I remember those days vividly. I was reviewing restaurants for The Battery Park News, a weekly paper run by “New York” magazine founder Clay Felker. My food budget permitted me to dine out at each restaurant twice, which meant eating out fairly often.
Like everything else in New York, baby sitters can run pretty steep. So my wife and I resolved instead to take our 8-month-old son with us. It was a gamble, we knew. He was a pretty well-behaved infant, but if he raised a fuss in a restaurant, we knew we’d have to beat a hasty retreat.
We tried to arrange to visit restaurants with banquettes — ideal for a mid-dinner snooze. Later, our focus became restaurants with tables that could accommodate “Sassy Seats.” I admit that we were lucky in having such a docile child.
As he grew older, our luck improved. He not only remained well-behaved but began to take an active interest in the food. He ate what we ate.
We grew more brazen. We began carting our son along to the city’s top restaurants. We dined at Le Pactole, at the time New York’s priciest dining venue. I still recall Dave giving a little grunt of approval upon sampling the amuse, a tiny block of goose liver in aspic. He went on to dine happily on a bowl of petite marmite.
There were down times naturally. I remember tipping a waiter at China Grill an extra five dollars for holding the hand of our newly-walking offspring as he repeatedly and awkwardly mounted and descended the three steps that led into the sunken dining room.
But on balance the positives outweighed the negatives. The high point of the venture came when Dave was three and accompanied us to the now-defunct Il Giglio. He shared my seafood salad (and was especially partial to the octopus), went on to a half-portion of papardelle with assorted wild mushrooms in cream, and finished with chilled zabaglione sprinkled with crumbled macaroons.
These warm experiences came flooding back as I read about Nibble+squeak, which has taken the notion of new parents bringing their kids along to a whole new level. Describing itself as “a community of ‘parents with pipsqueaks’ who love to eat!” Nibble+squeak “hosts food events for babies, toddlers, and young children (and their caretakers) across the world!”
The network, as detailed, sounds like something of a halfway house between taking the plunge, as my wife and I did, and having a little help from your friends. As a case in point, Nibble+squeak is co-hosting a “Tykesgiving” dinner at the upscale New York restaurant Ai Fiori. Scheduled for the week before Thanksgiving, the event is “designed to put all parents at ease about the restaurant experience for their children. Lights will be dimmed, music will be low and there will be a designated area for sensory retreat as well as activities for all children to enjoy.”
Currently, Nibble+squeak has roots in more than ten cities worldwide.
In case you’re wondering, my son is now a full-grown man with a passion for eating well.