Welcome to ask a child-free person, the blog where I, a child-free person who studies motherhood for a living, negotiate common conflicts that arise between the parented and the child-free.

Today, I will grapple with a question which causes much angst in certain circles: Whether or not it is okay to bring children to super fancy restaurants.

The politics of fine dining are fraught with questions: What do I wear? Can I afford these prices? Will it look tacky if I Instagram my meal here? And, of course, can I bring my kids to dinner at David Chang’s newest restaurant?

As a child-free person who quite likes children, I love seeing kids’ little faces in most places. I like to see children having a great time at the park, or running wild on the beach. It also inspires me to believe in the future of humanity when I see children enthusiastically picking out books at the local library; however, even a lover of children like myself can get a bit apprehensive when I see tiny humans at a fine dining establishment. However, I do think that young families and fancy food CAN mix when done right.

So, you say, you have a birthday coming up and you would like to celebrate it with all your friends and family, including your 4 year-old daughter Sadie? The party will be held at a really high-end restaurant where people typically only go for expense-account power lunches or to propose marriage, but you say you would like to take little Sadie along for the ride? Should you, you ask? Well, the answer is that you of course you can, but you might want to strategize a bit before you do.

Obviously, legally, kids have every right to be at fine dining establishments. Certainly they have at least as much right as the douche bag bankers who populate them most nights. However, any time you go to a “special occasion” restaurant, you want to be cautious of other people’s enjoyment too.

For many of us, fine dining is a treat. In these cash-strapped times, most of us don’t have the money to go for event dinners often (if at all). If I’m spending $35 on an entrée, I would like to enjoy it in peace. That means no, I don’t want to hear some drunk executive yelling abuse at his new trophy wife across the table, but in a similar vein, I don’t want to hear a grade three student complaining they don’t want to eat calamari. It ruins the experience for all the folks at the establishment who can hear that meltdown, no matter how normal it is for kids to feel that way sometimes. I also can’t help but think the parents of said unhappy child might not be having the best time either. Surely, at the point where you have decided to shell out $40 for spherified lobster bisque, it’s probably better to leave a pint-sized picky eater with a relative or babysitter rather than bring them out for molecular gastronomy.

Having said that, I do think that if children honestly like the food at fine dining establishments and will therefore be happy and well behaved eating it, bringing them along is totally fine. If your little one is going to eat their duck confit with an adorable smile, you should absolutely take them out for a fabulous meal, if you have the cash and an inclination. You just might want to know before you take this journey to a Zagat-recommended eatery whether or not your child is up to the culinary experimentation.

How can you ascertain if your tiny human is a petit gourmand ready for culinary adventure? Perhaps start by preparing slightly more elaborate meals at home. If your child proves game for such experimentation, then they could well be ready to try the new Susur Lee restaurant without making a fuss. Hurray!

Finally, another suggestion might be to attempt fine dining with kiddies at off-peak hours. If you go to a fine-dining restaurant at 6 pm as opposed to 8:30, the staff will likely be less busy and the chef will probably have more time to make substitutions to a child’s meal if there’s anything your little guy finds unpalatable.

Not only does making reservations for a fancy meal at off-peak hours mean it’s likely you and your family will find the restaurant staff more accommodating, but even if your bundle of joy is having a bad day, they probably won’t ruin anyone’s super romantic anniversary dinner or a meeting intended to broker the merger of two major banks. Everybody wins!


Sarah Sahagian is a PhD candidate in Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies at York U, where her academic specialty is motherhood. Her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, xoJane, &  The Beaverton. When she’s not writing her dissertation, Sarah reads a lot of novels about other angsty young women, streams a lot of Netflix, and tweets about topics ranging from reproductive rights to who’s going to win The Bachelor.