have been the old bitterwaitress.com forums, but it's been a long time and I was looking at several similar sites, so I don't recall for sure.

Anyway, in reading the posts across various forums, it became very clear to me that the one customer group universally hated by all servers, cooks, busboys, managers etc. were parents with young children. A table with a small kids and/or babies means extra work, bizarre requests for the kitchen, a giant mess to clean up afterwards, and most of the time no tip (because they spend all their money on their children, you see--that's the justification given to the wait staff).

One forum poster in the Atlanta area offered a potential solution. He was working for a newer higher-end restaurant in an upscale section of town, and the management had hoped to attract hip, foodie DINKs (Double-Income-No-Kids) willing to drop cash. And they did, but--probably due to their location-- they also wound up attracting families with small children. The consistent presence of misbehaving kids in the restaurant drove away the foodie DINKs, and made the restaurant staff crazy.

So, according to this poster, the management quietly:

1) Got rid of all the high chairs

2) Increased their prices slightly (like, 15% or 20%)

When the families came in and found themselves confronted with more expensive food and no place to seat their kids, they naturally complained. The staff would apologize profusely, all the while dropping hints (as directed by their management) that there had been a small mishap involving a child allowed to run around the restaurant colliding with a server carrying some bowls of hot soup and I've said too much already....

Things were apparently touch and go with the profits for a few months, as the families abandoned the restaurant in a huff. But soon words got out that the families were gone, and the DINKS came back in droves. Within the year, the restaurant was operating with higher profits than ever before.


I'm sure that your boycott of Earl's certainly makes you and your friends feel better. I imagine you guys weren't the only parents who decided to avoid the Earl's chain after they made those changes.

But If Earl's hasn't returned the high chairs and change tables to their restaurants after eight years? I'd bet this week's paycheck that Earl's wanted to reduce or eliminate the families-with-small-children portion of their customer base. And what's more, it's clearly paid off for them. Otherwise, the high chairs would've been back with a couple of years, and there would've been a marketing campaign begging families to come in.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:40 AM on January 14 [67 favorites]


My wife and I prefer dim sum, bistros, and dives to fine dining, but to each their own. We respect that it's an interest others have. Fine dining is most certainly much more like opera than it is like eating at even a "nice" restaurant.

In the interest of experiencing the fullness of life, we went to Hiša Franko, which I guess is closer to the Alinea side of things than it is to other restaurants. Unlike many fancy-schmancy restaurants, Hiša Franko features outside seating. This makes sense, given its alpine location and explicitly all-natural philosophy. Noting our previously-stated prejudices against fine dining, it's possibly a compliment of note that we actually quite liked their tasting menu. The food was consistently excellent. The service was flawless, without being too stuffy.

However, during the dinner itself, we did eventually buzz to one another that we may have had a better time at lunch, eating (excellent) deer goulash at a campsite. Tasting menus involve a time commitment and a schedule of activities which conflict with our preferred strategy of finding an intriguing place and sitting down. This was not a fault of the restaurant. This was just about our own wants and needs. This was just us realizing why we didn't do this sort of thing more often. (We were also very tired from a very long day.)

As the night wore on, we became more and more inclined to give Hiša Franko the backhanded praise of having been very nearly as good as a €10 lunch platter.

But then, something happened.

An orange, friendly, and no doubt highly refined cat wandered onto the premises. It flitted about like a nosy investor. It sat on a chair. No - more than that. It sat on several chairs. We were doubly delighted that nobody even bothered trying to shoo it away. Well, no - that's not true - a manager-type person waved it off of a table - but it was clear that "no tables" was merely the only compromise you could hope to wring from a cat, in the same way that a condemned man might ask for a cigarette.

I asked a server about the cat. I was a little worried that it would appear as if we were complaining, so I tried to overcompensate by instead praising the cat before inquiring any further.

"What a cute cat! We're not complaining - we actually really like him. We have two cats of our own, but they're blue. Does the cat live around here?"

Since I had only been praising the cat in order to avoid the impression that I was complaining, I may have appeared somewhat unnatural than usual, and I may have stuttered as well. This may have given the impression that, when speaking of a cat, my voice broke as if I were talking to my favorite celebrity, or as if I were pleading for my life to a cruel king who would cut off my head for the merest perceived slight.

This may also have created the impression that the only item of interest we had found at this world-class restaurant was a cat, thus pegging us as tasteless Americans, or that I had found the presence of a cat anywhere at all to be so noteworthy that I couldn't contain myself, thus pegging us as the sort of people who are also amazed at chairs, tables, streets, air, the sun, and so on.

Regardless, the server responded with a smile that they didn't know where the cat came from and that they didn't know how to get rid of it.

Anyway, my point is that you can get that deer goulash by going to Kobarid and then walking up 203, as if you were going to Bovec.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:43 AM on January 14 [24 favorites]


Restaurants are a public accommodation. A restaurant that refused to seat a woman with her baby would potentially be violating the civil rights act.

Whose civil rights are being violated?

Age is not a protected class (in terms of public accommodations - it is a protected class for older workers in the area of employment), so the child does not have a right to enter an public establishment. I've been to restaurants/bars that have signs stating "must be 18 to enter."

Do you think it's the woman's civil rights being violated? Women are a protected class in terms of housing and employment, but not public accommodations as far as I know.
posted by JeffL at 6:44 AM on January 14 [5 favorites]


A restaurant that refused to seat a woman with her baby would potentially be violating the civil rights act.

Um, no. Children aren't a protected class under civil rights law. There's no legal problem with banning small children from a restaurant, unless you did it because of the child's race or religion or other legally protected group.

(on preview, what empath just said)
posted by mediareport at 6:45 AM on January 14 [5 favorites]


restaurants are allowed to discriminate based on age.

Except against senior citizens.
posted by mediareport at 6:45 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Easy solution: you can bring your kid to Alinea, but you also pay for the meal of everyone else in the place, and nobody complains. Win win.

I look forward to actively praying that someone has brought a child.
posted by aramaic at 6:50 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


The only thing I have "learned" from this FPP/Thread is:

1. I honestly do not know what I would do if I were in these parent's shoes
2. I honestly don't know what I would do or think if I owned/operated Alinea.

I do know, however, what various MeFites who have actually not been in Situations 1 or 2 think they would do.

More irritatingly, I also know what a minority of MeFites think I should do, should I be in the unfortunate position to be within 100 feet of them with my child.
posted by Debaser626 at 6:57 AM on January 14 [9 favorites]


2. I honestly don't know what I would do or think if I owned/operated Alinea.

Really. It's not hard. You bite the bullet and deal with the disruptive situation.
posted by mediareport at 6:59 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


When you're within 100 feet of anyone, whoever you are, you have some responsibilities concerning how you behave.
posted by colie at 7:00 AM on January 14 [14 favorites]


The obvious solution is my new Maximum Baby Care Carriage, based on a Big Dog chassis. At only twice as long and wide as your average deluxe baby carriage, it is soundproof and weatherproof. It also automatically feeds and changes the baby, rocks them, and plays selections from its library of 1000 children's videos. Naturally it has full GPS, Google and Bluetooth capability.

Powered by a 20 horsepower diesel engine (not soundproofed), it's the ultimate child care appliance.
posted by happyroach at 7:01 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Age is not a protected class (in terms of public accommodations - it is a protected class for older workers in the area of employment)

I stand corrected about age discrimination against the elderly in restaurants.
posted by mediareport at 7:06 AM on January 14


Restaurants are a public accommodation. A restaurant that refused to seat a woman with her baby would potentially be violating the civil rights act.

Yet another opportunity to throw judgment and good sense out the window in favour of an absolutist rights-based take on a topic!
posted by Dasein at 7:07 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


If I ran Alinea, I like to think that it would have been possible to diplomatically tell the couple that their child appears to be unhappy and also appears to bothering other diners. This is not anybody's fault, I would say - babies and babysitters alike are unpredictable. However, we would be more than happy to set up another reservation, and depending on what the restaurant could afford, we would waive as many of the associated costs and fees as would be reasonable.

Additionally, and this might be equally impossible, I would get the kitchen to use of some of the otherwise-would-go-to-waste ingredients to craft a self-consciously faux-casual takeaway meal.

Yes, the restaurant would have to eat some costs to make this happen, but the good PR would be worth it in the long run. The couple could wind up saying to their friends, "ugh, we had these reservations at Alinea, and the sitter fell through, and our baby wouldn't stop crying, and they kicked us out, but they were very reasonable. They set us up with another reservation at a reduced rate, plus they gave us these terrific to-go meals as a peace offering."

Yes, many parents would still be upset, especially if they're already stressed out from the whole crying baby thing, but even then, you're still the restaurant that actively worked with the couple to come to an agreeable solution. It's the right thing to do at that level of resource commitment, and it's good PR either way.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:10 AM on January 14 [23 favorites]


Perfect framing, Sticherbeast. Taking to Twitter to solicit opinions on what to do, instead of doing the right thing at the moment, is...well.....gauche.
posted by mediareport at 7:13 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I don't know how the restaurant actually responded in the moment, but I can understand if they didn't handle things perfectly. After all, they probably aren't used to handling that situation and it is natural to get flustered when you hear a crying baby. This really is the parents' responsibility even if they had a sitter cancel.
posted by Area Man at 7:16 AM on January 14


Stitcherbeast has the right of it. I would expect a higher level of customer service than was shown here. If I was one of the other diners and the management did nothing about a major disturbance for hours I would be pretty upset.

A baby is not a toddler and sometimes there's no amount of parenting that can be done to stop fussing and crying. If the restaurant management had been a little more understanding and graceful (and yes, sometimes taking a loss is part of good customer service — once I got very ill at a nice restaurant and they waived our bill so my party could take me home), the family would have been able to bow out of a bad situation without losing their entire investment, and everyone would have been happier.
posted by annekate at 7:20 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


If the restaurant allowed them to reschedule their reservation, the issue wouldn't have happened. They are forced to use or lose their ticket. And if they don't use it, they have another 2-3 month wait before they can get a table again. The method of purchasing of Alinea's product does have something to do with the situation here.
posted by Roger Dodger at 7:24 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I would have cried.
posted by Segundus at 7:25 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Roger Dodger, the point was made above that it's very easy to sell tickets to Alinea online, maybe for more than you paid for them, even at short notice.
posted by mediareport at 7:26 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't call it very easy. There are a bunch of hoops you must jump through:

Can I give my ticket away or sell it?
Yes. The ticket is completely transferable. However, selling tickets for greater than face value may be illegal in your area. Anyone who purchases a ticket from another patron should take care to be sure that the ticket and times are as claimed by requesting both an email confirmation from us as well as a printed ticket from the seller. Any tickets purchased on the secondary market are at the purchaser's risk. We will not be held responsible for forgeries or misrepresentations.

posted by Roger Dodger at 7:28 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


it became very clear to me that the one customer group universally hated by all servers, cooks, busboys, managers etc. were parents with young children.

Hard to believe, given that we're the ones there at 5pm spending money when the rest of the place is empty!
posted by escabeche at 7:32 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


and yes, sometimes taking a loss is part of good customer service — once I got very ill at a nice restaurant and they waived our bill so my party could take me home

The thing about Alinea is, two covers not paying their bill on a night is not a small loss. It's basically the entire day's profit. It's one thing for a restaurant that serves hundreds of $30 covers in a night to walk two of them and eat the bill -- they're basically shunting the food costs, since it makes no difference to their staffing levels. It's totally different for a restaurant that serves 64 labor intensive tasting menus in a night to walk a minimum $500 bill that represents hours and hours of prep-work that has already been done.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:32 AM on January 14 [13 favorites]


No it's not easy to sell Alinea/Next tickets online. Any Chicago food message board is full of pleas like "We have to go away on an emergency and we have a four top for Alinea, we'll take lower than face price blah blah blah."

Not surprisingly, it's not easy to find takers. When was the last time you thought on a whim "hey honey, let's randomly get a $700 meal tonight, let's see if there are any tickets on Craigslist."
posted by melissam at 7:32 AM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Not to derail with this point again, but the language about re-selling tickets on Alinea's website is CYA boilerplate. It is quite easy to do, and most people I've known who have gone there have gone because they were able to purchase day-of tickets in situations similar to the one the parents in this situation avoided by taking their baby.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:33 AM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Poor kid - he just couldn't find anything he wanted to eat. I looked at the gallery of their cuisine on their website. I can't find anything I'd want to eat either. That being said, I wouldn't have brought my kid.
posted by PuppyCat at 7:34 AM on January 14


Maybe its just me, but when I read official documentation from a company's website, I pretty much take it at face value.
posted by Roger Dodger at 7:36 AM on January 14


Children aren't a protected class under civil rights law.

...except in housing, where they are.

...except in specifically seniors-only communities, where they aren't.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:36 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Those who are going to message boards are avoiding the fact that their are websites and Facebook groups that exist almost solely for the purpose of re-distributing tickets and reservations to places like this. If you make these reservations and don't know this, it's your responsibility.

If you schedule a vacation but can't make it, you don't get to be angry with the airline for not doing something about your non refundable tickets. That's how a night at Alinea should be considered. I'm not saying I'm not sympathetic to those who find themselves in a bad situation, but making your bad situation someone else's problems is just plain rude

The reason why this is an issue now isn't because restaurants are cracking down. It's because they have to because in the past nobody would have considered doing it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:37 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


My only point is, Alinea can improve their customer service by allowing people to reschedule in emergencies. Will these mean empty tabletops sometimes? Yes. Will this stop this situation from occurring? Yes. What is their priority? Full covers or great customer service?
posted by Roger Dodger at 7:39 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


This is the kind of place people save for years to be able to go to. Something people make plans for anniversaries, for incredibly special moments. Something that the people who are eating there, they plan to remember that meal, that moment, as (hopefully) a high point in a life time of experiences

In fairness, the couple who brought their baby to the restaurant could very well fit this description as well.

Again, not justifying the decision to bring a baby to a high-end restaurant, just pointing out how much of this thread has been people imagining up scenarios based on unavailable information to bolster their viewpoint.
posted by The Gooch at 7:39 AM on January 14


It is quite easy to do, and most people I've known who have gone there have gone because they were able to purchase day-of tickets in situations similar to the one the parents in this situation avoided by taking their baby.

Purchasing tickets is easy, selling not so much. Last minute tickets is a buyer's market.
posted by melissam at 7:39 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't call it very easy. There are a bunch of hoops you must jump through

Well, that appears to be debatable, but my deeper point is that the restaurant failed in its basic duty to its other customers by (apparently, we don't know exactly what transpired without hearing from the parents) failing to address the situation in any sort of thoughtful way (yeah no, the baby's Twitter claims don't count as evidence).
posted by mediareport at 7:40 AM on January 14


I'm a non-parent and, like just about everybody, I don't love the sound of a crying child.

Having said that, it is my understanding that being a parent is one of the more difficult and demanding things a person can do in his or her life, and I feel that it is entirely without human compassion for people to say things like "parents should just stay home if they can't get a babysitter."

There's a saying attributed to Plato: "Be kind, for everyone you encounter is in a hard struggle." Parents of small children are on the short list of people for whom this is extra true.

Part of being an adult is that you have to deal with hearing noises you don't like when you're in public.
posted by gauche at 7:40 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


When you're within 100 feet of anyone, whoever you are, you have some responsibilities concerning how you behave.

One thing I've learned, especially from being a parent, is how powerless I truly am over another living being. I can do my best to shape, influence, teach, and/or communicate my thoughts and feelings to my peers, my family, and the public-at-large, but ultimately another person's thoughts, feelings, and finally their impact on those around them lie within their own decision making processes, however appropriate they feel they are at the time. This holds just as true at 2 years as it does at 50 years, and is just as applicable to the parent's of this 8 month old baby as it is to the Chef.

It can be at times frustrating, beautiful, or comical, but "other people" is something that I have no control over. Since the only person's actions I have control over are mine, when faced with unmet expectations of behavior in society, I can choose to react, or choose to accept.

With my child, I try to not cross the line between discipline and control. I have no desire to control my child, only to teach her in a manner which best fits the situation how to fit in with society so she may thrive.

I personally take my daughter outside if she's being unruly or disruptive, whether it's Golden Corral or a formal restaurant. However, I have no such expectation from any of you.

It's a fundamental component of life, which no amount of resentment, vitriol or righteousness will ever (or should ever) alter.
posted by Debaser626 at 7:42 AM on January 14 [7 favorites]


If I have learned nothing else from this thread, I will say that it is actually rather shocking to me how many of you have apparently been to Alinea, or other restaurants that cost roughly $495/person.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:43 AM on January 14 [13 favorites]


There seems to be this consensus that the parents just had the babysitter cancel, and that no way, no how, is it appropriate to bring children to high-priced restaurants, because there aren't chicken fingers or whatever. But maybe the reason that children in general are often ill-behaved at restaurants is because there is such social disapproval of bringing them anywhere, and so they don't learn how to behave.

When my daughter was younger, I could have afforded babysitting services, and still chose sometimes to take her with me to evenings out. There's a lot of commentary about how Alinea is like a play, but I brought her to opera, and it was perfectly fine, with no outbursts - because I'd practiced on bringing her to other places, and she had the experience to understand. True, she wasn't eight months, persay, but still young - maybe 3 or 4?

I think what I find ridiculous is the idea that people's dinner was ruined because a baby cried - and I honestly find it hard to believe that the baby cried continuously for three hours. I suspect it was probably a much shorter length of time, but people got pissy about it and exaggerated their discomfort.
posted by corb at 7:43 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Part of being an adult is that you have to deal with hearing noises you don't like when you're in public.

Does that count for screaming children at a symphony concert or a play, gauche? If not, then you might want to rethink your logic. There are all kinds of " difficult and demanding things a person can do in his or her life" that don't involve subjecting people to a screaming child during a paid performance.
posted by mediareport at 7:44 AM on January 14 [5 favorites]


I feel that it is entirely without human compassion for people to say things like "parents should just stay home if they can't get a babysitter."

See, no one's saying that. But if you're going to go out with your infant, you need to go to an appropriate place - somewhere where you're prepared, if need be, to ask the waiter to box everything up and just take it to go if the baby starts crying and you can't calm it. What you don't do is go to a 3-star Michelin restaurant. You also go an an appropriate time; you also don't keep the kid up past its bedtime causing it to lose its shit and ruin everyone else's evening, which may have been what happened here (just guessing).
posted by Dasein at 7:46 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


It's totally different for a restaurant that serves 64 labor intensive tasting menus in a night to walk a minimum $500 bill that represents hours and hours of prep-work that has already been done.

I agree, but 99% of restaurants at this price level do not have ticketing systems and this couple with the baby could have cancelled. The baby probably drove other customers to leave early, customers who may have stayed a little later to enjoy more glasses of the restaurant's real money maker, which is wine.
posted by melissam at 7:47 AM on January 14


The subway is sometimes also trying because there are some Indian families who ride in every day on the same train. I try to get into a different car, but I can't always, and the truth is: they stink! They smell like their food or whatever, and that's fine, in a normal place, but in a subway car, first thing in the morning, it's a little much

Good lord. Wow. Just FYI all Indian people don't typically eat curry in the morning. This comment though, really does stink. And I don't know what it has to do with babies in high end restaurants. Indian people on the subway are not babies in high end restaurants.

But wow talk about not feeling welcome places.
posted by sweetkid at 7:48 AM on January 14 [13 favorites]


I'm a parent. Have eaten at a few high end restaurants without my kids.

gauche: " Part of being an adult is that you have to deal with hearing noises you don't like when you're in public."

Yes, but parents have a responsibility not to let their kids to be disruptive when they are in public. And if they become so, removing them is only polite but also (if they're old enough) a good lesson for them to learn and take to heart.

When I took my daughter to see Frozen for the third time a couple of weeks ago, I asked her to whisper when she sang the songs -- and then whisper-sang with her in her ear to make sure she kept the volume way down. Because a lot of people in the theater had probably not seen the movie and the last thing they would have wanted was to hear a five year old belt out the songs (and interspersed dialog) at top volume. I mean, my kid's adorable, but you gotta draw the line somewhere.
posted by zarq at 7:49 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


I suspect it was probably a much shorter length of time

Again, longer than five minutes of continual screaming is more than enough reason for an ultra-high class restaurant to act to remove the problem. Like you, probably, corb, I eagerly await the parents' side of the story, but a policy of removing a screaming child after five minutes seems very reasonable to me in a high-class joint (restaurant, symphony, dramatic presentation, whatever).
posted by mediareport at 7:49 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


If I have learned nothing else from this thread, I will say that it is actually rather shocking to me how many of you have apparently been to Alinea, or other restaurants that cost roughly $495/person.

The menu at Alinea costs $210-$265 per person. Yeah, I'm sure you can easily spend $500 on wine but you don't have to.

I've been to places with two Michelin stars where the menu cost $125 per person. As someone who has not been to a place where it costs more than $200, is there actually a dramatic difference in mores and etiquette at such a place? I'm pretty sure I would be displeased at loud interruptions of my meal even where the tasting menu costs a measly $75 or so.
posted by grouse at 7:51 AM on January 14


corb: " I think what I find ridiculous is the idea that people's dinner was ruined because a baby cried - and I honestly find it hard to believe that the baby cried continuously for three hours. I suspect it was probably a much shorter length of time, but people got pissy about it and exaggerated their discomfort."

I've eaten at a number of high-end restaurants. Alinea sounds like L'Espalier in Boston -- the atmosphere is hushed and a bit like theater. The entire experience is aimed at allowing you to truly enjoy and taste your meal without distractions. In such an environment, I can see how an incessantly crying baby would be disruptive.
posted by zarq at 7:51 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


sweetkid, I think most of us are interpreting that comment as (poor/unwise) satire.
posted by gilrain at 7:52 AM on January 14 [9 favorites]


Hard to believe, given that we're the ones there at 5pm spending money when the rest of the place is empty!
posted by escabeche at 10:32 AM on January 14


I invite you to look at the comments in this thread:

Next steps now we've lost our local mom hangout?

...to get an understanding of how, just because you and your small children are "there at 5pm spending money", you're not necessarily doing a non-kid-focused restaurant any favors.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:54 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I'm trying to think through what I would have done, as a parent, back in the pre-verbal years. I think probably removed the baby to a bathroom to check on changing, or gone outside - which may still have been audible inside the restaurant, especially if it was hush-of-death quiet inside.

But the thing is, I think a lot of people are displaying some unconscious snobbery. There's nothing inherently anti-baby about eating at a 200$ a plate restaurant, or a $100 a plate restaurant. The thing is that most people have unconsciously internalized this idea of "If I go to a place that's expensive enough, the high prices will keep the riff-raff (people who do not behave as I personally think is appropriate to behave) out."

And there's really no way you can do that. Some people who behave as you consider inappropriate are going to be willing to pay the sticker price.
posted by corb at 7:57 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


corb: "Some people who behave as you consider inappropriate are going to be willing to pay the sticker price."

Agreed!
posted by zarq at 8:01 AM on January 14


Does that count for screaming children at a symphony concert or a play, gauche? If not, then you might want to rethink your logic.

No, but that's not the situation under consideration here. This was neither a play nor a concert. I'm also okay with crying children being asked to leave, e.g., recording studios and radio booths. I'm talking about restaurants and other analogous situations.
posted by gauche at 8:02 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Just imagine the online discussion if she had simply put the baby to her breast to quiet her?

Actually, it'd be about the same. ( But if you think your restaurant is more hoity-toity than the Sistine Chapel, well... you're holding a much higher opinion of it than I... )
posted by mikelieman at 8:02 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


[I believe there's a time and a place for dark humour on Metafilter if that's your thing, but absolutely not if it gets in the way of the ongoing conversation. So enough with the hyperbole and the drive-by jokes here people. I can't say this any more clearly.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:04 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I think what I find ridiculous is the idea that people's dinner was ruined because a baby cried - and I honestly find it hard to believe that the baby cried continuously for three hours. I suspect it was probably a much shorter length of time, but people got pissy about it and exaggerated their discomfort.
posted by corb at 10:43 AM on January 14


Boy, I wish you'd met my little brother when he was a baby. At times the rest of us would just gather to watch him in stunned silence, wondering when he would stop long enough to take a breath. He could go at an eardrum-piercing shriek for a solid fifteen minutes before he'd stop to gulp down air. If my parents had taken him to Alinea at that age (not that we had either the money or the inclination), the chef would've marched them to the exit at gunpoint after the first sixty seconds.

Little Bro got through that phase quickly, thank goodness. But it was like living with an air raid siren for a few months, one that would randomly go off for unspecified lengths of time.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:05 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Yes, but parents have a responsibility not to let their kids to be disruptive when they are in public. And if they become so, removing them is only polite but also (if they're old enough) a good lesson for them to learn and take to heart.

Agreed, but at 8 months of age, it's not clear to me how much power parents have over the behavior of the child or, as you rightly note, that they are old enough to take any real lessons of this nature. I don't know that there's a right answer here, but I do think that parents of small children deserve relatively more slack than the other affected parties here.

And, as corb notes, I think there's an element of classism, not in what you're saying, zarq, but somewhere in the expectation that parents shouldn't go out to a fancy restaurant with small children in tow, and that kind of has my back up a little bit.
posted by gauche at 8:09 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


No, but that's not the situation under consideration here. This was neither a play nor a concert.

You seem to be missing the point of this restaurant experience, and I can only point to the many people above who've been to this particular restaurant who would strongly disagree with your perception. The performative aspect is a key to the experience; it's a lot closer to a play or concert than to your typical restaurant. That seems very obvious to me, and I'd encourage you to consider the idea closely.
posted by mediareport at 8:10 AM on January 14 [8 favorites]


I've never taken photos of any of my more memorable meals and I'm beginning to regret it actually.

What an odd thing to say.


Why would it be odder to take a picture of a once-in-a-lifetime meal than a once-in-a-lifetime visit to some tourist attraction?
posted by aught at 8:11 AM on January 14



sweetkid, I think most of us are interpreting that comment as (poor/unwise) satire.


Positively unwise. "I'm just talking like those OTHER people talk - uh no."
posted by sweetkid at 8:11 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


The fact that people want to be able to enjoy a $500 event without hearing uninterrupted screaming from a baby is being extrapolated into talk of "non-breeders", "You were a shitty kid too" and "being a grown up means hearing sounds you don't like" illustrates the other, less visible dimension to this problem:

A screaming child in a public place isn't just annoying sonically, there's also the fact that parents who don't see any issue with it and respond to complaints with honest-to-God claims of "Civil Rights violations" means that they see their kids as an extension of themselves, entitlement and everything, and who are you to tell me how to behave?! Maybe EVERYONE ELSE should leave if my kid is bothering you!

Babies can't help being babies, but there are people responsible FOR helping them, and when they use that energy to silence complaints about their kid instead of the complaints itself, it makes the presence of a crying baby all the more imposing.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:11 AM on January 14 [26 favorites]


Also sweetkid, that was definitely someone trying to be contrarian by comparing crying babies to ugly racial stereotypes, and it was total stupid noise.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:12 AM on January 14 [8 favorites]


The thing is that most people have unconsciously internalized this idea of "If I go to a place that's expensive enough, the high prices will keep the riff-raff (people who do not behave as I personally think is appropriate to behave) out."

I don't think that's really what's going on for most people, at all. People don't eat at Alinea every week the way they might at their favorite little Italian spot in the neighborhood. It takes advance planning. It costs beaucoup money. I mean maybe Jack Welch is going there all the time just to avoid hoi polloi but for every Jack Welch you've got several couples celebrating an anniversary, and probably several tables with middle-class foodies who saved up for months to be able to dine there. It's a special event, not an everyday thing. So it's a little harder to shrug off a disturbance cutting into your enjoyment of the evening you've been planning and saving for for months.

Some of the diners at Alinea that night probably had small children of their own, incidentally. So they get a babysitter and pay a not insignificant amount of money to have a rare indulgent, quiet evening without the kid... and then they get to the restaurant and the soundtrack to their three-hour, three-figure meal is someone else's kid.
posted by payoto at 8:13 AM on January 14 [5 favorites]


If I have learned nothing else from this thread, I will say that it is actually rather shocking to me how many of you have apparently been to Alinea, or other restaurants that cost roughly $495/person.

Still less than most international and some domestic plane tickets and no one ever seems shocked that people travel internationally on threads about travel. Many of us probably know at least one person without much money who went off backpacking in another country. These days, expensive restaurants have replaced that for some people. Whether that's a good or a bad thing is debatable. A fine meal might not expand your horizons as much, but it's less likely to come with unintended consequences or expenses. The NYtimes did an article about young people who spend a lot of their budget on these kind of meals
We talk a lot about exquisite food but we rarely talk about a corollary to our fixation with it — the financial toll it takes on people who do not in any real sense have the income to afford it. Last week Yaffa Fredrick, who is 23 and a production assistant at MTV, broke down the finances of her passion for me. After taxes, she makes about $30,000 a year, a little over half of which goes to rent. In an especially frenetic dining week before the holidays, she went to Morimoto in the meatpacking district one night, Fig & Olive the next and Spice Market a few nights later, with a drinks evening sandwiched in between at Experimental Cocktail Club on the Lower East Side.
People get the impression that these restaurants only serve the super rich, and they certainly do serve the super rich, but among them you can find people who saved up money, people who are financially irresponsible and are putting it on their credit card, and the growing number of people who have fairly middle to upper middle class incomes but no dependents so they can fit these kind of meals in their budget once in awhile. Plus people who work in the industry, and who might not make a lot of money at all, but they get industry discounts or comped (free) meals. My first meal at a restaurant like Alinea was from this because my cousin is a farmer who is comped his meals there and they generously allow him to comp his family too.
posted by melissam at 8:14 AM on January 14 [11 favorites]


Why would it be odder to take a picture of a once-in-a-lifetime meal than a once-in-a-lifetime visit to some tourist attraction?

In a hushed, performative environment, I think the only thing we can reasonably expect of entitled "I MUST DOCUMENT THIS DISH IMMEDIATELY!1!!" types is that they don't use a flash.

Our civilization has sunk that low, apparently.
posted by mediareport at 8:18 AM on January 14


Mayor West: "the sweet release of death."

Often on the menu at El Bulli, no?
posted by chavenet at 8:19 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


But the thing is, I think a lot of people are displaying some unconscious snobbery. There's nothing inherently anti-baby about eating at a 200$ a plate restaurant, or a $100 a plate restaurant.

It's not about the cost in and of itself. It's about the fact that people are committing resources so that they can have a certain experience. It's like how it doesn't matter how cheap or expensive your own ticket to an opera is. The experience is meant to be seen and heard, so something which interfered with others' ability to do so would be inappropriate.

In most public spaces, babies are more than welcome, and people need to deal with the fact that they can be loud and unpredictable. You would be a jerk to complain about kids being kids in ordinary public spaces. In a way, that is why it is important to respect the fact that some spaces actually do exclude loud babies, even if mostly out of the tacit agreement that one ought to be considerate of one's fellow humans, including your bored and tired baby. It takes time and effort to cordon off these spaces, and that is why people have to commit resources in order to experience them.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:20 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


In a hushed, performative environment, I think the only thing we can reasonably expect of entitled "I MUST DOCUMENT THIS DISH IMMEDIATELY!1!!" types is that they don't use a flash.

Why is that entitled? I swear that's the most overused word around since about 2010.
posted by sweetkid at 8:25 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


The fact that people want to be able to enjoy a $500 event without hearing uninterrupted screaming from a baby is being extrapolated into talk of "non-breeders", "You were a shitty kid too" and "being a grown up means hearing sounds you don't like" illustrates the other, less visible dimension to this problem:

A screaming child in a public place isn't just annoying sonically, there's also the fact that parents who don't see any issue with it and respond to complaints with honest-to-God claims of "Civil Rights violations" means that they see their kids as an extension of themselves, entitlement and everything, and who are you to tell me how to behave?! Maybe EVERYONE ELSE should leave if my kid is bothering you!


We also have people complaining about seeing babies at coffee houses, museums, grocery stores, and any restaurants that take reservations. One commenter expressed a hope to never see or hear a child again. This isn't just about the specific restaurant. Some people really dislike kids. Parents, some of whom are sick of nast looks and snide remarks, react to that dislike.

I try to get my kids to behave in public and they usually do a good job. However, they will sometimes cry or act up. If you can't handle sometimes hearing a kid cry, then you should stay away from most public spaces.

(Obviously, this restaurant is in a different category of spaces.)
posted by Area Man at 8:27 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


The thing is that most people have unconsciously internalized this idea of "If I go to a place that's expensive enough, the high prices will keep the riff-raff (people who do not behave as I personally think is appropriate to behave) out."

Well, yes. You're paying that money specifically because other people won't. In that sense, it's actually rather similar to joining MetaFilter. Why did we all pay five dollars? There are other websites we could have joined for free. In part, we paid because we like the atmosphere created by that barrier. It elevates the endeavor by excluding anyone who isn't prepared to take this place at least five dollars' worth of seriously. Maybe five dollars is a small amount, but it seems to work and the principle holds.

Having a noisy table beside you in Alinea is irksome because of the money you're spending, yes, but more so because avoiding noisy tables is precisely why you spent that money in the first place.

There seems to be this consensus that the parents just had the babysitter cancel

I have no idea where that assumption came from.
posted by cribcage at 8:29 AM on January 14 [8 favorites]


Will these mean empty tabletops sometimes? Yes.

You should at least try to address the issues noted in the comment above that suggested only 2 cancelled tables could kill the night:

Alinea in Chicago was no different, a restaurant where just two canceled tables could mean a 100 percent loss of profit. "It was kind of an eye-opener to me as to how much of an impact no-shows had at relatively small restaurants," says Alinea co-owner Nick Kokonas. "And also how many people had dead grandmothers."
posted by mediareport at 8:30 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Area Man: We also have people complaining about seeing babies at coffee houses, museums, grocery stores, and any restaurants that take reservations.

No we have not. People complained about kids out of control in those places. Just because grocery stores are obviously places that should be kid-friendly, that does not mean it should be a kid free-for-all.

One commenter expressed a hope to never see or hear a child again.

Since you're not being faithful in reporting other people's words, let's look at what I actually said:

As much as I would love to never see or hear a child again, I don't expect that to happen or expect you to try to make it happen. I do expect you to remove a screaming kid from most public places. I expect you not to have your little kid push the shopping cart (somehow invariably into my ankle) despite how cute it is. I expect you to say something to your kid the first time he runs into my table and spills my drink, not the fourth time.


Just because a public space isn't Aliena, that doesn't make it Chuck E Cheese, either.
posted by spaltavian at 8:33 AM on January 14 [29 favorites]


Why is that entitled? I swear that's the most overused word around since about 2010.

Oh god, it's totally entitled. Presuming you can flash your way through a fine dining experience, with all the other diners having to put up with your flash photos for your oh-so-essential blog, because you can't use words effectively to describe things, as they try to enjoy their meal?

Please. Next to 'entitled' in the dictionary is a picture of a sometime-food-blogger flash-photo-ing an appetizer.
posted by mediareport at 8:34 AM on January 14


Some people really dislike kids.

True but this is a fraught topic. Calling people "non breeders"and saying ugly things about them because they don't have kids (either ever or yet) is really insensitive. I know a lot of people having fertility issues and they're non breeders because, well, they can't. They also get a lot of vitriol about how they can't possibly understand the difficulty of being parents, plus the constant "you'll never know love until your little one blah blah blah."

Still others had terrible childhoods and are uncertain about having children of their own for that reason.

That's not the motivation/story for everyone, and yea some people just don't like kids, but if you have kids consider that everyone who doesn't isn't "militantly childfree."
posted by sweetkid at 8:35 AM on January 14 [23 favorites]


Why is that entitled? I swear that's the most overused word around since about 2010.

Oh god, it's totally entitled. Presuming you can flash your way through a fine dining experience, with all the other diners having to put up with your flash photos for your oh-so-essential blog, because you can't use words effectively to describe things, as they try to enjoy their meal?

Please. Next to 'entitled' in the dictionary is a picture of a sometime-food-blogger flash-photo-ing an appetizer.


Are non Flash photos OK with you? I don't personally photograph my food but I don't care if others do it. I don't see what it has to do with entitlement. I'd file it under "people do different things."
posted by sweetkid at 8:37 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Yes, non-flash photos of meals as they are unfolding are classless and insulting, but no more so than any other attempt to document an experience that interferes with the experience itself.

But flash photos in a relatively high-end restaurant? Good lord. That's disgustingly obnoxious behavior, and should be shamed whenever possible.

(For the record, I have opinions on third- and fourth-world problems as well.)
posted by mediareport at 8:40 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


The easiest way to ensure that people keep their kids in check at a coffee shop is to give the offending children a double espresso with 4 packets of sugar in it each time they come in. Soon enough the parents will decide that it isn't worth the hassle of dealing with a souped up kid when they get home.
posted by koolkat at 8:45 AM on January 14


Yes, non-flash photos of meals as they are unfolding are classless and insulting, but no more so than any other attempt to document an experience that interferes with the experience itself.

You're gonna have to spell this one out to me. How did me taking a picture of the dishes in front of me interfere with the experience? And how was it insulting to anyone? As I said before, the kitchen puts a lot of effort into making the food look pretty. Why would they be insulted that I want to take a photo of it?
posted by asterix at 8:45 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Flash is a red herring in the "Photograph or not?" debate. I have almost never seen flash used in Michelin rooms except occasionally when people are being seated or leaving and they ask the hostess or waiter to snap a photo of them. Not to inflame the conversation with a radical analogy, but it's pretty similar to talking about age of consent in polygamy. It's the ground we all agree on, so it kinda obfuscates the point of disagreement that somebody's attempting to make.

I don't see what's bothersome about somebody taking photos of their meal (or each other, or whatever) across the room from me. I don't think medical discussions are appropriate for the dinner table either, but that's my hang-up as long as the doctors over at table 11 are using indoor voices.
posted by cribcage at 8:47 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


The disdain for people who enjoy fancy foods is really puzzling. Is it just people who enjoy fancy foods you hate? or anyone enjoys fancy anything? Beer? coffee? pens? shoes?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:47 AM on January 14


Ugh. Pen fanciers and their endless clicking.
posted by selfnoise at 8:49 AM on January 14 [7 favorites]


Take as many pix as you like to document your restaurant experience. It's not my thing, but I'll give you a pass. But the instant you use a flash? You're in crying baby territory.
posted by mediareport at 8:55 AM on January 14


> no more so than any other attempt to document an experience that interferes with the experience itself

Your annoyance at the way others are potentially ruining their dining experiences seems to be interfering with your enjoyment of your own dining experiences. Is that also classless, or is there an exception for curmudgeons?
posted by gilrain at 8:55 AM on January 14


Some people really dislike kids.

