When chef Grant Achatz grumbled via Twitter about a couple totting their 8-month-old babe to his triple Michelin-starred restaurant Alinea, it set off a heated debate. (His exact words were “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..”) In their defense the couple had been let down last-minute by their sitter. But you can imagine their mortified faces as they tried to calm a wailing child, avoid the glares of other diners and tuck into a black truffle “explosion” of romaine and parmesan and try and enjoy it. Not so fun.
So is he right? Is it simply very un-cool to subject other diners to a (possibly) wailing infant when they are paying upwards of $210 for an 18 course tasting menu of a lifetime. Or is it bad form not welcome everyone with open arms. Plus I’ve had more than one dinner spoilt by a shouty next-door table neighbor braying loudly in my ear. Is a mewing baby any worse?
To get the lay of the land in Brooklyn, we gave an anonymous call each of our Michelin-starred hotspots. The request was for a table for a one-year-old (“it’s her birthday!”) plus parents. Dinner would be the ideal, but if not lunch would be a good second place. Here’s what they said…
After a few missed attempts I get through to someone at Kinfolk Studios (the day-time operation at Aska’s venue.) The guy couldn’t have been nicer. “The amount of money you’re paying for dinner, you’re never gonna be kicked out,” he says “even if your kid is screaming.” I quiz him on the high chair situ. “No, you’d need to have them on your lap. I mean it’s not really the vibe. You might get some strange looks. I have a kid and wouldn’t bring them let’s put it that way.”
VERDICT: Only if you are feeling very ballsy
Aksa, 90 Wythe Ave., nr. N. 11th St., Williamsburg; 718-388-2969; askanyc.com
Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare
After a three-minute wait I get through to a pleasant man who seems to think that booking with a babe shouldn’t be a problem. To my question of high chairs he says they don’t have “that sort of thing,” but was super nice and said he’d call me back the next day to confirm either way. I wait two days with no call back. Feeling unwanted I ring again and they say to call back, which I do twice before finally being told that they can’t accommodate a baby. Older kids are allowed though, “as long as they can sit up in a chair and are well-behaved.”
VERDICT: Even if you have a booking you may be turned away if you bring a baby.
Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, 200 Schermerhorn St; Downtown Brooklyn; 718-243-0050; brooklynfare.com
After more than three days of calling to only get an answer phone, I give in and email through my request. Shockingly a straightforward reply comes back in just 45 minutes. “We don’t have high chairs,” they say, “so she’d have to sit on a lap. If you’re ok with it then we’re ok with it too.”
VERDICT: Come on down! Just be prepped to have a squirmy baby on your lap.
Blanca at Roberta’s, 261 Moore St., Bushwick; 347-799-2807; blancanyc.com
After four attempts I get through and am told that a baby joining us for dinner is no problem at all (what!?). They have high chairs but I get a glaring “no” to my query about a kids menu – sorry it was going so well I couldn’t resist! I’m told our little gourmet will have to make do with the al la carte menu but we are welcome to go ahead and book.
VERDICT: The most babe-friendly of all.
Peter Luger, 178 Broadway, Williamsburg; 718-387-7400; peterluger.com