Eat, Drink and be Mommy
There are plenty of kid friendly restaurants out there... and then there are the restaurants you really want to go to. Going out to eat is one of those indulgences that my husband and I simply refuse to give up. While we have dared to venture into almost all of our old pre-baby favorites, there are just some spots that legally are not set up for accommodating children. I can't tell you how much I miss going to List in Belltown! But thanks to a small selection of restaurants that do not limit happy hour to just the bar area, we've been able to continue dining out while catching some cheap(er) eats in these downtown spots. We love taking Totes out with us on our regular dinner dates, more so than leaving him home with a babysitter. We have spent plenty of times cursing to ourselves for do it while one of us has to take turns leaving the table with him, but as he is now approaching the 2 year old mark, he is becoming increasingly and consistently more behaved as he knows what to expect when we sit down at a restaurant.
Additional Note: We were fast eaters before having children, but now... it's the 100m sprint to the finish line, aka, "we'll take the check as soon as you put in our order". Yes, our kid is growing up in the restaurant industry and therefore may have a little more restaurant manners than the average, but that doesn't mean we sit down for a 6 course meal while he just chills out in the high chair with his crayons and kids menu. Our little man, just like anyone else's, has a limit and we try to respect that. Or at least I do while giving my husband the look and gathering up the litter from the floor. But in general, our Totes is great when we are out and his social personality is a hit with most other diners. But above all, I try to be respectful of the fact that other patrons are there, just like me, to relax and enjoy their meal and are paying a premium for this luxury and a screaming toddler, even screams of delight, are not always well received.
1. Goldfinch Tavern at the Four Seasons - Previously known as Art, this hotel restaurant just off the lobby recently got a pretty big facelift and is now serving up specialty fare from Seattle's local restauranteur, Ethan Stoll. They knocked down a few walls to create a more open concept and connection to the lobby but still maintained the reason why we frequent hotel bars: a few tables that are still considered part of the bar but just outside the legal railing. What that means to us? We can bring our kiddo and still grab happy hour in the "bar". Great food and drink selection, although as a huge cheese fanatic I was sad to see the cheese buffet go. With the large amount of foot traffic being in a hotel lobby can bring, a loud toddler goes fairly unnoticed. Although we weren't presented with a kids menu upon our recent visit to this new spot, they must still have a few leftover kids cups with lids and curly straws and thankfully have kept the lego-style utensils; our favorite part!
2. Trace at the W Seattle - So the key here is to grab a spot in the lounge... which yes, is technically part of the lobby to the hotel as well. We actually prefer sitting out here rather than inside the restaurant because we love the comings and goings and the vibe is great. Hey, we're very much lounge people. So this the spot we have frequented the most since our plus one came along. It was so great during the infancy stage because the constant background noise was a steady hum that kept him sleeping through our entire meal. Once he became more active and through the first year, he loved this place even more than we did! The people, the fireplace, the lights, the music! Swanky for sure if you're into that sort of thing. Now that he's walking it's a different story. Totes is almost TOO comfortable here and on more than one occasion I have spent the better part of our meal chasing him up their endless stairs and into every nook and cranny between the lobby and the restaurant. He definitely feeds off the energy here. Pretty good happy hour selection with an assortment of bar items and sushi plates and the hours available are generous. No kids menu.
3. Taylor Shelfish Farms - Great spot to quench your oyster cravings without going to a fancy sit down restaurant. Very casual with a neighborhood feel and crowd. The menu is tiny but you're coming here just for oysters anyway, right? Just be prepared by bringing your kiddo their own food supply unless they are good with prawns (Totes loves!), clams or bread and butter.
4. Daniel's Broiler - In the summer the patio is a must! Enjoy gorgeous views of Lake Union while you sip down that glass of Chardonnay. Inside, as long as you're not seated at the bar counter, the lounge is separate from the bar counter and OK for kids to hang. "Happy Hour" is pretty limited to special pricing on drinks with food priced the same all day in the bar.
5. I love Sushi - Super casual spot on Lake Union with a huge menu and great beer. One place where I don't feel too bad if he makes a mess because I always do myself anyway!
6. Mamma Melina Ristorante - Pizza, pasta, dessert... everything to keep a kid happy! Close to U Village so after you've exhausted yourself and your child from dragging them from store to store, pop on in for some great food. Conveniently, parking is plenty and free in the garage of the building with direct access into the restaurant so you won't have to worry about that part like you do downtown. A special kids menu means you can order that adult meal and choose to share or not.
6. Nordstrom Grill - Although the Cafe upstairs is quite a bit more rowdy and kid-friendly, we prefer the food at the Grill. And since they share the same kids menu, we don't miss out! We have our favorite table by the entrance Totes loves because he can great everyone passing by and coming in. The service is always great and the chocolate mints that come with the check are another favorite of his!
7. Taste at the SAM - Grab a window seat for great people watching along First Avenue. Cheap eats for kids with all items priced at $5.00 and generous portions. For the adults, I get an Aviation cocktail every time and work my way around the menu with a new dish at each visit. Nothing has disappointed so far.
A few things we do to ensure a pleasant dining experience:
- Feed your toddler prior to go out to eat. A hangry toddler is the biggest nightmare!
- Scope out the layout and scene of the restaurant and request a specific spot. Is there a fishtank? A window? a high-traffic area better suited for your social butterfly? Any element that will provide a source of entertainment is a great bonus.
- Order your toddler's meal first thing, before your meal. Most restaurants bring out bread for the table before the meal arrives and I hate having Totes fill up on that before his food comes and then refusing to eat anything else.
- Bring your own toddler utensils. I've only found one restaurant (at the Four Seasons listed above) that provides toddler sized sets. Totes is in the I-do-everything-myself phase and will eat and be entertained much longer if he can feed himself.
- Bring your own books, games, crayons, etc. Not all restaurants give out crayons and they only hold a toddler's attention for a few minutes anyway. Have a stash in your bag that you can pull out one by one after they are starting to fidget.
- Take turns leaving the table and walking around with your little one. Sometimes all they need is a little change of scenery to be able to hit the reset button. Hotel restaurants are especially great because of all the areas you can explore for a few minutes while waiting for your food come up.
- Bring the iPad. Or make sure your phone is fully charged. I try to be a low-media mom, but sometimes you gotta do it. Pulling up a few videos on YouTube creates so much peace at the end of the meal while we are finishing ours and waiting for the check. Everyone is happy.
I also loved this article from Bon Appetit called "The Commandments of Going Out to Restaurants with Kids"