True but this is a fraught topic. Calling people "non breeders"and saying ugly things about them because they don't have kids (either ever or yet) is really insensitive. I know a lot of people having fertility issues and they're non breeders because, well, they can't. They also get a lot of vitriol about how they can't possibly understand the difficulty of being parents, plus the constant "you'll never know love until your little one blah blah blah."


I didn't call anyone a breeder, say anything about how non-parents can't understand, or say other ugly things about people who don't have kids. So, I'm assuming you are responding to someone else despite having quoted me. I think someone above did refer to non-breeders, but it wasn't me.
posted by Area Man at 9:01 AM on January 14


Ugh. Pen fanciers and their endless clicking.

Quite. With their fountain pens and their ink and their fancy calligraphy writing and their engraved, name-embossed lettering extending up the shaft and the way they look over their bifocal glasses at us people, the little people with our cheap supermarket pens and, as they prominently hold their Parker Sonnet Mk 2 between thumb and first finger, like an engorged penile extension, real blue ink veining to the steel split-end artisanal nib while we fluster to make anything come out of our ballpoints, you can literally feel their condescending negative, smug, thoughts directed at us. Their nibs, for God's sake. Their nibs.
posted by Wordshore at 9:02 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


I have two kids, and we take them out to fancy restaurants all the time. Not when they were in a cryfest age, of course, and when they hit the "I have just learned to walk and must therefore be in motion at all times!" stage my husband and I ate a lot of meals in shifts, but still, I think both my kids had been to Tom Douglas restaurants before they were a year old.

However: I would never take them to Alinea. I've never eaten there, but I've eaten at the Herbfarm, which is like one nock below Alinea in terms of both fanciness and performativeness, and I would have been very surprised to see a baby there. (Although the Herbfarm has a few private dining rooms, and based on the level of service we got there, I would expect that if someone DID bring a baby and the baby began to cry, the answer would be to move them to an empty private room. Alinea does not have private dining.) I sing with the Seattle Symphony, which has a strict "no babes in arms" policy, and this is very much the same thing.

That having been said, the idea that children should not be in (ahem) "normal places like Starbucks" is absurd. That's part of the point of them being normal places -- you encounter normal people in them. Some of those normal people will be children.
posted by KathrynT at 9:05 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]



I didn't call anyone a breeder, say anything about how non-parents can't understand, or say other ugly things about people who don't have kids. So, I'm assuming you are responding to someone else despite having quoted me. I think someone above did refer to non-breeders, but it wasn't me.


I was just continuing the conversation, actually.
posted by sweetkid at 9:07 AM on January 14


Here's a segment from this morning's Good Morning America in which Achatz discusses his opinions on the situation caused by the couple who brought in their baby.

For those unable to see the video, Achatz tells GMA: "I could hear it crying in the kitchen." He also explains why having a crying kid in the restaurant is such a problem: "We want people to come and enjoy and experience Alinea for what it is. But we also have to be cognizant of the other 80 people that came in to experience Alinea that night."

(Apparently when the episode aired this morning, the titles referred to Achatz by the name Greg, but a mispronunciation of Alinea is still there in the introduction to the segment.)
posted by magstheaxe at 9:07 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I am a guy who just doesn't mind the sound of a crying baby that much, so to keep this in perspective, I try to ask myself: how would I feel if I paid a lot of money for a really fancy meal, and somebody at the table nearby lit up a cigarette? (I know this wouldn't happen any more in the US, but it certainly would have happened when I was a kid, and I think there are a lot of places where smoking in restaurants still happens, right?) I mean, this is a foreign substance, terrible-smelling to everyone other than the smokers in the room, literally entering my nose and mouth and mixing with the food I'm trying to eat.

And yet for years, people just put up with it, even in the fanciest places.

Anyway, whenever I read these threads, I try to remind myself, "OK, for some people, listening to a baby makes them feel the way breathing someone else's smoke makes me feel."

That said, if my kid throws a tantrum in the grocery store, I'm not leaving the grocery store, no way no how. A grocery store is not Alinea and it's not the symphony.
posted by escabeche at 9:08 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


gilrain, I have no objection to an accusation of curmudgeonliness (it's true, to my everlasting shame), but my objection here is to a practice that interferes with others' enjoyment of a shared experience. If the shared space is lit quietly enough that you need a flash to document it for all your instagram pals later, you need to step off and realize your problem is the ultimate first world one, and decline the opportunity to flash-photo your current experience for later.

I.e., stop fucking up other peoples' current real-life world for your instagram future world.
posted by mediareport at 9:10 AM on January 14


That said, if my kid throws a tantrum in the grocery store, I'm not leaving the grocery store, no way no how.

Yeah, if I'd left the store every time my kid threw a tantrum, I would have just been teaching her that if she doesn't like what we're doing, all she has to do is yell and we'll leave. Ahahahaha no, particularly not when we're out of milk and diapers and eggs and lord knows what else. Sometimes we have to do necessary chores, even when we're not in the mood.
posted by KathrynT at 9:13 AM on January 14 [7 favorites]


And how was it insulting to anyone?

Interfering with reality to save a picture of reality to show to someone else in a later reality is insulting to the current reality you're interfering with to save for later.

This seems like basic philosophy to me, but I admit my philosophy is kind of esoteric.
posted by mediareport at 9:15 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I think the thing to get across is how inappropriate even in the realm of fine dining restaurants Alinea is for small children. This is closer to an interactive floor show than a meal. I'd be much quicker to take a small child (if I had an expectation of appropriate behavior) to L'Ambroisie (way more expensive, way more staid and traditional) or something like that than I would Alinea.

I mean I'm a parent - we've take our one year old to places like one notch below true fine dining here in NYC no problem - he's very quiet. But something like this that's half floor show? No way.

My parents started taking me to fine dining places like in Europe when I was 4 or 5 as well. So my bias is for kids to be exposed to things like this early - but Alinea is just a no IMHO.

I've been to places with two Michelin stars where the menu cost $125 per person. As someone who has not been to a place where it costs more than $200, is there actually a dramatic difference in mores and etiquette at such a place?

No not really that different. Certainly not notable. The biggest differences aren't going to be price but rather tradition. I'd think a place like super high end Japanese would be really really hard for a child.
posted by JPD at 9:15 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I once had someone break out a Macro Flash set at a place here in NYC. I actually took a picture of the guy taking the picture and sent that to all my foodie friends.
posted by JPD at 9:17 AM on January 14


This seems like basic philosophy to me

It seems like you're talking about etiquette, not philosophy.
posted by sweetkid at 9:24 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


> my objection here is to a practice that interferes with others' enjoyment of a shared experience

In the sentence I quoted, you referred to taking a non-flash photo as being classless. You've backed off on that, then? I do agree that taking flash photos in a restaurant with a quiet atmosphere is rude.
posted by gilrain at 9:29 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I find it amazing that there are people who actually revel in having fewer options in life, even to such an extreme that they cannot help rationalize dragging everyone else down with them — taking active pleasure in it, even. It's a weird kind of externally-directed or inverted anhedonia, where the subject can only take pleasure in life by denying it to others.
Hey, Blaze, if you could point out to me where I said I wanted to deny anybody anything, that'd be great...

Perhaps I do have fewer options in life, and I am damn sure not reveling in it, thank you very much, but I also can't say I've had too much sturm und drang over missing out on the chance to eat sautéed artisanal fish heads. However, if other people want to pay ridiculous sums of money for overpriced, overthought and overwrought 'haute cuisine', go right the hell ahead. Don't let little old me stop you.

All I said, or meant to say, was: while doing so, try not to be such a selfish, exclusionary, entitled prick about it. Show a little empathy for the children, babies, and parents who might happen to be there with you. If this interferes with the full enjoyment of your minced duckbill platypus flambé, perhaps you should reconsider your priorities.
posted by KHAAAN! at 9:29 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


[Comment removed. I think we were crystal clear about no baby revenge fantasies. People may want to contact mediareport over MeMail if you need in depth information about his dining preferences.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:30 AM on January 14


It seems germane to me that the parents a) got their tickets when the kid was 6mos old, so its age was no surprise; and b) might have had a bit of foresight to get a backup babysitter.

The restaurant could also require a ticket for each person at the table.
posted by rhizome at 9:31 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


It seems like you're talking about etiquette, not philosophy.

Philosophy of life includes, if not exactly equals, etiquette.

I'd be interested in an argument to the contrary, but suspect it would be a question of semantics.
posted by mediareport at 9:37 AM on January 14


Show a little empathy for the children, babies, and parents who might happen to be there with you. If this interferes with the full enjoyment of your minced duckbill platypus flambé, perhaps you should reconsider your priorities.

Funnily enough, you could turn that sentiment exactly around and suggest parents with children who are screaming or generally carrying on (and how many times must it be noted that posters are only talking about misbehaving children, and yet there remains a few who act as if this means they want all children to disappear?) have a little empathy for the adults around them who might not want to full experience of the worst their child has to offer.

So many parents in this thread are reasonable about how sometimes, some places, maybe having a loud, misbehaving child present is not a good idea. But there's always a few who demand that everyone must prioritise their child's behaviour, not just the parents. Much like the suggestion that Alinea should take a loss because a couple brought their baby and it disrupted everyone's experience, rather than perhaps the baby shouldn't have been there in the first place. Whatever salient suggestions might be made are being wasted by fruitless strawman arguments.

I mean. I'm pro-kids. But there are limits. The right to your screaming baby ends where my migraine begins.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:40 AM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Let's all agree to feed babies, and none of us feed that other thing.
posted by cribcage at 9:41 AM on January 14


If this interferes with the full enjoyment of your minced duckbill platypus flambé, perhaps you should reconsider your priorities.

Indeed, platypus is terrible, stick to organic seafood.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:44 AM on January 14


rhizome: "b) might have had a bit of foresight to get a backup babysitter."

To play devil's advocate, new parents don't always think that far ahead or know/trust enough people who can step in and watch their baby at short notice. (Babysitting an infant is obviously different than watching a 5 year old.) My wife and I didn't have a second sitter on call back then. If the babysitter cancelled, we cancelled our plans.
posted by zarq at 9:45 AM on January 14


We went out to "nice" places a few times a year when I was a kid. My parents gave us The Look, and then we shut up. We also had to keep good manners at our dinner table at home the other 355 nights of the year, though, with elbows down and civil conversation carried along by all and no randomly getting up and walking around.

Now that I have four kids of my own, I miss that! I am trying hard to teach my kids those manners, and also restricting our meals out to places that correspond to their maturity. *shrug* It sucks, but as they learn we go to nicer places.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:58 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


To be clear, I mean "breeder" not as an insult but the hope that one of you people is Kim Deal.
posted by dr_dank at 10:11 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


My wife and I didn't have a second sitter on call back then.

There was two-months lead-time here, not "on call."

Show a little empathy for the children, babies, and parents who might happen to be there with you.

Let's have some perspective, nobody just "happens to be" at Alinea.
posted by rhizome at 10:14 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Interfering with reality to save a picture of reality to show to someone else in a later reality is insulting to the current reality you're interfering with to save for later.

I presume this means you have never taken a picture of anyone or anything you care about for fear of being "insulting?"

Anyway, calling this kind of sloppy nonsense "philosophy" is insulting to actual philosophers. For one thing, experiences lack emotions and cannot be offended by your actions, including taking a picture. There is no such thing as hate speech against sunsets.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:16 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Ok, here's my meager attempt to Ban Ki-moon this situation:

At certain sittings (maybe one day a week for example), allow young children. Stipulate to diners buying tickets that children under 12 may be present during those times. The rest of the week, request adults only.

If an emergency like a babysitter cancelling comes up, allow the table to exchange their tickets for another sitting that allows children. Charge a fee if the change is 24 hours or less before the reservation.

Oh lord, kumbaya
posted by gohabsgo at 10:17 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Stipulate to diners buying tickets that children under 12 may be present during those times. The rest of the week, request adults only.

What about the all important 12-18 market? When can they enjoy the finer things in life in your despotic rule? Or are you in the apron of Big Hosting and Scheduling?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:20 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


rhizome: " There was two-months lead-time here, not "on call.""

"On Call" means if a sitter cancels the night of your date, you have another one on speed dial. Not having one on call means you're not ready for that eventuality.
posted by zarq at 10:20 AM on January 14


gohabsgo: "At certain sittings (maybe one day a week for example), allow young children."

I'm curious to see what a $125 tasting menu of mac and cheese would look like. I'm also curious to know if my kids would eat it. :D
posted by zarq at 10:22 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]



What about the all important 12-18 market? When can they enjoy the finer things in life in your despotic rule? Or are you in the apron of Big Hosting and Scheduling?!


Assuming their diapers are changed before they go out and they can control their crying, teenagers would be welcome.

No Linkin Park T-shirts though.
posted by gohabsgo at 10:23 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


There is no such thing as hate speech against sunsets.

Old Man Yells at Cloud
posted by sweetkid at 10:25 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Not saying to tailor the menu to kids, just allow them one day a week if necessary (or a couple of nights, whatever works). Probably still wouldn't get an enormous number of families on those nights due to the menu/price point.
posted by gohabsgo at 10:25 AM on January 14


gohabsgo, oh, I was totally joking. :)
posted by zarq at 10:29 AM on January 14


The thing is, this really isn't a kid space. One day a week would be vastly too much -- I could maybe, MAYBE see twice a year, but certainly not more than that, and none at all would make way more sense. It's just. . . not a place for children. Having kids there would be like having TVs up with the game on, it would totally alter the experience from Alinea to not-Alinea.
posted by KathrynT at 10:29 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


All I said, or meant to say, was: while doing so, try not to be such a selfish, exclusionary, entitled prick about it. Show a little empathy for the children, babies, and parents who might happen to be there with you. If this interferes with the full enjoyment of your minced duckbill platypus flambé, perhaps you should reconsider your priorities.

Wait the diners are being the pricks here? I think you ought to reconsider your priorities here.
posted by Carillon at 10:30 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


gohabsgo: "Stipulate to diners buying tickets that children under 12 may be present during those times."

Given that my 4 year old will only eat one item at Noodles & Co (Pesto! No mushrooms! No tomatoes!) I can't see why bringing a kid old enough to eat solids would be a good idea anywhere that features exotic stuff on the menu.

Note for the record that "exotic stuff" to a 4 year old is basically anything. Including things as bland as canned chicken noodle soup ("I don't like the water part").
posted by caution live frogs at 10:31 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


The thing is, this really isn't a kid space.

Well, let's make it one! It's never to early to get your children introduced to the finer things in life, why not manners and fine food? Strained spinach with a hint of cloves and garlic! Applesauce made from custom grown apple trees that are handpicked and then injected with a hint of cinnamon and cherry flavoring, made fresh daily!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:33 AM on January 14


Zarq: Well-said. And of course, they always have other options.

KathrynT: Maybe once a week is too much, up to the restaurant to decide how often makes sense for them.

I still don't think bringing a kid to a Michelin-starred restaurant makes a whole lot of sense. That said, this would allow Alinea to cater primarily to adults only, without looking like baby-hating gargoyles.
posted by gohabsgo at 10:34 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


without looking like baby-hating gargoyles.

A restaurant staffed by baby-hating gargoyles is not a detriment for all of us. Why should the chef have to cater to the baby market?

Not everything on earth has to be child friendly.
posted by winna at 10:40 AM on January 14 [23 favorites]


Here's a question: I can think of other circumstances under which someone could have come to dinner at Alinea, only to have it become apparent that this wasn't a good idea. Maybe they get ill during the dinner -- spike a fever, start coughing uncontrollably, you can go from "I think I'll be OK" to "No actually this is really not all right" in two or three hours pretty easily. Maybe they get a migraine. How would the restaurant handle that situation? I think whatever they did there, they should have done here.
posted by KathrynT at 10:41 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


IIRC AMC movie theaters had a no infants policy for many years. Ultimately they had to revoke this policy and narrow it to meet legal concern related to civil rights.
posted by humanfont at 10:42 AM on January 14


I guess the jokes about baby back ribs served with Guy Fieri donkey sauce are out.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:44 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Pretty sure gargoyles like babies just fine.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:44 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Why should the chef have to cater to the baby market?

Or Jews, Blacks or Mexicans....
posted by humanfont at 10:44 AM on January 14


Or Jews, Blacks or Mexicans….

Or Black/Jewish Gargolyes who date Mexicans?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:45 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I am all about the gargoyles! I'm a DINK type myself and have no interest in having an expensive dining experience ruined by screaming children.
That said, I know not everyone agrees with my ideal world. And I know Alinea might not want to appear cold toward people with kids.

By designating certain nights as allowing kids, you are also guaranteeing that there will be *no kids* on all the other nights. That's when I'd be making my reservation.
posted by gohabsgo at 10:45 AM on January 14


I'm someone who's banned children, though not in a dining context.

I sometimes run games at local conventions and because I'm female and run novice friendly games, I occasionally get folks that think it's okay to use me as free babysitting. After an especially bad experience with a child who thought that running around the table and throwing people's character sheets and dice to the ground was fine, I started banning children from my tables.

I later worked a convention that didn't have an age flag and was faced with a mother who took the time to introduce herself and ask if it was ok for her children who had signed up to play. I'm not the sort of person who can tell a parent that I don't like their kids sight unseen, so I said ok and suppressed my misgivings. (Also because there was no 'no kids' label and it would not have been fair to either the kids or the parents to spring that on them, even if the mother clearly recognized the possibility.) The kids, one of whom was younger than my earlier nightmare player, were amazing - well behaved, and there to participate, not because their parents wanted someone else to deal with them for four hours.

The difference was clearly parenting and context. I relaxed my stance... and got burned again.

So, what's a fair person to do, with no way to tell whether a kid I'm faced with is there because their parents want free babysitting or specifically wants the experience I'm providing? Just tell the other seven players to suck it up if they get stuck being my co-babysitters instead of the experience they signed up for? Stop a four hour event for up to a hour while tracking down a responsible adult? Try to discipline a stranger's kid and risk the shitstorm that can trigger? It's a problem I don't have with adult players (my gentle hints seems to work better on adults for some reason.) Or just lay out a nobody under 16 without an accompanying adult policy?

I really do regret missing out on the many great younger players that are getting caught in my blanket ban, but I don't know a better option.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:46 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


So, what's a fair person to do, with no way to tell whether a kid I'm faced with is there because their parents want free babysitting or specifically wants the experience I'm providing?

FWIW, my suggestion in that context would be "All children under 12 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian over the age of 18."

If you want to hang out and game with your kid for 4 hours, fantastic. If you want to dump your kid on a DM for 4 hours, no.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:48 AM on January 14 [7 favorites]


I think there's an element of classism, not in what you're saying, zarq, but somewhere in the expectation that parents shouldn't go out to a fancy restaurant with small children in tow, and that kind of has my back up a little bit.
posted by gauche at 11:09 AM on January 14



I genuinely don't see how it's classist. I think it's more an issue of the expectation of good parental judgement.


There's good points made upthread about being understanding to the parents, and I do appreciate those points. I think what gets me is that a dining experience like Alinea is very obviously not going to do anything for a toddler other than irritate it, and the parents who chose to bring him along were clearly taking a gamble that they probably suspected they were going to lose.


I know that things happen and sitters cancel at the last possible minute. It's frustrating and upsetting and sometimes it's expensive for the parents when that happens.


But shouldn't the priority be your child's well-being? Otherwise--in addition to leaving you with an unhappy toddler that's probably going to take you another three hours to get settled down--it can come across to the casual observer as, "I really wanted to do this, so I've decided to be dismissive of my child's needs during this event." That may not be the case, but a casual observer isn't going to be able tell that.


It seems to me that if a toddler has to be someplace for an extended time, a parent prioritizes getting him into (or creating) an environment that's comfortable for him, that at least partially accommodates his routines, and that allows for as many of his needs to be met as possible. Not all places (such as Alinea) are going to be able to do that. Those places aren't bad or evil or hate children because they weren't designed for it, just like you're not bad or evil or hate sick people for not having your home set up so that a doctor can perform brain surgery in it.


In a situation like this one, I get why people aren't offering their understanding to the parents. There's a certain amount of deliberate stubbornness that goes into deciding to bring your toddler to a place like Alinea, the sort of stubbornness that causes people to stand on mountaintops during thunderstorms in wet copper armor shouting "All gods are bastards". No matter how you break it down, it's just not a good idea, and you can't honestly claim to be surprised when it goes wrong.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:48 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Can we please, PLEASE stop comparing not being able to take your very small child to dinner at an extremely high-end fine dining establishment (a condition that can be avoided by hiring a sitter, or waiting a few years until your child is old enough to enjoy such a meal) with being permanently banned from the premises because of your ethnicity or religion?
posted by palomar at 10:51 AM on January 14 [51 favorites]


yes, and it's also ridiculous because babies can be Jewish, Black or Mexican, to recall the silly comparison made above.
posted by sweetkid at 10:52 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


So, what's a fair person to do, with no way to tell whether a kid I'm faced with is there because their parents want free babysitting or specifically wants the experience I'm providing?

Kids have to be accompanied by adults. If a kid is very well behaved, after an hour you can let the parent go. You can add an exception that well-behaved children are allowed to attend without parents on their second or third session.

Maybe they get a migraine. How would the restaurant handle that situation?

I assume that the person with a migraine is not screaming or crying, so they will either make the decision to leave or to stay all by themselves, as their migraine does not affect other diners. A better question is what the restaurant would do if an adult started yelling during dinner.
posted by jeather at 10:52 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Why should the chef have to cater to the baby market?
Or Jews, Blacks or Mexicans....


How are these remotely comparable?

Oh, right—they aren't.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:54 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


[Folks maybe ease off the casual "Oh yeah well what if this happened to the Jews?" and deal with the facts of this actual situation or be prepared to explain how the comparison you are making makes any sense at all.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:57 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I'm curious to see what a $125 tasting menu of mac and cheese would look like.

I love comfort food menus. One of my all-time favorites was Nobhill in Las Vegas. By objective standard, there was a lot wrong with the menu. It was tremendously over-heavy: fried chicken, mac and cheese, ribeye, lobster pot pie, chocolate soufflé. It lacked contrast, those lighter moments. But I absolutely loved it.

It's not a bad idea to do occasional kids' lunches. There are a few logistical hurdles. For one, margins are razor thin, and kids aren't going to be ordering wine. You still need to pay your staff, etc. Clio in Boston (which I think is tremendously overrated but oh well) has done Sunday fried-chicken dinners in the summertime. I think that's the closest I've seen. They weren't exactly raking in profits, to my understanding.

Separately: that's the second time that user has thrown a racial comment into this thread. Let's just flag and move on.
posted by cribcage at 10:58 AM on January 14


What's next, separate water fountains?

Oh. My. God.
posted by gilrain at 10:58 AM on January 14 [9 favorites]


I think what gets me is that a dining experience like Alinea is very obviously not going to do anything for a toddler other than irritate it, and the parents who chose to bring him along were clearly taking a gamble that they probably suspected they were going to lose.

There's two points to that.

1) Does Alinea have a policy for disruptive guests that are not babies? What if someone brings a date to impress him and he talks loudly the entire time? What if someone is sick and sneezing and coughing? What if someone leaves their cellphone loudly on a piece of music? What is done in those circumstances?

2) Why assume that toddler automatically equals scene? It did this time, but it doesn't mean it had to. The kid could have just been very happily content.

The other point that I'm thinking of - if Alinea doesn't have highchairs, or changing tables (which I actually thought were required), is it possible the kid was screaming because it was having to sit on the mother's lap in an awkward position? Or possibly because he had to be changed upside down on a wall or whatever?
posted by corb at 11:04 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I'm curious to see what a $125 tasting menu of mac and cheese would look like.

Here you go (from Next Restaurant's Childhood menu).
posted by carrienation at 11:04 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I am all about the gargoyles! I'm a DINK type myself and have no interest in having an expensive dining experience ruined by screaming children.
That said, I know not everyone agrees with my ideal world. And I know Alinea might not want to appear cold toward people with kids.

By designating certain nights as allowing kids, you are also guaranteeing that there will be *no kids* on all the other nights. That's when I'd be making my reservation.


But Alinea is already never an appropriate restaurant for young children, and yet, here we are with a screaming 8 month old baby.

All you would be guaranteeing is that there would be nights when you have to try to cater for children and the totally different atmosphere of a restaurant filled with children and then other nights when clueless parents ignored the no child policy, whether it was formal or common-sense.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:06 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


But what about the baby's side of the story? He's on Twitter!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:07 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


It's almost like people don't want to be part of a society. "Children? In this restaurant???"
posted by disconnect at 11:09 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Why assume that toddler automatically equals scene?

Karmakaze answered that above.
posted by cribcage at 11:12 AM on January 14


All you would be guaranteeing is that there would be nights when you have to try to cater for children and the totally different atmosphere of a restaurant filled with children and then other nights when clueless parents ignored the no child policy, whether it was formal or common-sense.

Hey,

What I am suggesting is a partial ban on children, not catering to them. Do not change the menu, do not change the price points. Only allow them to be brought to the restaurant at all by parents on certain days and make sure other patrons know of the possibility of their presence ahead of time so we can avoid this kind of thing.

But I guess there's no middle ground here?
posted by gohabsgo at 11:14 AM on January 14


I sincerely doubt that a universe exists in which Alinea would be filled with children, even on these nights. Not going for child-friendly here, more like child-tolerating.
posted by gohabsgo at 11:16 AM on January 14


I assume that the person with a migraine is not screaming or crying, so they will either make the decision to leave or to stay all by themselves, as their migraine does not affect other diners.

Well, what I mean is: do they comp out their tickets, offer them first dibs at another spot, or what?
posted by KathrynT at 11:17 AM on January 14


(I saw in some news article confirmation that the babysitter did indeed cancel and the couple decided to go anyways, since we were wondering about the babysitter thing.)
posted by jeather at 11:17 AM on January 14


if Alinea doesn't have highchairs, or changing tables (which I actually thought were required), is it possible the kid was screaming because it was having to sit on the mother's lap in an awkward position? Or possibly because he had to be changed upside down on a wall or whatever?

Sure, there are many scenarios we can make up in a "let's all play devil's advocate" world where the people involved were in an awkward jam and this was unavoidable and/or the restaurant behaved inappropriately. This is a scenario that is high on outrage and pretty low on actual facts. However, people have been trying to add additional details in some of the links in the comments as they show up.

But in answer to your question: no, restaurants do not have to have high chairs. They just risk losing potential diners without them.
posted by jessamyn at 11:17 AM on January 14 [10 favorites]


It's almost like people don't want to be part of a society. "Children? In this restaurant???"

oh COME ON!

Does any of these make sense to you:

It's almost like people don't want to be part of a society. "Children? In this play???"
It's almost like people don't want to be part of a society. "Children? In this orchestra???"
It's almost like people don't want to be part of a society. "Children? In this opera???"
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:18 AM on January 14 [7 favorites]


Why can't children go to the orchestra? My wife grew up attending orchestra concerts. I don't think she went as a toddler or anything, but why is the very idea of a child at the orchestra presented as if it is absurd?
posted by Area Man at 11:20 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


gauche: " Agreed, but at 8 months of age, it's not clear to me how much power parents have over the behavior of the child or, as you rightly note, that they are old enough to take any real lessons of this nature. I don't know that there's a right answer here, but I do think that parents of small children deserve relatively more slack than the other affected parties here. "

I agree, but it's okay and proper to leave when your kid becomes a public nuisance.

I've left meals at regular restaurants with friends in order to take one of my kids home after they became seriously disruptive. It happens. Being a parent of a young child sometimes means that you're not going to get to do nice things.
posted by zarq at 11:21 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I don't think she went as a toddler or anything, but why is the very idea of a child at the orchestra presented as if it is absurd?

My orchestra has a "no babes in arms" rule, and strongly suggests no children under 8. If you're with a kid and the kid starts making noise, you are offered the option between moving to the cough room or experiencing the rest of the show from the lobby (where there is a big TV and the sound is piped in, it's not like you just miss it).
posted by KathrynT at 11:24 AM on January 14 [5 favorites]


What I am suggesting is a partial ban on children, not catering to them. Do not change the menu, do not change the price points. Only allow them to be brought to the restaurant at all by parents on certain days and make sure other patrons know of the possibility of their presence ahead of time so we can avoid this kind of thing.

But I guess there's no middle ground here?


What if Alinea had a night a week when non-service dogs were allowed? By making a policy like that public, you are implicitly saying "this is a night it's okay to bring dogs here"; at least that's how some people (probably not the most conscientious ones either) will interpret it. And if people read your statement as implicitly inviting dogs, some of them are going to expect you to to cater for dogs, which is not unreasonable from their implicit reading. And then at least someone is going to be upset; either the people who expect you to cater for their dogs, or the people who don't expect there to be dogs at a world-class avant-garde restaurant.

It's very difficult to set a policy that is "some nights, x is tolerated even though it really isn't appropriate even then, and other nights, x is not tolerated at all"; you can only reasonably expect people to get either "x is okay", "x is not okay" or "x is okay on these nights and not on these others". And even then, as this case proves, the implicit understanding that a hushed, several hour tasting menu is not a place to bring a fussy baby doesn't always work.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:28 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


There's a "cough room" at Benaroya Hall? What is the cough room like? Is the sound piped in there too? Are there complimentary throat lozenges? Is this a common facility in symphony halls? How do I find it?

This is the most fascinating piece of information I've learned in this 384-comment thread.
posted by grouse at 11:29 AM on January 14 [24 favorites]


My orchestra has a "no babes in arms" rule, and strongly suggests no children under 8.

That may be under the Karmakaze Rule, though - where it's not that all children are misbehaved, but rather that some are and it's impossible to make a blanket rule to cover all of them.

FWIW, my kid was a perfect doll. The only outburst happened once when the orchestra stopped in preparation for raising the curtain in the beginning and the curtain had issues - she turned to me and very sadly said, "Is it over?" in a little louder-than-hushed. Everyone around us was amused rather than horrified though - I imagine particularly because she was silenced once everything started again.
posted by corb at 11:31 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Taking some kids to the orchestra is perfectly fine, and no one is really saying otherwise! My young, music-loving niece would be thrilled at the chance to wear a fancy dress and see all of the scenery and hear the music. She's 5, though, and can sit reasonably still for an hour or two, and responds well to being hushed. And it would definitely work better if we took her to a matinee performance rather than something that began right at the witching hour of her bed and bathtime, when she's more prone to the odd outburst of tears.

My other niece who was a screamer (even the pedatrician said she had no major health/developmental issues, but was just an "angry baby") from birth to age 2.5? No symphonies, fancy restaurants, or places with a complicated exit plan. And even now that she's grown up and chilled out a bit, she hates sitting still and hates fancy clothes and other fancy things. So a night at the opera is not a prime event for her at this point in her life/maturity, either.

And should anyone's toddler be at, say, a film screening of the Saw movies? NO.

Bottom line: know your kid. Know the circumstances. Act accordingly.
posted by TwoStride at 11:31 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the whole thing where if a person would prefer not to share a high-end dining experience with a crying baby, or an unruly toddler, that automatically makes them a child-hating curmudgeon who doesn't want to be a part of society? That's really, really stupid. Let's knock that shit off. You want your child to be accepted everywhere? You swear on a stack of bibles that your child doesn't behave like that in public, and would be a perfect angel anywhere you decided to take them? Maybe try understanding that not every parent is as perfect as you, and not every child is a shining example of humanity like yours is. Try understanding that many of us have had very nice experiences ruined by a screaming baby whose parents weren't as awesome at parenting as you, or by a misbehaving toddler/early grade schooler whose parents couldn't be bothered to intervene while Junior wreaks havoc.

Yes, I'm well aware that children are people, and that they have to learn how to behave by going out in public and having experiences. The children in my life don't go to high end restaurants or the opera, because they're not ready for that yet. Their parents take them to family-friendly restaurants with crayons on the table, where it's not a big deal if someone knocks over their milk or cries, or they go to kid-friendly movies for morning showings and if they act up they leave, because they're being taught that causing a giant scene in public is Not Acceptable per their parent's rules.

I don't get why that's such a hard concept to deal with. Not every space is going to be a great place to take every child.
posted by palomar at 11:32 AM on January 14 [32 favorites]


Here's a question: I can think of other circumstances under which someone could have come to dinner at Alinea, only to have it become apparent that this wasn't a good idea...How would the restaurant handle that situation? I think whatever they did there, they should have done here.
posted by KathrynT at 1:41 PM on January 14


Well, what I mean is: do they comp out their tickets, offer them first dibs at another spot, or what?
posted by KathrynT at 2:17 PM on January 14



From the Aliena Reservations FAQ:

Can I get a refund once purchased? Can I exchange my ticket for a different night?
No. Just like a sporting event, concert, or theater ticket all sales are final.


So, just like if you buy a ticket to go see Bruno Mars in concert, got sick halfway through the concert, and had to leave, Mr. Mars will not be refunding your ticket or scheduling another concert on a night when you feel better.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:33 AM on January 14 [9 favorites]


Being a parent of a young child sometimes means that you're not going to get to do [some] nice things.

This should probably be written on the hospital-issue receiving blanket. A choice was made, and one of the corollaries to that choice is that certain activities are not going to be within your purview for years to come.

It's a worthy choice, and it comes with many benefits, but there are notable sacrifices that must be made. If you are not prepared to make them, then choose differently.

Not every space is going to be a great place to take every child

Similarly, not every time is a great time for me to play with my air horn, as much as I might enjoy doing so.
posted by aramaic at 11:34 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Child? The thirteenth Duke of Wybourne?, here?, in a French maids' finishing school?, at three o'clock?, with his reputation?!
posted by adipocere at 11:35 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


There's a "cough room" at Benaroya Hall?

I am . . . wait, I might be confusing it with McCaw Hall, which DEFINITELY has a cough room, because I spent an entire opera there when I was 7.5 months pregnant and couldn't sit comfortably. There were, in fact, complimentary throat lozenges. (As there are at Benaroya! Any usher will happily give you as many cough drops as you require.) I think at Benaroya your option is "go to the Lobby." Which, truly, is not terrible.

The cough room at McCaw is built into the wall behind one of the tiers. It has windows so you can see the stage, and the sound is piped in. There are a few seats, I seem to remember that most of them are like bar stools with a little countertop-type thing, and a couple of wheelchair-type spots. I would say it could fit 6-8 people.
posted by KathrynT at 11:36 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


I think at Benaroya your option is "go to the Lobby." Which, truly, is not terrible.

For real, the Benaroya lobby is fancy as hell.
posted by palomar at 11:39 AM on January 14


Can we please, PLEASE stop comparing not being able to take your very small child to dinner at an extremely high-end fine dining establishment (a condition that can be avoided by hiring a sitter, or waiting a few years until your child is old enough to enjoy such a meal) with being permanently banned from the premises because of your ethnicity or religion?

My gay baby just took out his enormous turquoise pacifier to tell me that he does not feel discriminated against by infant bans as long as Bottino will still deliver to his Chelsea loft. But he doesn't even live in Chicago so I think he's being a little flippant.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:40 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


For real, the Benaroya lobby is fancy as hell.

Like, fancy enough that they do whole concerts there -- the [untitled] series, which is avant-garde chamber music played in the round, bring your own seating (like yoga mats), they have a cocktail bar, and the show starts at 10 PM.

To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever brought an infant to one of those, so I can't tell you what happens then.
posted by KathrynT at 11:41 AM on January 14


Homeboy Trouble

Yeah, I hear you. While some people might think allowing them on occasion encourages bringing kids, I still think the nature of Alinea would be prohibitive for most families anyway. No kids ever would be better IMO, but I know not everyone agrees with that.

Emphasize that it's a partial ban, not a kid-friendly night, no kids' menus, no highchairs. No kids at all every other day, period - this day they will tolerate them but not changing the restaruant for them.

And if it existed and I had more money than sense, I would totally bring my dog to dog night. She already has better table manners than me. :-)
posted by gohabsgo at 11:43 AM on January 14


Can we please, PLEASE stop comparing not being able to take your very small child to dinner at an extremely high-end fine dining establishment (a condition that can be avoided by hiring a sitter, or waiting a few years until your child is old enough to enjoy such a meal) with being permanently banned from the premises because of your ethnicity or religion?

I think it's a fucking shame that the first multiparagraph "just for the lulz" nasty racebaiting comment was left standing to inspire further such bullshit throughout this thread.
posted by elizardbits at 11:46 AM on January 14 [26 favorites]


corb: " FWIW, my kid was a perfect doll. The only outburst happened once when the orchestra stopped in preparation for raising the curtain in the beginning and the curtain had issues - she turned to me and very sadly said, "Is it over?" in a little louder-than-hushed. Everyone around us was amused rather than horrified though - I imagine particularly because she was silenced once everything started again."

Ha! Cool!

My mom took me to see Pirates of Penzance on Broadway when I was young. Apparently after being perfectly well behaved for all of 3 or 4 minutes I got excited, jumped up and said in a really loud voice, "MOMMY! MOMMY, LOOK IT'S THE PIRATE KING!" Audience laughed. Mom grabbed me by the waist, yanked me back into the seat and was completely mortified.

We were in the third row. When Kevin Kline sang the Pirate King song a few minutes later, he came up to the edge of the stage and sang the start of the first chorus "For I am a Pirate King! And it is, it is a glorious thing to be a Pirate King!" right at me. :)
posted by zarq at 11:50 AM on January 14 [36 favorites]


Mr. Mars will not be refunding your ticket or scheduling another concert on a night when you feel better.

make sure my music's replayed for ya
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:56 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


It's less a question of middle ground than an issue of specialization. What these places are doing is very targeted. It takes a lot of work to conceptualize and execute, and there isn't a lot of overlap even between different places of equal caliber. The hours are long and the profits are small, and many places need the entire week to survive financially. Wednesday night's service doesn't necessarily pay for itself.

