Trying oysters for the first time at Union Sushi in Chicago. Photo credit: Megy Karydes / Foodie TravelingMom.

Trying oysters for the first time at Union Sushi in Chicago. Photo credit: Megy Karydes / Foodie TravelingMom.

So the joke begins: an eight-month-old is brought along to a fine dining establishment and begins to cry. Fellow diners and chef don’t know how to react.

OK, this isn’t a joke. This scene played out this weekend at one of Grant Achatz’s restaurants in Chicago: Alinea.

Achatz is considered one of the most talented chefs in the U.S. His restaurants and bars include Alinea, NEXT and Aviary, all fine dining establishments (well, Aviary is a bar — but you still need reservations to get in) and all have received too many awards and accolades to mention. He took to Twitter to share his thought – “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..”

Grant Achatz wonders how to handle a crying baby at Alinea, one of his fine dining restaurants in Chicago. Image from Twitter.

Grant Achatz wonders how to handle a crying baby at Alinea, one of his fine dining restaurants in Chicago. Image from Twitter.

Before you ponder this question, if you’re not familiar with Alinea, know this: If you’re lucky to score a ticket (which is like a reservation) at Alinea, you’ll be spending anywhere between $210 and $265 for your meal. This does not include drinks or gratuity.

According to follow-up reports, the couple who brought their eight-month-old did so after their babysitter had to cancel. Since you have to purchase your tickets in advance, not showing up to dinner would have meant they would have had to forfeit their spots at the table and their ticket price. What to do, what to do?

Here’s what you don’t do: you don’t bring your eight-month-old to a fine dining establishment. Call up your best friend, your favorite client, your sibling and offer them your spot unless your baby is so well-behaved and will nap during the entire dinner or you’re prepared to take your baby out of the room to soothe him or her while other diners are enjoying their meal.

We’ve been taking our kids out to eat with us since they were newborns. Part of the reason was not only to expose them to different flavors and textures but it was to teach them how to act in public. You start at places that are busy and kid-friendly and gradually make your way to places where kids aren’t always dining next to you and they still know how to behave.

Some companies, like Hyatt, have even hired tweens to help with menu preparation. Incorporating kids into the dining scene is great as long as you’re respectful of the situation.  If you go to Hyatt and book at this hotel, Traveling Mom will receive a referral fee.

Just last week our friends and I took our families to a well-known sushi restaurant in the River North area of Chicago. Between our two families, we had four adults and five kids ages seven to 11. Some of our kids enjoyed mussels and oysters while the others dined on maki rolls. Had either of us thought they wouldn’t have had anything on the menu that would appeal to them, we wouldn’t have taken them there. They are also old enough to sit at the big kids table by now.

An eight-month-old does not belong at a fine dining establishment where guests have paid top dollar to enjoy the experience. As painful and expensive as it would be to forfeit your tickets to the dinner, it’s not fair to the other diners to have to suffer with a crying child nor it is fair to the child.

How would you have reacted if you were at a fine dining restaurant and fellow diners brought a child who cried during your meal? Would you expect the chef or host to do anything about it? Or do you think it’s appropriate to bring your child to the restaurant if your sitter cancelled and you had already paid for the meal?