Fine Dining for Families?

A family toasts while out for dinner.
Photo by @pablomerchanm

A new bar, the Rosecomb opened in Chattanooga. Heavy on cocktails and a “neighborhood tavern” vibe, it boasted a a fresh and fun menu (with just the best deviled eggs). After months indoors, first for pandemic and then for a fragile newborn, it seemed like the perfect place for a date night.

While reviewing their Instagram to make reservations, I saw a quip about an unruly customer outraged that they were not able to bring their children because “that was nowhere to be seen on their website”. I chuckled with the bar as the website very clearly stated, “21+ at all times” with a robust definition that “This includes babies, toddlers, teens, tweens, and everything in betweens.”

I laughed at the bereft parent, and then reconsidered. Now with a baby, I’m on the side of the banned. What does that mean for my formerly luxurious lifestyle?

I know people who have traveled overseas with children, They’ve packed up and headed off to the Amalfi Coast, one year old in tow, with the ease of the breezy Italian atmosphere. When I consider overseas options -even with my Scott’s Cheap Flights subscription- I cringe. Probably because when I’m flipping through my latest issue of Travel + Leisure, I’m drooling over menus at Michelin starred restaurants.

A Life of Luxury…on Pause

That’s not to say tasty morsels are my only goal when traveling, and please don’t think I’m above the local haunts. If you’re read my Cinque Terre hiking experience, you know that I’ll drag myself from the edge of death to bask in natural wonder. But delicious food and drink is another priority. What better way to experience the native culture?

Children are welcomed in the outdoor world. They thrive in it. And while I delight in roadside food trucks, Mama does like an opportunity to rock her Dolce & Gabbana. But a 7pm bedtime doesn’t lend us to enjoy a tasting menu, even if a two year old was allowed in.

How to Decide What’s Family Friendly

I digress. While I am worried about my overseas adventures, the more immediate concern is determining what’s family friendly here at home. In the age of attachment parenting, I side with bar. While I hope there’s a safe location to shovel foil gras into my toddler while she remains indiscriminate to food placed in front of her, I don’t want to ruin any ambiance in the process. There are certainly locations where I’d roll my eyes if a squalling baby came onto the scene. Just as there should be designated places safe for children, there should be designated places free of them.

If a restaurant is 21+, it’s decided. You’d be surprised how many parents wander into our favorite brewery with infant carrier in hand, shocked to find that 21+ includes babies. “But they can’t run around an knock things over!” They protest. But it’s not really about that is it? It’s about the vibe.

But, if it’s not so clearly designated, how do I decide? For now, I’ll quote a response from one of the local brewpubs when asked if they allowed toddlers. “Sure, if they pass the vibe check.”

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