I guess somebody could go into the actual business of providing family-friendly high-end tasting menus. I'm not aware of any restaurant that currently does. (?) I suspect it's not something that would be economically sustainable. The ingredients and labor cost what they cost, and you'd have to find a price point that enough people were willing to pay for your family-friendly dining room. I think you'd discover a low dollar ceiling on what's feasible.
posted by cribcage at 12:05 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


IIRC AMC movie theaters had a no infants policy for many years. Ultimately they had to revoke this policy and narrow it to meet legal concern related to civil rights.

This is almost certainly not true. Can you provide a citation? I bet not. AMC might have had a no-babies policy at one time, and then dropped it for some other reason (public relations, etc.), but there's no US civil rights legislation that I've heard of that would compel them to drop an age requirement.

Alamo Drafthouse is a theater chain that does not allow children under six years old in the theater. That (along with their strict no talking, no-cellphones rules) is part of their marketing.
posted by JeffL at 12:17 PM on January 14


Why should the chef have to cater to the baby market?

Or Jews, Blacks or Mexicans....


It's hard to take seriously anyone who would make that comparison.
posted by JeffL at 12:19 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I am curious why antidiscrimination laws only seem to apply to children at selective times - ie you can't refuse to rent to people with children, but you can refuse to let them eat at an eating establishment. Not, say, outraged, as in WTFBBQ, but more, where the fine line that this breaks down upon rests.
posted by corb at 12:24 PM on January 14


I think that the restaurant is ultimately at fault for not ejecting them when they became disruptive for other restaurant patrons.

It's like when someone cuts in front of you in line and the cashier, knowing you were next, goes ahead and helps the guy who butted in. Yes, the guy is a jerk, but the rude behavior will only stand if the cashier lets it. Ultimately, like the cashier, the restaurant should have said, "sorry, but we have rules here."

Although, it seems like part of the problem might be that there were no actual rules. While prohibition of disruptive behavior, including due to babies, might be considered an unspoken rule, it might have helped Alinea to have spelled it out explicitly on their FAQ page. They didn't even necessarily have to mention an outright ban. A "strong preference" for patrons not to bring babies/young children to ensure the desired atmosphere might have been enough guidance for many parents similarly faced with the decision to forego a thousand bucks or take a chance that the kid will be quiet for five hours. Particularly, since according to the restaurant, this is a rare occurrence anyway.
posted by Bokmakierie at 12:25 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Discrimination against renting to people with children is covered by the fair housing act, which doesn't apply to anything other than housing. Age discrimination laws for other circumstances only kick in at age 40.
posted by KathrynT at 12:26 PM on January 14


Well, what I mean is: do they comp out their tickets, offer them first dibs at another spot, or what?

My bet is they say, very nicely and politely, sucks to be you.

I am curious why antidiscrimination laws only seem to apply to children at selective times - ie you can't refuse to rent to people with children, but you can refuse to let them eat at an eating establishment. Not, say, outraged, as in WTFBBQ, but more, where the fine line that this breaks down upon rests.

Everyone needs a place to live. Not everyone needs a restaurant meal.
posted by jeather at 12:27 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


- ie you can't refuse to rent to people with children, but you can refuse to let them eat at an eating establishment.

Or Jews, Blacks or Mexicans....

So, how many other things can we compare "crying baby at restaurant" to that are, in fact, nothing like it? Are we holding a Godwin telethon?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:30 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


I say we compare a crying baby at a restaurant to feeding the trolls.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:31 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I actually think this discussion is amazingly vitriolic given the chef's original extremely inoffensive, questioning tweet on the matter. Lots of restaurants already have this policy. There is at least one I can think of in my current hometown of Raleigh, NC. I stayed in a B&B a couple months ago whose website explicitly states no children under 12. It is not a revolutionary concept.
posted by something something at 12:31 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


I think it's a fucking shame that the first multiparagraph "just for the lulz" nasty racebaiting comment was left standing to inspire further such bullshit throughout this thread.

Threads like this always provide much good information with regards to source evaluation.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:42 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


The thing is that it's vitriolic not even because people are disagreeing, but because people suspect the other interlocutors may be the wrong kind of person. Selfish double-wide-carriage-toting Park Slope denizen who brings their baby into bars and nightclubs and then glares at people who talk about child-inappropriate subjects! Selfish DINK child-free yupster who will never understand the profound meaning of parental sacrifice! etc., etc.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:44 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile basically everyone is like, yeah, probably this specifically was the wrong venue for your very young screaming infant.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:45 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


Weirdly, the AMC movies thing is actually true - http://articles.latimes.com/1991-07-03/entertainment/ca-1741_1_young-children - though the Unruh act does not actually specify age.
posted by FritoKAL at 12:45 PM on January 14


Come on now people, no need to get nasty. Instead, let's just implement another brilliant technological solution!

(I need to start doing TED talks on my technological solutions to life problems)
posted by happyroach at 12:52 PM on January 14


But the thing is, I think a lot of people are displaying some unconscious snobbery. There's nothing inherently anti-baby about eating at a 200$ a plate restaurant, or a $100 a plate restaurant. The thing is that most people have unconsciously internalized this idea of "If I go to a place that's expensive enough, the high prices will keep the riff-raff (people who do not behave as I personally think is appropriate to behave) out."
I think it's actually the opposite. If I were ever to eat at Alinea, it would be an incredible extravagance. It would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for which I would have to spend a long time saving and forgoing other luxuries. And if I'm going to save for months so I can have a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I'm going to be upset if someone deprives me of the full experience. The atmosphere is part of the experience, and screaming babies are not part of the atmosphere. I'm sure I wouldn't care so much if I were rolling in money and could just tell myself that I'd go back some other time.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:35 PM on January 14 [11 favorites]


Area Man: " I've gone out to normal places like Starbucks, museums, or the grocery store, only to have children running wild while they obliviously walk around getting things.

I don't understand. Are you claiming you shouldn't have to encounter children at "normal" places or are you just complaining about the behavior of those kids who are particularly ill-behaved?
"

It's glaringly obvious to me that he was complaining about the children's misbehavior, and not the presence of children in general. How are you not able to parse reenum's sentence? Or are you intentionally misconstruing the statement?
posted by IAmBroom at 1:38 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


jbickers: "This is gonna get a ton of favorites and "hell yeah!"s but it is also deeply unfunny and inhumane. Ask yourself what your reaction would be if the ladies room was the "cage for lady pork." Whether you like being around them or not, children are not animals, they are little human beings that just haven't been fully socialized yet, through no fault of their own."

So... they're like pigs?

Seriously, though: there's nothing inhumane about putting children in a care center while parents conduct their business. It's happening right now at many Giant Eagle supermarkets across Pennsylvania... and yet you suggest this is somehow inhumane? If it's just the name you object to, then you're guilty of projecting your cultural ideas upon another - the Chinese zodiac includes the Year of the Pig, so I cannot think this is any worse than calling it the "Gemini Room".

Concern trolling at its finest. Bravo.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:41 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


Excluding individuals by stereotype, rather than responding to a specific incident or behavior is wrong and prejudiced in my opinion. Most parents are attentive to their child's behavior and many babies will sleep quietly in their baby carrier throughout the meal. If we want to improve the serenity of the fine dining experience we might start by kicking out the loud talking drunks who shout through the entire meal while chewing with mouth's agape, growing louder and louder as their bar tab rises. Those individuals are much more common and bothersome than the occasional infant.
posted by humanfont at 1:47 PM on January 14


If we want to improve the serenity of the fine dining experience we might start by kicking out the loud talking drunks who shout through the entire meal while chewing with mouth's agape, growing louder and louder as their bar tab rises.

I seriously doubt Alinea has ever hosted a single diner who would fit this description.
posted by colie at 1:52 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Yeah, saying babies cry is a really ignorant and prejudicial stereotype about babies.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:53 PM on January 14 [18 favorites]


Please just ignore.
posted by cribcage at 1:56 PM on January 14


IAmBroom, reenum already answered the question, so what's the purpose of your comment?

I was genuinely confused, but that was last night and it does seem clearer to me now. I think I didn't get the sense in which normal was being used. The second part of the sentence is missing something, but that's a different matter.
posted by Area Man at 1:56 PM on January 14


If we want to improve the serenity of the fine dining experience we might start by kicking out the loud talking drunks

Why start there? At the very least, the establishment is being compensated for each of the drunks (cf. bar tab), yet Alinea, from all I've learned, did not charge the couple for the baby's presence.

However, maybe we can agree on an evolutionary-biology level that the human voice is something that is difficult to ignore. Whether a baby crying is something during which you can focus on other things successfully more than loud drunks is a personal thing, but let's not kid ourselves that a meal that rewards attention (and the company chosen to share it with) can be done as well in the presence of vocal distractions as without.
posted by rhizome at 2:05 PM on January 14




You don't get to dislike being around children and not have me think you're a curmudgeon. Sorry. Embrace it! Or don't, but I still think you are one. I think kids are fine everywhere, even when they are crying. I like them. And when I have one, I'm gonna bring em every-where. Because I also like curmudgeons, and appreciate meeting a classic example.

Peace & Blessings to All Forms of Life except mollusks.

--BasketBallDad420
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:17 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I love being around children. I don't love being around people, whatever age, who are crying when I am spending a weeks salary on an exquistely prepared and executed meal that is meant to be an intimate moment between a small group of people.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:19 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: " Peace & Blessings to All Forms of Life except mollusks. "

THERE'S A CLAM AT THE DOOR THAT WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A WORD WITH YOU, P A.
posted by zarq at 2:20 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


no dammit now you have summoned the whelk
posted by elizardbits at 2:24 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


SWINE BEFORE PEARLS
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:24 PM on January 14


everyone keep clam
posted by jquinby at 2:28 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


I have adored Potomac Avenue lo these many years and now I learn that he has an alter ego called BasketBallDad420.

Babies ruin everything!
posted by winna at 2:30 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]




elizardbits: "no dammit now you have summoned the whelk"

*cue grand entrance music, and The Whelk rising into Kitchen Stadium holding an artisanal beer*
posted by zarq at 2:34 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


That child's head looks wrong. It's not just me, right? That's not a normal baby head shape?
posted by winna at 2:35 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I don't think the term "non breeder" is more offensive than the term "breeder" fwiw.

I agree that these people made a bad choice but I also think we don't know the whole story. It almost never hurts to look at people's behavior in the most charitable light. It costs you nothing.
posted by Saminal at 10:40 PM


I would favorite this whole comment, of which I quoted only part, 100 times if I could.

From the information I've read on the incident it isn't clear to me that things were as bad as people are making out. The GMA video said the sitter did cancel on the family at the last minute, and at some point in the video the chef said the baby wouldn't stop crying and he could hear it from the kitchen. But it isn't clear to me that one of the parents didn't immediately take the kid outside or to the restroom, and it's unclear to me what "wouldn't stop crying" really means -- to be fair it could mean the baby cried four or five times, briefly, during the course of the meal before being whisked off by one of the parents.

I wouldn't take my kid to a meal of this sort, either, but it seems possible that the parents were in a real bind and were actually dealing with the kid once s/he started crying and that "wouldn't stop crying" is the translation that someone intolerant of kids or noises (doesn't this chef have a notoriously weirdly quiet kitchen?) would put on something like "cried briefly every hour".
posted by onlyconnect at 2:40 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I suppose I am an evil baby-hating gargoyle curmudgeon, but if I'd spent the price of my first car on a meal I'd view any screaming in the restaurant as unacceptable, no matter its periodicity.
posted by winna at 2:53 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


"Any man who hates babies and dogs can’t be all bad" --Leo Rosten
posted by rhizome at 2:56 PM on January 14


Even "cried briefly every hour" is just wildly unacceptable at a restaurant like Alinea.
posted by lalex at 2:57 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]



I don't think the term "non breeder" is more offensive than the term "breeder" fwiw.
Yes, both are offensive. We don't need to pick a side with kid people v not kid people, and even if we did, this is not the situation to pick it.
posted by sweetkid at 2:58 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


It's pretty much Willy Wonka!

Yes. For adults

I am currently saving, slooooooooooooooooooooowly, for a trip to Chicago next year specifically to eat at Alinea. I will sleep on a fucking park bench if I have to.

If some asshole parent and their screaming child are at the next table, I wil lose my shit. For some people, eating at Alinea or similar restaurants is indeed yawn, Thursday.

For some of us, it is a virtually impossible dream to attain. I cook for a living. Alinea's style of cooking is my passion. Going there will be, for me, like a kid going to Disneyland, and if the thoughtless assholery of others fucks it up I will be angry as all fuck.

You don't know the backstory of the people at the next table. You don't know that they haven't scrimped and saved and dreamed for years of having this experience, all to be ruined by some screaming child whose parents don't give a fuck about how many peoples' experiences they are ruining.

It's been said already, but dining at restaurants like Alinea isn't 'going out for dinner.' It's really not--in fact, it's not unusual to have dinner at one of those places and grab a burger on the way home because you're not full. (e.g., when elBulli was open, the total weight of food eaten on average per guest was under a kilo. Bout a pound and a half. Which seems substantial, but really? Steak and a baked potato, eaten in very small bites over four hours.) Going to these places bears about as much resemblance to going out for dinner (even a good dinner) as hearing a cover band in your local dive bar is like seeing Yo Yo Ma in concert.

You are dealing with fanatically dedicated, talented chefs who do nothing but hone and perfect their art and their craft. That deserves some respect. So you can take your 'hobbyist afficionado' and 'jeez can't you just put up with a baby' nonsense and serve it with a nice lemongrass emulsion so it goes down easier.

The solution is simple: "Disruptive patrons will be asked to leave and will not be provided a refund." You don't need to institute a blanket ban on children, just on disruption.

El Bulli cost at least 300 dollars a head but was running at a loss for over 10 years, including at all the times it won 'world's best restaurant.'

That's 300 Euro per head. Before wine and cigars.

Additionally, and this might be equally impossible, I would get the kitchen to use of some of the otherwise-would-go-to-waste ingredients to craft a self-consciously faux-casual takeaway meal.

Restaurants at this level have very, very little waste. It's one of the benefits of doing a tasting menu: with the exception of one or two people who may sub stuff due to dietary restrictions, you know exactly how much you need to prep of each thing before service. Cost control in these kitchens is intense. Labour is where most of the cost is, by a long shot. I've done fine dining (not at that level, yet) and trust me, much less is wasted in fine dining kitchens than in casual kitchens. Anything that can't be used up in the dining room gets fed to staff usually anyway. (Though ISTR reading that Alinea has a set staff meal every day).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:09 PM on January 14 [38 favorites]


or the tl;dr version of what I just said:

I don't give a fuck if your babysitter cancelled at the last minute and you desperately want a special night, that gives you no right to ruin everyone else's special occasion.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:11 PM on January 14 [13 favorites]


I actually think this discussion is amazingly vitriolic given the chef's original extremely inoffensive, questioning tweet on the matter.

This is an excellent point. One person who clearly doesn't think the issue is as simple as "people who would bring a baby to Alinea are colossal a-holes who should be flayed" is Grant Achatz, who should know.
posted by escabeche at 3:25 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


I don't give a fuck if your babysitter cancelled at the last minute and you desperately want a special night, that gives you no right to ruin everyone else's special occasion.


Conversely, why should anyone give give a fuck about your right to this special occasion?

This is the heart of the overblown and spicy hypothetical that's been mixed up. Yes, it's an expensive dinner theatre, which an eight month old baby can easily muck up in so many ways. But having shelled out hundreds of dollars for this, is it so terrible to try and salvage it, even if it means bringing a kid along? Would it have killed any of the other diners to make nice with the couple, offer to hold the kid for a bit? Would it have killed the couple to take turns taking the babe outside.

Clearly bringing the baby was less than optimal and even the parents wish they could have avoided doing so. But things didn't work out that way, so there they are, in a room with a bunch of other participants, all looking for the same thing. Can't the crowd pitch to make sure everyone enjoys this unique experience? This was a room full of people with a similar passion. Work together so that everyone can try an enjoy it, even if it isn't the optimal situation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:32 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Would it have killed any of the other diners to make nice with the couple, offer to hold the kid for a bit?

You have got to be kidding me.
posted by lalex at 3:36 PM on January 14 [60 favorites]


Can't the crowd pitch to make sure everyone enjoys this unique experience?

It's a restaurant, not a life boat.

And in general and factually, no. This is a situation where twenty of the most skilled chefs in the world have just spent 45 minutes preparing a single morsel to be served in an incredibly elaborate manner designed to create novel flavours and textures. You can't wing that shit under a salamander and hold it for five minutes while you burp junior. The kid's a distraction and there's no way of fixing it without removing the kid.
posted by Diablevert at 3:43 PM on January 14 [20 favorites]


You don't get to dislike being around children and not have me think you're a curmudgeon.

I would bet that if you think I'm a curmudgeon for not wanting your eight-month-old at Alinea, then you probably already thought I was pretentious or silly for spending that kind of money on "food" even before your baby entered the equation. So really, it's not about kids or curmudgeons. It's just about you being superior.

Now we know what we think of each other. Friendly handshake, or does yours have kid-spittle on it? Because ick.

it's not unusual to have dinner at one of those places and grab a burger on the way home because you're not full.

I feel like this is kind of an urban myth. It's certainly never happened to me or anybody I've dined with. I've only ever seen the opposite, menus that were a bit too filling. Le Bernadin and O Ya come to mind. Here in Boston, Clio used to be infamous for its small servings leaving diners hungry, but the very fact that everybody talked about this leads me to believe it's relatively rare.
posted by cribcage at 3:46 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Would it have killed any of the other diners to make nice with the couple, offer to hold the kid for a bit?

Why? I mean, why on earth? How could it be entitled for people to want to eat a special meal with other adults, but not for people to bring their baby and ask people to hold baby while parents eat? I mean what?

Sometimes I'll be at a coffee shop and there will be a kid climbing all over a chair at my table and the parents aren't even looking. I have to tell them to get down, but I'm afraid to sound mean or yell or touch them and it's so fraught - really people just watch your own children.
posted by sweetkid at 3:50 PM on January 14 [21 favorites]


Would it have killed any of the other diners to make nice with the couple, offer to hold the kid for a bit?

I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure parents* would be 100% opposed to handing their kid off to some random person, especially one surrounded by fire, cocktails, etc. Frankly I would be a little worried to be handed a strange baby after a cocktail. Frankly, at all. Babies are fragile and particular and special. I'm not opposed to kids. I get more upset when adults interrupt me when talking in a museum than kids, because the adults are supposed to know better. I don't hand their kids off to other parents and go, "Eh, better luck with these guys!" I do get to tell everyone to be quiet, because that's how tours go. Same goes for other locales, including, I'm guessing, Alinea.

*Daisy excluded
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:51 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Can't the crowd pitch to make sure everyone enjoys this unique experience?

Yes, by forcibly ejecting the screaming menace en masse.
posted by elizardbits at 3:54 PM on January 14 [14 favorites]


But having shelled out hundreds of dollars for this, is it so terrible to try and salvage it, even if it means bringing a kid along?

Given that doing so resulted in a suboptimal experience for everyone else, yes it is that terrible.

The older version of what I am saying is "Your right to swing your fist stops where my face begins." Similarly, your right to have en expensive theatrical dinner with your baby ends when that baby starts ruining the experience I and a few dozen other people have paid through the nose for. This is not a difficult concept. Your unwillingness to be respectful of what other people are doing does not in any way make it my responsibility to help your baby.

But things didn't work out that way, so there they are, in a room with a bunch of other participants, all looking for the same thing. Can't the crowd pitch to make sure everyone enjoys this unique experience? This was a room full of people with a similar passion. Work together so that everyone can try an enjoy it, even if it isn't the optimal situation.

In so many different ways, hell the fuck no. Why on earth should I pitch in to help out when you are so clueless (or so uncaring) as to bring an 8 month old baby into a place like Alinea? Should we all just 'pitch in' when some screaming child is disturbing a play? Because restaurants like Alinea (and Mugaritz, Arzak, Moto, Minibar, etc) are theatre. The medium happens to be edible, that's all.

I feel like this is kind of an urban myth. It's certainly never happened to me or anybody I've dined with.

I'm talking about avant garde 'molecular' (oh god how I loathe that term) restaurants specifically. Le Bernardin serves rather more traditional meals.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:59 PM on January 14 [16 favorites]


(oh and that's not even mentioning the elephant in the room with avant garde meals: many of the additives used, while natural and nontoxic and perfectly edible, are not digestible and pass through your system unscathed. Along with everything else. Pooping the day after a highly transformative meal like that can be... well...)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:01 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Why? I mean, why on earth? How could it be entitled for people to want to eat a special meal with other adults, but not for people to bring their baby and ask people to hold baby while parents eat? I mean what?

It was not suggested that the parents show up and ask for help, merely that other diners offer it.

Why on earth should I pitch in to help out when you are so clueless (or so uncaring) as to bring an 8 month old baby into a place like Alinea?

Because it's clearly your passion and they share that passion, so why wouldn't you want to help another person experience some of that wonderfulness?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:02 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: "Conversely, why should anyone give give a fuck about your right to this special occasion?"

Because we live in a society where we generally believe that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? Because ruining 60 other people's nights in order to salvage your own is dictionary-definition selfish?

I mean why does this even need any explanation?
posted by danny the boy at 4:03 PM on January 14 [24 favorites]


merely that other diners offer it.


That's not a "merely." Consider that the other diners are likely also parents who are trying to enjoy a special night out as adults. It's not these poor baby having parents vs non parents. Maybe that's why they don't want to hold the baby.
posted by sweetkid at 4:04 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Because it's clearly your passion and they share that passion, so why wouldn't you want to help another person experience some of that wonderfulness?

Because I paid four hundred and ninety-five fucking dollars for it.
posted by maryr at 4:04 PM on January 14 [14 favorites]


Because it's clearly your passion and they share that passion, so why wouldn't you want to help another person experience some of that wonderfulness?

Because those people are actively ruining my experience by doing something completely inappropriate for the context.

It was not suggested that the parents show up and ask for help, merely that other diners offer it.

Why should I interrupt my birthday/anniversary/about-to-propose night to help you with the child you shouldn't have brought in the first place?

You're either being disingenuous or... actually I can't think of another 'or' that would fit here.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:05 PM on January 14 [19 favorites]


Like, what if you were on a plane and you suddenly realized you forgot one of your bags at home? Should we turn the whole plane around so you can get your shit? Clearly we all share the same passion for travel, so why not all pitch in together to help a guy out
posted by danny the boy at 4:06 PM on January 14 [15 favorites]


Because I paid four hundred and ninety-five fucking dollars for it.

Yeah. This. If I do get to go eat at Alinea, that kind of money would represent my entire discretionary income for about two months. That is to say, I would not be able to eat for two months, go anywhere, or do anything except twiddle my thumbs waiting to have dinner at Alinea.

You're being clueless here.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:07 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Should we turn the whole plane around so you can get your shit?

Of course not. You just ask all the other passengers if you can borrow a couple of pieces of clothing from them.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:08 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


Of course not. You just ask all the other passengers if you can borrow a couple of pieces of clothing from them.

That they're wearing at the time.
posted by winna at 4:14 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


It was not suggested that the parents show up and ask for help, merely that other diners offer it.

So the parents who decide to bring their 8 month old infant to an avante-garde three hour dinner get to enjoy their special dinner, but everyone else is an asshole if they don't pitch in and hold a stranger's crying baby so mommy and daddy can have the fun they're entitled to?

Dude. That's just ridiculous.
posted by palomar at 4:15 PM on January 14 [28 favorites]


Why should I interrupt my birthday/anniversary/about-to-propose night to help you with the child you shouldn't have brought in the first place?

Because life isn't perfect and it's not all about me, so spending a bit time helping others might be a good thing.

You're either being disingenuous or... actually I can't think of another 'or' that would fit here.

That's what is fascinating to me. Look, I totally get that the kid being that fucking sucks and shouldn't have happened. I'm totally a fan of kids that one can hold and coo over and then hand back after 5 minutes.

But, depending on the attitude of the parents, I'd probably consider working to include them in this awesome passion of mine, because…well, it's awesome right? And there's an extremely limited time/price slot to enjoy it. So yeah, take 5 minutes out of this multi hour experience to help someone else enjoy it.

Or don't, whatever floats your boat.

You're being clueless here.

Not at all. I'm looking at the situation as being less that optimal for almost everyone, so why not try to make it a bit better.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:16 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


It's not the DMV. They're not "all in it together."

Also, totally disingenuous. I'm pretty sure you don't volunteer to watch other people's children every moment of your waking life. You're just trying to be excessively pro parent or pro kid or something but it's unnecessary, those of us protesting are not anti kid.
posted by sweetkid at 4:19 PM on January 14 [15 favorites]


Because it's clearly your passion and they share that passion, so why wouldn't you want to help another person experience some of that wonderfulness?

By this logic, that guy over there with the Porsche should let me borrow it for a little while. I mean, even if I'm not so good with manual transmission, I do love those cars. Hey guy, where are you going? No? Where's your sense of community?

I'm looking at the situation as being less that optimal for almost everyone, so why not try to make it a bit better.

Why is it not an option to make it instantly fixed by removing the single source of the suboptimal experience? Is the subtext here that the other diners should revel in the opportunity to play along? "Life's full of challenges, honey!"
posted by rhizome at 4:21 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


Because life isn't perfect and it's not all about me

Which, in a nutshell, is why those people should not have brought their baby, and once it became clear that Little Precious wasn't going to shut up, they should have left. Why is this difficult for you to understand?

Look, I totally get that the kid being that fucking sucks and shouldn't have happened

End of discussion. It shouldn't have happened, and it is not the responsibility of everyone else, who are all trying to have a special occasion, to make up for your shortcomings and your utter inability to understand that unpredictably loud babies do not belong in certain places.

Not at all. I'm looking at the situation as being less that optimal for almost everyone, so why not try to make it a bit better.

Here are the people whose responsibility it is to make that situation better:

1) The parents. By leaving, or alternating time out of the dining room.

2) Restaurant management, by requesting they leave.

3) That's it.

You're trying, it seems to argue that it's selfish not to 'help out' (how, exactly? I can count on the fingers of one foot the number of newborn parents I have known who would be just dandy with total damn strangers offering to help with their child), yet somehow the assholes who are selfish to begin with get a free pass.

The onus is on them to fix the situation. That is how society works: if you are being a dick, it is up to you to stop the dickery, it is not up to others to say "Oh well, it's only a once in a lifetime experience I am trying to have here, I should go help the selfish assholes who are ruining my night and that of 60 other people."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:24 PM on January 14 [15 favorites]


Sometimes it's late at night and I am tired and way uptown or something and the trains aren't running properly. People who live up there should totally just let me stay at their house because we're all in this suboptimal experience together.
posted by sweetkid at 4:24 PM on January 14 [10 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: "I'm looking at the situation as being less that optimal for almost everyone, so why not try to make it a bit better."

What you're refusing to understand is that it was a less than optimal situation for the parents of the child. It only became less than optimal for the entire restaurant when they decided they were going to burden everyone else with their personal problems.
posted by danny the boy at 4:24 PM on January 14 [12 favorites]


Not at all. I'm looking at the situation as being less that optimal for almost everyone, so why not try to make it a bit better.

Because the solution to the situation being less than optimal is for the parents to stop disrupting everyone's meals.

It's not like they got to the restaurant and were randomly handed a baby as they walked in the door and then chained to the table.
posted by winna at 4:24 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


It's not like they got to the restaurant and were randomly handed a baby as they walked in the door and then chained to the table.

Someone call me I have had a great idea for a reality tv show.
posted by winna at 4:26 PM on January 14 [21 favorites]


Only if elizardbits is on the first season.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:27 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


i don't think you can actually televise baby-eating though
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:28 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


spoiler alert: elizardbits builds a trebuchet out of flatware and wine corks. can you guess what happens next?
posted by palomar at 4:29 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


In fairness, when I go to upscale restaurants I do insist that the waitstaff make airplane noises as they bring the food to my table.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:30 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


By this logic, that guy over there with the Porsche should let me borrow it for a little while. I mean, even if I'm not so good with manual transmission, I do love those cars. Hey guy, where are you going? No? Where's your sense of community?

That depends, is your current experience being absolutely ruined by not having a Porsche?

Why is it not an option to make it instantly fixed by removing the single source of the suboptimal experience?

That's totally an option in my opinion, but management wasn't causing that to happen. Hence my suggestion, an attempt to make a crappy situation a bit better.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:30 PM on January 14


Your suggestion is honestly pretty useless and judgemental, unless you're in possession of a time machine to go back to the night in question and educate all the other diners on how they should behave.
posted by palomar at 4:32 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Hold up why do we have restaurants with EDIBLE BALLOONS and yet as far as I can tell there are NO establishments with TREBUCHETS

jousting isn't cutting it I want FLYING ACTS OF FLASH-FRIED DERRING-DO and SMASHED FOAM CLOUDS
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:35 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


palomar: "spoiler alert: elizardbits builds a trebuchet out of flatware and wine corks. can you guess what happens next?"

LIGHT. THE CORKS. ON FIRE!
posted by zarq at 4:37 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


That's totally an option in my opinion, but management wasn't causing that to happen. Hence my suggestion, an attempt to make a crappy situation a bit better.

Without in any way justifying why everyone else should have to not only have their night ruined but should be expected to help the people who are actively and deliberately ruining it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:38 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Without in any way justifying why everyone else should have to not only have their night ruined but should be expected to help the people who are actively and deliberately ruining it.

Dude. It was a suggestion. You do not have to like or agree with it and take it so personally. Just mark it as "silly ass idea" in your head and move on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:41 PM on January 14


ROCKET BABBYS brought to you by flavor blasted doritos
posted by elizardbits at 4:41 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


Dude. It was a suggestion. You do not have to like or agree with it and take it so personally.

It was a suggestion, which you continue to fight for, that was predicated on basically "oh well they're ruining my night, I should ignore that and make theirs better."

Come on.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:43 PM on January 14 [11 favorites]


That depends, is your current experience being absolutely ruined by not having a Porsche?

Wrong conclusion, but maybe I was reaching too far and that's my fault. Suffice it to say you're arguing by analogy that the parents' experience would have been ruined if they couldn't bring their child.

spoiler alert: elizardbits builds a trebuchet out of flatware and wine corks. can you guess what happens next?

FTFY: This Woman Was Handed A Baby When Entering a Restaurant. You Won't Believe What Happened Next.
posted by rhizome at 4:45 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


If I was paying $200 to eat foam and vapor, I'd be pretty uptight about any unanticipated disturbances bursting my bubble of foodie self-delusion, too.

Wait, that's not my bubble of foodie self-delusion. That bubble is the salad course!

Ha! I'll be here all night. Tip your waitresses.

What, there's no tipping? You pre-paid a "service charge?"

I'll be at the falafel place down the street.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:46 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Dude. It was a suggestion.

I'm sympathetic, but it's a little ridiculous in light of the circumstances ($500 dinner, etc.), which is why it's being ridiculed.
posted by rhizome at 4:46 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


If I was paying $200 to eat foam and vapor, I'd be pretty uptight about any unanticipated disturbances bursting my bubble of foodie self-delusion, too.

Not understanding what Alinea is about isn't the same as not being deluded.

Alinea:[more traditional restaurants]::Pollock:Michaelangelo
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:51 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


It was a suggestion, which you continue to fight for, that was predicated on basically "oh well they're ruining my night, I should ignore that and make theirs better."

It was suggestion I've attempted to clarify, predicated on "This situation sucks overall, what can be done to make it better since they aren't leaving".

I'm sympathetic, but it's a little ridiculous in light of the circumstances ($500 dinner, etc.), which is why it's being ridiculed.

Which is the fascinating part. If it was a $100 dollar would the idea be more palatable to people? $50?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:51 PM on January 14


What are flavor blasted doritos? Is the corn ground in the charred skull of a cylopean giant with a pestle made of a dragon's fang while the grinder thereof, a secret, black, and midnight hag wearing a ball cap, chants the ingredient list of Red Bull backward as lightning the color of Mountain Dew lashes a vast barren plain of cracked and skate-torn concrete?
posted by winna at 4:53 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


It was suggestion I've attempted to clarify, predicated on "This situation sucks overall, what can be done to make it better since they aren't leaving".

And you're still not getting that it is not someone else's responsibility to cope with their asshole behaviour.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:54 PM on January 14


[Guys, I have this crazy idea where this single line of conversation that basically everyone is annoyed about could just be dropped. Brandon, I think you've made it pretty clear that you think that suggestion you made has merit, other folks seem to disagree, let's just call that good now instead of going around in circles.]
posted by cortex at 4:56 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


K.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:56 PM on January 14



Which is the fascinating part. If it was a $100 dollar would the idea be more palatable to people? $50?


No. I would prefer strangers not hand me their baby even when I am drinking a $2 coffee. I would also prefer strangers not hand me their baby when i am sitting in the park, not paying money at all.
posted by sweetkid at 4:56 PM on January 14 [11 favorites]


Alinea:[more traditional restaurants]::Pollock:Michaelangelo

Pollock? My eight month old could paint better than that!

Naw, I'm sorry, I'm just clown-goblining at this point. Honestly though, I was on the fence about this one until I got to your comment about how most of the high-end meal passes through your system unchanged.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:57 PM on January 14


You don't get to dislike being around children and not have me think you're a curmudgeon. Sorry. Embrace it! Or don't, but I still think you are one. I think kids are fine everywhere, even when they are crying. I like them. And when I have one, I'm gonna bring em every-where. Because I also like curmudgeons, and appreciate meeting a classic example.

I am not, and never have been, a baby-hating curmudgeon. I love babies! I gave birth to babies! And--this is the important part--I parented them, too. Which meant sacrificing sometimes. Sacrificing doesn't just refer to making financial sacrifices, either, although yes, that is part if it, and no one "deserves" a $500 dinner with a crying baby.

Sacrificing, for parents, means making the tough decisions, like stepping in and taking over when it would be so much easier to just look the other way and let those kids misbehave. Because it is better for society and better for your kids when you are their parents instead of their best friends.

So you teach your kids that although they are special and loved beyond everything else in your world, that world does not revolve around them, and it shouldn't. You teach them to respect other people, because we don't live alone, we live in a society along with other people. People coexisting in close proximity to one another have to learn to show consideration for each other.

So, NO, we don't have to let anyone bring a crying baby to an expensive high-end dinner one night a week because one crying baby ruined it for everyone else, or offer our free babysitting services in the nice dining room to people who already feel like they are entitled to special consideration when the rest of us acted responsibly and went without instead.

We recognize that bringing a very young baby with no ability to control its own bowels, who can barely eat solid food and maybe suffers from teething pain and has an attention span of a few minutes as opposed to a few hours is a HORRIBLE idea for the baby as well as everyone else involved, and if that baby is acting obnoxiously, that is the parents' fault, not the restaurant's.

Which is my way of saying that if and when you do have a kid, I hope you also have a partner who understands that some things are just not kid-appropriate, someone who changes your mind about taking that kid everywhere and teaching that kid how fun! and radical! it is to piss people off by breaking societal norms.

Otherwise, that kid is going to grow up into an entitled douchebag, living in a lonely world of hurt because you were too fucking selfish to parent him.
posted by misha at 4:58 PM on January 14 [22 favorites]


I was on the fence about this one until I got to your comment about how most of the high-end meal passes through your system unchanged.

Unchanged may have been a poor word choice. Rapidly might have been closer. For example, methylcellulose is used very very frequently (sometimes under the trade name Metil). The other major consumable use of methlycellulose? Metamucil.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:01 PM on January 14


likeatoaster: If I have learned nothing else from this thread, I will say that it is actually rather shocking to me how many of you have apparently been to Alinea, or other restaurants that cost roughly $495/person.

It's almost like some uncomfortable secret, similar to a trust fund kid who skirts around the fact that his part time job doesn't have to pay his rent, that there's a shockingly high number of relatively high income people on MeFi. Not like, 1%er(although there's definitely those too whether they acknowledge it or not), but TONS of people >100k single income and multiple people i've noticed who suggested or outright stated they had a job that was likely >200k. If you start including total household income/dual income then there's TONS of posters whose household income is over 200k.

More than a few people on here cashed out in the .com boom, or something else like that. And unlike the poster above, yea i associate the mentions of lots of international travel nearly the same way i do with dropping $500+tip or more at a restaurant: a display of opulence. It's like the same rent-kid from above saying "yea, i summer in X location"

It's not that there's anything wrong with that, i just think it's funny that at times people either pretend that this site isn't like that, or when it's made blatantly clear that they're never really been less than the mid-upper end of middle class. Kinda the sort of thing that inspired this post from me.

Sweetkid: Good lord. Wow. Just FYI all Indian people don't typically eat curry in the morning. This comment though, really does stink. And I don't know what it has to do with babies in high end restaurants. Indian people on the subway are not babies in high end restaurants.

But wow talk about not feeling welcome places.


I legitimately read that comment as bizarre freeper/stormfront racist grandpa ranting. It absolutely radiates the middle paragraph from a person who would have endcapped it on both sides with weird "they took er jerbs!" shit and probably some middle-eastern related racial slurs.

I don't even really care if i'm being uncharitable, because that was and is a bizarre comment that doesn't really deserve any charity. Like, what the fuck.
posted by emptythought at 5:03 PM on January 14 [9 favorites]


Yeah I have heard "Indian people smell" enough times that I don't care if someone says it as satire or not, it's totally repulsive to bring up. Enough people really think that and feel like it's totally OK to say out loud.
posted by sweetkid at 5:05 PM on January 14 [12 favorites]


I legitimately read that comment as bizarre freeper/stormfront racist grandpa ranting.

Right, but I thought we didn't do ironic racism/sexism/other isms here anymore?
posted by lalex at 5:06 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


i just think it's funny that at times people either pretend that this site isn't like that, or when it's made blatantly clear that they're never really been less than the mid-upper end of middle class.

Yes, there are people in this community who have money. But there are also plenty of us here who don't have money, who grew up lower middle class or even lower on the socioeconomic ladder and may even *gasp* still be there! For every person in this thread who's said they've been to Alinea, how many others have said that they're currently scrimping and saving for a chance to go there? How many others have said that they're probably never going to get there?
posted by palomar at 5:10 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


I first heard about Alinea in 2006, when I was still in college, miles away from Chicago, and didn't have nearly enough money to go. It was the restaurant I always brought up when talking about places I wanted to go, even though I could never seem to pronounce it correctly. When I found out my office was sending me to Chicago on business last year, I made a reservation. I went in October and it was insanely quiet. There wasn't even music. I don't think I would've done anything if there had been a crying baby, but if it had lasted long enough I think I would've been disappointed.
posted by loulou718 at 5:11 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


FFFM: End of discussion. It shouldn't have happened, and it is not the responsibility of everyone else, who are all trying to have a special occasion, to make up for your shortcomings and your utter inability to understand that unpredictably loud babies do not belong in certain places.

I think this all comes back to what i was talking about with my experience from foodservice though, with entitlement.

The basic disconnect happening here, and the genesis point of this thread REALLY reminds me of This MeTa which i really believe everyone commenting in this thread should read.

Basically, there's a lot of people out there who essentially think that if you don't have a kid you know absolutely nothing about the struggle or what it's like to be a parent. This is debatable and possibly specious, but the second sentence of that thought transitions in to the part that leads to the entitlement here which is essentially "And therefor, you are in no position to ever criticize my parenting or how me and my child interact with society at large".

So, basically, yea, back to the disconnect. To just TL;DR it a lot of people think both that they should be allowed to bring their child anywhere, or at least wherever they deem fit, and that anyone who criticizes them is completely invalid because "they don't know how it be".

These are like the returning mature students and professors who i had fantasies of deep-frying in college who would say things like "You'll understand when you're a parent/mother" or "You wouldn't understand, you're not a parent/mother" when it came to things that ina very superficial and specious way sounded like that could apply too, but really had fuckall to do with that because they involved being rude and inconsiderate to others or just "because i said so" type trump cards.

This is the hammer being wielded here, and the two sides will never reach agreement. Because they're both saying to the other side "You are wrong, and you are so wrong you can't even understand why you're wrong".

Nice.

lalex: Right, but I thought we didn't do ironic racism/sexism/other isms here anymore?

Which is why i assumed they weren't kidding and it wasn't some bizarre performance art thing and that they just actually think that. These "what is acceptable in public spaces around me when other humans are involved" threads always bring out a few bizarre jackasses who really do think stuff like that. It's not like it's much off the median for the average american humans behavior to think/say things like that.

I mean, if you(and i don't mean you lalex, i mean the great you of the person reading this on their iphone seated on the toilet) are white and have a completely white family you may have never encountered that guy. But i definitely encountered tons of weird people who would not only quietly rant about shit like that online, but yell weird shit like that at me and my mum or just other people on public transit.
posted by emptythought at 5:15 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


This restaurant seats 80 at a cost of $500 per head (approx) so total revenue needed is $40k. For ordinary people to afford this experience, it must be shared with others. You can not control their behaviour, even by spending $500.

What as a diner do you believe you're entitled to for $500? Because no restaurant can really guarantee you silence. Or a perfect experiemce, as really that exists within your head and by what you choose to focus on or disregard within an evening. Certainly screaming babies makes this harder, and would be frustrating. Restaurants are shared spaces so they are in any way affordable. You have to share a private experience with members of the public. It's built into the price.

It's worth flagging that children occasionally come to this restaurant and this is the first crier we've heard of. So really, it's not an issue. 80 people x 350 days x 8 years its been open = 224k diners with this as the first crying baby? Vast majority of people don't bring kids here. The social contract is working. It's news by exception not trend.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 5:17 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Right, but I thought we didn't do ironic racism/sexism/other isms here anymore?

It's not great, and if I had a time machine I'd go back and nix it to save the thread from all the ensuing engrumblement, but it was pretty embedded discussion-wise in the thread by the time I saw it so pulling it now seems sort of weird. One of those flagging-is-better-than-responding things, mechanically, but in any case this is more of a metatalk discussion than something that needs to keep happening in here.
posted by cortex at 5:18 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Which is why i assumed they weren't kidding and it wasn't some bizarre performance art thing and that they just actually think that.

I hear you, I just also thought we didn't do real racism here.
posted by lalex at 5:19 PM on January 14


Palomar: Yes, there are people in this community who have money. But there are also plenty of us here who don't have money, who grew up lower middle class or even lower on the socioeconomic ladder and may even *gasp* still be there! For every person in this thread who's said they've been to Alinea, how many others have said that they're currently scrimping and saving for a chance to go there? How many others have said that they're probably never going to get there?

And it wasn't like i was trying to erase those people or something, i was simply saying i was amused that anyone would be surprised to find out that yea, there's a lot of people on here with money.

Of course there's people saying the other things. The comment i was responding too was shocked at the people saying they had, or had gone to many similar restaurants.

So yea, i don't really get what the point of "there's plenty of middle class and poor people here too!" has to do with it. What i said didn't exclude that, i was simply saying that compared to the average internet community there seems to be a lot of people with money on here.

I'm kinda confused as to what your point was, actually.
posted by emptythought at 5:20 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


What as a diner do you believe you're entitled to for $500?

A lack of screaming babies would be an excellent start.

Because no restaurant can really guarantee you silence. Or a perfect experiemce

But they can try. And Alinea really does try. It's asshole entitled parents who ruined things for everyone dining there that night.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:22 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I'm kinda confused as to what your point was, actually.

I'm rather confused as to what your point was as well.
posted by palomar at 5:22 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Combined with the rant you linked to about your 1%er ex girlfriend it seemed like you were on a tear about how elitist this place is. Sorry if I misread you.
posted by palomar at 5:24 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I'll can if it that seems trite and out of place, but i honestly found it super humorous that right in the middle of a bunch of "i've eaten at tons of michelin star restaurants, and you don't even understand what they are or what that really entails!" comments(of which there are very much so more than one or even 3, and not from the same one or two people even) there was a comment that was like "wow, this place is full of people who can easily blow money on a dinner like this?" since outside of this thread, in threads like the google bus thread everyone is all occupy $city-esque "FUCK THE RICH ASSHOLES DOWN WITH THE SYSTEM" and often times it's even the same people. There's just a bit of "Yea, screw those guys who have money" in thread A, then "lol so i spent a ton of money on this thing multiple times" in thread B but they're not the bad people with money, because reasons, see?

Go back and look at the diaper thread, and the displays of cluelessness about how poor people actually motor their way through life. And when called on it they got super defensive and that thread and the resulting meta were a total wartorn shithole.

Is a comment along the lines of "there are more relatively wealthy people here than you would realize, and it's been that way for a long time, and in threads like this there's a noticeable disconnect between them and a lot of other posters that's presented in a somewhat elitist/pretentious way" out of line?

Because that was my point. And sorry if i was being a bit of a jackass about it, but it's something that brings out my inner jackass at times.
posted by emptythought at 5:39 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


To be honest, I really don't need a lecture about displays of cluenessness or entitlement, nor do I need to go reread that shitstorm of a thread, as it was bad enough the first time around. But thanks!
posted by palomar at 5:42 PM on January 14


Video of typical dining experiences at the restaurant in question. would seem to indicate that it is not the sedate and quiet meditation on food. Note the ambient noise in the background. The squeeling at the presentation of the food. Observe the obnoxious texting and cell phone use and other ill manners of the patrons. How clearly we hear the loud gentleman from across the room at 1:08, prattling on about Facebook updates. Then shouted rejoinders at 1:34 by some anonymous woman. Here is another video, wait for the near continuous cackling and loud drunken woman beginning about one minute in.

We observe patrons eating with their bare hands, smacking of lips and loud slurping of liquids. Almost licking the table to get up the syrups poured upon it. The attire of the patrons is not reflecting of some cultural moment, it is casual and common.

I see men and women devouring food as though they are dogs in the kennel, barking and baying away. What is the occasional squawk of an infant in the sight of such disgusting grotesques?
posted by humanfont at 5:48 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


I'd have to save quite a bit of money to afford to go to a place like that, but I could maybe justify it for a really special occasion. I'd be really peeved if the one time in many years I splurge for an anniversary night out or something like that, if it was marred by a screaming child.

I have the opposite experience. One night a year, my husband and I go to the Boston Ballet's Nutcracker. Sans tot. This is our only "date night*" and so we splurge for good seats. And I do mean GOOD SEATS as in front row. This is not cheap.

This year, there was a nine year old girl next to us and I have zero complaints. She was perfectly behaved and her mom was on top of things like "you are not swinging your legs at the seat in front of you." A+. Last year, however.... There was a couple on their third or fourth date who were very loudly drunk and checking their phones every six seconds and talking over the performance. I honestly had to bite my tongue and not scream at them "DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I AM PAYING FOR THIS? THIS IS THE ONE NICE THING I HAVE ALL YEAR AND YOU'RE RUINING IT."

So, yeah, other adults are equally capable of ruining date night.

* We go out as a family on weekend afternoons, my husband is from a very family-centric culture where a babysitter seriously isn't even a thing that exists. So, when we want to do something we do things that all three of us can do together.
posted by sonika at 5:54 PM on January 14


If I have learned nothing else from this thread, I will say that it is actually rather shocking to me how many of you have apparently been to Alinea, or other restaurants that cost roughly $495/person.

I just had a look back through this thread quickly, and saw about three people who have been to Alinea specifically, and another dozen or so who have been to other Michelin star level high-end dining. Maybe 15-20 people, out of a 400+ comment thread specifically devoted to high-end dining. There are many more people on this thread who are familiar with what sort of restaurant this is, even if they haven't gone there -- I'm one of them. If there was a thread about someone who had behaved poorly while meeting the Pope, I think a lot of people would be able to say "you shouldn't do x when you're meeting the Pope" and "meeting the Pope is not like meeting with your local priest, it is a different thing" even if they have never had a personal audience with His Holiness.

The Seahawks and 49ers are playing football this Sunday and 67,000 people will watch them; about 1 in 50 residents of greater Seattle. Right now on StubHub, $500 will get you a seat in the upper deck of the stadium, and only in the shittiest ends of the upper deck. I've been to a couple of regular season NFL games, and the tickets -- upper deck, but not the super-nosebleeds -- run in the $250 range.

A popular Broadway show, like Book of Mormon, or a Cirque du Soliel show or a headliner in Vegas sells for $150-250 a seat. To pick a show at random, the Tony award winner, Kinky Boots is staged in a 1400 seat theatre, 7 shows a week. That's 10,000 people a week, they've been sold out for ten months, and they're selling tickets for next January. The $150-200 range is also the same sort of price you pay to see a major touring act, like Jay-Z, from the lower bowl or floor of an arena.

It doesn't seem shocking to me that many people will spend a few hundred dollars for a special evening of entertainment or a unique experience. I wouldn't pay $1000 to see the Seahawks this weekend, but I can certainly empathize with someone who would, because this is a chance to see the thing they love done as well as possible on a very special occasion. I know that this is a luxury not everyone can afford, but I wouldn't think of every single person on the train down to CenturyLink Field this Sunday as some sort of crazy elitist robber baron.

The thing that baffles me a little (I wish it shocked me, but it doesn't) is how many people here seem incapable of realizing that some small minority of people would prefer to spend their special evening enjoying world class avant garde dining more than they would like a sports game or a music concert or a theatre show.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:54 PM on January 14 [31 favorites]


And Alinea really does try. It's asshole entitled parents who ruined things for everyone dining there that night.

Alinea did NOT have to seat the family, did they? So, if anyone 'ruined things', isn't it Alinea by not doing whatever was necessary to ensure whatever experience was promised was experienced in all its promisedness?

"Can you believe Alinea allowed them in here?"
posted by mikelieman at 5:56 PM on January 14


We observe patrons eating with their bare hands


and loud slurping of liquids

Which are both integral components of some dishes served at Alinea. In fact they have had a dish on the menu in the past which is specifically created to be slurped.

If you're not going to bother knowing how the restaurant works, there's really no point in engaging with the mean-spirited rest of your post. To say nothing of the fact that adults talking is a teeny tiny bit different than a baby crying. We seem to be hardwired to respond to the cries of a baby, which is why they are so hard to ignore.

The thing that baffles me a little (I wish it shocked me, but it doesn't) is how many people here seem incapable of realizing that some small minority of people would prefer to spend their special evening enjoying world class avant garde dining more than they would like a sports game or a music concert or a theatre show.

The idea of food as Art-with-a-capital-A hasn't percolated through society enough.

One suspects sour grapes also play a part.

Alinea did NOT have to seat the family, did they? So, if anyone 'ruined things', isn't it Alinea by not doing whatever was necessary to ensure whatever experience was promised was experienced in all its promisedness?

Perhaps they made the reasonable but erroneous assumption that the parents in question wouldn't be total assholes once their kid started ruining the night for everyone else.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:58 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


What is the occasional squawk of an infant in the sight of such disgusting grotesques?


I feel like your vitriol isn't really about the baby.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:01 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Sorry if my comment caused offense. I thought it was obviously satirical, in the same way "A Modest Proposal" is obviously satirical. What was not satirical was renum's highly favorited comment about how kids don't even belong at coffee shops or the grocery store. It strikes me that some of the people most concerned about my comment were among those who seem to agree with renum's odious anti-social screed. I actually agree that the situation described in the FPP sounds shitty, but it is many times less shitty than the "kids off earth now!" Comment with all the favorites c
posted by OmieWise at 6:05 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Here is another video , wait for the near continuous cackling and loud drunken woman beginning about one minute in.

That video is actually really awesome. The dessert looks great, the presentation is amazing, and the things you complained about didn't actually seem to be evident, so I'm not sure what you're on about, but count me in amongst the people who'd like to someday have dinner at Alinea.
posted by palomar at 6:05 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


This year, there was a nine year old girl next to us and I have zero complaints. She was perfectly behaved and her mom was on top of things like "you are not swinging your legs at the seat in front of you." A+.
I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be having this discussion if the child in question had been described as a well-behaved nine-year-old. Screaming baby =/= well-behaved nine-year-old.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:06 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Thanks for providing a classic example of the passive-agressive non-apology apology, OmieWise.
posted by lalex at 6:10 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


I see men and women devouring food as though they are dogs in the kennel, barking and baying away. What is the occasional squawk of an infant in the sight of such disgusting grotesques?

Christ, get over yourself.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:12 PM on January 14 [23 favorites]


it is not the sedate and quiet meditation on food. Note the ambient noise in the background. The squeeling at the presentation of the food. Observe the obnoxious texting and cell phone use and other ill manners of the patrons. How clearly we hear the loud gentleman from across the room at 1:08, prattling on about Facebook updates. Then shouted rejoinders at 1:34 by some anonymous woman. Here is another video yt , wait for the near continuous cackling and loud drunken woman beginning about one minute in.

We observe patrons eating with their bare hands, smacking of lips and loud slurping of liquids. Almost licking the table to get up the syrups poured upon it. The attire of the patrons is not reflecting of some cultural moment, it is casual and common.

I see men and women devouring food as though they are dogs in the kennel, barking and baying away. What is the occasional squawk of an infant in the sight of such disgusting grotesques?


Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

posted by soundguy99 at 6:13 PM on January 14


The apology is sincere, actually. The aggression is too. I truly had no idea that anyone could read the comment seriously. I am apologizing to those people. The people, like elizardbits, who liked the society-hating comments while also decrying my comment, I am not apologizing to.
posted by OmieWise at 6:14 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


OmieWise your comment was one of the worst things in this thread. I can't even believe you're counting other people's favorites as a way to defend yourself. Comparing what you wrote to "A Modest Proposal" is pretty insulting to Mr. Swift.
posted by sweetkid at 6:16 PM on January 14 [13 favorites]


I thought it was obviously satirical, in the same way "A Modest Proposal" is obviously satirical.

1. I think you may have misjudged
2. We usually delete people's ironic racism and probably should have deleted that.

If people need to take this to MeTa, we sure understand but it's probably best not slugged out in this thread.
posted by jessamyn at 6:17 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


[And now, in mod voice KNOCK THIS OFF.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:20 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Screaming baby =/= well-behaved nine-year-old.

Yeah. Again, I have to appreciate all the parents who acknowledged that bringing a baby wasn't a good idea. Because so many of the people who are arguing otherwise, often with an implicit 'my child wouldn't do that because I'm a good parent how dare you suggest I'm not' defensiveness, age the child to get them to a point where they can actually have a conversation about good and bad behaviour. Babies? Cannot.

I know it's standard internet commenting behaviour to personalise what people say about situations as if they were applying them to you and respond in kind. But perhaps allow that when people complain about disruptive children, they are not say that you, as a parent, are a terrible person for ever being seen in public with a child, but talking about a specific time and place and child, none of which are you.

Also, if you have any desire to be treated with good faith or a charitable reading, maybe don't go immediately into bad faith and aggressively loaded comments.
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:21 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


Which is the fascinating part. If it was a $100 dollar would the idea be more palatable to people? $50?

Yes. I don't think that's particularly objectionable, really. Spending $50 on dinner I might do a few times a year, spending $100 on dinner I might do once a year, spending $500 on dinner I might do once in a lifetime. That makes a big difference. Even if I generally aim for being a laid back, casual, go-along to get-along type, having a once in a lifetime experience marred by someone being obnoxious is something I'd take exception to. And while perhaps some of the people in the joint are in a position to drop $500 on a meal whenever they want, I bet a lot of people aren't, and would be similarly annoyed.

I mean, I'd prefer to have all my meals out be pleasant experiences, but if I'm out just for a casual dinner with friends and some kid was not having a very good day I might be temporarily annoyed, but hey, I'll probably go out for dinner with these friends again in a few weeks and maybe we'll try a new place. Something like this, or some other equally rare experience --- going to a Superbowl, seeing Patti LaPone in Gypsy, being front row for Jay Z and Kanye, whatever --- I'm not going to get a do-over.
posted by Diablevert at 6:29 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


I think the real lesson here that's been overlooked: parents, it's never too early to start compiling a list of emergency backup babysitters. Get started on that before you even get knocked up/any other way you're getting a child.
posted by TwoStride at 6:34 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I think a good counter to the idea that the restaurant isn't like a church so why not let the kid in, is adult night at the Exploratorium. The Exploratorium in San Francisco is one of those hands-on science museums where you can play with machines and exhibits that demonstrate all kinds of neat physical principles. Once a week they kick the kids out, install a wine bar, and let the grownups play.

And that's not a churchlike quiet space, but it's a grownup space. Since it was cheap I wouldn't have been knocked out of countenance by an infant crying, but the thing is infants and children weren't supposed to be there. One way to look at Alinea is that it is like a very very very high end Exploratorium demonstration of food, for grownups. It's meant to evoke sensations and tastes which you might not have even been aware you could have. You are of course surrounded by people like yourself discovering these new things; you might yelp with delight or take a flash photo of your amazing dish, but that is not the same as having a needy child in the mix.

If the Exploratorium can kick the kids out of a children's science museum when the growunups are about, then a place built for grownups can certainly consider doing the same, when what they are doing is much more rarefied and people are paying a small fortune for the experience.
posted by localroger at 6:34 PM on January 14 [10 favorites]


At least if you have a (cis) girl child, you can persuade her that she needs to behave like a princess at a nice restaurant. Her expectations might even need to be dialed down a bit (she will not wear a tiara and arrive in a coach and four with an attendant to carry her train). It helps if the décor of the restaurant is old-fashionedly splendid, draped in brocade and with gilded furniture.

This does not work with (cisgender) little boys.
posted by bad grammar at 6:42 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


This does not work with (cisgender) little boys.

This brings up a (to me) hilarious derail. Since there are actual families who have to deal with this, how do they bring their actual royal Princes up so that they can perform at state functions at young ages yet also grow up to perform the Princely function of going off to war? Seems like it might be an art that hasn't trickled down to the proletariat.
posted by localroger at 6:46 PM on January 14


[Seriously, I don't know what it is with this thread but if people could just like cool it a little that'd be superb.]
posted by cortex at 6:49 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Ah yes. I remember the MeTa diaper thread. That was the day I was forced to listen and watch a screaming kid running through an aquarium, while his parents followed behind with abject disinterest and disregard for the other patrons.
posted by reenum at 6:49 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


MetaTalk
posted by sweetkid at 6:50 PM on January 14


Screaming baby =/= well-behaved nine-year-old.

Right, my point was "loud, drink couple = screaming baby" but I may not have made it well.
posted by sonika at 6:51 PM on January 14


This does not work with (cisgender) little boys.

It's true, asking little boys to behave like a princess almost never works.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:51 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


metafilter: the (cisgender) is not assumed.
posted by localroger at 6:53 PM on January 14


Right, my point was "loud, drink couple = screaming baby" but I may not have made it well.

It's not though. Sure, both are obnoxious, but to a point one can block out annoying adults. Humans are more or less hardwired to respond to the cries of a baby; almost impossible to ignore.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:53 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


This does not work with (cisgender) little boys.



Oh, can we make this thread EVEN BETTER by deciding children's behavior entirely based upon gender? That'd be -great-.

Pretty sure that gender has crap-all to do with how well a child behaves and could you maybe -not- be gender essentalist here? That'd be actually-for-real great.
posted by FritoKAL at 6:54 PM on January 14 [14 favorites]


What was not satirical was reenum's highly favorited comment about how ill mannered kids don't even belong at coffee shops or the grocery store.

FTFY
posted by reenum at 6:54 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


ill mannered people don't even belong at coffee shops or the grocery store.

FTFYB.
posted by localroger at 7:01 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Thank you, friend.
posted by reenum at 7:03 PM on January 14


Still less than most international and some domestic plane tickets and no one ever seems shocked that people travel internationally on threads about travel.

In all fairness your trip to Paris isn't going to be floating down the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in a couple of hours.
posted by MikeMc at 7:09 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I really didn't expect this thread to crash and burn so very mightily, but at least it has given me a chance to practice flagging comments without responding and thus continuing the horror.

However, I would like to request a new flag reason - "Oh, FFS," be added to the list.
posted by blurker at 7:12 PM on January 14 [28 favorites]


I brought a six month old to the cafe part of Chez Panisse once. They're very emphatic that the cafe is super casual! Extra relaxed! I called and asked, could I bring a small child? Do people do that? They said, of course! It is soooooo relaxed over here!

Right, so then I got there and discovered that people go to the cafe because they either can't afford or can't get reservations at the fancy part, but they are most definitely there to have a Seriously Awesome and Celebratory Dinner. The prices are pretty reasonable but the demeanor of every person in the room is Special Occasion.

Luckily he was happy as a clam and virtually silent. But I was biting my fingernails.
posted by gerstle at 7:24 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I stopped going to the good places with my kids. I accept that they are little but until they develop their palette enough to differentiate the subtleties between nouilles et fromage and mac and cheese (hint: its more than just the $40 a plate) I'm not going to waste the money on the little philistines. And if they some day cry to me that they want more nouveau cuisine, I'll consider it again as long as they show me that they can cut chives that to make Thomas Keller proud.

Ultimately though, if the baby is still crying after eating nouilles et fromage in your restaurant, hang up your toque.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:24 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


It's not though. Sure, both are obnoxious, but to a point one can block out annoying adults. Humans are more or less hardwired to respond to the cries of a baby; almost impossible to ignore.

For you.

For me, it's easier to have empathy for the baby who has no control over her emotions, having yet to develop a prefrontal cortex, than it is for me to excuse a fully grown adult who chooses to talk loudly in the middle of a ballet. A screaming baby might ruin your meal, it wouldn't ruin mine. Likewise, when I get *away* from my own screaming kiddo, what is more likely to bother me is an ill behaved adult rather than a toddler with a melt down. Part of this is that admittedly, I'm used to it. Different perspective.

There's no universality to annoyance. I can ignore a whole transatlantic flight of someone else's screaming kid, but if I hear you blabbing to your date in the middle of a performance, I will try to silence you with my mind powers. The only universal is sometimes, someone else's shitty behavior ruins someone's night.

(As for my own walking potential tantrum? I do my best with him when we go out and part of that is choosing experiences he can handle. At this point in his life, this means that "fine dining" isn't an option and "nice" places are only visited during off peak hours. And sometimes, it means my own lunch ends up being "to go.")
posted by sonika at 7:26 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


I think you missed my point. See here, for example.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:30 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Is a comment along the lines of "there are more relatively wealthy people here than you would realize, and it's been that way for a long time, and in threads like this there's a noticeable disconnect between them and a lot of other posters that's presented in a somewhat elitist/pretentious way" out of line?

It's not that it was out of line. It's just that it's a very young thing to say. Homeboy Trouble covered it well, and that comment is a great contribution to the thread.
posted by cribcage at 7:34 PM on January 14


Ultimately though, if the baby is still crying after eating nouilles et fromage in your restaurant, hang up your toque

One of the few sendbacks I've had was from some Precious Little Jewel of a kid who refused to eat the noodles and cheese I'd made for them because it didn't taste right. Read: it wasn't KD. I nearly cried. The manager did cry, I think, when Precious Parents insisted that they wouldn't be paying for it, because Precious Junior didn't like it.

NB: this was a special order, off-menu, and was as simple as could possibly be: reduced cream, bog-standard orange cheddar, and noodles.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:36 PM on January 14


I think you missed my point. See here, for example.

No, I got your point. I would absolutely hear a baby scream and register it as unignorable... what it wouldn't do is *annoy* me. Other babies screaming that aren't mine? I feel bad for the baby, but I'm off duty.

The worst though is the newborn phase where someone else's baby cries and suddenly you've got milk all over your shirt.
posted by sonika at 7:39 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


That was the day I was forced to listen and watch a screaming kid running through an aquarium, while his parents followed behind with abject disinterest and disregard for the other patrons.

That must really have broken the solemn hush of the water-zoo setting. I can understand your pique.
posted by palliser at 7:42 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


I would absolutely hear a baby scream and register it as unignorable... what it wouldn't do is *annoy* me.

Ever? I find that difficult to believe, but hey.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:42 PM on January 14


The worst though is the newborn phase where someone else's baby cries and suddenly you've got milk all over your shirt.

And sorry but this made me giggle. Is this a typical reaction? I didn't know that milk production was so.. Pavlovian. Learn something new every day!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:44 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Omiewise: what was not satirical was renum's highly favorited comment about how kids don't even belong at coffee shops or the grocery store.

Once again, that is not what renum said.
posted by spaltavian at 7:48 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Ever? I find that difficult to believe, but hey.

I'm a mom, former preschool teacher, and former nanny. I have a huge tolerance for crying kids. What I don't have patience for is adults who refuse to parent, but that's irrelevant in the "crying baby" stage because they're beyond reason. So, I guess if we define "baby" as less than a year old... I honestly don't remember the last time a crying baby actually *annoyed* me beyond "that is not a happy baby." Like I said, different perspective. Plenty of people annoy me. They just usually tend to be older.

I didn't know that milk production was so.. Pavlovian. Learn something new every day!

Yep! It is! The same sound quality that makes a baby's cry impossible to ignore triggers milk production. Your boobs are totally not smart enough to grok that THAT crying baby isn't yours. It's happened to every mother I know who has breast fed - at some point, some random kid triggers your let down reflex and hey, anyone have a spare shirt?
posted by sonika at 7:51 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Your boobs are totally not smart enough

Coming next year from Apple: iBoob, with Smart Lactation Technology.


I'll show myself out
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:59 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


I used to think that you can't take babies anywhere. Airplanes, submarines, restaurants, mosh pits. But one day I was chilling at the Burnside skate park, and out comes this skater dad and his skater infant like it's no big thing.

At first I'm like, "Brah, no way that tyke can shred."

Dad's like, "Sh'yeah, watch."

And I'm thinking like oh my god this parent is about to be arrested. But he pulls a little tiny skateboard out of his backpack and a tiny little helmet and a full set of tiny little pads. So at this point I'm starting to think that maybe Dad knows what he's talking about. Plus also the tiny skateboard is tricked out with this sweet graphic of a flying baby bottle holding a cyclops eye in one hand and a scythe in the other. Which is like, okay, if you needed an excuse for me to allow this? Earned.

And first the dad is warming up while the baby is sitting on his board crying, but then he skates over to the baby. "Talon, are you ready to shred?" To which the baby responds in the affirmative by crawling his board to the quarter pipe.

At this point I'm like there is no way I am seeing this; guys is this for real? And the other dudes are like, "Bro, you obviously and apparently do not get out much; Talon is here with his play group every Monday-Wednesday-Friday."

Talon is like, "Play group? Radical." And he proceeds forthwith to instigate major shredding.

Buh-bam! This infant is like if Tony Hawk had a cameo in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids! What I mean by this is that Talon looks like a miniaturized Tony Hawk. If this baby isn't pulling a sick kick flip or wicked 720 Christ air, he's pulling a hella tug of Dew. At one point he bazooka barfs all over his Skate or Die onesie, but somehow with all the hang time it's like he doesn't even register the vomitus.

So I'm like, "Pops, what's the deal? I thought infants couldn't fly, dine, or shred in public?"

Dad plays it off legit; it's mad obv that he's changed a few minds in his day. "Brah, respect, it's all about knowing your limits and abiding. We're not BASE jumping from the backside of Hood right into avy country. Freshman-level parenting skills; grippy wheels and confidence. Not going to lie, safety is also a thing. On his head? Inevitable spills. That is a quality bucket."

So I reflected on the meaning of grit and self-reliance and how eventually it will help you get into a good college and survive a shitty no-pay 'ternship. Reality, this is a tough world. No one is going to ollie for you. There are so many babies whose lame-o 'rents will never host a pre-K coffee drinking contest. I remember when I was a baby I really wanted one of those throat boxes that lets you sound like Peter Frampton. Did I get one? No. Did I come out fucked up and shit? Totes. Let the kids live a little.
posted by compartment at 8:11 PM on January 14 [50 favorites]


what
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:15 PM on January 14 [10 favorites]


You jest, but there is a pre-k skateboarding class that happens in the park by my house every week and it is the cutest thing ever.
posted by snickerdoodle at 8:19 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


This thread is redeemed.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:36 PM on January 14 [11 favorites]


"No one is going to ollie for you" is my new life motto.
posted by mediareport at 8:38 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


Metafilter: Somehow with all the hang time it's like he doesn't even register the vomitus.

I truly have no dog in this fight: I don't care for foodies or babies or molecular gastronomy. But you can't just surprise-bring an extra person into a prix-fixe restaurant, and say, "Oh, no problem, he's not eating."

You're asking the restaurant to deal with an unexpected, non-paying guest. That's not cool, even before we get to the likelihood of screaming and dropping/throwing/banging things and incontinence.

Kids belong a lot of places, and they can adapt to places they don't strictly belong with a little preparation - they're pretty flexible people, smart as anyone else, mostly more open to suggestion and guidance than the average grown-up. But a kid at Alinea would presumably be there on a zillion-dollar ticket, same as the 'rents. Babies, though, aren't able to govern themselves at all. Even the best-behaved baby is still a baby. The reason Achatz asked the world what to do about this is that he never expected anyone to just show up with a baby, a little person who cannot respond to reason and cannot govern his or her behavior even a little.
posted by gingerest at 9:13 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Just stopped back in to say that the Pavlovian Boobs thing totally, totally happens. The baby doesn't even have to be present. I was watching something on TV and there was some old documentary footage of a famine, and the camera panned over a starving woman holding a starving baby and my boobs let down like a waterfall. Like "I know you are 6,000 miles away and twenty years in the past but WE ARE HERE TO HELP!"
posted by KathrynT at 9:27 PM on January 14 [25 favorites]


Pooping the day after a highly transformative meal like that can be... well...

I've had it with this utterly feckless fecal fear-mongering
posted by threeants at 9:33 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


"WE ARE HERE TO HELP!"

A pair of giant, milk-leaking boobs gallops over the hills, accompanied by standard-bearers and trumpeters, towards some ragged, thin-faced, increasingly alarmed children.

"STAY RIGHT THERE BOSOMS ARE ON WAY TO HELP!"

"We were looking forward to a bit of Plumpynut. We don't mean to be picky, but this really isn't what we had in mind..."

"BOOBS COME HELP CHILDREN! STAY THERE CHILDREN!"
posted by gingerest at 10:06 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


So, yeah, other adults are equally capable of ruining date night.
Which is the case here. I'm pretty sure the eight month-old didn't throw a tantrum unless it got to go along. It's not the kid's fault, it's the parents who were likely looking for a bit of quality adult time and settled for seventh best by bringing the baby when things went south. There were likely any number of other parents looking for the same thing - I'd be cranky if this happened to me and I don't even have Pavlovian boobs!
posted by dg at 10:21 PM on January 14


My first living memory is of dining at a gourmet restaurant. I must have been two, because it was my aunt's 20th birthday. Her son, my cousin, and my little brother were there in baskets. We walked there through the snow because no cars could drive (I remember the snow, the baskets, the restaurant, and the atmosphere - the rest I got from describing this to my family and them recognizing the event). The reason this was a special and memorable event for me was that the entire staff made an effort to make this a special event for me. I was taken into the kitchen, I had three desseerts. And wisely so, because now I not only love fine dining for my self, I have also made a point out of teaching my own children to eat well at good restaurants. My eldest daughter had her first Michelin dinner on her own money at 14. She was recieved like a princess, no doubt by a chef as smart as the one who invited me in when I was two.
BTW, for us, this is not about money, I'm an academic now, but worked as a cook before. My daughter is a waiter. Fine dining is something we plan for in place of tv's and holidays.
The story here is confusing - did the parents want to intorduce the child to food? Or did they just bring it along? I'd find a child very annoying if the parents are just bringing it along as a prop.
posted by mumimor at 10:42 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Given that the recommendations are that kids not even start solids until six months of age, an eight-month-old baby is not in a position to learn anything about food from Alinea.
posted by KathrynT at 10:45 PM on January 14 [11 favorites]


I love reenum's comment on the whole, but this bit was ridiculous...

Or when I've got a limited time to pay for my lunch, and a parent decides it's a good time to let little Suzie count out pennies from her coin purse to pay for her meal.

I'm with you that Alinea isn't a place for kids. I'm with you that parents need to accept that there are certain places they cannot go. I'm with you that people with kids often feel an insane sense of entitlement. These are fantastic points and well said.

But if your lunch break is stretched tight to the point where a little kid taking say, 30-60 seconds to to count out some coins can ruin your day, in that case, please forgive me for saying so, but you're the entitled one being a goon. You're not breaking into a vault, you're buying a sandwich. It's not about crackerjack timing. If you don't have time for courtesy and slack to absorb tiny, tiny delays, you're doing it wrong.

When did we become a society so obsessed with everything going as fast as humanly possible that something taking a few seconds longer than necessary was an outrage? You had to wait a whole minute one time so little Susie could count pennies? That must have been horrible. Perhaps it was as horrible as the person walking slowly on the sidewalk that cost the lady in front of me an entire two and half seconds while she had to walk around them. (She did have time to call the person "a stupid mother fucker.") Or the person who was driving incrementally slower on the highway than the car in front of me today preferred to go and added an unforgivable 15, perhaps even 25 seconds to their commutes.

Have you ever seen The Magnificent Ambersons?

"Too slow for us nowadays. Because the faster we're carried, the less time we have to spare."

I don't meant to pick on you personally, reenum, particularly not as a tiny sidebar to what was on the whole a wonderful comment. But I've been giving a lot of thought lately to the number of times a day I had been letting myself becoming positively enraged over tiny, insignificant delays of just seconds or maybe a minute or so, as though I was some paragon of efficiency who never wasted a second of his own time. It's really appalling how often most of us do that these days.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:21 PM on January 14 [10 favorites]


That is a great contribution:

The thing that baffles me a little (I wish it shocked me, but it doesn't) is how many people here seem incapable of realizing that some small minority of people would prefer to spend their special evening enjoying world class avant garde dining more than they would like a sports game or a music concert or a theatre show.

It reminds me of something an author said about how our expectations are messed up because we read these books and watch movies which are artificially distilled into extremes of experience -- we expect those same highs ( and presumably ignore the extremes of the lows ... )

Hence the weight put on these "once in a lifetime events". Of course, reality seldom lives up to our expectations.

Either every evening is special or none are. I'm not quite sure which. Maybe due to quantum, both.
posted by mikelieman at 11:26 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Even setting aside the silliness of this being an eight-month-old, the whole tangent of teaching kids about the great big world feels like a poor fit to this context. Yes, it takes a village. And truly I think it's awesome that we're hearing stories about kids dining at these places at nine, twelve, fourteen years old. But I suspect those instances all have a backstory that goes something like, "We taught her to be well behaved at McDonald's, she sat politely in her seat at Olive Garden, and she enjoyed going to some nicer local places, so we thought she would have fun at a three-star room!"

Alinea is very much the deep end, and of an Olympic-size swimming pool where serious swimmers are doing laps. There's absolutely nothing wrong with bringing a youngster, provided you've taught them to swim.
posted by cribcage at 11:38 PM on January 14 [10 favorites]


The only way I'd even consider bringing the baby is if I'd pre-paid (which you have to do at Alinea, in the form of "buying a ticket"), the babysitter canceled at the last minute, I couldn't find a replacement, and Alinea refused to cancel my reso/refund your money.

Because while I try like hell to be considerate to other people where my kid is concerned, $265 per person is a giant, hairy, heap of money, and those reservations take forever to get.

In my world, three months of waiting and $530 aren't things I can afford to be flippant about. Though you'd hope that if you explained it that way, they'd cave and give you that refund, so you didn't feel trapped into rolling the dice on your kid's behavior in a situation like that.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:07 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


I don't think there's any scenario where I'd do it. I've swallowed losses on concert tickets because of blizzards, which is akin. If all else failed, the final decision would be whether to both blow off dinner and make the best of our night elsewhere, or for one person to have a night with the kid and the other to enjoy Alinea as best possible alone.
posted by cribcage at 12:19 AM on January 15


Come to think of it, even in my hypothetical, I think I'd try and give the tickets to a dear friend for a part of what I paid and call it a day.

I guess my point is that Alinea's ticket system could have played a role in the couple's decision.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:21 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


I guess my point is that Alinea's ticket system could have played a role in the couple's decision

"Come to think of it, couldn't they have just scalped them on craigslist? I'm sure," he opined sarcastically "there wouldn't be any internet shitstorms over that."
posted by mikelieman at 2:39 AM on January 15


The thing that I think it causing massive differences of opinion here is (mostly) that people probably think that, in general, its probably not a good idea to bring a small child to a place like this. But I can totally understand why someone might, and I feel like theres an empathy failure in those that can't.

To whit, if one's babysitter had cancelled at last minute, and the couple in question haven't really gone out in the last 8 months, and they have saved up for this instead of a holiday (which, at those prices, isn't even that implausible), and they don't know about the magic facebook group for selling tickets upthread (because not everyone is as savvy as you!). They figure that their little one usually sleeps at this time, so they can probably get away with it, and they go for a meal.

During the meal the baby cries for an indeterminite amount of time and the parents react in a currently undescribed manner. Sure, if they sat there eating ignoring their baby while still eating and ignoring the discomfort of other diners, that would be pretty shitty, but if instead they did their best to comfort it while feeling terribly embarrased... Eh.

Thing is, I'm not opposed to the notion of banning babies at a place like this, but seeing as they are not, it seems a bit much that many upthread seem to have a hate on people for daring to bring a baby.

Look, its possible that these parents are awful, thats true. But its also possible they made a bad choice in a difficult situation. Its really quite difficult to tell from the facts on the ground. I have no particular hatred for the restaurant owner in this situation by the way, the tweet doesn't seem terribly aggressive to me.

On a sidebar, it does genuinely surprise me how much people will spend on an experience like this. I would spend that much on a full week break somewhere, or going for 5 really brilliant meals instead, or 5 trips to the theatre (you can get tickets for shows for cheaper than premium, after all...).
posted by Cannon Fodder at 3:18 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


Coming late to the thread but - our kid has been coming with us to restaurants, galleries, art auctions, whatever since he was born (he's now 9). We are anything but child-centric - it was always on the understanding that if he kicked off, we are out. And we are yet to have any problems.
And being the good citizen who puts others before your kid can pay off in unexpected ways - when my son was about six we decided he and I were going to go to the Opera. I thought he would be okay, he assured me it would be okay, so we bought tickets to see his favourite opera*, The Magic Flute, at the ROH in London. First half, he could not stop fidgeting. And in the relatively cheap seats we were in, a six year old fidgeting was something that would have an impact on patrons around us. While it was probably not all that bad, I was sick with worrying that we were ruining the night for others, so at half time I asked one of the attendants that if instead of going back to our seats could we please come and sit on the fold-up stools at the back with them. Sure, our view would not be as good, but at least we could see the second half of the opera without annoying anyone else.
The attendant asked me to wait and minute and went off to ask about it. She then came back and said the front row of one of the boxes was free, and if we wanted we could sit there for the second half. In other words, a serious upgrade and my wiggly kid would not be annoying anyone. That second half of the opera still remains one of our favourite experiences.
In short, do the right thing by your fellow humans and it can pay off in ways you don't expect.

*yes, I have the kind of kid who has favourite operas.
posted by Megami at 3:25 AM on January 15 [12 favorites]


"Come to think of it, couldn't they have just scalped them on craigslist? I'm sure," he opined sarcastically "there wouldn't be any internet shitstorms over that."

Eh, like everyone else they paid their hundreds of dollars and trying to get an aspect of the special experience makes sense, as kids were not banned from the restaurant.

There's zero reason anyone should stop a planned activity because of possible internet shitstorm.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:33 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


trying to get an aspect of the special experience makes sense, as kids were not banned from the restaurant.

We'll have to disagree on that. It makes no sense in my eyes to bring a baby to that restaurant.
I bet horses aren't banned either. It still makes no sense to bring one.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:49 AM on January 15 [6 favorites]


Look, its possible that these parents are awful, that's true. But its also possible they made a bad choice in a difficult situation.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 6:18 AM on January 15


I think what you may be missing from people's comments is, the couple clearly made a bad choice before the situation became genuinely difficult (that is, difficult for not only themselves, but the restaurant and the other customers). That choice was to decide to bring their 8-month-old to Alinea anyway.


To whit, if one's babysitter had cancelled at last minute, and the couple in question haven't really gone out in the last 8 months, and they have saved up for this instead of a holiday (which, at those prices, isn't even that implausible), and they don't know about the magic facebook group for selling tickets upthread (because not everyone is as savvy as you!). They figure that their little one usually sleeps at this time, so they can probably get away with it, and they go for a meal.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 6:18 AM on January 15


That bolded part right there? There are literally millions upon millions of parental stories of child-related disasters that start that way. Seriously, the line "My baby usually sleeps at this time, so we figured it would be okay" should be categorized as "Obvious lies that people tell to themselves or others" and ranked right up there with "Size doesn't matter", "Of course those pants don't make you look fat", and "I'll get up early and do it tomorrow".

And selling the tickets doesn't require a "magic Facebook group". The web page where you purchase the tickets explains in great detail what your options are if you have to cancel. Failing that, the parents could have just as easily picked up that magic device known as the "telephone", called the restaurant, and said "Our babysitter canceled on us and we can't make it--what are our options?"

I sympathize that the parents spent the cost of a vacation on this meal. But you know what? Sitters can fall through, or babies can get sick, right before vacations, too, and force you to cancel your trip with no hope of a refund. You accept that, because that's how life goes and it's part of what you signed up for when you became a parent. Children cost you money in unexpected ways, including ruining your expensive, non-refundable plans.

And I think that's what chafes, at least for me. These people are the parents of a baby. The baby's needs come first, period. If the sitter falls through and you can't get anyone else, you prioritize the baby's needs above your ludicrously expensive meal, because both experience and common sense tell you that your baby is not going to be able to sit through a three to five hour meal in a strange environment. That's a parenting fail, and I think that's what people are reacting to

This couple basically bet $1,000 that their 8-month-old would be well-behaved for three or more hours at one of the finest restaurants in the world. Just reading that sentence out loud drives home what a patently ridiculous idea that was. Hell, it sounds like the premise of a bad sitcom episode.

Thing is, I'm not opposed to the notion of banning babies at a place like this, but seeing as they are not, it seems a bit much that many upthread seem to have a hate on people for daring to bring a baby.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 6:18 AM on January 15


Well, as pointed out upthread, Alinea is very obviously the sort of place you don't bring babies. That restaurant should have to specify "No Babies" anymore than they have to specify "Yes Pants". And I think people "hate on daring to bring a baby" to Alinea because doing so means the parents ignored the needs of everyone--the restaurant, the other diners, and most importantly their child--in favor of their own.
posted by magstheaxe at 5:04 AM on January 15 [11 favorites]


We'll have to disagree on that.

Disagree on what? It was a factual statement, kids were not banned from Aliena. I don't see howyou can argue with that

It makes no sense in my eyes to bring a baby to that restaurant.
I bet horses aren't banned either. It still makes no sense to bring one.


1) No, it wasn't a great idea to bring the kid.
2) It's probably illegal to brings animals into a restaurant, unless it's a seeing eye dog.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:20 AM on January 15


On a sidebar, it does genuinely surprise me how much people will spend on an experience like this. I would spend that much on a full week break somewhere, or going for 5 really brilliant meals instead

I think people spend money on the things that, to whatever degree possible within the confines of their income/budget, are items or experiences they are particularly drawn to. I can't justify buying high-end perfume (or even medium-end, or even low-medium end, mostly), but I'd love to, and I would if I could. I'm a big ol' lurker at Fragrantica.com and have all sorts of theoretical and second-hand knowledge about a lot of scents I will never have the opportunity to actually smell, much less buy or wear. But I save up pennies and buy stuff at the very minor level I am able to participate when it would be more fiscally prudent to skip it entirely.

Food as art and precious sensory experience is a thing. Some people are into fashion, or automobiles, or gaming, or whatever, and will spend way more than I would to enjoy the experience that is particularly valuable to them. Look at any thread anywhere online about coffee and you'll see this on possibly a more relatable level: many people who are very into the fine nuances and details and willing to spend more money for a certain level of experience, and many people who think those people are just being pretentious (but who may not balk at all on spending a lot on something else closer to their heart).

Anyway, I sort of have a sympathetic feeling for the restaurant in this case because I can understand the dilemma of wondering if you should make a specific "rule" in order to address extreme-case, usually one-off situations. Personally, I wouldn't make a no-children rule, but I would make a strong "no-disruptions" rule, which would cover the situation of a persistently crying baby that parents don't take outside, plus a whole lot more possible unexpected bad situations that might ruin the experience for other patrons. Why make a bunch of rules that are like a) no drunks, b) no fights, c) no standing up and singing America the Beautiful, d) no licking other patrons' noses, etc., when you can just make a general notice that diners who are disruptive via noise levels or behavior will be asked to leave (or leave until they can return without creating a disruption)?

As far as I can tell, I don't really think anyone acted at all terribly here, though I don't know all the details. The people with the baby weren't thrown out, the chef just wondered later (in very mellow tones) if they should begin to disallow kids. And the parents brought their kid to a restaurant where most people don't bring babies, but maybe their baby doesn't usually cry, or whatever, and it was just a bad coincidence. I have no idea. But at any rate, there wasn't a no-kids policy, and they were obviously seated, so, okay. Also, if there was nowhere inside to remove the baby to when he or she started crying, I think it's worthwhile to mention that January in Chicago is not the greatest for "taking baby outside." I'm just not super angry at either the parents or the restaurant.
posted by taz at 5:37 AM on January 15 [11 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: we'll have to disagree that trying to get an aspect of the special experience makes sense in this case. You say it does, I say it doesn't.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:49 AM on January 15


*yes, I have the kind of kid who has favourite operas.
posted by Megami at 6:25 AM on January 15


Your kid sounds awesome. :)
posted by magstheaxe at 7:05 AM on January 15


It was a factual statement, kids were not banned from Aliena. I don't see howyou can argue with that.

Letting things get to the point where bans have to be considered is why we can't have Nice Things.

Common sense and consideration dictate that an 8 month old shouldn't be at Alinea. A sleepy 2 month old could probably handle it, for example. But as a general rule, if they need a high chair, 4 hour meals are not for them.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:08 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


I guess my point is that Alinea's ticket system could have played a role in the couple's decision.

Yes, I think the scenario here is so incredibly unique and specific that all of the extrapolating people are doing in this thread, and using it as an excuse to delve into rants about entitled, selfish, irresponsible parents and their awful kids doesn't really make sense since the analogies don't really hold up (a child running wild at a Starbucks or taking too long to pick change out at a lunch counter just has absolutely nothing at all to do with finding yourself with tickets to an expensive event and having childcare fall through. But why let that get in the way of someone's favorite anti-breeder diatribe?)

I absolutely understand why Alinea requires tickets to be purchased well in advance and why they are non-refundable (these policies are what keep the doors open), but the fact is, in this specific instance, it is not difficult to assume that this very policy is what caused the incident to occur. Yes, when you are a parent sometimes plans get ruined at the last minute when childcare falls through (and you can pretty much tell who the parents and non-parents are in this thread by those who think it is superficially easy to have an endless supply of backup babysitters on call) or your kid gets sick or hurt (let me tell you sometime about my "Date Night" at urgent care), but at least in my experience those usually represent at most a minor financial loss and are more just kind of a bummer, not a big deal.

The unique circumstances of reserving a spot at Alinea is different though because the costs are considerable and non-refundable. If you are in a position where you are so financially secure that you are able to look at losing out on several hundred dollars as just part of life, more power to you and congratulations on your success, but it is not a common experience. Not that this justifies the poor decision to bring an infant to an inappropriate event for babies and thus potentially ruining the experience for others, but I can at least sympathize with the mindset behind it in this particular instance since the circumstances could easily make this feel like an impossible situation for the parents.
posted by The Gooch at 8:16 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


What as a diner do you believe you're entitled to for $500? Because no restaurant can really guarantee you silence. Or a perfect experiemce, as really that exists within your head and by what you choose to focus on or disregard within an evening. Certainly screaming babies makes this harder, and would be frustrating. Restaurants are shared spaces so they are in any way affordable. You have to share a private experience with members of the public. It's built into the price.

This. You're not paying for a private chef to make you insane creations in the privacy of your home, because we're not living in the Gilded Age and even if we were, I don't think anyone here is significantly wealthy enough to afford their own personal chef. You are paying a portion of a very expensive experience, so that you can have a part of it. And as such, you take the bad (other people may not behave as you expect or want them to) along with the good (you don't have to pay several grand for the experience.)

Maybe you think you are spending your $500 on complete hush, where you can pretend that no one else is there and this magnificence is all for you. But unless Alinea has a "no loud talking" behavior code on their website, with a "we will throw you out if you're loud", then you have no absolute expectation of silence. This is like people complaining because people are carrying on a conversation on the express bus that they tell themselves is expensive enough to keep out the riff-raff.

A lot of people are mentioning 500$ as the price tag that makes it an impossible thing to scrape and save for. This may be true for them, but just as true is that for some people, 500$ is a fun night out. The price tag does not make something obvious as a "once in a lifetime experience." Just as some posters here have mentioned that it's different when eating at Chili's, or Olive Garden - but while most of us consider that casual dining, there are certainly people for whom the prospect of dropping 50-100$ on a meal is a once-a-year experience. And yet we chatter away and treat it as a far more casual experience.
posted by corb at 8:17 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


That restaurant should have to specify "No Babies" anymore than they have to specify "Yes Pants"

They don't have to specify it "No Babies", but they DID seat the family. Explicitly accepting the baby into their restaurant. At that point, it's all about how everyone deals with possible disruptions. A random bit of chaos introduced into their nice, neat plans.

Pope Francis handled it pretty gracefully this past weekend I think at the Sistine Chapel.
posted by mikelieman at 8:29 AM on January 15


then you have no absolute expectation of silence

Jesus christ, no one is talking about expecting silence at the restaurant. What people are talking about is expecting that there will not be a crying baby at the restaurant.

but while most of us consider that casual dining, there are certainly people for whom the prospect of dropping 50-100$ on a meal is a once-a-year experience. And yet we chatter away and treat it as a far more casual experience.

Because eating at Chilis or the Olive Garden is in every conceivable way a far more casual experience than eating at Alinea
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:37 AM on January 15 [9 favorites]


But unless Alinea has a "no loud talking" behavior code on their website

This would fall under the same category as that "yes pants" policy that some pundit joked about.

I guess I'd gently say it's fine to want to have a strong opinion about this story. But if you find your opinion hanging mostly on your individual perception of what $500 represents, and you haven't actually experienced places like Alinea, French Laundry, Moto, Robuchon, etc so your vision of what we're talking about is mostly imaginary...then you might want to reconsider if it actually makes sense to have a strong opinion.

This is a good principle in the broad scheme. As we've talked about above, all kinds of specialized interests exist. I don't drink coffee or alcohol, so discussions about bean-roasting techniques or barrel-aging or an oaky and nutty finish, these whiz over my head. Perfumes all smell the same to me, so I'd be lost on the website Taz mentioned. My friend spends significant sums buying collectible sneakers, which I didn't even realize was a thing. It's a big world out there, and part of recognizing that is acknowledging when your "strong opinion" isn't really informed but instead is based on preconceptions that maybe aren't useful.
posted by cribcage at 8:50 AM on January 15 [5 favorites]


I was one of the "yawn, Thursday" restaurant-eating kids as in TPS' comment. Some of my earliest memories are of fine restaurants. The way my mother taught me this level of decorum was by being exceptionally strict on table manners and related stuff, at home, too.

Even my mother had a couple of restaurants where, she advised me, children were not allowed. I always wondered what happened there.

So I personally am unsympathetic.
posted by skbw at 8:50 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


They don't have to specify it "No Babies", but they DID seat the family. Explicitly accepting the baby into their restaurant
Right, but the whole genesis of this discussion is that the chef/owner was musing about whether they should do so in the future. That's the question here, right? If this happens again, should they refuse to seat the baby?

Anyway, one thing that this discussion has made me realize is that I should make sure that my kid-having friends and friendly acquaintances are aware that they should add me to their mental list of possible back-up babysitters if they're ever in a situation like this. (Nobody I know is ever going to be in a situation just like this, because we don't have any restaurants like Alinea where I live. But you get the idea.) I'm generally happy to watch people's kids if they find themselves in a pinch, and I'm not sure that they're all aware of that. I don't really think that people should bring babies to Alinea, but I also think that people with babies should have more extensive and supportive networks than they sometimes do.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:09 AM on January 15 [5 favorites]


This is the ghost pepper sauce of threads, I'm addicted to the pain...

Eh, like everyone else they paid their hundreds of dollars and trying to get an aspect of the special experience makes sense, as kids were not banned from the restaurant.

This viewpoint drives me bonkers. (Not you personally, BB, just the idea .) But "anything which is not explicitly banned is permissible and cannot be legitimately complained about" is a horrible no-good very bad way to run a society. We have etiquette, and we have the law, and we need both, and they're different. The law is rigid and black and white and does not easily permit of exceptions. Etiquette has shades and gradations, mores and lesses. But it nonetheless real and powerful for that.

And we need it, because the world is made up of exceptions and special snowflakes and unique circumstances. This whole thread is people hashing out the polite course if action in these particular circumstances, and I think despite the heatedness, there's pretty clear consensus that bringing a baby to this restaurant was impolite because it's got a good chance of making the experience of eating at this particular restaurant unpleasant for other people. And I think that's a much better result then having a business impose some blanket ban on kids -- because, as this thread points out, plenty of other kids in other circumstances are able to go to fancy restaurants no problem.
posted by Diablevert at 9:13 AM on January 15 [9 favorites]


That's the question here, right? If this happens again, should they refuse to seat the baby?

The way you WIN THE INTERNET is to 'upgrade' the parents and infant to a 'chef's table' back in the kitchen. The other diner's precious environment isn't put at risk. The parents get a special treat, and unless someone's mix of uppers, painkillers and booze are particularly bad, everyone in the kitchen should be all 'OOH BABY!!!!", then get back to work.
posted by mikelieman at 9:17 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


Crying baby story on Good Morning America.

I was another "yawn Thursday" child who ate at a lot of nice places (my dad entertained a lot for business and I sometimes went along) but I can't imagine my parents having taken me somewhere like Alinea even if they went because some places are not appropriate for little kids. And yes, on the rare occasion I misbehaved, my parents took me out, whether it was downscale or upscale.

(Also as a person with health problems who might have to miss a big-ticket dinner like that even if paid up, I'm sad for people who lose their ticket because the sitter cancels, but: life hard. Sometimes you make plans that you cannot follow through on. The cost is sunk but you don't have to sink with it.)
posted by immlass at 9:18 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


The way you WIN THE INTERNET is to 'upgrade' the parents and infant to a 'chef's table' back in the kitchen.

Except then you are bothering the kitchen staff, who in this kind of place require intense concentration. I guess you could put them in the chef's office. The papers strewn about are part of the experience.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 9:25 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


The experience of this particular restaurant isn't "formal dining" as most would define it. Don't get me wrong the food looks very interesting and by all accounts it is amazing. The atmosphere is very casual, informal dress, individuals encouraged to eat with their hands, and slurp the juices of the dishes. Good wine flows freely and conversation is loud. The environment is one where cameras and phones are out to tell the world about the experience and showcase the treats on social media.

The argument that the parents ought to have done "x" because "manners" doesn't seem credible to me given the disregard for proprietary occurring around them. Not to mention that the host sat them even knowing that they'd brought an infant with them. Then rather than resolve the situation for his guests in a discrete manner, as a gentleman should, the issue it brought to Twitter.
posted by humanfont at 9:29 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


and conversation is loud.

This is contrary to everything I've ever heard about Alinea.
posted by KathrynT at 9:31 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


The experience of this particular restaurant isn't "formal dining" as most would define it.

Thats right, its fine dining.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:32 AM on January 15


Then rather than resolve the situation for his guests in a discrete manner, as a gentleman should, the issue it brought to Twitter.

What's wrong with bringing it to Twitter? He wasn't publicly scolding the couple, he was posing a legitimate question he was struggling with to see what others thought. A quote from the Good Morning America piece is "chef Achatz says he does think children should experience fine dining at an early age, he just hasn't decided where to draw the line."
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 9:34 AM on January 15


That's actually part of a bigger etiquette piece - is it appropriate for you, as a business, to comment on your clients? Particularly on Twitter? I'm reminded of the "no-tip" food cart dude, for example, but there's been other shaming going on.

If the chef hadn't specified it was about a specific incident with an 8month old (and how did he even know the age?) this would not have been a story, and he could think about admitting children in peace.
posted by corb at 9:38 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


he was posing a legitimate question he was struggling with to see what others thought.

That might have been his intent, but once those 140 characters are loose, it doesn't matter what they actually say, everyone who reads them is going to put their own spin on it. And as we've seen, there's quite a bit of spinning.

He asked a question. Are the answers he gets worth the shitstorm with his name attached to it? Only the bottom line will tell. Marketing. Some days you get the bear, other days the bear gets you.
posted by mikelieman at 9:42 AM on January 15


That's actually part of a bigger etiquette piece - is it appropriate for you, as a business, to comment on your clients? Particularly on Twitter? I'm reminded of the "no-tip" food cart dude, for example, but there's been other shaming going on.


A couple of nights before he posted about a guest who had requested no red meat for the Steakhouse menu at Next
https://twitter.com/Gachatz/status/421121663787208704

IMHO both are pretty rude, the the red meat one is even more rude because regardless of the theme of the menu, there is only one course that has red meat.

Neither is really shocking though. The Chicago food community has grown increasingly disillusioned with the whole Next/Alinea circus. The Next menus used to sell out in minutes, now that's not the case.
posted by melissam at 9:45 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


That's actually part of a bigger etiquette piece - is it appropriate for you, as a business, to comment on your clients?

I think this articulates what made me uncomfortable with this story. It seems kind of tacky to me to happily accept several hundred dollars (or more?) of someone's money and then after the fact publicly announce how annoying it was to have them in your presence, no matter how anonymously and neutrally worded.
posted by The Gooch at 9:48 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


h, like everyone else they paid their hundreds of dollars and trying to get an aspect of the special experience makes sense, as kids were not banned from the restaurant.

There's zero reason anyone should stop a planned activity because of possible internet shitstorm.


And as we have repeatedly explained to you, and you keep ignoring, there is plenty of reason why they should not have taken an 8 month old to a restaurant like this. Their attempt to get an aspect of that special experience ruined that special experience for everyone else. That is the definition of selfish. What is so very difficult for you to understand about this?

But unless Alinea has a "no loud talking" behavior code on their website, with a "we will throw you out if you're loud", then you have no absolute expectation of silence.

My goodness, what a beautiful strawman. I'm going to demolish it anyway, because what you just said is what nobody in this thread has said. There is rather a wide spectrum between 'total silence' (which nobody here has even mentioned) and 'screaming child.'

People have asked for a lack of the latter, only.

Just as some posters here have mentioned that it's different when eating at Chili's, or Olive Garden - but while most of us consider that casual dining, there are certainly people for whom the prospect of dropping 50-100$ on a meal is a once-a-year experience. And yet we chatter away and treat it as a far more casual experience.

There are, I would venture to guess, far far far fewer people who would view $50-100 as a special night out than there are those who view $500+ as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The way you WIN THE INTERNET is to 'upgrade' the parents and infant to a 'chef's table' back in the kitchen.

99% certain there is no chef's table in the kitchen at Alinea. There's no room. Not every modernist restaurant gets to have a 3000sqf kitchen like elBulli did. Plus, as pointed out by ultraviolet catastrophe above, you are then disrupting the kitchen.

Like I said before, I've never worked at the level of Alinea. But I have done some fairly intense fine dining, and the level of concentration required is ferocious. You have to be laser-focused from the moment the first chit comes up until you send out your last plate. A crying baby would destroy that focus, and in a restaurant where precision matters the way it does at Alinea, that will cause a cascade of problems. Achatz told a story in his Harvard lecture about a server dropping a tray of glasses, and everyone snapped their heads around. Alinea is a very quiet kitchen (as most super high end restaurants are), and a crying baby? No. Just no.

The argument that the parents ought to have done "x" because "manners" doesn't seem credible to me given the disregard for proprietary occurring around them.

How many different ways do we have to explain to you that these things about propriety that you are complaining about are integral to many of the dishes served? I mean seriously, I've said it to you more than once. Where is the communication breakdown here?

Manners are contextual. At Alinea one is expected to use one's hands, slurp, be fed by servers occasionally. It is part of the experience. Here is a list of things that are ill-mannered anywhere, and not part of the Alinea experience:

1) Crying babies disturbing the experience that other people have paid to have.

Is that more clear?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:05 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


That's actually part of a bigger etiquette piece - is it appropriate for you, as a business, to comment on your clients?

As with most things, it varies from situation to situation. Add in social media and it's practically guaranteed that most restaurants will, in one way or another.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:12 AM on January 15


I mean, would you consider it a lack of propriety to be tearing off hunks of injera and scooping up some wat--with your fingers shock horror--at an Ethiopian restaurant? Or slurping your ramen at an izakaya?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:12 AM on January 15


...there is plenty of reason why they should not have taken an 8 month old to a restaurant like this

We disagree on many aspects about this situation, but this ain't one of them. We're probably always going to disagree, about those other aspects, so where would you like this conversation to go from here?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:14 AM on January 15


How many different ways do we have to explain to you...

You are addressing someone who repeatedly threw racial comparisons into the thread until a moderator finally said stop and then switched to literally saying, "I looked at pictures and read a couple reviews, so here's my opinion on what it is." I'm not sure why the mods let that go on, but the answer to your question is that you're going to have to keep explaining it again and again until that stops being entertaining and funny for another person. You can decide what to do about that.
posted by cribcage at 10:15 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


We disagree on many aspects about this situation, but this ain't one of them. We're probably always going to disagree, about those other aspects, so where would you like this conversation to go from here?

I would personally really love it if you would stop trying to justify their actions, and start showing that you understand their actions were completely selfish and ruined the nights of 60 other people, and that the only correct action for them to take was to leave.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:16 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


I, for one, would like you to acknowledge that suggesting that patrons at a restaurant should offer to hold a stranger's baby is wildly unreasonable, and suggests to me at least that you are being willfully obtuse.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:17 AM on January 15 [9 favorites]


ffff: ...there is plenty of reason why they should not have taken an 8 month old to a restaurant like this

BB: We disagree on many aspects about this situation, but this ain't one of them.

Wait, what? I thought that you said trying to get an aspect of the special experience makes sense, as kids were not banned from the restaurant.

So does it or does it not make sense in your view for them to take the baby to the restaurant? Because I can't tell which it is.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:21 AM on January 15


you are then disrupting the kitchen.

If the choice is "Disrupt Other Diners" or "Disrupt The Kitchen", what is the path of least resistance? Me? I would have sent them home with a refund at the door or offered to reschedule when we had an opening in the future. But that didn't happen, so it's time for damage control. Unless you embrace the novelty of the situation and make it part of the experience.

I think that's the real loss here. They could have worked this baby into the evening in so many, many ways which would have been a plus for everyone involved, but instead of a potential 'perfect moment', we have this.
posted by mikelieman at 10:22 AM on January 15


There is rather a wide spectrum between 'total silence' (which nobody here has even mentioned) and 'screaming child.'

Speaking of strawmen, it would help if you'd stop talking about a "screaming child" when all that's been reported is a crying child.

To me there IS a big difference between a child that cried for two hours straight vs one that cried for a minute before he was taken to the bathroom for 45 minutes, then cried again for another minute before the noise abated again.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:22 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


I think this articulates what made me uncomfortable with this story. It seems kind of tacky to me to happily accept several hundred dollars (or more?) of someone's money and then after the fact publicly announce how annoying it was to have them in your presence, no matter how anonymously and neutrally worded.
posted by The Gooch at 12:48 PM on January 15


Gooch, the text of Achatz tweet was:

Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no,but..

I would hardly call that "publicly announcing how annoying they were". He does say the other diners were mad, but that's as far as it goes.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:23 AM on January 15


They can't just be selfish, they have to be "completely selfish"? Bringing the kids to the restaurant can't just be the wrong decision (something acknowledged by almost everyone who has commented), but must have also "ruined" the nights of 60 other people? (Has there been some reporting on this from the othe patrons that I missed? All I saw was that diners were mad.)

feckless fecal fear mongering, you are demanding that other people think about this issue in the exact same way as you. Why is that so important and how likely is it that you will get what you seek? Why isn't it enough that the vast majority of people commenting in this thread have agreed that they shouldn't have brought the baby to that restaurant?
posted by Area Man at 10:25 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


Feckless, you're probably going to have to resign yourself to the fact that isn't going to happen and move on.

Wait, what? I thought that you said trying to get an aspect of the special experience makes sense, as kids were not banned from the restaurant.

I don't see the situation as being ONE PARTICULAR WAY, at this point. If others are justiftying the price of the dinner as why there shouldn't be a baby there, it makes sense to me that those parents could use the same argument to justify why they were there. But yeah, bringing the 8 month shouldn't have happened. But it did, so one might as well find a way to salvage the situation if it's truly horrible.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:25 AM on January 15


He should have said "No" before seating them in the restaurant, not after the fact on twitter.
posted by mikelieman at 10:26 AM on January 15


If the choice is "Disrupt Other Diners" or "Disrupt The Kitchen", what is the path of least resistance?

Disrupting the kitchen at somewhere like Alinea is the culinary equivalent of disrupting NASA's control centre during the launch countdown.

They can't just be selfish, they have to be "completely selfish"? Bringing the kids to the restaurant can't just be the wrong decision (something acknowledged by almost everyone who has commented), but must have also "ruined" the nights of 60 other people?

Quoting Achatz' tweet: "Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad."

People don't tend to get mad if their night has been hunky-dory, wouldn't you say?

Feckless, you're probably going to have to resign yourself to the fact that isn't going to happen and move on.

Hahaha wow. You're really never going to understand how these people were in the wrong, and why what they did was utterly selfish, are you? How sad.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:29 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


He should have said "No" before seating them in the restaurant, not after the fact on twitter.
posted by mikelieman at 1:26 PM on January 15


Agreed. I'd love to hear from the person running the front of the house (the maitre'd? Do they even call them that anymore?), and his/her reaction when the couple walked in with the baby.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:30 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Also, the mods asked Brandon and others above to stop the derail about helping strangers with their babies hours ago (and fwiw as a mom myself I would totally help a stranger with her baby in a bind), so by asking him about it you are I think defying the mods and putting BB in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" position.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:30 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


You know what, screw this, I'm bowing out. BB, if you can't understand the simplest of human courtesy, I don't know what to say to you anymore. humanfont, if you can't be bothered to actually understand how this restaurant works, you really shouldn't be commenting on it.

It's been real.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:31 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Disrupting the kitchen at somewhere like Alinea is the culinary equivalent of disrupting NASA's control centre during the launch countdown.

So, the situation is so precarious, yet Achatz still gives them a seat in the dining room instead of a refund or offer to reshedule?

Sounds to me like Achatz got burned by his strict adherence to The First Ferengi Rule of Acquisition, "Once you have their money, you never give it back."
posted by mikelieman at 10:32 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Gooch, the text of Achatz tweet was:

Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no,but..

I would hardly call that "publicly announcing how annoying they were". He does say the other diners were mad, but that's as far as it goes.


I don't want to get bogged down in a semantics argument, but I can't help but feel you are being a little disingenuous here. Was there any confusion as to what Achatz was trying to convey in his message? Does anyone think he meant that he thought having a baby at the restaurant was a positive, wonderful thing? If I were the parents I would be mortified to have spent a large amount of disposable income at this establishment, only to later see a tweet from the owner specifically referring to my presence there and how problematic it was.
posted by The Gooch at 10:34 AM on January 15


So, the situation is so precarious, yet Achatz still gives them a seat in the dining room instead of a refund or offer to reschedule?

posted by mikelieman at 1:32 PM on January 15


I would suspect that, like many chefs, Achatz was in the kitchen overseeing food prep (or cooking himself), and the decision to seat or not seat was left to maitre d'.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:35 AM on January 15


. I'd love to hear from the person running the front of the house (the maitre'd? Do they even call them that anymore?), and his/her reaction when the couple walked in with the baby.

And maybe it's just the New Yorker in me, but you know, a maitre'd could have sent them away with a promise to reschedule, called a concierge friend, filled the table at a premium and pocketed a nice gratuity for themselves without a whole lot of hassle...
posted by mikelieman at 10:36 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


I'd love to hear from the person running the front of the house (the maitre'd? Do they even call them that anymore?), and his/her reaction when the couple walked in with the baby.

That's the really fascinating aspect of this and similar threads. All we're getting is the barest of information about what occurred, filtered through one person's perspective. Yet battle lines have drawn and vitriol fired like a shotgun.

To really form an accurate opinion, you need to know the situation of the parents, their personalities and attitude upon walking in, what the hostess did or did not do, what the baby did and for how long, how many others were bothered, how long the disturbance lasted etc, etc. But we don't and will never know.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:36 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


I'd love to hear from the person running the front of the house

Agreed, although it's unlikely to happen. I also think it's interesting none of the other diners from that evening have decided to speak up. ("The baby was wailing." "It wasn't a big deal." "The parents left/stayed." Etc.) I don't for a second believe that none of them are aware of the hullabaloo.
posted by cribcage at 10:37 AM on January 15


and conversation is loud.

This is contrary to everything I've ever heard about Alinea.


watch the youtube videos linked above. Personally I doubt a child crying here and there would have had a massive impact on the background noise. I think some people are just especially sensitive to baby sounds though.

It cries. Diners mad.

Unclear if this is a couple people shaking their heads, or the entire room complaining their night is ruined. I'd bet there are people who'd react with, have another glass of wine and chillax, and others who'd start preparing the editorial explaining why this was completely unacceptable. So much depends on mood and general attitude... It does seem weird to seat a baby, but did they have some kind of bassinet & thought it would sleep through the event?
posted by mdn at 10:40 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


If you were there as another diner, at this point, you keep your big mouth shut. We're at the point where reality doesn't matter and everyone's running off their own mental models.

Accurate opinions? I think that's the minority at this point of the discussion and given that I see this breaking down into some distinct reactions.

OMG BABBIES!

Oh, fuck, babies.

Man, did that restaurant drop the ball.

And

Look at all the apes chattering about bananas today...

And nothing anyone says is going to materially contribute to anyone's understanding.
posted by mikelieman at 10:42 AM on January 15


How many different ways do we have to explain to you that these things about propriety that you are complaining about are integral to many of the dishes served? I mean seriously, I've said it to you more than once. Where is the communication breakdown here?

Staring at your cell phone to text or Facebook each moment, talking loudly so that your conversation is heard across the room; these are not essential elements to any dining experience.

Like I said before, I've never worked at the level of Alinea. But I have done some fairly intense fine dining, and the level of concentration required is ferocious. You have to be laser-focused from the moment the first chit comes up until you send out your last plate.

Your presumptions do not match the recorded data. So we are left either accepting your argument from expertise or going with what we can observe. Observational data from videos demonstrates that the environment is loud. In looking at the photos of the location, I note that the restaurant has been designed with an abundance of hard surfaces, and a flat ceiling which would tend to reflect and increase noise level in the room. This is common design element in the restaurant industry in the believe that the reflected noise creates "atmosphere". If quiet concentration on the food is expected, then the architecture does not support it.

Finally your description of this particular incident is a projection and fantasy created in your own mind from the Chef's few comments. You have no idea if this was crying that lasted only a moment. You don't know how loud it actually was. You don't know how long the parents decided to stay, or if they left early, or how they might have dealt with the situation. The outrage and scorn you've expressed here are in reaction to your own fantasy.
posted by humanfont at 10:48 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


I don't want to get bogged down in a semantics argument, but I can't help but feel you are being a little disingenuous here. Was there any confusion as to what Achatz was trying to convey in his message?
posted by The Gooch at 1:34 PM on January 15


Not to me. Seems to me he was saying "Some people brought an eight month old toddler to the restaurant. It cried, and that made some of the diners mad. I'm not sure what to do the next time this happens."

This is a far cry from 'ATTENTION, PEOPLE OF EARTH! JOHN AND JANE DOE OF CHICAGO, NORTH AMERICA, BROUGHT THEIR 8-MTH-OLD SON JOEY TO MY HAUTE CUISINE DINING ESTABLISHMENT THIS EVENING; JOEY PROCEED TO CRY AT VOLUME FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE LAMB COURSE UNTIL THE GREEN APPLE HELIUM BALLOON WAS SERVED. EARTH'S GOURMANDS MAY DIRECT THEIR WRATH TO THE COUPLE'S RESIDENCE AT 1234 MAIN STREET IN CHICAGO. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME."

Achatz made no judgement call in his tweet about the parents. He just laid out the facts. Couple brought baby, baby cried, diners were mad.

If I were the parents I would be mortified to have spent a large amount of disposable income at this establishment, only to later see a tweet from the owner specifically referring to my presence there and how problematic it was.
posted by The Gooch at 1:34 PM on January 15


I'm not saying tweeting about that specific incident was the best way to deal with the situation, but it's not like Achatz posted mug shots, either.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:48 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


I'm guessing the other diners are well aware that nothing good comes out of speaking up.

I can understand people having strong opinions in this thread, but I don't understand the hostility toward the restaurant and staff. Someone showed up with a baby. It didn't work out. They're asking if they should explicitly ban babies in the future.

On a somewhat related note, on my wedding day my wedding another bride showed up with her family and wedding party. She'd gotten married somewhere else and wanted take pictures at my venue, because it was so pretty. She was upset when I politely declined, on the grounds that I was, uh, getting ready to walk down the aisle. I understand that it was a big day for her too, and she really, really wanted to have a drink at this particular rooftop restaurant, but this was simply not my problem.

I feel that this is what Alinea is trying to figure out here. If someone's plans don't work out, should it be the restaurant's problem? Given that the policy is "no" for any other sort of cancellation, I don't understand why the presence of a baby should be any different. A very young baby I sort of get, as they're pretty sleepy anyway, and aren't very loud even if they do cry. But at 8 months, you should know better.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:50 AM on January 15 [6 favorites]


Personally I doubt a child crying here and there would have had a massive impact on the background noise. I think some people are just especially sensitive to baby sounds though.
posted by mdn at 1:40 PM on January 15


Achatz did tell Good Morning America he could hear the baby crying in the kitchen. That says volume to me, but then, I've never been to Alinea.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:51 AM on January 15


Even that depends on how close the couple was sitting to the kitchen.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:53 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


On a somewhat related note, on my wedding day my wedding another bride showed up with her family and wedding party. She'd gotten married somewhere else and wanted take pictures at my venue, because it was so pretty. She was upset when I politely declined, on the grounds that I was, uh, getting ready to walk down the aisle. I understand that it was a big day for her too, and she really, really wanted to have a drink at this particular rooftop restaurant, but this was simply not my problem.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:50 PM on January 15


o_0

She...she actually had the nerve to get upset when you said no?
posted by magstheaxe at 10:54 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]



. Couple brought baby, baby cried, I DID NOT RESOLVE THE ISSUE GRACEFULLY, diners were mad.

ftfy,
posted by mikelieman at 10:58 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


Even that depends on how close the couple was sitting to the kitchen.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:53 PM on January 15




I mean, I've never been to Alinea, so I don't know how big the dining room is or how it's laid out or if the kitchen is one of those partially open ones like French Laundry has (used to have?) where the diners can see the chefs at work.


But I do know that as a rule, professional kitchens are not quiet places during the height of food service. Assuming that Alinea has a professional kitchen like some I've seen? That baby would've had to be making some pretty serious noise to be heard, even if the couple was seated inside the kitchen next to the walk-in.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:59 AM on January 15


Magstheaxe would you accept that this highly skilled an acclaimed chef ought to be beyond the point in his career where he needs to seek out advice on this subject on Twitter? In my opinion at some point before you earn the third Michelin star you probably should have figured it out or hired a host/hostess in the front who can resolve this kind of problem.
posted by humanfont at 10:59 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


BB, if you can't understand the simplest of human courtesy, I don't know what to say to you anymore.

Here's parts of the several comments you've written in this thread, which call into question any sort of understand you have of human courtesy, so whatever:
If some asshole parent and their screaming child are at the next table, I wil lose my shit
...
I don't give a fuck if your babysitter cancelled at the last minute and you desperately want a special night
...
You're either being disingenuous or... actually I can't think of another 'or' that would fit here.
...
You're being clueless here.
...
It's asshole entitled parents who ruined things for everyone dining there that night
...
the parents in question wouldn't be total assholes
..
You're really never going to understand how these people were in the wrong, and why what they did was utterly selfish, are you? How sad.

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:00 AM on January 15 [8 favorites]


I don't get the level of anger at either the couple or the restaurant. I think the couple made the wrong choice and I can see being annoyed or mildly pissed off, but some commenters seem furious. Its nuts. Bringing babies to really fancy restaurants of this type isn't some giant societal problem. It very rarely happens for good reasons.

As for the restaurant, I don't blame them at all. If I had that sort of restaurant, I wouldn't be prepared for a baby to show up. I wouldn't have a plan.
posted by Area Man at 11:02 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


. Couple brought baby, baby cried, I DID NOT RESOLVE THE ISSUE GRACEFULLY, diners were mad.

ftfy,
posted by mikelieman at 1:58 PM on January 15


It wasn't broken. I'll thank you not to change my words.

Back on topic, Achatz didn't say one way or the other what happened to the parents. We don't know if the couple was asked to leave, or if they were allowed to stick it out. All we know is that Achatz is trying to figure out what to do in the event someone else attempts to bring a baby to Alinea again.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:06 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


Disrupting the kitchen at somewhere like Alinea is the culinary equivalent of disrupting NASA's control centre during the launch countdown.

I think the moment at which you are comparing any level of food preparation to NASA launches, you are a bridge too far. This is the kind of attitude that makes people irritated at uber-foodies. The chef had to listen to a crying baby at least once. No lives were lost.
posted by corb at 11:08 AM on January 15 [7 favorites]


She...she actually had the nerve to get upset when you said no?

I was so flabbergasted that I let her keep talking and I think she'd convinced herself that I'd agreed. So she was put out when I finally retrieved my scattered wits and said "That's just not possible." This was a small venue, so it wasn't as if she could be unobtrusive.

You can criticize Alinea for not having a plan, but if most people agree that the baby shouldn't have been there, is it so hard to believe that they'd never needed that plan before? My guess is that they really did think it was going to be ok, and the host wanted to believe them.
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:10 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]



. Couple brought baby, baby cried, I DID NOT RESOLVE THE ISSUE GRACEFULLY, diners were mad.


I apologize. I had thought that was the chef's tweet.
posted by mikelieman at 11:10 AM on January 15


My point stands. HE dropped the ball when HE had an issue in HIS restaurant the moment HE chose to not address it the moment it occurred. If HE heard it in the kitchen HE can't claim ignorance.

The time to deal with it was when it happened. Not to defer it until he had time to tweet his followers. OR by definition it's not that big of a deal.
posted by mikelieman at 11:14 AM on January 15


Think of it as a master class in being a REAL restaurateur. "A couple brings in a restless 8 month old. Deal with it and don't look like a douche".

We don't know what the actual events were, but from the "After Event PR and Promotion" aspect, this isn't going well...
posted by mikelieman at 11:17 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Magstheaxe would you accept that this highly skilled an acclaimed chef ought to be beyond the point in his career where he needs to seek out advice on this subject on Twitter? In my opinion at some point before you earn the third Michelin star you probably should have figured it out or hired a host/hostess in the front who can resolve this kind of problem.
posted by humanfont at 1:59 PM on January 15


Agreed in principle.

But at the same time, if Achatz has got fans following him on twitter, I would wager that most of those followers are the types of foodies willing and able to pay $500+ for a night at Alinea. A mix of potential and actual customers, in other words.

I don't see anything wrong with soliciting feedback from people most likely to be affected if another couple shows up at Alinea with their baby. Again, not the ideal way of handling it, as things on twitter can escalate beyond your wildest nightmares, but I can see why Achatz might have thought that way.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:20 AM on January 15


Think of it as a master class in being a REAL restaurateur

you do know we are talking about one of the best chefs in the planet?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:20 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


BOOM! What y'all don't realize is you just been served Chef Achatz's latest avant garde dish, argument of unresolvability served in a social media reduction. Did you notice how the paucity of verifiable facts emboldened the flavors and caused them to linger on the palate? Genius!
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:23 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


My point stands. HE dropped the ball when HE had an issue in HIS restaurant the moment HE chose to not address it the moment it occurred. If HE heard it in the kitchen HE can't claim ignorance.

The time to deal with it was when it happened. Not to defer it until he had time to tweet his followers. OR by definition it's not that big of a deal.
posted by mikelieman at 2:14 PM on January 15


I hear you, but if Achatz had been in the middle of making one of those complex dishes, though....

"We're sorry, ma'am, but your fourth course is going to have a thirty minute delay. Chef Achatz was in the middle of making it, but he had to drop everything and deal with the crying baby you heard earlier. He's re-starting it now..."

This was just a no-win situation all the way around. But I disagree that the time to deal with it was when the baby cried in the restaurant. The time to deal with it was when the sitter canceled, and the parents were trying to figure out what to do next. That, ultimately, was when the ball was dropped.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:25 AM on January 15


Think of it as a master class in being a REAL restaurateur

Shouldn't a REAL restaurateur reflect on things that happen in his or her restaurant in order to think about what should be done in the future to provide the best experience for customers?
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 11:26 AM on January 15


We don't know what the actual events were, but from the "After Event PR and Promotion" aspect, this isn't going well...

Really? Granted, I've only scanned a few pieces about this, but I haven't really seen much negative feedback directed towards Achatz. And personally, I am now DYING to go to Alinea.
posted by lalex at 11:27 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]



Shouldn't a REAL restaurateur reflect on things that happen in his or her restaurant in order to think about what should be done in the future to provide the best experience for customers?


Yeah, but on twitter?
posted by mikelieman at 11:31 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


prize bull octorok: "BOOM! What y'all don't realize is you just been served Chef Achatz's latest avant garde dish, argument of unresolvability served in a social media reduction. Did you notice how the paucity of verifiable facts emboldened the flavors and caused them to linger on the palate? Genius!"

And did you notice how we're all tired of your one-note schtick?
posted by danny the boy at 11:32 AM on January 15


But I do know that as a rule, professional kitchens are not quiet places during the height of food service. Assuming that Alinea has a professional kitchen like some I've seen?

Delving deeper into this from the "oh this is interesting" rather "I must prove you wrong and me right" angle, here's a photo collage of Alinea's kitchen.

It's a large kitchen, behind a single plane of glass, at the end of hallway of unknown length. So who knows where the Chef was and the baby and how noisy the kitchen and the restaurant were at the time.

And personally, I am now DYING to go to Alinea.

Yes, I can't see anything bad coming of this Alinea's, if anything the wait for a table just got longer. There's tons of beautiful photos of their food being served on the internet and that sound you hear is people opening their wallets.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:33 AM on January 15



you do know we are talking about one of the best chefs in the planet?


Who didn't know how to deal gracefully with something going off-script. He's a great chef, of course, but there's more to just getting food on plates when you're selling the 'experience' in great part, no? Set and Setting is his responsibility too. It's the Consensual Reality HE IS CREATING that he's selling, and he owns every aspect of it, from the whiff of pinapple, to the whiff of talcum powdered baby...
posted by mikelieman at 11:34 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


Since this is a long thread, and I think that there's a potential for things to get strung together out of context, my preferred resolutions in order of preference would be:

1) Couple rethinks idea to bring baby, either hacks childcare, scalps tickets, or just accepts the missed night out.

2) Maitre'd realizes the potential trainwreck, and offers to reschedule.

3) Maitre'd realizes the potential trainwreck and offers to refund.

4) That crazy shit I was talking about where they bring the couple and baby back in to the kitchen to hang out and have fun.

5) An even crazier idea I have where they embrace the opportunity, setup an imprompteau playpen in the middle and start blowing pear-puree bubbles into liquid nitrogen or some shit.

6) What actually happened without all the internet commentary.

7) What actually happened.
posted by mikelieman at 11:44 AM on January 15


5) An even crazier idea I have where they embrace the opportunity, setup an imprompteau playpen in the middle and start blowing pear-puree bubbles into liquid nitrogen or some shit.

Only if they have a separate pen for adults.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:48 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


This was covered pretty well upthread, but Alinea's entire revenue model depends on ticket sales being final, eliminating the risk of cancelations or no-shows. I don't think the reschedule/refund option is viable.
posted by lalex at 11:50 AM on January 15


Delving deeper into this from the "oh this is interesting" rather "I must prove you wrong and me right" angle, here's a photo collage of Alinea's kitchen.

It's a large kitchen, behind a single plane of glass, at the end of hallway of unknown length.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:33 PM on January 15


Dad gum it. Now I HAVE to save up money to go to Alinea, just to see that kitchen!
posted by magstheaxe at 11:50 AM on January 15


Not just one of the best Chef's in the world, one of the world's top restaurants. Perhaps my standards are slipping, but I assume that 3 Michelin stars implies a fairly talented group of working out front who ought to be fairly capable at handling something this minor.
posted by humanfont at 11:53 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


I don't think the reschedule/refund option is viable.

I remarked on this situation just recently

And if your business model is such that you can't take a hit for a $1000.00 table one night... What are you planning on doing if the kitchen needs to be closed for a week due to a fire? Just give up?
posted by mikelieman at 11:55 AM on January 15


What are you planning on doing if the kitchen needs to be closed for a week due to a fire? Just give up?

Its called insurance.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:57 AM on January 15 [6 favorites]


The point is it wouldn't just be one table or one night. If guests can cancel because they lost their sitter, then other guests should be able to cancel for "emergencies" of varying degree. That is the exact problem they are trying to avoid with the ticketing policy.
posted by lalex at 12:01 PM on January 15


I get the no-refunds for cancellation thing as integral to cash flow and keeping tables full.

That doesn't exactly mean, "we're too poor to have an empty table one night to ensure a consistent environment for all our diners", does it?
posted by mikelieman at 12:04 PM on January 15


The point is it wouldn't just be one table or one night.

Why not? Again, it's not INITIATED by the parent's request. It's a Maitr'd with smarts going "Shit, how do I do my job here..." and doing the best thing for everyone involved.

I guess you *could* try to exploit it -- if you had reservations and showed up with your own baby willing to go all the way with it... I expect a 'everyone must have a ticket' modification would eliminate that game, too...

Look, exceptional cases are horrible basis to make policy. Everyone should be free to use their best judgement. And the person who suggested that 3 michelin stars should have better judgement standing around hit it right on the head.
posted by mikelieman at 12:07 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Now I HAVE to save up money to go to Alinea, just to see that kitchen!

If you go, not just to Alinea but to any Michelin-level room, don't be shy about asking, "Would it be possible for us to peek into the kitchen?" Some restaurants will offer spontaneously, most don't, but I've never been turned down. It's a request they get a lot, so you won't be out of place asking.

Sometimes it's just a quick look. Often they will have a not-quite-out-of-the-way corner where you can stand (kitchens use all their space) while someone talks you around the different stations and what people are doing. At Charlie Trotter's, we were actually walked around the line. They talked to us a little more about some of the ingredients, including some that hadn't been on our menu. They snapped our photo inside the kitchen, which was neat. (Some places, like Momofuku Ko, don't allow photos at all.)

Thomas Keller's two flagship restaurants, Per Se in New York and the French Laundry in California, separated by three hours and 3,000 miles, have large television screens with a closed-circuit feed into each other's kitchens. It's to link the staffs and make them feel connected. I've seen both ends. That was pretty darn cool.
posted by cribcage at 12:13 PM on January 15 [7 favorites]


On the subject of the refund, Achatz had already paid for the food and labor (hours of chef-time) and spaces for the people who had tickets for the evening. It does boggle me a bit that diners who brought the unanticipated and disruptive baby would expect a refund at that point. If they'd jumped the hoops to get the tickets, they knew that the tickets were non-refundable.

Sometimes you buy tickets and you just can't go. That sucks, but it's not up to the restaurant to make it up to you any more when your babysitter cancels than it would be if you had the flu. If you (the patron) don't like the terms, you're always free to take your dining business elsewhere.
posted by immlass at 12:16 PM on January 15


Can we at least agree that it's spelled "maitre d'," (or "maître d'," if you want to get fancy), short for "maitre d'hotel"?
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 12:17 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]


t does boggle me a bit that diners who brought the unanticipated and disruptive baby would expect a refund at that point.

I never want to suggest that what the restaurant does to ensure a consistent environment in exceptional circumstances should be something that they're expected to do in ordinary circumstances.

I don't believe the diner's showed up with the baby expecting to be turned away with a refund or offer to reschedule. I *DO* believe it may have been a wise move for the restaurant to offer that as a quick and painless resolution to potentially risky situation they were unsure of handing.
posted by mikelieman at 12:20 PM on January 15


I've been in the kitchen at Alinea. There is no room for a chef's table. It's maybe 35x50, one room with two long islands running through the middle and maybe 15-20 people working and flitting about constantly, including stewards running back and forth perpetually sweeping.

What's more, the kitchen is only partially separated from the dining room. There's no door, just a short wall with 15 or 20 feet of that side open to the dining room. Edit: except for a pane of glass. So the baby would still be heard by diners.

And on a more general note about fine dining restaurants... while most of the time such kitchens are bastions of professional decorum, obscenity-laden browbeatings aren't at all unheard of or rare. So it's not like the parents really want their kid in there either.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:20 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Can we at least agree that it's spelled "maitre d'," (or "maître d'," if you want to get fancy), short for "maitre d'hotel"?

I agree wholeheartedly. That's the way it's spelled. And I'm egregiously misspelling it, to be sure. Yup.
posted by mikelieman at 12:21 PM on January 15


I *DO* believe it may have been a wise move for the restaurant to offer that as a quick and painless resolution to potentially risky situation they were unsure of handing.

Losing their profit for an evening is not painless. Neither is establishing exceptions to the no-refund policy. The latter in particular has the potential to disrupt the financial viability of the restaurant long-term. There was no painless resolution for the restaurant.
posted by immlass at 12:45 PM on January 15


I don't get the hate on toward Chev Achatz for making the tweet. He is the guy caught in the middle here between the customers whose sitter bailed and the customers who don't want to hear the baby in the restaurant. As explained above refunding is not an option, because once you refund for one reason you have to honor anything similar, and as the co-owner noted in the article quoted above by mediareport, suddenly everyone's grandmother just died. This is why they implemented the no-refund policy in the first place.

So he is doing what many people would consider a smart thing, asking his customers how he should handle it. The tweet doesn't identify the couple; they will know who they are but nobody else would, and he offers no judgement of his own, only the observation that other diners were mad, which is not a surprising result. Twitter is a pretty good platform for such a question as it will reach quite a few would-be customers and provide them with a means to reply.

He has gone to considerable effort to create an experience which will be worthy of the considerable sum he is charging for it, and pissing off the customers is the exact opposite of what he wants to do. The question he is asking here is, basically, when he is forced to decide who should he shove under the bus? None of the metasolutions proposed here are really practical, and Achatz isn't in the business of running a nursery or medical clinic or funeral parlor. He didn't get where he is by deftly handling weird social situations like this, he did so by creating amazing food, which he wants you to enjoy because he knows it's costing you a small fortune to enjoy it. He probably figures the best people to ask about how to handle a no-win situation like this are the people who will be paying him the small fortune to experience the result.
posted by localroger at 12:50 PM on January 15 [15 favorites]


There was no painless resolution for the restaurant.

Did you see the part about the pear puree bubbles and liquid nitrogen? Win/Win/Win/WIn all over the place if I was writing this screenplay. We fade out on Romantic Leads Kissing.
posted by mikelieman at 12:59 PM on January 15


And you don't 'lose money' when you turn around and resell the 'lost' table, do you? And how many people would pay a premium for that table on short notice? Yeah. I don't buy it.
posted by mikelieman at 1:00 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Evenings I've had ruined by crying babies: 0
Evenings I've had ruined by drunken adult men: 25+

If I showed up at a fancy restaurant and I was given the choice between being seated next to a couple with a baby or a 4-top of guys who looked like they just stepped off the Mad Men set, I'd choose baby every single time. At least there's a chance it will sleep through most of it.
posted by desjardins at 1:01 PM on January 15 [7 favorites]


Think of it as a master class in being a REAL restaurateur.

Funny! (You're trying to be funny, right?)
posted by aught at 1:08 PM on January 15


> Metafilter: Cage for baby pork

and they keep telling you it means Happy Family.
posted by jfuller at 1:14 PM on January 15


Yeah. I don't buy it.

You don't buy what, Geraldo? It seems like you have an axe to grind against Alinea for some reason (maybe you think they're excessively elitist and hoity-toity or something) and you appear to be grasping for some "gotcha" moment to crow about. Or you're crowing about an imminent gotcha moment you imagine is about to happen.

There is no gotcha. A chef tweeted about a problem at his restaurant, wondering to his followers how to avoid it in the future, expressing regret.

It seems to me that most what people are getting worked up about is projection.

(For the record, I have no kids, but like kids a lot (lots of nephews and nieces); I dislike the company of disruptive folks whether they're adults or poorly-supervised children; I have no interest in Alinea's cuisine specifically and have never been there, though I have spent that kind of money on other fancy dining experiences in the past and been happy about it.)
posted by aught at 1:19 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


And you don't 'lose money' when you turn around and resell the 'lost' table, do you?

Alinea doesn't resell the table. The ticket resales are going on through a secondary market according to the links in the thread. And they certainly can't resell the table for that night when someone shows up at the door at dinnertime with the baby in hand. So refunding them loses them the money for that night for sure, plus whatever trouble is caused by breaking the no-refund policy (everybody has a good excuse and if you allow a ticket refund because the babysitter cancelled, what about illness? etc.). It's clear that Achatz made a rational decision by choosing not to refund the tickets.
posted by immlass at 1:19 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Did you see the part about the pear puree bubbles and liquid nitrogen? Win/Win/Win/WIn all over the place

Best way to make sure people will start showing up with babies every single night!
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:36 PM on January 15


I don't believe that the people running the place don't have a half dozen connections they couldn't let know there's an open table available and have the people who show up pay a premium for the seat. If demand is that high, then they know a bunch of concierges or executive scalpers that they could get people in there.

And I don't buy that a bank would finance all that shiny stuff if your profit margins are so thin that you can't take the hit of an empty table every once in a blue moon.

But hey, I'm a cynic I guess.
posted by mikelieman at 1:46 PM on January 15


I don't get the hate on toward Chev Achatz for making the tweet.

I don't think there's that much hate toward Achatz, but to the extent there is, yeah, I disagree with it too. Achatz captured in 140 characters what seems to have eluded 80% of the commenters on this thread, which is that this is a difficult question.
posted by escabeche at 2:11 PM on January 15 [9 favorites]


then they know a bunch of concierges or executive scalpers that they could get people in there.

In fifteen minutes? They've already begun prep on those dishes, and it's why they already require that you arrive within 15min of stated time. It's also why they call ticket-holders in advance to re-confirm and establish any allergy requirements. They've already laid out your entire meal and planned the scheduling of every dish in relation to what everyone else is having that night.

They don't do things "on the fly" because they're not a normal restaurant. The experiences and flexibilities found in other establishments explicitly do not apply to Alinea. It's not how they work, it's not how they've ever worked, and they already try to make that as clear as possible to everyone, hence the FAQ entries on their ticketing page.

Don't like it? Don't go. It's a private establishment, this is how they've chosen to do business, so deal with it. It works for them, and it's why they're one of the top restaurants on the planet.
posted by aramaic at 2:43 PM on January 15 [6 favorites]


$500 a head, sold out for weeks, no refunds, paid up front and delivering a set menu. It doesn't take Gordon Ramsey to figure out how to make that into an incredibly profitable restaurant. It does raise the question of how other famous chef's would handle this.

Ramsey obviously would have simply out shouted the kid.
Jamie Olivier would have provided an extended lecture on nutrition until the baby fell asleep.
Lagasse -- Bam!!!
James Beard -- phenobarbital, 3 drops of vodka and milk in a baby bottle (1970s were different).
posted by humanfont at 3:24 PM on January 15 [3 favorites]


Part of what is bothering me about the discussion here is that there are several participants who are happy to give the benefit of the doubt to Alinea in terms of why they require purchasing tickets well in advance or why they can't offer refunds or rescheduling (and I am in no way doubting the validity of any of those claims), but somehow can't spare any of that same benefit of the doubt to the couple.

So you get perfectly logical explanations here as to why it is not realistic to expect Alinea to be able to rebook a table on short notice...but somehow it is totally within reason to expect the couple, in the midst of a last minute babysitting emergency, to list their tickets online, get them sold, and deliver them to the buyers in a similarly tight timeframe?

It is simply impossible for the restaurant to offer refunds and still remain profitable... but makes total sense to expect the couple to write off hundreds upon hundreds of dollars they've already spent and receive absolutely nothing in return for it, lest anyone should be inconvenienced by an errant cry?

I'm just not getting why the same generosity of understanding so many are directing towards the restaurant cannot be extended to the couple as well. I don't think the couple made a good decision, but I can understand why the inflexible policies of the restaurant, sensible as they may be, made them feel like they were in an impossible situation.
posted by The Gooch at 4:02 PM on January 15 [7 favorites]


It is simply impossible for the restaurant to offer refunds and still remain profitable... but makes total sense to expect the couple to write off hundreds upon hundreds of dollars they've already spent and receive absolutely nothing in return for it, lest anyone should be inconvenienced by an errant cry?.

The implicit question relies on a misunderstanding of what the couple bought. They didn't buy "dinner at Alinea"; they bought a ticket to a dining experience at a particular time and date. It's unfortunate that they spent a bunch of money on something they couldn't use, and I personally sympathize with the frustration involved, but life is not fair. If the purchaser can't sell the ticket, it is unfortunately their problem.

(I say this as a person with a chronic illness who has had to miss a lot of performance events that I've paid a lot of money for over the last 20 years. Sometimes I can scalp the tickets or give them to friends, but sometimes I just have to eat the cost. It sucks, but life is not fair. I plan carefully for what I think I can do. So should people with infants.)
posted by immlass at 4:22 PM on January 15 [9 favorites]


The Gooch, for my own part, the parents were being at best unrealistic, at worst, irresponsible. They were going to a restaurant known for it's long, incredibly involved meals. The website for even getting a ticket makes that abundantly clear. You don't get tickets for the restaurant without knowing what you're buying.

If you've got a young child, you are beholden to that child. That child is pretty much your priority. While we've heard people go on about the children they've seen be well behaved, behavior doesn't really come into it at 8 months old. Expecting an infant to last through a four hour meal is ridiculous. If this was a case of a baby sitter falling through, to me, responsible parents put the child first, and eat the cost if they can't sell the tickets.

For the child's crying to have caused this much of a reaction, (I can't know, honestly, I wasn't there) I assume it wasn't a short term, one moment of crying. That's at least two moments of pretty selfish thinking on the parts of the parents. The first is putting their meal ahead of the reality of the infant not being likely to quietly endure a four hour meal, and the second is their insistence on enjoying their meal while assuming that everyone else there (who'd paid just as much, and waited just as long) would just be understanding about baby crying.

And seriously, for people talking about the overhead, and how they must be incompetent. This is not a steak on a grill restaurant. The equipment they use is ridiculously expensive, and much of it (as I understand it) is custom made. While I'm pretty sure what they make is not for me, it is an impressive attempt to push the boundaries of food, cooking, and how we appreciate both. It's art, both the presentation and creation of it, and if they're managing to eke out a profit, that's more than most people doing similar work in other fields can say. As it stands, they made this system of ticketing because the alternative was likely closing their doors. The system works for the restaurant, people continue to go there, to wait for months to do so, and will likely continue to do so in the future. If it's not for you, hey, it's not really for me either, but I'm not going to dismiss it out of hand just because it's not aimed at me, or mock those it does cater to. Your favorite band doesn't necessarily suck, it's just that I'm not that into them, but hey, bully for you for liking them. Unless, of course, your favorite band is the Eagles, because man, that's just awful.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:24 PM on January 15 [6 favorites]


You know, having slept on this i came up with what in my head is the most plausible scenario of how this occurred. Obviously we can never really know the whole story, but hey.

1. they buy the tickets, and have some kind of decent plan of who is going to take care of the kid, etc.

2. That plan gets screwed up somehow, and they are now stuck with the kid that night. Lets assume that this happened close enough to the date that they had no real recourse to sell the tickets, etc. Just for fun, and assuming good faith that they had a decent plan and whatnot. There are LOTS of babysitters who will not accept a kid that young.

3. LOL NO REFUNDS SORRY GLHF

4. so they decide that hey, if they aren't going to get their money back damn the torpedos. Take the kid regardless and whatever happens, hey, they wouldn't give them a refund and were essentially forced to either go or forfeit that money.

So now they're in a situation a lot like your boss saying "you can either come in to work totally sick as fuck and gross all over everything, or be fired/not paid/have your hours cut/etc" where you go in as a sort of passive agressive middle finger.

They may have hoped for the best, they may have just been utterly defeated or apathetic. We can never know. But i honestly think that their police with regards to ticketing played a huge part in this, like some other posters.

And, in my somewhat dickhead brain, i can absolutely see how and why someone would go "well, if you're not going to give me my money back i'll just bring the damn kid anyways and you brought it on yourself. I made a good faith effort not to, but you're completely inflexible".

Is it inconsiderate to the other patrons? totally. If this was some kind of fault-determination style court hearing like some states have with vehicle accidents do i think some fault would or should be assigned to the restaurant? definitely. It's a lot like someone brake checking you and you rear ending them. They were being a dick and driving irresponsibly, but you were following too close if you hit them. Not really an analogy of this situation, but more just both parties are at fault here.

The restaurant isn't wrong in any way for wanting a space without children, but i also feel that they aren't blameless in creating this situation in the first place.

If i spent $500 just for a ticket and the dry cleaner ruined my dress clothes, i'd show up in footie pajamas and expect to be seated if they wouldn't give me a refund on the ticket. Same kind of ass-logic. Amusingly, i'd likely get more hassle for that than they would for bringing a kid despite the kid being more out of place and disruptive.

if this exact point has already been made, sorry, i read about 550-580 comments but i'm on a shitty netbook and it started to choke. not intentionally shooting right by existing conversation really >_> just hadn't seen it brought up in exactly this way, although we're all doing donuts over most of the same points in a parking lot at this point anyways.
posted by emptythought at 4:57 PM on January 15 [5 favorites]


The Gooch, in fact, people are giving this couple the benefit of the doubt already by assuming that this couple had a viable plan for child care lined up that fell through at the last possible second. The point I think other people are making is that even then, if they felt like they were put in an impossible situation, it was plainly of their own doing: they knew how old their kid would be when they bought the tickets, and the website where you buy tickets clearly states that they are unrefundable and must be formally transferred. Nobody put a gun to their head and made them spend "hundreds upon hundreds" of dollars for tickets to this restaurant, and if their policy came as a surprise to this couple that is unfortunate but it is hardly buried in the fine print.

To be honest I'm having a hard time understanding what you would even see as a reasonable solution here: I mean, do you think Alinea should make special dispensations about ticketing to new parents? Why would you expect that of them, and not of, for example, a concert venue selling box seats to an orchestra performance?
posted by en forme de poire at 5:14 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]


I think what a lot of people are saying is that going to $500-a-person restaurants is a thing for rich people, generally. Going to nonrefundable $500-a-person restaurants is a thing for people who are rich in such a way that if something happens--car trouble, getting sick, whatever--then oh, well. If they were well-off enough to afford to be there in the first place, they were well-off enough to take this as an inconvenience and not a huge life-altering amount of money lost.

It's an exorbitant amount of money that I couldn't afford to lose, but that's why I don't eat there. If you spent $500 for that ticket and you could not possibly imagine not going under any circumstances once you'd spent that much money, then that's probably a good sign that it's out of your price range. Kind of like you probably shouldn't buy a single $500 suit instead of several slightly less expensive suits, because you don't want to end up on interview day and the dry cleaner has screwed up your zipper and you suddenly have nothing else to wear.
posted by Sequence at 5:20 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]


The Gooch, in fact, people are giving this couple the benefit of the doubt already by assuming that this couple had a viable plan for child care lined up that fell through at the last possible second.

In fact it is mentioned in one of the articles or videos linked in this thread that the couple had a babysitter and the babysitter fell through at the last minute. So that's not the benefit of the doubt, that's fact, or as close to fact as we have in this drama.
posted by onlyconnect at 5:38 PM on January 15


I mean, to respond to this: "If you are in a position where you are so financially secure that you are able to look at losing out on several hundred dollars as just part of life, more power to you and congratulations on your success, but it is not a common experience."

...I would say that if you are in a position where you are so financially secure that you would ever drop several hundred dollars on something with a significant chance you might never get to use it, that is even less common.

I mean, every young parent I know has told me how hard it is to make plans during the early phase of your child's life. Sitters and nannies and relatives routinely get sick or have to suddenly leave town, babies become too unwell to trust to someone else, etc., etc., etc.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:39 PM on January 15


In fact it is mentioned in one of the articles or videos linked in this thread that the couple had a babysitter and the babysitter fell through at the last minute. So that's not the benefit of the doubt, that's fact, or as close to fact as we have in this drama.

Actually, that's speculation from the first article linked.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:44 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


If they were well-off enough to afford to be there in the first place, they were well-off enough to take this as an inconvenience and not a huge life-altering amount of money lost.

I wouldn't even say that, exactly. More like "you need to figure your tolerance for throwing away sunk costs into your ticket purchasing". On the other hand you can have super double backup plans because, as en forme de poire just said, things go wrong a lot for parents of babies who want to go out. Alinea seems like a really bad bet for people in inflexible situations (including me tbh). Even if parents with a baby wanted to go somewhere really nice, they could find a restaurant that would be more flexible on dropping a reservation at the last minute.
posted by immlass at 5:45 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]


If you go, not just to Alinea but to any Michelin-level room, don't be shy about asking, "Would it be possible for us to peek into the kitchen?" Some restaurants will offer spontaneously, most don't, but I've never been turned down. It's a request they get a lot, so you won't be out of place asking.
posted by cribcage at 3:13 PM on January 15


I've had the good fortune to see the kitchens at a couple of the really nice restaurants here in my town; I would love to see the kitchen of a Michelin restaurant. Thanks for the tip!
posted by magstheaxe at 5:50 PM on January 15


A number of reasonable suggestions have been made in this thread regarding ways the restaurant in question and its chef might have handled this situation. Suggestions which seem in the spirit of the "hey this is complicated" tweet from the chef. I do not understand why a self selected few feel the need to deride these ideas as simply impossible and then issue threats and demands. It wasn't your disrupted dinner. It isn't your restaurant. Nor was it your child.
posted by humanfont at 5:50 PM on January 15


The position of the Alinea has been clarified in this article.

But Alinea lists no special rules about children. In an email Tuesday, co-owner Nick Kokonas said the restaurant has no plans to change its policy.

“We welcome children of all ages who can enjoy the meal — there probably isn't an age limit,” he said. “And we've had babies that have slept right through the dinner happily. However, like all guests, we ask that a level of decorum is followed that at a minimum does not infringe on the ability of other patrons to enjoy their meal at Alinea.”

posted by humanfont at 6:00 PM on January 15 [11 favorites]


...They may have hoped for the best, they may have just been utterly defeated or apathetic. We can never know. But i honestly think that their police with regards to ticketing played a huge part in this, like some other posters.

And, in my somewhat dickhead brain, i can absolutely see how and why someone would go "well, if you're not going to give me my money back i'll just bring the damn kid anyways and you brought it on yourself. I made a good faith effort not to, but you're completely inflexible".

The restaurant isn't wrong in any way for wanting a space without children, but i also feel that they aren't blameless in creating this situation in the first place.

posted by emptythought at 7:57 PM on January 15


I hear you on this.

I guess my only issue with your logic is, the restaurant makes it abundantly clear from the start that they are inflexible as fuck.

I could see it if the whole no refunds/no reschedules/no anything issue was sprung on the couple, but it wasn't. To take the attitude--and we don't know that they did, mind you--of "i'll just bring the damn kid anyways and you brought it on yourself" when you purchased tickets from the restaurant knowing that if for any reason you couldn't make it to your reservation would have no recourse? That's simply spiteful, the kind of spiteful that would backfire on you.

A lot of people say that some of us haven't been very charitable towards the parents, but I certainly can't imagine them being that spiteful.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:12 PM on January 15


If you spent $500 for that ticket and you could not possibly imagine not going under any circumstances once you'd spent that much money, then that's probably a good sign that it's out of your price range.
posted by Sequence at 8:20 PM on January 15



This. Frankly, that should be considered a Lifehack:

"If you spend $X for tickets to event Y, and you can't possibly imagine not going under any circumstances once you've spent that much money, then event Y is out of your price range."
posted by magstheaxe at 6:18 PM on January 15 [7 favorites]


Actually, that's speculation from the first article linked.

It is stated as fact, not speculation, in the GMA video, where presumably they interviewed Alinea's front desk, etc. It's not "giving the couple the benefit of the doubt" to say that their babysitter cancelled on them at the last minute when that's the way the story is being reported in the national news, it's just simply restating facts.
posted by onlyconnect at 6:29 PM on January 15


magstheaxe: I guess my only issue with your logic is, the restaurant makes it abundantly clear from the start that they are inflexible as fuck.

I could see it if the whole no refunds/no reschedules/no anything issue was sprung on the couple, but it wasn't. To take the attitude--and we don't know that they did, mind you--of "i'll just bring the damn kid anyways and you brought it on yourself" when you purchased tickets from the restaurant knowing that if for any reason you couldn't make it to your reservation would have no recourse? That's simply spiteful, the kind of spiteful that would backfire on you.


The thing is, in my brain i'm treating it like some skydiving places do. Once you pay and go up in the plane, YOU ARE JUMPING OUT. No givesies backsies.

Which is to say, they're creating a situation here in which if i bought a ticket, i'm showing up in a hospital bed with my legs ripped off from a horrible car accident, or with the worst H1N1 flu imaginable, etc etc.

They made it abundantly clear they're completely inflexible, so to be totally devils advocate, why should i be either? I bought the ticket and we both agreed i was coming. They themselves have stated they don't have a "no children" policy which was just established a few posts up.

I don't really see it as spiteful, just playing the same game of brinksmanship the restaurant is by having that policy. If you are completely inflexible and will never cancel or refund, why should you expect the other person to be flexible at all?

Like, it's a dickhead thing to do, but there's absolutely a "two can play that game" aspect to it that doesn't completely strike me as spiteful.

A bit Dwight Schrute? Maybe. But it doesn't read as spiteful to me. Although i guess spiteful has some childish "take my ball and go home" connotations for me, which you could read in to this action with that motivation or not depending on how you want to look at it.

I guess i'm just saying that i can relate to doing something just because they refuse to let you to back out, even when your circumstances might shit it up for other people just because they're being super obstinate even if you knew they would be from the start.

Like, i just have a bit of appreciation for the response of "if you're going to act like there's nothing in my life that is a valid excuse for not going, then i'm going to act like this is the most important thing in my life and go no matter what. Maybe i'll enjoy it, maybe i wont. maybe i'll make you reconsider how dumb of a policy that is, maybe i wont."

I'm still not saying it's not a dick thing to do, or even necessarily the right thing to do, or the mature adult thing to do, or anything like that. But just that i can relate to it. Like throwing out the belongings of an ex roommate who skipped town owing you money, or something.

What i'm positing though, is that this policy is creating a Kobayashi Maru situation for people who make reservations in which the only losers are the other diners. This is entirely the fault of the restaurant, and something they could easily fix.

I would completely support a policy that was like "all cancellations will be assessed a 30%(or more, high is fine) cancellation fee. No cancellations 48 hours before your reservation" because that's normal. But no cancellations evar at this price?

If i book two months in advance and have a stomach flu the day of, i'm going to come to your restaurant and shit my pants. I just will. The operative point here is that no one can plan for every possibility that far in advance.

I realize i'm an absolute animal because of this, and not everyone will agree with me, but i stand by my assertion that their policy is like, at least 1/3rd of the inconsiderateness to the other guests going on here.
posted by emptythought at 6:45 PM on January 15


If i book two months in advance and have a stomach flu the day of, i'm going to come to your restaurant and shit my pants. I just will.

So, as has been pointed out many a time during the thread, this is more than just dining and is more akin to a night at the theatre. So with that in mind, I think it's hardly fair to expect the theatre to cater solely to the patrons having a problem, rather than to the schedule everyone else has agreed to abide by. Your solution, bizarrely babyish as it is, requires everyone around you to fit into your predefined notions of what is decent social behaviour rather than some pre-agreed upon norms that are explicit in the choice of entertainment you've paid for.

The parents booked their reservation when they had a newborn. That they were unwilling or unable to accept that taking their baby (not even toddler, not even verbal, likely not even fully weaned and therefore barely aware of solid food) to this theatre/dining experience was a bad idea is one of the closest things to being accepted as universally true in this highly divisive thread. The main contention seems to be that, once they'd broken their end of the social contract (knowing full well they were doing it), what obligations does the restaurant have to them? Some are leaning more towards the perspective of 'the customer is always right' and 'you accommodate new parents because their childcare was cancelled on them', others are more 'they knew the rules when they bought the tickets' and 'just because you have a child doesn't mean the rules can be broken just for you - if you miss out on this experience you paid for, that's part of having children'.

I would suggest saying you'd go and shit your pants paints you in an entirely different camp of wilful messmakers. Everyone can agree those people are arseholes, so it's not a good camp to be in.

humanfont: I do not understand why a self selected few feel the need to deride these ideas as simply impossible and then issue threats and demands. It wasn't your disrupted dinner. It isn't your restaurant. Nor was it your child.

Firstly, they're not threats and demands. Secondly, it wasn't anyone here's disrupted dinner, restaurant, child, night out - including yours. Why you care as much as you do, hunting down videos and calling the patrons 'grotesques', is just as much on-topic - which is to say, not at all. It's Metafilter - you could ask why anyone cares so much. And yet we're here. Accept the premise and move on.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:08 PM on January 15 [4 favorites]


So, as has been pointed out many a time during the thread, this is more than just dining and is more akin to a night at the theatre. So with that in mind, I think it's hardly fair to expect the theatre to cater solely to the patrons having a problem, rather than to the schedule everyone else has agreed to abide by.

Some people feel that because they paid a lot of money for a dining experience, they have every right not to have a screaming baby in the room during their experience.

Others feel that because they paid a lot of money for a dining experience, there are very few things that will prevent them from missing that experience. Including there 8 month old kid.

These sides aren't ever going to see eye to eye and will have to contend themselves with smiling politely at each other while thinking nasty thoughts.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:19 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


The operative point here is that no one can plan for every possibility that far in advance.

I seem to have overlooked the comments above where the folks complaining about the "pay in advance no refunds" rule respond directly to the question, "Do you think Broadway shows should offer refunds for folks who bought tickets but have to cancel at the last minute because their sitter didn't show up?"

What's your take on that, emptythought?
posted by mediareport at 7:43 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Some are leaning more towards the perspective of 'the customer is always right'

Actually I'd say everyone is leaning towards that perspective, including Chef Achatz. The problem is which customer is right -- the parents who brought their baby along to save their expensive night out, or the other 59 couples who did not anticipate a crying baby as a backdrop to their expensive night out. If you think this is an easy question for the restaurant to resolve, you are wrong.

The only actors in this who could have completely avoided the problem are the parents, who could have stayed home (or possibly taken turns taking the baby outside, sacrificing some of their own experience out of respect for their peers). Everyone else was stuck. Does the restaurant make a scene and kick them out or just ignore them and let the other 59 couples fume? Do the other diners make a scene?

The economics of this restaurant have been made clear; if they start taking cancellations they will probably have to close doors or radically alter something else about their very refined way of doing things. None of the other metasolutions are really practical either if you look at it very hard.

The thing is, what if the problem isn't that your sitter cancelled but that you got in a car wreck on the way to the restaurant? What if you have the flu and a huge fever and are contagious as hell? What if your dog escapes from the back yard right before you're set to leave? If you make a reservation that far in advance you have to understand you might miss it and lose the investment. If you can't afford that, you shouldn't have made the reservation.
posted by localroger at 7:44 PM on January 15 [3 favorites]


It is stated as fact, not speculation, in the GMA video, where presumably they interviewed Alinea's front desk, etc.

Mea culpa, I missed that the first time I watched it.

The rest of my point stands, though. This couple clearly put themselves in this situation: Alinea appears to be very up front about the non-refundability of the ticket, they knew how old their child would be at the time of the reservation, and like all parents, they were almost certainly aware that sometimes child care plans fall through. Then, out of at least three options (letting the infant cry; alternating waiting outside with the baby; not going at all), they chose the one that was least considerate. I honestly don't understand how stating this is being overly harsh, or is evidence of some anti-parent bias. I mean, it's not like I want them burned alive or flogged in the town square - I just think it was rude and inconsiderate, and I'm honestly a little dumbfounded that there's pushback against that basic assessment.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:57 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


If i book two months in advance and have a stomach flu the day of, i'm going to come to your restaurant and shit my pants. I just will.

*uninvites emptythought to his dinner party*
posted by en forme de poire at 7:59 PM on January 15 [8 favorites]


Then, out of at least three options (letting the infant cry; alternating waiting outside with the baby; not going at all), they chose the one that was least considerate

It's not clear that they didn't in fact take the baby out after it started crying. They could have taken it out, brought it back in after it started again, and a half hour later the baby could have cried again. Now you are the one who is just speculating, and again, in no way are you giving the couple the benefit of the doubt.
posted by onlyconnect at 8:09 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


in no way are you giving the couple the benefit of the doubt

Why must we give the couple the benefit of the doubt? Why can't we give the other patrons the benefit of the doubt and believe that they complained with cause, rather than a momentary bump in their evening? Why can't we believe the chef when he claims it was disruptive? Why can't we take the fact that the couple brought their infant to the restaurant in the first place as suggestive of their behaviour?

That's the key, here, in that we have so little information, and yet people are apportioning blame based on preconceived biases. It's nothing new, especially in parenting threads, but when it comes with aggressive requirements that others hold your perspective it goes badly.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:22 PM on January 15 [6 favorites]


It's not clear that they didn't in fact take the baby out after it started crying. They could have taken it out, brought it back in after it started again, and a half hour later the baby could have cried again. Now you are the one who is just speculating, and again, in no way are you giving the couple the benefit of the doubt.

And perhaps the baby wasn't crying at all and it was actually a tape recording of a baby crying taped to the underside of the table. After all, I can't prove that this wasn't what happened. However, I'd prefer to exercise some parsimony in how we interpret the facts of this situation as reported.

If it turns out that they actually did take the baby outside when it started crying, I'm happy to revise my impression of them. I would also revise my impression of Grant Achatz for misrepresenting what happened, of course.

But seriously, at this point, this is bordering on farcically bad-faith, so I think I'm out.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:40 PM on January 15


Why must we give the couple the benefit of the doubt?

It's generally a good thing to do with people. But if you don't want to then you don't have to.

Why can't we give the other patrons the benefit of the doubt and believe that they complained with cause, rather than a momentary bump in their evening?

We can, but we don't know how many complained, nor if they did so aggressively.

Why can't we believe the chef when he claims it was disruptive?

You can, but he was fairly vague about it.

Why can't we take the fact that the couple brought their infant to the restaurant in the first place as suggestive of their behaviour?

Because you're putting a particular negative spin on situation that you were not there for and had no impact on your life at all. Like the rest of us, you're just slotting this into whatever box fits your reality, never mind what happened. Which none of us know.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:51 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]


when that's the way the story is being reported in the national news, it's just simply restating facts.

Not quite. When something is reported in the national news, we-as-audience put on our critical thinking caps. One red flag is when a fact is unsourced. In this case the narrator swallows the first word or two of her sentence, which isn't helpful, but it is clear she's not saying, "According to Achatz..." So as critical thinking adults, we don't play a game of presumably-they-talked-to-the-front-desk-so-that's-probably-what-happened. We put an asterisk on that bit. We note that the babysitter "fact" was included speculatively in an article that preceded the GMA segment, and that sets us skeptical. Another asterisk.

If you haven't ever been directly involved in a news story to see firsthand how badly journalists will routinely misreport facts, then my favorite anecdote to tell people is that when Cardinal Bernard Law left his longtime post, MSNBC reported that Whitey Bulger visited the Vatican to pay his respects.

If you make a reservation that far in advance you have to understand you might miss it and lose the investment.

One takeaway for me is how much trouble people have relating to the concept of Michelin dining. Because it's not as if these people have never missed an engagement because of some unforeseen occurrence. Everyone has. As you say, it's part of life. But for whatever reason, in this context, some people are having a lot of trouble with the idea of losing this particular cost.
posted by cribcage at 9:01 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]


Like the rest of us, you're just slotting this into whatever box fits your reality, never mind what happened.

Yes, I'm aware. I'm glad you are too. It is just that what you regard as a negative spin is based on your own observation and biases as well.

I simply feel I'd be on firmer ground with my perspective that the couple who brought their child to this restaurant are more likely to have been causing a disruption than anyone who experienced it, and that a child crying in such a way to materially affect the enjoyment of other patrons is because the child was there in the first place, not its fault, and something clearly more preventable by the parents. Sure, the restaurant perhaps shouldn't have seated them, but it shouldn't have been a question.

Which is where it comes down to non-parents having experience with thoughtless parenting and parents inclined to side with the parents having done what they could and everyone else is to blame - expecting too much from an expensive night out, or already in a loud venue so what's one crying baby, or maybe the baby didn't cry that much everyone's being too sensitive - must be all that fine dining, or or or. And if you can't see why that particular perspective can cause reasonable people to disagree, a perspective echoed several times throughout this thread by posters much more scornful and dismissive than you, then I guess empathy biases only run so far.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:07 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]


Based on the statements of the restaurant's co-owner to the media I postulate the following alternate scenario. A couple loses their baby sitter at the last minute and calls the restaurant to talk about the situation. They are told that it is ok to bring the infant along. During dinner the baby cries. Chef Achatz is bothered by the situation and he takes to Twitter to issue a rather mild complaint. This unexpectadly triggers a social media shit storm.
posted by humanfont at 10:16 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


mediareport: I seem to have overlooked the comments above where the folks complaining about the "pay in advance no refunds" rule respond directly to the question, "Do you think Broadway shows should offer refunds for folks who bought tickets but have to cancel at the last minute because their sitter didn't show up?"

What's your take on that, emptythought?


This strikes me as a false equivalency. First it's an apples to oranges weasely appeal to the hypothetical reasonable person thing that just kinda bugs me, but also the average broadway ticket price seems to be right around $100. You're also, i'm assuming, not tipping or buying wine or anything(on the "for going" side, obviously if you're just talking about up-front forfeiting that doesn't count, fair enough).

So we're talking about $500+ forfeited vs $200 or possibly even less.

Secondly, it just strikes me as a different kind of thing. I'm not at all against the "Alinea and similar dining are theater" argument, but i think that psychologically a restaurant is just not a theater of the movie or stage variety. Like they occupy different headspaces and have different social expectations. I also have some experience doing theater when i was younger. Not at a broadway level, but i mean, i get it.

I mean i get that you're buying a ticket to both, but that entire argument for a comparison or equivalency between the two strikes me as shaky and just generally not sure-footed. I'm having trouble articulating why, but it just doesn't fly with me. I also have some experience dining at fine dining places from big, well known restaurants to little boutique places that only seat maybe 10 tables, both of the "check ends up being hundreds and hundreds of dollars for two people" and also just generally the very high end experimental/high art food prep sort of places. And somehow bringing a kid to a theater just strikes me as somehow more sociopathically satanic. There are not live humans performing in front of you that you're in a dark, relatively silent room that a baby is going to distract/trip up/disrespect in addition to the other patrons.

It's shitty for other reasons, but "baby in a theater" is enough of a societal trope that people know it's disrespectful. "baby at a restaurant" is a grey area. It's maybe a bad idea, and if you think it through can seem like more plausibly a terrible idea for this specific restaurant... but taking the whole ticket/not refunding thing into account it seems less of a dickhead thing to do somehow. Staying when the baby cried is the dick part, but bringing the baby seems less spiteful/bitter/sociopathic/generally bad idea/etc when just looking at like, default societal mores and expectations.

As for whether they should offer refunds, i think that's a discussion for another time and the answer is maybe. I think the higher the cost of the ticket, the faster the probability of not accepting cancellations or giving refunds makes you an asshole approaches 1.

I don't even know though, i'm kinda regretting engaging on this. People seem to be too focused on the primary wrongdoing of either not immediately sprinting out at max speed when the baby cried or even just bringing the baby at all in the first place, and would rather pick apart smartass sarcastic remarks i made about attending no matter what in certain circumstances rather than actually consider the restaurants part in motivating people to attend under shitty circumstances with their policies.

I'm really quite aligned with the comments above, in that i have to question a business model that is running on such a razors edge that any cancellation with an actual refund would blow the place to pieces. I myself supported a hefty cancellation fee, but even giving some kind of partial refund in the 50-60% range would likely stop anything like this from ever happening again and make everyone involved happy.
posted by emptythought at 2:05 AM on January 16


Based on the statements of the restaurant's co-owner to the media I postulate the following alternate scenario.

Yes, at this point I think fanfic would be welcome respite. That wasn't a baby, but an early version of Life Model Decoy. This was a dry run to see if people could be fooled into being distracted by the LMD, while a highly secret prisoner exchange went on in another corner of the room.

Early reports indicate the test was ok, but the juniper infused air really helped to keep everyone relaxed and mellow.

Except Frank. But you know how he is.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:12 AM on January 16


I suspect the reason they don't have a cancellation fee is not because of parents but because of the jerks who have multiple reservations at different places and never bother canceling the ones they don't use, or the people for whom this is just a Thursday dinner and wouldn't mind losing a couple hundred bucks if it doesn't pan out regardless of the impact on the workflow of the restaurant. Having zero cancellations means they don't have to have a refund mechcanism in place, saving on money and staff time. No one has to judge refund reasons or deal with multiple rebookings -- given the amount of data they apparently collect person, I imagine this would take a lot of time.
I have to deal with lower level fees on a regular basis and if people are as mean and vociferous in their desire for refunds of hundreds of dollars as they are over valid ten dollar fines, I can see where Alinea might go that route. Theirs puts the onus on the customer, like a little tiny weird sublet situation. I suspect that if Alinea ever loses the mystique and prestige that allows it both to have an arcane lottery and refund policy and also charge as much as they do that it would be closed or be reincarnated rather than stay open since they seem relatively unique among their local peers for maintaining it as they do. Whatever business model that is seems to be working for them.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:13 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


So we're talking about $500+ forfeited vs $200 or possibly even less.

The problem with your line of reasoning is that you can't have it both ways. It cannot be simultaneously the case that:

A) Due to the fact that Alinea is so much more expensive than going to the theater, the parents are more justified in bringing the baby to Alinea than to a theater, because "forfeiting" the higher amount of pre-paid money is so much worse.

AND

B) Despite the fact that Alinea is so much more expensive than going to the theater, the parents had less of a responsibility to consider how their decision would affect other patrons (and affect the higher amount of pre-paid money from those other patrons) than they would have when considering whether to bring a baby to a theater.

The two scenarios are really not far from each other. Summarized, you have two scenarios where people bought tickets to an event, with the expectation that they'd be experiencing what the event staff were presenting, as opposed to experiencing an impromptu interruption by other attendees. If it's rude to be an interruption when the cost of attending is $X, I can't see how it's somehow less rude at 2.5*$X.

You admit yourself that you can't figure out how to put into words why you don't think they are equivalent. Perhaps you should consider that the reason may be that there's not a rational reason to separate the two.
posted by tocts at 6:07 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


If i book two months in advance and have a stomach flu the day of, i'm going to come to your restaurant and shit my pants.
this makes you sound like a sociopath.
posted by mercredi at 7:01 AM on January 16 [7 favorites]


While we've heard people go on about the children they've seen be well behaved, behavior doesn't really come into it at 8 months old. Expecting an infant to last through a four hour meal is ridiculous.

Except that this isn't true for all babies - even some that have actually already been in Alinea. Many infants are just happy snugglers - plop them in a Baby Bjorn or what have you and they'll just cuddle quietly until they're hungry or dirty, and then stop crying once those are fixed. Unless the idea is that a brief, five minute crying spell in the middle of a four hour block means the entire four hour block is ruined, in which case, I think the diners at Alinea may be a bit too oversensitive.
posted by corb at 7:54 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


what if I brought my dog to Alinea and it kept barking. HMMM???????
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:06 AM on January 16


DirtyOldTown, I wish it were that simple. There are days when I have meetings scheduled all day and have a very limited window to go out and get something to eat. Trust me, I would much rather have a leisurely lunch, but sometimes it's just not possible. I'm very sure I'm not alone in this experience.
posted by reenum at 8:15 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


what if I brought my dog to Alinea and it kept barking. HMMM???????

Correct me if I'm wrong, but only service animals are allowed inside a restaurant. If a service animal kept barking, then yeah a restaurant could have them removed. But comparing animals to babies probably isn't going to elevate the discussion.

Non-service animals are never allowed in a restaurant, just on a patio. Yes, it's a bit of gray area here. Service animals usually have papers proving they are what they are. The owner should carry those papers on their person at all times, but that's not always the case.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:19 AM on January 16


Alinea's decision not have a house policy about babies after this incident is the thing that bothers me most at this point. The effective policy seems to be that they expect their patrons to exercise good judgement and clearly the standards on that differ a lot (e.g., "the diners at Alinea may be a bit too oversensitive"). It's not even the Alamo policy of "if we get one complaint, we'll ask you to stop, and if you don't stop, we'll ask you to leave, no refund". There's nothing at all in what the co-owner said that will keep people from bringing babies/older children whether or not they're well-behaved or the right age to sleep through the dinner.

The refund policy, whether or not anybody likes it, is at least clear. I'm no more clear about what happens the next time someone drags a crying baby to Alinea than I am about what really happened this time. I guess it just goes to show that twitterstorms really have no effect on anything.
posted by immlass at 8:35 AM on January 16


I think we need an indiegogo or kickstarter campaign to raise funds to sponsor a dinner at Alinea to be attend by Feckless Fecal Fear Monger, Branden Blatcher and emptythought and a parent with an 8month old; and record the entire experience. This would be epic.
posted by humanfont at 8:38 AM on January 16 [7 favorites]


There's nothing at all in what the co-owner said that will keep people from bringing babies/older children whether or not they're well-behaved or the right age to sleep through the dinner.

I have to agree. And this brings me full circle to where I began, which was that if I were seated next to a wailing baby and nothing was done, I would leave. The question is, what then? Do I swallow the cost or ask for a refund? Do I complain on my way out, write a letter later? I'm not sure. It would probably depend on a lot of things: how far into the dinner this happened, how the rest of the experience had been, maybe my mood. I don't know.

And that sort of gets at the problem you're pointing out with their "policy." If your policy is to allow anyone except on condition of disruption, the truth is I think that's fine and probably wise—but the catch is, when a disruption occurs, you need to enforce the policy. Are you prepared to do that? Because this isn't a regular occurrence; you aren't nightly confronted with having to "bounce" patrons. Have you discussed who will handle it, how you'll do it with minimal disturbance, etc? Or are you every professor ever who writes on his or her syllabus that a letter grade will be docked for more than three inexcused absences?

I suspect the reason they don't have a cancellation fee is not because of parents but because of the jerks who have multiple reservations at different places and never bother canceling the ones they don't use

That's probably part of it. I had a long conversation about that with the staff at Robuchon in New York. It's a problem. There is a dichotomy between Michelin rooms where you can probably get seated if you show up unannounced—obviously, dressed well and prepared to wait—and places that simply don't accept or leave room for walk-ins. I tried getting into Topolobampo once on a short-notice trip to Chicago. They were fully booked, and I tried gently asking if there was a time that might be worth trying back, did cancellations ever occur, is there any chance that if we arrived at such-and-such and tried...? No dice. The last resort is to show up with a bribe, and maybe that would have worked but it's not really my thing. (We got into Moto instead. The smartest meal I've ever had. Highly recommended.)
posted by cribcage at 9:30 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


I think we need an indiegogo or kickstarter campaign to raise funds to sponsor a dinner at Alinea to be attend by Feckless Fecal Fear Monger, Branden Blatcher and emptythought and a parent with an 8month old; and record the entire experience.

1. Interesting idea, minus the Kickstater aspect
2. It sounds like it's worth a meetup for some Mefites.
3. After looking at videos and photos of how Aleina serves some dishes on the table, I'm surprisingly grossed out. Not a germaphobe at all, but something about it is really twitching my buttons. I'd probably make a scene. "$300 for dinner and you want to use my fingers to eat off the table?! You better get back in the kitchen and get me a plate and some &*$! utensils." I'm why my wife can't have nice things.
4. That much for dinner that isn't sushi is odd to me.
5. Pretty sure feckless would stab me (with a salt encrusted knife that's been glazed with vinegar), I would strangle empty thought, the parent would try to break things up and then who's watching the baby? I have a suggestion!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:51 AM on January 16 [4 favorites]


After looking at videos and photos of how Aleina serves some dishes on the table, I'm surprisingly grossed out. Not a germaphobe at all, but something about it is really twitching my buttons. I'd probably make a scene. "$300 for dinner and you want to use my fingers to eat off the table?!

The ones served on food-safe washable silicone mats, similar to a Silpat baking mat? Would you throw an equivalent fit at an Ethiopian restaurant, where some foods are eaten with your hands?
posted by palomar at 10:10 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


if I were seated next to a wailing baby and nothing was done, I would leave

I think this is a massively important point! Because I, who have also been to plenty of Michelin-starred restaurants, would not leave. The experience of the baby would obviously detract from my experience -- but it would not "ruin" it, in the sense of "I would literally rather give up this delicious meal with no compensation than eat it while listening to that baby; the baby has eliminated 100% of the enjoyment I was expecting out of this dinner." For me, the things I've eaten at Robuchon, holy crap, if somebody said "you can eat this langoustine but only if you're willing to sit next to this guy jackhammering a hole in the road," hell, yeah, bring on the languoustine and the highway crew. Or more realistically -- if the jackhammers were right outside the restaurant, because the crew had decided for some reason to work through dinnertime, yeah, I'd be mad. But I'd stay.

So I think there's some kind of disjunct between people, like me, who are seeing "couple loses 100% of their joy vs multiple people lose 10% of their joy" and people, like you, who are seeing "couple loses 100% of their joy vs multiple people lose 100% of their joy." Achatz's description of "Diners mad" is pretty clearly consistent with both.

I'll bet there are a lot of people who would lose more than the 10% I would lose. But I also think that there aren't many people who would lose the 100% you would lose, because as far as I know, the other diners that night didn't actually walk out halfway through on the grounds that it was better not to eat Achatz's food than to eat it where they could hear a baby. (Caveat: obviously I have no idea, maybe people did walk out, I just haven't heard about it.)
posted by escabeche at 10:12 AM on January 16 [2 favorites]


On a somewhat related note, on my wedding day my wedding another bride showed up with her family and wedding party. She'd gotten married somewhere else and wanted take pictures at my venue, because it was so pretty. She was upset when I politely declined, on the grounds that I was, uh, getting ready to walk down the aisle. I understand that it was a big day for her too, and she really, really wanted to have a drink at this particular rooftop restaurant, but this was simply not my problem.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:50 PM on January 15

o_0

She...she actually had the nerve to get upset when you said no?
posted by magstheaxe at 12:54 PM on January 15 [4 favorites +] [!]


Mags, you must watch Bridezillas. There are few people more entitled than a bratty bride to be.
posted by reenum at 10:15 AM on January 16


There are few people more entitled than a bratty bride to be.

It's true -- some of them even exclude babies from the wedding on the grounds that they might cry during the ceremony!

(Kidding, kidding, please don't let's talk about babies at weddings....)
posted by escabeche at 10:18 AM on January 16


Look -- facts! Specifics! And an actual interview!

Are you hungry for specifics in this week's huge Alinea story?

Most important part:

This was not the first time an infant had crossed the threshold of Alinea, Achatz told me. There have been other infants, and there have been breastfeeding mothers. But this baby's disruption was unprecedented, he said, because the adults refused to take responsibility for its behavior.

Even so, he said he never seriously considered asking the group to leave. And despite the question implicit in his tweet and explicit in some of the reporting on it, he is not thinking of changing the policy that lets parents bring infants. Infants are fine, he believes, so long as the grown-ups with them act like grown-ups.


posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:39 AM on January 16 [17 favorites]


Actually, considering how the conversation here has gone, I'd call this the most important part:

Eventually the general manager approached the woman on whose lap the infant spent the evening and suggested she step into the foyer. "She got up and took the child into the bathroom for a minute and came back," said Achatz, "and the child continued to fuss. And she never did anything else. It was like, 'I've done my part. I tried and failed. And now I'm not going to deal with it.' It almost felt like it was people projecting this entitlement. Like 'We're here, we can do whatever we want, we paid for it,' without any concern for the people around them."
posted by localroger at 10:46 AM on January 16 [9 favorites]


For me, the things I've eaten at Robuchon, holy crap

The burger with their house-made vinegar ketchup, that was the best bite of hamburger I've ever eaten. Roadside dives, local shacks like Wild Willy's (two thumbs up), Hubert Keller's Burger Bar in Vegas (ditto)...Robuchon beat them all. The only thing comparable was what I grill at home in summertime, but obviously it's a different thing when you're cooking for yourself.

There was a regular customer at Robuchon who would come in just for the langoustine. He'd order one, two, three.

I think it's cool there are so many foodies here. You wouldn't know it from the meetup threads, ha.

Look -- facts!

Thanks for posting that. I don't mind gloating a moment over the GMA thing, not because of anything in this thread but just because I detest those morning programs and it's amusing to see them prove exactly what I think of them.

But as Localroger says, the larger point is what Achatz says happened. Yes, the baby was a real and unprecedented disturbance. Other diners were indeed disrupted. (The article doesn't mention his response to their emails.) Yet he never seriously considered asking the party to leave, and he has no plans to change any policy. So basically it's exactly what I speculated above: Alinea has a no-disruptions policy, but it won't be enforced.
posted by cribcage at 10:51 AM on January 16


Yeah, I had a whole long comment written about giving the couple the benefit of the doubt, blah blah blah, but no more. Fuck 'em. From what's reported in that article, they appeared to act like jerks.

I am also corrected about the truth of the babysitter cancelled at the last minute detail. I believed the GMA video, but as cribcage suggested I should have been more circumspect. Sorry about that.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:52 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


I wanted to share my experiences with the secondary market for Alinea tickets, because it doesn't match up with comments made upthread. I had two nights in Chicago earlier this year and it was my fondest wish to spend one of them dining there. Their Facebook page suggested that the restaurant would post available tables there that sometimes happened at the last minute (which suggests that despite the FAQ that they do sometimes work with people) and they also suggested that people could use that page as a de facto secondary market. I monitored it carefully in the weeks before my trip and finally a table for two was available during the days I hoped to eat there. Unfortunately, in the 30 minutes between the availability being posted on Facebook and the time I sent my message to the poster, someone else had claimed the table. Around noon of the first day I was in Chicago, a couple posted that their dining companions had to cancel because of airplane trouble and that they had two seats available. I happened to be in my hotel room changing clothes at the moment they posted and I was able to claim the two seats for that evening and juggle our plans for the evening. Despite the fact that sharing a four top with strangers was not my preferred way to experience Alinea, I wanted to go badly enough that I did so. The couple later told us at dinner that they were contacted by four other parties trying to obtain the tickets before they were able to delete the Facebook post. So, I'm reasonably confident that the couple with the baby could have recovered their investment had they attempted to sell the tickets.

For the record, the meal was absolutely amazing and one of the most magical dining experiences of my life (maybe second only to Fat Duck in that regard). I'd have had no issues with babies or children that were not creating a scene. I would hope that if someone was making noise sufficient to disturb our ability to enjoy the meal that the staff would have asked them to stop doing so or to leave if they were unable to do so. In fact, there was a group of eight who were seated at two different four tops who were continuously walking back and forth and standing around each other's table to marvel at the course they had experienced and after a couple of rounds of this, someone on the staff had a quiet word with them and they stopped doing it.
posted by Lame_username at 10:54 AM on January 16 [6 favorites]


Trust me, I would much rather have a leisurely lunch, but sometimes it's just not possible.

I'm not saying you should budget time for a leisurely lunch or just not bother. I certainly rarely have time for one.

But I am saying that a kid counting coins is going to add what, sixty seconds to your lunch time? If the barrier between a quick lunch and a leisurely one is sixty seconds, I'm thinking you're either stretched too thin or too highly strung to go out where other people are.

Grabbing a lunch while short on time is reasonable. Declaring that I Am in An Official Big-Time Hurry and any momentary delay is an outrage, not so much. If the time it takes you to grab your lunch gets stretched from 12 minutes to 13, that's not really appreciably different. Unless you were mid heart surgery or you had to close your toll booth lane to buy your sandwich. And in either of those cases, maybe you should just pack a lunch. Life is volatile and whether it's a kid counting pennies, a register running out of receipt tape, an item that won't scan, or whatever, the world cannot guarantee you a lunch break free from even tiny delays simply because you feel rushed.

I do the same thing plenty often myself, so I'm not trying to harangue you personally. But we could all stand to have at least enough patience and grace that delays we can count in seconds aren't treated as causes for rage.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:57 AM on January 16 [2 favorites]


On the one hand I'm feeling more sympathetic to Alinea because it now turns out they do issue refunds in emergency situations (as many people in this thread said they should), but the people with the baby didn't even ask. On the other hand, cribcage nailed it: the no-disruption policy isn't going to be enforced--at least not on parents who won't control their kids.
posted by immlass at 11:01 AM on January 16


Probably another reason why this hasn't come up before at Alinea, even though babies have apparently come along for dinner before, is that the standard parent solution to a crying baby--cradle them in your arms and excuse yourself outside for a few minutes--was not a reasonable thing to do with the weather as it was in this case.

I'm not precisely sure how that changes anything, but it does seem like it bears mention.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:05 AM on January 16


Hey, Chef Achatz, no problem, dude, I have drafted the appropriate policy for your restaurant regarding children! Here it is.

Dear Patrons,

The Alinea Dining Experience is an adventure worthy of the most discriminating gourmands and dining connoisseurs. Though all are welcome, the sophisticated palette will appreciate most those extra touches which make Alinea special: The exquisite pairings of taste and presentation which make our dining a feast for every sense, the perfect timing of the courses achieved through our attentive white-glove service, and, of course, the incomparable mastery of our head Chef Achatz, whose creativity and skill makes Alinea that once-in-a-lifetime experience every night of the year.

We love families at Alinea! Furthermore, we strongly encourage developing the appreciation of fine dining in younger palettes. Due to the mature nature of certain attractions within the Alinea experience, however, parents are strongly cautioned against bringing children under the age of three. There is a potential for choking hazards, our kitchen and dining rooms are not baby-proofed, and the courses require a full evening to appreciate, setting the experience beyond the bedtimes for some of our littlest would-be patrons.

Also, in deference to the importance of the olfactory senses in the appreciation of the fine cuisine served here in Alinea, we do require that children be thoroughly potty-trained before attending one of our dining events.

We at Alinea recognize that parenting is an experience with its own learning curve! And, of course, even the best-laid plans fall through. Should you find yourself without the services of a sitter for your child in such a case, rest assured that children over three can indeed attend Alinea with you on your special night, assuming sufficient seating for your party is available!

Do be aware however that, due to circumstances beyond our control, our pricing structure requires us to equally account for each patron in attendance, regardless of age.

Thus, regretfully, children attending along with their parents are assessed at the same rate as their fellow dining patrons. Please note that this additional charge will be added to the appropriate payment method upon the night of attendance.

We apologize for any further inconvenience this measure may cause. We institute these policies in our sincerest desire to consistently deliver to you, our dearest patrons, only the very pinnacle of fine dining experiences.

Bon Apetit!
Chef Achatz
posted by misha at 11:06 AM on January 16


The restaurant entrance is down a pretty long indoor corridor and through a pair of doors -- it wasn't necessary to take the baby outside to take them out of the dining room.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:07 AM on January 16 [5 favorites]


Is it? I've heard something about a Willy Wonka-type door, but I've only been in the back and in the kitchen. (I fixed their dishwasher once. It was noisy, too.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:08 AM on January 16


I haven't been there either, but that's my understanding from what I've read about it -- people go into the building through a nondescript outer door and then there's a longish sculpted corridor with weird mood-lighting that leads to a pair of doors that open on a sensor.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:11 AM on January 16


I'm also with cribcage. It's fine for the chef to say that infants are allowed so long as the grown-ups with them act like grown-ups, but the restaurant should be willing to take some action if that's not the case.
posted by Area Man at 11:13 AM on January 16


And here I was thinking I was all noble for being the firm defender of giving this poor couple the benefit of the doubt, when it turns out their behavior was, if anything, more assholish than anyone here assumed. +1 for being more cynical in the future, I guess.
posted by The Gooch at 11:19 AM on January 16


From the local paper (The Reader) here
He said he had no idea if the couple had lost their babysitter. "I didn't interview them," he said. "That was merely social media assuming they lost their babysitter. I thought I made that very clear with Good Morning America, but they edited it out."

So, no, the couple didn't call ahead. And in fact couple is the wrong word. It was a party of four sitting at one of five tables in a small, intimate downstairs room. When the group arrived the baby was fine. "But," said Achatz, "as many of us who have children, me included, realize, you have a very small window in which little ones behave themselves. If you can go an hour it's awesome. But Alinea is a four-hour experience."

Long before the four hours were over, the baby began to cry. Achatz could hear the crying from the kitchen in another part of the restaurant. "The general manager came up to me in the kitchen and said, 'What do you want to do?' I said, 'Take it easy. See how it goes. I don't want them to leave. I want them to enjoy the experience.'" But he also wanted everyone at the other tables in the room to enjoy the experience.

Eventually the general manager approached the woman on whose lap the infant spent the evening and suggested she step into the foyer. "She got up and took the child into the bathroom for a minute and came back," said Achatz, "and the child continued to fuss. And she never did anything else. It was like, 'I've done my part. I tried and failed. And now I'm not going to deal with it.' It almost felt like it was people projecting this entitlement. Like 'We're here, we can do whatever we want, we paid for it,' without any concern for the people around them."

This was not the first time an infant had crossed the threshold of Alinea, Achatz told me. There have been other infants, and there have been breastfeeding mothers. But this baby's disruption was unprecedented, he said, because the adults refused to take responsibility for its behavior.

Even so, he said he never seriously considered asking the group to leave. And despite the question implicit in his tweet and explicit in some of the reporting on it, he is not thinking of changing the policy that lets parents bring infants. Infants are fine, he believes, so long as the grown-ups with them act like grown-ups.
posted by melissam at 11:19 AM on January 16 [17 favorites]


The entrance is sort of an oddly shaped hallway that seems to narrow as you go down it. The floor is covered in grass and the lighting is dim and multi-colored and the door opens on the side as you go down the hall when you are expecting that you still have to walk further down the hall and aren't expecting it. Its an interesting transition from outside to faux-outside to inside. My wife jumped a bit when it whoosed open to lead into the modernist space and said to me "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore" and the hostess laughed and said that was a very frequent comment.
posted by Lame_username at 11:20 AM on January 16


I'm less sympathetic to these parents now that I know they had a party of four and a warm foyer to take the baby into for soothing. Take shifts, y'all. Criminy.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:26 AM on January 16 [4 favorites]


Take shifts, y'all.

Indeed, that would have been the half way decent thing to do.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:32 AM on January 16


I wish that interview had come out days ago.

On a related note, those people are bad and should feel bad.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:46 AM on January 16


I get the feeling that Grant Achatz spent a lot less time worrying about this situation than many of the people who weighed in here. Smart guy.
posted by neroli at 12:38 PM on January 16


A bad baby poured hot chocolate on my leg today while the mother pretended not to see so I reaffirm my enthusiastic support for baby prisons.
posted by elizardbits at 12:50 PM on January 16 [6 favorites]


I get the feeling that Grant Achatz spent a lot less time worrying about this situation than many of the people who weighed in here. Smart guy.

That's unfair. He's had the information all along and we were sometimes-speculating based on the general idea of the situation.
posted by rhizome at 12:51 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Better at plating beans than restaurants with three Michelin stars!
posted by onlyconnect at 1:02 PM on January 16 [6 favorites]


Wow these people sound like assholes and i regret playing any sort of devils advocate or anything that could be construed as defense. they remind me of parents i've seen in the past. "i made one really limp wristed swing at it, so i tried and you can't blame me anymore bie!"
posted by emptythought at 1:52 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Eh, they sound like variations of the "Fuck you, I paid for this, I'm enjoying myself no matter what" line of thought, taken to its logical extreme. But who knows what was really going on there, other than their behavior that night wasn't so hot.

At this point, I'm fascinated why just one person out of the four were holding the baby. It takes a village! Or at least a small table!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:08 PM on January 16


they remind me of parents i've seen in the past. "i made one really limp wristed swing at it, so i tried and you can't blame me anymore bie!"

I see this at the playground. These sorts of parents will let their kids hit other kids and will respond with a sort of whiny request that the child behave. "Taylor, you know you aren't supposed to do that."
posted by Area Man at 2:09 PM on January 16


Hey, excellent, now that I've read the further details, I think both the owner AND the parents are jerks.
posted by jeather at 2:27 PM on January 16


And that's the point of the internet, after all -- to increase the number of strangers you can feel disdain towards.
posted by neroli at 2:39 PM on January 16 [12 favorites]


Even so, he said he never seriously considered asking the group to leave.

Some of the other patrons clearly should have offered to hold the restaurant's managerial decisions for awhile.
posted by Drastic at 2:39 PM on January 16 [5 favorites]


The more i think about this, the more i'm amazed that none of the other patrons complained at all.

Both me and my partner(who were once gifted a dinner at a place not quite this nice on her birthday, and are familiar with fine dining) were completely befuddled that no one would complain. Is it that much of a faux pas to get the waiters attention and say "excuse me, but that's utterly awful and distracting and ruining my experience". Because we both would.

Seriously, the most surprising and confusing part of this whole thing is that no one else down there complained. Were they really that "silently death glare" passive aggressive? I thought this was in Chicago, not Seattle.
posted by emptythought at 4:49 PM on January 16


Given Achatz's allegations, at this point, I'm just waiting for the parents to schedule a press conference to get their side of the story out.
posted by magstheaxe at 5:00 PM on January 16


Both me and my partner(who were once gifted a dinner at a place not quite this nice on her birthday, and are familiar with fine dining) were completely befuddled that no one would complain.

The interview claims all the tables in that room except one emailed the chef to complain.
Achatz has heard from all four of the other tables in the room. They sent e-mails letting him know their evening was less than ideal. But he hasn't heard from the fifth table. Tell me who they are and I'll call them, I told him. "I can't do that," Achatz replied. He wouldn't even say if they were from out of town.

posted by melissam at 5:41 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


New kid's menu@ Alinea -
Milk paired with a glass of Coca-Cola.
Apple Caviar paired with a shot of Red Bull.
Surprise Bubbles paired with a can of Redline.
Powdered Ice Cream inside Candy Straw paired with a DynaPep Energy shot.
posted by unliteral at 7:48 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


These people are the types of horrible, entitled parents I referenced in my first comment. This is what our society has become.
posted by reenum at 8:17 PM on January 16 [4 favorites]


Yes, it's the end times, baby zombies are breaching the walls of Starbucks. I highly recommend you get a lid for that cup.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:58 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


"She got up and took the child into the bathroom for a minute and came back," said Achatz, "and the child continued to fuss. And she never did anything else. It was like, 'I've done my part. I tried and failed. And now I'm not going to deal with it.'

But what is "continued to fuss"? That sounds less like "screaming" and more like "occasional outbursts." These are the details that I think would be important - though I definitely appreciate more details.

I don't think Achatz is a completely reliable narrator though. It's not even possible to take the baby to the bathroom and back in a minute. Probably this was a trip to the bathroom to check/change the diaper, check if the baby was hungry, and it probably took more like ten minutes rather than the "one minute" idea that the chef has - because it irritated him and seemed like the baby was gone too short a time period.
posted by corb at 9:28 AM on January 17


What do you do when someone says, "hold on a second"?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:31 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


I'm inclined to believe Achatz because if he were exaggerating I would think the offending party would have spoken up by now to defend themselves.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:34 AM on January 17


I don't think Achatz is a completely reliable narrator though.

So basically now that we have a first person account of what happened, and it's not what some of us like, I guess we're going to say the guy who was actually there was wrong in favor of internet speculation. Criminy. "For a minute" is used colloquially for a short period of time. It doesn't mean Achatz was sitting there with a stopwatch.
posted by immlass at 9:35 AM on January 17 [11 favorites]


I'm not in any way saying he's lying, I'm just saying that what felt to him like a ridiculously short period of time may have actually been a fair period of time to take a baby to a bathroom for.
posted by corb at 9:41 AM on January 17


ok.... but that assumption doesn't survive Occam's razor.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:47 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


A "fair period of time" would be "long enough for the baby to stop crying." And if taking the baby to the bathroom didn't work, the next course of action is "try something else," not "sit crying baby on lap and continue eating."

I feel for these parents, I really do. I've got an infant and a two-year-old, and I've definitely done made rookie parenting mistakes with regards to overestimating their tolerance for social situations. But once it's clear that things have gone pear-shaped, you do everything in your power not to ruin everyone's night. And that includes taking your poor baby home.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:04 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


What do you do when someone says, "hold on a second"?

Doesn't that depend on the situation?

ok.... but that assumption doesn't survive Occam's razor.


But you're viewing Occam's razor through a particular filter which says that the simplest explanation is that he's correct about the "for a minute". Maybe he is and maybe he isn't.

The simplest explanation could be that he exaggerated at first and is now continually covering for it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:07 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Except occam's razor says do not multiply entities beyond necessity, which would mean assuming many more things 1) that he's lying, 2) that he continues to lie 3) that he desires to cover up this lie 4)that he was irritated, and this caused him to lie

Or he used the word 'minute' to not mean 60 seconds exactly, but to mean a short period of time, like how everyone else uses it in casual speaking english.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:13 AM on January 17


"For a minute" as a non-literal colloquialism for "for a short interval" is such a common usage that to hold it up as some sort of falsifiable claim based on the idea that something might have covered the stretch of longer than literally one minute is bizarre. It's like suggesting that someone who says something other than "the ceiling" in response to "what's up" is ergo an unreliable narrator.
posted by cortex at 10:18 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Except occam's razor says do not multiply entities beyond necessity, which would mean assuming many more things 1) that he's lying, 2) that he continues to lie 3) that he desires to cover up this lie 4)that he was irritated, and this caused him to lie

Yes, you're still working from the presumption that Achatz was there and thus an accurate gauge of the time. But the interview clearly notes that the he was in the kitchen and heard the baby and the general manager came to him (implying he's still in the kitchen) and asked Achatz what he wanted done. He decided to let it be. As the crying continued, the general manager approached the woman and asked her to step in the foyer. That is Achatz describing the situation. Then he continues speaking, as if he was there in the room where the table of four with the kid was. But it's not at all clear whether he was in the room or relying what the general manager described to him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:31 AM on January 17


Oh goody, it's a new "viking" argument!
posted by aramaic at 10:33 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Jesus christ.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:35 AM on January 17


What, you wanted to argue. I figured you'd be all over this like a ginger pâté de fruit on a food-safe washable silicone mat.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:42 AM on January 17


The telling point here is not exactly how long the woman took the baby to the bathroom for, it's that she and the other members of the party at that table made no further efforts to make the baby stop crying. And that's not just a problem for the other diners. The baby is crying for a reason, even if it's not obvious what it is, and it deserves to have its needs attended to sometime in the next couple of hours instead of being ignored by the adults on which it is dependent in favor of apple helium balloons.

The reasons you don't bring babies to fancy four-hour performance meals aren't all about courtesy to your fellow diners. It's also not great for the babies.
posted by immlass at 10:59 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


corb: I don't think Achatz is a completely reliable narrator though. It's not even possible to take the baby to the bathroom and back in a minute. Probably this was a trip to the bathroom to check/change the diaper, check if the baby was hungry, and it probably took more like ten minutes rather than the "one minute" idea that the chef has - because it irritated him and seemed like the baby was gone too short a time period.

Really? really? Is this really the hill you want to die on?

Have you ever heard someone say "in a minute" to mean a literal minute? It's a human, organic measurement of time that can mean anywhere from 2 or 3 minutes to 15 or 20.

I'm completely confused as to what your point is here, and fully with the "so someone who was actually there gave an account and you don't like it so you're splitting hairs and trying to lawyer against it" side of this.

And more importantly, in the context of the chef and the other guests annoyance... does it even matter how long they were gone? the point is they came back, the baby kept fussing, and they did nothing.

Splitting hairs about the degree to which the baby was crying/fussing seems pointless too. If it's just like, a bit of baby noises instead of full on screeching does that somehow make peoples annoyance pointless and trivial? Is there some threshold at which they should "just get over it?".

I'm really confused as to where you're coming at this from, and what your point even is. It seems like what your getting at though is that there's some reasonable threshold at which the baby was like, objectively not annoying and on the underside of that they're just blowing it out of proportion or something.

I mean, i think the fact that all but one table complained and the chef gave this account that you somehow want to torpedo should be enough evidence that they made nothing but a half-assed token effort here and were above the hypothetical line of annoyance you're trying to draw.
posted by emptythought at 11:13 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Really? really? Is this really the hill you want to die on?

FYI, the same could be asked of you. No one is forcing you to argue minor points about situation that literally has nothing to do with you in any way, shape or form.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:33 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


And she never did anything else. It was like, 'I've done my part. I tried and failed. And now I'm not going to deal with it.'

I don't think that the issue is whether Achatz is or isn't a reliable narrarator. I think it's that he's guarding his words here, which mary or may not be bad, but if could clarify what he thought the next steps -- other than "leave" might be, that would be insightful.
posted by mikelieman at 11:44 AM on January 17


Because, is it just me, but I'm getting a 'Please Just Leave" vibe here? Or maybe he's just burnt out on the fallout of what he thoutht would be a funny comment?
posted by mikelieman at 11:45 AM on January 17


And I'm back to, "If your kid is noisy in the Sistine Chapel, you can put her to nurse, but...."
posted by mikelieman at 11:47 AM on January 17


....I don't think Achatz is a completely reliable narrator though. It's not even possible to take the baby to the bathroom and back in a minute. Probably this was a trip to the bathroom to check/change the diaper, check if the baby was hungry, and it probably took more like ten minutes rather than the "one minute" idea that the chef has - because it irritated him and seemed like the baby was gone too short a time period.
posted by corb at 12:28 PM on January 17


...
...
...

...and with that, I'm out. Have fun, y'all.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:50 AM on January 17


Have you ever heard someone say "in a minute" to mean a literal minute? It's a human, organic measurement of time that can mean anywhere from 2 or 3 minutes to 15 or 20.

I'm completely confused as to what your point is here


My point is more that perception of time is relative - in reality, the baby may have only cried extremely briefly, but to people not used to children crying or for whom it was extremely irritating, it may have seemed much, much longer. To steal from Einstein, "Put your hand on a hot stove Listen to a crying baby for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity."

And there is a huge difference between a mom taking the baby out for 3 minutes and a mom taking the baby out for 20 minutes. At that point, I think, yes, you have done due diligence if the baby is no longer screaming - even if it periodically then "fusses", which is another completely inexact measurement.

Parents are under no obligation to minimize crying according to non-parents perception of crying length/noise irritation. Yes, they should try to minimize actual disruption, but that doesn't equal "Oh god, a baby cried for fifteen minutes, life my meal is now ruined."
posted by corb at 12:00 PM on January 17


If Alinea was in New York instead of Chicago, it'd be an even shorter period of time.
posted by desjardins at 12:13 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Parents are under no obligation to minimize crying according to non-parents perception of crying length/noise irritation.

Achatz is a parent and he, too, was disturbed by it, but of course he's an unreliable narrator.

But yeah, generally, if you want to insist that nobody but the parents of the baby can decide how much crying is too much, you go on with your bad self, but don't expect anybody else (regardless of their parental/childless/childfree status) to let the parents of the crying baby be the only arbiter of what's reasonable. They're under no obligation except good manners, which are obviously not an issue here.
posted by immlass at 1:56 PM on January 17 [12 favorites]


Parents are under no obligation...

Ever heard of "the social contract?" If I didn't know better, I'd think you were actually arguing that anybody who was bothered by the crying would have merely been expressing some personal flaw that the parents have no business considering.
posted by rhizome at 2:01 PM on January 17


You're banging your head against an Italian, granite effused wall, hand dusted with frustration and hints of illogical natterings. You might be happier with a cheeseburger.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:07 PM on January 17


corb: My point is more that perception of time is relative - in reality, the baby may have only cried extremely briefly, but to people not used to children crying or for whom it was extremely irritating, it may have seemed much, much longer. To steal from Einstein, "Put your hand on a hot stove Listen to a crying baby for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity."

And there is a huge difference between a mom taking the baby out for 3 minutes and a mom taking the baby out for 20 minutes. At that point, I think, yes, you have done due diligence if the baby is no longer screaming - even if it periodically then "fusses", which is another completely inexact measurement.

Parents are under no obligation to minimize crying according to non-parents perception of crying length/noise irritation. Yes, they should try to minimize actual disruption, but that doesn't equal "Oh god, a baby cried for fifteen minutes, life my meal is now ruined."


Ok, i see where you're coming at this from. I might not agree with it, but i hear you, i and i get it.

The thing is, Can't you reverse this then? Maybe it seemed like something completely inconsequential to the parents but was actually a smaller deal in their minds than it was in everyone elses.

Which brings it back around to, if nearly every other person in the room was disturbed by it... is that not the standard? are they blowing it out of proportion because a baby is exaggeratedly annoying to them because they're like, not used to babies or something?

The relativity thing applies to context too. It's like a bit of lime juice on a fresh taco Vs a bit of lime juice in a glass of milk. One is going to curdle, the other one will be at worst unchanged and at best improved. The main legs holding up your point is that from some neutral point of view, a baby crying a bit and being taken out "for a minute" isn't as big of a deal as people are making of it, but that throws out the window the idea that even a bit of crying in this context isn't unacceptable and that everyone is just "blowing it out or proportion" or something.

And this isn't even really engaging with the last line. Which is really provocative, and reminds me of that awful MeTa of "parents opinions of kids vs non parents opinions on parenting/kids". immlass' read of it was mine as well, but like... are you REALLY trying to say that the parents are the final arbiters of what is and isn't irritating or disturbing, and that no one elses opinion should effect their own? because that's like... deeply narcissistic/sociopathic/entitled/a whole other bag of garbage. And it comes with a bonus side dish of the aforementioned parent threads crap of "if you're not a parent you won't get it sorry". Like... what? You pretty much directly said "Ignore what other people say, they're not parents and they're not a parent of your kid, you decide alone what too much crying is".

I also think it's super lol that you were disregard the chefs account of the whole thing, and then also slagging on non parents perceptions of things, when he IS a parent. I don't even know.
posted by emptythought at 3:27 PM on January 17 [10 favorites]


Parents are under no obligation to minimize crying according to non-parents perception of crying length/noise irritation. Yes, they should try to minimize actual disruption, but that doesn't equal "Oh god, a baby cried for fifteen minutes, life my meal is now ruined."

This whole sentiment is ridiculous because of the way it ignores context but more than that I'm sure many of the other people at Alinea that night were parents too, even if they didn't have a baby on their person.
posted by sweetkid at 9:35 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


It was not suggested that the parents show up and ask for help, merely that other diners offer it.

You know, it's one thing to coo at a fussy baby in the checkout line at Kroger or Target, or indulge the curious toddler at Tim Horton's or IHOP. It's completely another to have the fussy baby or curious toddler in a completely inappropriate place for the child's age and temperament. I will gladly make faces at your fussy Monster in the grocery store while you fish out your wallet. I will indulge him when he comes over to me in the video game store to examine my hair and sparkly makeup. I will giggle at her and invite her to sit when she comes over to me at Denny's after a bellydance performance to ask about all the flowers in my hair and shiny, jingly shit on my ass.

But if you bring him or her to a restaurant that I have saved up for months for and he pitches a fit, I am going to give you the side-eye so hard, and if you sit there with an expression of "Oh well, whatta ya gonna do?", I will probably say something to you about disturbing every other patron in the place. And if you "suggest" that I interrupt my very expensive, very much out-of-the ordinary dinner? I will be very rude to you and "suggest" you cram your screaming child in a to-go box and leave. The entire world does not - and should not - revolve around children, and there is nothing wrong with adult only spaces. YOU signed up for your baby, I did not.

I'm not unsympathetic to people who want a night out, but either can't afford a sitter or the sitter bailed. I've been doing the Mom thing for 22 years now, I remember how hard it was when they were wee. But one thing I never did was take them to places where it would be inappropriate to be. We always took them out, mind, but we went to places like Olive Garden and Red Robin, and the locally owned hot dog joint up the street until they were old enough and socialized enough to appreciate nicer places. They aren't babies forever, so suck it up and wait until they don't treat other diners to a symphony of screaming. Plain old consideration, yo.

I knew when I signed up for the Mommy gig that it was going to involve a lot of change and sacrifice. I knew that teaching the Monsters to act properly in public was going to take a lot of time and effort. Elder Monster didn't set foot into a "grown-up" restaurant until he was 5, and then it was at lunch-time, so if we had to ditch, it didn't kill the wallet. There were places I desperately wanted to go to, but couldn't. It did not kill me to wait until the Monsters were old enough to appreciate them. My life was not a shambles because I had to wait to be able to go to Morimoto or Lola, or even the super fancy Chop House here in town.

The patience paid off. Elder Monster is now a sous chef at a local Japanese place, and is gnawing his way up the food chain. Younger Monster adores going out for fancy dinners, and has lately taken to introducing his girlfriend to nicer places. And me? I can have "Missy's Night Out", and I'm no worse for the wear for having waited patiently for it.
posted by MissySedai at 11:43 AM on January 18 [7 favorites]


But if you bring him or her to a restaurant that I have saved up for months for and he pitches a fit, I am going to give you the side-eye so hard, and if you sit there with an expression of "Oh well, whatta ya gonna do?", I will probably say something to you about disturbing every other patron in the place. And if you "suggest" that I interrupt my very expensive, very much out-of-the ordinary dinner? I will be very rude to you and "suggest" you cram your screaming child in a to-go box and leave. The entire world does not - and should not - revolve around children, and there is nothing wrong with adult only spaces. YOU signed up for your baby, I did not.

I too have been doing the parent thing for 22 years and I am sympathetic to other diners but I also have some sympathy for the parents. Our younger son is developmentally disabled so we rarely take him to restaurants as it can be stressful for us as well as other patrons. When we do take him out to eat it's to fast food, fast casual or Chinese buffet type places when there tends to be a lot of noise and movement and we certainly wouldn't take him to a place like this. That being said...a little kindness, or at least courtesy, goes a long way. Aggressiveness just invites a response in kind. Give me the "side eye" get the finger, say something rude, get a rude response, be very rude and expect a torrent of obscenities and personal insults. My night's already ruined and I'm on the defensive, I have nothing to lose by completely ruining your evening as well.
posted by MikeMc at 12:49 PM on January 18


Give me the "side eye" get the finger,

Dude. You'd flip someone off for glaring at you? Seriously? And you're preaching about courtesy?
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:09 PM on January 18 [8 favorites]


Dude. You'd flip someone off for glaring at you? Seriously? And you're preaching about courtesy?

Yep, once we've arrived at the glaring stage it's probably too late. If you've got something to say then say it or have the waitstaff say it for you. Don't just sit there and glare, it isn't doing either of us any good. You're angry and annoyed and now I'm angry and defensive. My whole point was that rude and/or aggressive behavior invites the same. You want to "mean mug" me in a restaurant? Fuck you. Bear in mind that if you asked any of my friends or coworkers I have no doubt they would describe me as "nice" and "laid back", but I've been through enough bullshit from strangers, in all sorts of settings, with my younger son that my tolerance level for this type of shit is low.
posted by MikeMc at 1:23 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Allow me to clarify my last post a little. I'm not unreasonable, if my son is disturbing people near us and the manger were to ask us to, say, relocate to another table I'm perfectly fine with that. But the passive/aggressive shit and rude comments? I'm over that, way over.
posted by MikeMc at 1:33 PM on January 18


I dunno I was just at the grocery store and this guy was there with his kid and kids mom I guess. I was at the register and he barreled into me to get to the trash can, no excuse me no nothing just shoved me out of the way. Place wasn't crowded. The kid was super quiet and well behaved (probably one?)
Usually it's the parents who are the jerks.

I'm not part of this guy's family unit, I don't deserve any courtesy.
posted by sweetkid at 1:37 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]


I'm not part of this guy's family unit, I don't deserve any courtesy.

I doubt members of his family unit receive any courtesy either.
posted by MikeMc at 1:46 PM on January 18


For all you know, they might describe him as "nice" and "laid back."
posted by grouse at 1:53 PM on January 18 [5 favorites]


For all you know, they might describe him as "nice" and "laid back."

Touché. Of course if I barrel into strangers at the grocery store I apologize. That's really my point. You get what you give. sweetkid probably should have given the guy a hard shove in the back.
posted by MikeMc at 2:07 PM on January 18


When we do take him out to eat it's to fast food, fast casual

We aren't talking about taking your kid to Applebee's, dude. Go clean your specs and read what I actually wrote.

The difference between a place where it's $25 a head and one where it's $300 a head is stunning. If a 4 hour, $300 meal is too much for your child to handle, it's on you to choose a more appropriate restaurant, not on everyone else to just grin and bear it.
posted by MissySedai at 2:42 PM on January 18 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure a dose of Internet tough guy, arguing who does or doesn't deserve a middle finger or a shove in the back or a "fuck you," adds anything useful to this particular conversation.
posted by cribcage at 2:48 PM on January 18 [10 favorites]


I have had numerous children not belonging to come pester me at restaurants. I have pretty distinctively colored hair and am fond of sparkly makeup. Little kids think that's interesting. I don't mind if they want to come chat at Red Robin.

I sure as hell DO mind in a place that takes three months and half a paycheck to get into.
posted by MissySedai at 2:52 PM on January 18


That being said...a little kindness, or at least courtesy, goes a long way. Aggressiveness just invites a response in kind.

Parents of kids who are developmentally disabled or some other kind of "other" have their own private hell to deal with when it comes to taking their kids out in public sometimes. Please be kind. It can mean so much.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:59 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]


We aren't talking about taking your kid to Applebee's, dude. Go clean your specs and read what I actually wrote.

I did. MikeMc: we certainly wouldn't take him to a place like this.

And then I read this: I will be very rude to you and "suggest" you cram your screaming child in a to-go box and leave.

I'm not sure a dose of Internet tough guy, arguing who does or doesn't deserve a middle finger or a shove in the back or a "fuck you," adds anything useful to this particular conversation.

I'm not 100% sure expressing the idea of "If you're going be shitty/rude/aggressive towards me I'm going to be shitty/rude/aggressive right back." counts as a dose of ITG.
posted by MikeMc at 3:02 PM on January 18


Can we agree that not taking your child to Alinea and their not glowering at you in Applebee's means offtopic?
posted by rhizome at 3:18 PM on January 18 [6 favorites]


I thought the the topic was "How should a situation like this be handled?". My contention is that aggression towards the offending patron(s) is not it. I'll see myself out.
posted by MikeMc at 3:25 PM on January 18


Fascinating. Over 800 comments in a thread about how to handle a child's temper tantrum in public, and the rhetoric has ranged from "tolerate everything" to "i advocate violence!".

All over a situation that won't occur again on Earth until Jupiter aligns with Mars, and the moon is in the seventh planet.

I'm not really sure if it's the ... hypothetical nature of this event that makes it so tempting to tomment on emphatically (how many of us will ever eat at a place like this, much less encounter such a problem?), or the emotional charge we get from combining something distasteful (public misbehavior of children) with something threatening security for many of us (what if it were MY children).

Excuse the metacomment. Back to the regularly scheduled, internecine spitballing.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:45 PM on January 18


and the moon is in the seventh planet

That's the seventh house. If you're going to ironically riff on a pop culture astrological reference, at least don't get it worse than the pop song you're riffing.
posted by localroger at 10:13 PM on January 18


Dude, you wrote two of those 800 comments (now three). Don't you "fascinating" at me. ;)
posted by en forme de poire at 11:02 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


Well, it's no wonder there was a little disruption, really. That baby was just plumb tuckered out from a long day.
posted by taz at 8:42 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


You'd think they'd the decency to offer to perform an exorcism.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:17 AM on January 19


en forme de poire: "Don't you "fascinating" at me. ;)"

Oh yeah? Well... Nyah!
posted by IAmBroom at 12:47 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


Neither of you are getting any dessert if this doesn't stop. I really mean it this time. I will eat mine in front of you.
posted by jquinby at 2:24 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


*wails loudly, disturbing nearby patrons*
posted by en forme de poire at 3:04 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


are you REALLY trying to say that the parents are the final arbiters of what is and isn't irritating or disturbing, and that no one elses opinion should effect their own?

No, that was more of a frustration moment. I'll readily cede that it's also possible that to the parents - and to any parents of a young baby - their perception of "when baby is behaving/how much crying i too much" is going to be different. I don't think that anyone's perception is necessarily "right."

My point was that it seems like a lot of people are expecting that because this is a restaurant some people may have saved for months for, that the parents would and should automatically assume that any crying equals The Ruining Of An Experience, and that the parents perception of what is normal/acceptable is automatically wrong, because other people were irritated.

And I think that this isn't fair - though admittedly, I find it unfair from a position where it's absolutely, completely incomprehensible how a bit of crying can curdle the entire experience. I see people saying this, but I really, really, don't understand.

It seems like the irritation of a crying baby on an airplane - where you often do spend 500$ or so - sometimes babies do cry (even more, because there's no room to move, and pressure), and it's annoying if you're trying to sleep. But I don't think about plane flights with crying babies as having ruined my experience, because the plane flight isn't about quiet on the flight, but about the place you're going. It seems like it's the same with Alinea - your experience is about balloons of food, not about The Silence.

For me, it's like Aliens Are Talking. I really can't get it at all. It's been compared to theatre, but the reason people don't like crying in a theater is not because it's crying, but because it makes it hard to hear the music/words. Does hearing a baby make it hard to eat food?
posted by corb at 4:28 AM on January 22


But I don't think about plane flights with crying babies as having ruined my experience, because the plane flight isn't about quiet on the flight, but about the place you're going. It seems like it's the same with Alinea - your experience is about balloons of food, not about The Silence.

No, the plane flight is a means to an end; very few people take plane flights, especially aboard modern jets, simply for the experience of flying. But people go to Alinea for the experience of having dinner at Alinea. They aren't going to be half-way across the country with lots of new stuff to do once the dinner is over. The dinner is the point, and while absolute silence is not the order humans are hard-wired to be annoyed by crying infants and the reason for that is so that we will attend ot the crying infant. If the parents don't do so it does create an extreme nuisance for everyone else.
posted by localroger at 5:04 AM on January 22


It seems like the irritation of a crying baby on an airplane - where you often do spend 500$ or so - sometimes babies do cry (even more, because there's no room to move, and pressure), and it's annoying if you're trying to sleep. But I don't think about plane flights with crying babies as having ruined my experience, because the plane flight isn't about quiet on the flight, but about the place you're going. It seems like it's the same with Alinea - your experience is about balloons of food, not about The Silence.
What is the Alinea equivalent of "the place you're going" in this analogy? When I buy a plane ticket, I'm not buying the experience of flying on a plane. I'm buying transportation from point A to point B, so that I can get the benefit of being in point B. When someone buys a ticket to eat at Alinea, the only thing they are paying for is the experience of the meal, which includes both the food and the ambiance. There is nothing analogous to getting from point A to point B: there is only the flight itself. And that means that your analogy is a little ridiculous, because can you imagine anyone spending $500 on a plane ticket just to experience the joys of 21st century commercial aviation? If people were paying $500 just to go up, fly around in a circle, and go down, then I assume that airlines would pay a lot more attention to the quality of the actual flying experience.

I get that you think that the point of fancy restaurants is "the food", and that you don't think the atmosphere surrounding the food is important at all. But I don't think that's what the people who run Alinea think, and I don't think that's what 95% of the people who eat there think, either. And it seems to me that their opinions ought to matter at least as much as yours.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:05 AM on January 22 [4 favorites]


Does hearing a baby make it hard to eat food?

I think a huge part of your difficulties in understanding is the perception that Alinea is simply a place where you go to 'eat food'. Alinea is not just a place to consume a few calories to tide you over until breakfast the next day.

The meal is meant to be a pretty all-encompassing, focused experience, engaging all of the senses. Hearing the descriptions of and instructions for the dishes as they are presented is part of that experience. So is having the ability to focus on what you're experiencing and how your dining companions are reacting to the same thing and to talk about those things.

And it's not the sort of scenario where if this bite of your 12 ounce sirloin is somewhat ruined by the sound of a baby crying, the one you eat 5 minutes from now will still be great, because there isn't a 12 ounce sirloin. If you missed your chance to really experience and enjoy a course because a baby crying was distracting you and annoying you when it was delivered, it's still done and over and there isn't a 32nd bite to savor.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:17 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]


Serious questions: Do they ban cell phones in Alinea? What do they do (if anything) if one rings? If the person answers it? What about flash photography, or looking at one's backlit phone (if the room is darkened while the culinary theatrics are taking place)?

It's possible that any of these things would be more irritating to me than a baby's cry (depending on the pitch and duration of the cry). I have been known to give loud-phone-talkers The Glare in an Amtrak quiet car, and I've confronted movie theater texters. I don't even particularly like babies, but I'd rather deal with them than most grown people. Especially the ones who take 20 minutes to unwrap hard candy whatiswrongwithyou

I still think the parents here were at fault, but any restaurant would be hard-pressed to stamp out all distraction.
posted by desjardins at 6:36 AM on January 22


Do they ban cell phones in Alinea? What do they do (if anything) if one rings?

I hope they tell the offender to shut it off. If it's an emergency call, you can always take it outside (not unlike the baby). But given the "we will tell people to be nice and let them use their (worst) judgement" rule for babies, you have to wonder.
posted by immlass at 7:46 AM on January 22


Serious questions: Do they ban cell phones in Alinea? What do they do (if anything) if one rings? If the person answers it? What about flash photography, or looking at one's backlit phone (if the room is darkened while the culinary theatrics are taking place)?

I've been to a fair number of Michelin rooms and the closest I've ever seen to a disturbance was the fellow I mentioned earlier who was talking a bit too loudly. But he was seated right beside our table; it's not like I could hear him from across the restaurant. Food photography happens a lot, but I've never seen anybody use a flash except to get a quick shot of themselves. One time at Bar Masa I sat beside two guys who were constantly playing with their phones. But that's a far more casual room, plus it was lunch and not dinner service, and I guess I think it's silly to go to Bar Masa and play Candy Crush or whatever but as long as you're quiet then who cares.

This is why I commented above that the trick isn't in having a no-disruptions policy, but in enforcing it. Nightclubs have bouncers because drunks start shit every night. This doesn't happen every night at a Michelin room. It's going to be a very, very rare occurrence. So...have you discussed the policy with your staff? Are you prepared to enforce it? Who is going to handle it, and how? This isn't something you're necessarily prepared to improvise because it's not part of your normal course of business. It's an anomaly.
posted by cribcage at 8:50 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]


> Does hearing a baby make it hard to eat food?

It doesn't make it hard to shove it into your pie hole and chew, but it makes it hard to focus on it and enjoy it. Maybe even impossible.

It's like trying to enjoy a movie in a theatre that's freezing (and you're not dressed for that), or that's filled with an obnoxious smell. You can still see the screen fine, the sound is not different. But would you be able to focus on the movie?

And since this is about the type of place where you don't go to shove stuff into your mouth and swallow it as quickly as you can, but to experience it to the fullest... yes, for most people hearing a screaming baby makes it hard to do what one comes there to do.

As for the difference between crying and screaming: I'm not sure there is one (that I find relevant). I've never heard a baby cry and not scream.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:17 AM on January 22 [3 favorites]


It doesn't make it hard to shove it into your pie hole and chew, but it makes it hard to focus on it and enjoy it. Maybe even impossible.

With no intention to be rude, could you elaborate on this? This seems to have been stated as an absolute, but I don't really understand it at all. I do, in fact, enjoy really delicious food, but from my view (and granted, this may be my view upon being raised in one of the noisiest cities out there), it seems like a baby is a little like an El or like shouts coming from outside. You look to make sure no one's being murdered and the baby's not being abused, and then you tune it out and get back to your own thing.

I've never heard a baby cry and not scream.

It's mostly a difference in how ticked off they are. Crying is "Hey you!" Screaming is "Fuck you and the world, I want to burn it down but can't make my tiny fingers close on the matches."
posted by corb at 9:51 AM on January 22


I can't tune it out. It was designed not to be tuned out. I believe you when you say you can, but most of us can't do it. I can more easily tune out a chain saw.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:56 AM on January 22 [6 favorites]


And I'm not going to stick around and listen to find out how ticked off the baby is or isn't. As far as I'm concerned, it's always screaming.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:58 AM on January 22


I finally came up with a lower end example of why a baby would be distracting at a place like Alinea. It's an order of magnitude more fancy and the techniques are way different, but as a performance space it's analogous to an American "Japanese" hibachi grill restaurants like Benihana.

When you go to a hibachi grill place, you're not just getting food; you're getting a performance by the chef. All sorts of things happen at the table while the chef makes the meal. If eggs are an ingredient, the chef may juggle the eggs or toss one and catch it in their hat. They often make a little volcano out of a big section of an onion and light it on fire. In a more kid-friendly place, they may toss bits of cooked shrimp or vegetables into the mouths of patrons as a game.

Each of these tricks is a piece of the performance art you're paying for as part of the dinner. Part of the attraction of this style of eating is watching (and if asked, occasionally participating, like with the catching food in your mouth) in the cooking. If a baby is crying and screaming, and you're distracted from some part of the performance, you missed it, just like you might miss a great line in a movie or some song in a concert or a memorable bit of an opera or play. The egg is now part of the fried rice; the volcano is now part of your meal.

When a baby (or another patron) is being distracting, you're missing the performance. And nthing that most humans have a hard time ignoring the distress cry of an infant in favor of watching some kind of performance.
posted by immlass at 9:59 AM on January 22 [4 favorites]




Whatevs, it was prolly only for a few minutes and anyway the other gallery patrons should obviously have helped take care of the kid so that everyone could revel in their mutual love of fine art.
posted by lalex at 11:18 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


If that sold for $3 million, I have a new career getting rid of my IKEA furniture.
posted by corb at 1:05 PM on January 28


If it's similar to the one that I think I remember at Boston's MFA, it's more interesting in person than it looks there. I don't know if it's $3 mil more interesting, but it is not toddler shelving.
posted by maryr at 1:07 PM on January 28


modern art LOL
posted by lalex at 1:09 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


The point isn't how much it cost or why it's art, the point is that it's wrong to let your kid/yourself/your pets loose in public and refuse to control them. (Not that this is limited to kids, adults are pretty awful at the no-touch rule too: witness the surgeon in Firenze who broke a statue's finger off.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:12 PM on January 28 [2 favorites]


I think it's pretty telling that people side with the parents and not the museum.

I don't know what exactly it's saying, but it's weird.
posted by emptythought at 1:54 PM on January 28


Who sided with the parents? I thought lalex was joking and corb seems to be making fun of the art itself, not suggesting that it was okay for the parents to let the kid crawl on the sculpture.
posted by Area Man at 2:02 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


I was 100% joking; I think letting children crawl on museum exhibits is appalling.
posted by lalex at 3:46 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


toddler shelving.

Whoever actually invents this will make approximately 1 bazillion dollars in 15 minutes flat.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:51 PM on January 28 [2 favorites]


It's been compared to theatre, but the reason people don't like crying in a theater is not because it's crying, but because it makes it hard to hear the music/words. Does hearing a baby make it hard to eat food?

At the symphony, there is literally nothing to see - the musicians wear black suits and dresses, they sit and play their instruments without any undue movement, the lighting cues are purely functional. This is to encourage patrons to focus as completely as possible on the music. Flashing lights during the symphony wouldn't make it hard to hear the music, but it would be distracting.
A restaurant that's about appreciating food as an art, an outlet for gastronomy, needs to be a low-distraction environment. Babies aren't developmentally able to focus on art of any sort longer than a few minutes at a stretch, and their distraction is contagious, whether the exposed love, hate, or are indifferent to babies.
posted by gingerest at 5:17 PM on January 28


It's been compared to theatre, but the reason people don't like crying in a theater is not because it's crying, but because it makes it hard to hear the music/words. Does hearing a baby make it hard to eat food?

It's very difficult to enjoy a good meal, let alone as long and ornate a meal as this, when you have a baby's screeching rattling around in your head.
posted by kafziel at 8:34 PM on January 28


Who sided with the parents?

I was talking about the gawker comments and elsewhere, it just blew my mind.

I should have clarified in the first place.
posted by emptythought at 11:30 PM on January 28


Who sided with the parents? I thought lalex was joking and corb seems to be making fun of the art itself, not suggesting that it was okay for the parents to let the kid crawl on the sculpture.

Yeah, to clarify, I don't think it's appropriate to let children crawl around even on terrible art, unless that itself is part of your new art performance piece.
posted by corb at 7:17 AM on January 29


I have two babies and a pile of lumber. Challenge accepted.
posted by snickerdoodle at 9:10 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]


Since discussion seems to have died out, I wanted to drop in one last link because I mentioned this restaurant several times. I'm sure this incident has stoked folks' interest in Alinea, but if you find yourself in Chicago and you can't book that table, I would urge you to try Moto.

This kind of experience isn't for everybody. But if you're intrigued, give it a try. Think of it like trying opera, or monster trucks, or a hot air balloon ride. It's a big world out there and there's lots of stuff worth trying once. Except opera, which sucks.
posted by cribcage at 4:28 PM on January 31


You really shouldn't let babies crawl around on a large pile of lumber either.
posted by maryr at 6:09 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


Except opera, which sucks.

I will cut you.

And then sing about it.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:51 PM on January 31 [3 favorites]




Jesus Christ, this family sounds like a piece of work.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:17 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Her name is "Sissi Belle." That family was something else before they ever got near the Tate.
posted by gingerest at 2:58 PM on February 1 [4 favorites]


UTMOST.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:08 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


For fuck's sake, the kid was NINE? I thought we were talking toddler here. A nine year old that doesn't know better than that is a fucking train wreck.
posted by kafziel at 4:21 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


"The couple, who now run the Bolongaro Trevor fashion label"

I read this on the way home and my first thought was that it was just an advert stunt for their label.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 4:54 PM on February 1


Shouldn't people who run a fashion line look cooler?
posted by Area Man at 5:55 PM on February 1


Not to nerds like us they shouldn't.
posted by escabeche at 9:00 PM on February 1


To get back to that Chicago Reader interview with Grant, I'm surprised folks seem to have overlooked what's *really* the most important part: he says Alinea does indeed offer refunds and is happy to accomodate folks who have last-minute issues:

Has Achatz ever had a call from anyone whose babysitter canceled at the last minute?

Not exactly, he said, but he was in a similar situation just a couple of weeks ago, thanks to the polar vortex. "A lot of our guests come in from New York and San Francisco, wherever," he said. "And a lot of flights were canceled. We refunded their tickets. If this party would have contacted us and said, 'Here's the situation. What can we do?'—and everybody is saying the babysitter canceled at the last moment and I have no idea how that got into the ether, but as far as I know it's untrue—but if they had, of course we'd have been accommodating. We do this all the time."


Given the number of folks above, myself included, who wasted breath arguing the "no refunds/no cancellations" issue, that seems worth emphasizing even if some of us may retain doubts about the narrator's reliability.
posted by mediareport at 6:53 AM on February 2 [8 favorites]


My god, that article from the art-climbing family sounds like something The Onion would have written. Do they not have any sense at all about how douchey they sound? Or are they self-satirizing?
posted by jacquilynne at 8:38 AM on February 2


Obviously you haven't met that kind of seriously self important asshole before. I've met more than a couple. There is no charitable explanation, they're just assbutts.
posted by emptythought at 12:45 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


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