Apparently This Matters: Fine dining isn't for kids

"What the hell? Where's my roasted chateaubriand with pan jus?"

Story highlights

  • A couple brought their 8-month-old baby into Chicago's ultra-swanky Alinea restaurant
  • After the baby cried and annoyed other guests, chef Grant Achatz tweeted about it
  • A pop-up Twitter account was created for the crying baby

I rarely get to experience fine dining. Mostly because, generally speaking, it also requires fine currency. And pants.

Fortunately, I'm perfectly happy with Lean Pockets, and enjoying one of those rarely requires dignity.

But don't judge. Even Napoleon shared my low-brow culinary interests. The dude loved Lean Pockets. Most people don't know that. And you won't find it in any history books.

Seriously, I wouldn't look that up.

"Apparently This Matters" Is Jarrett Bellini's weekly (and somewhat random) look at social-media trends.

All things considered, though, when I do get a chance to partake in a true quality meal at an upscale restaurant (read: when someone else is buying) I genuinely enjoy the odd experience of being served really small portions of elaborate food on really large elaborate plates, where 75 percent of the actual surface area is covered by tiny, elaborate flakes of garnish that, combined with the elaborate entrée, ultimately won't prevent me from just ordering pizza a few hours later when I get home so I can finally get to sleep all fat and bloated like I'm accustomed to.


Still, while I'm hardly deserving of such things, I really do enjoy the fine dining experience. And it's partly because people leave their kids at home.


Recently, however, a couple didn't leave their kid at home, and that's exactly what caused a heated online debate about the social acceptability of bringing your children to restaurants that don't have crayons or dancing, human-sized mice that may or may not have done time in Leavenworth.

"Hey kids! Who wants to hear about the time I shanked a guy!"

This particular fine dining incident all started when the couple brought their 8-month-old baby into one of Chicago's swankiest restaurants, Alinea, which has the incredibly rare distinction of being awarded three stars by a renowned tire company.

Meals at Alinea start at $210. Reservations are sold as tickets months in advance, and are non-refundable. So I'm guessing they don't serve fajitas.

The head chef of Alinea, Grant Achatz, later took to Twitter after diners began complaining when the aforementioned 8-month-old baby starting crying. As babies and columnists with crippling self-doubt sometimes do.

Achatz tweeted: Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tll ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no,but..

It seems that the couple's baby-sitter had canceled at the last moment, but they decided to go out for dinner anyway because, apparently, the family dog isn't a suitable or legal fill-in.

Chef Grant Achatz:  "I could hear it crying in the kitchen."

"OK, Snickers. You're in charge."

Not surprisingly, Achatz's tweet started a much larger conversation online where the general consensus was: Screw your kids.

Now, before we go any deeper into this debate, let me first disclose that I don't have any children of my own ... at least outside of those who may or may not be living in Thailand.

And it's not that I don't like kids. I do. They say the darndest things.

It's just that ... they're also kind of sticky.

And they require maintenance.

Quite frankly, I prefer the company of dogs. Because, while I'm quite grossed out by the idea of changing a diaper, I'm somehow perfectly OK with wrapping my hand in a Kroger bag and scooping up a giant, six-pound pile of partially digested IAMS from my lawn.

So, yes, I understand that I don't understand what it's like to have children. But I also understand what it's like NOT to have children.

And it's amazing. I nap a lot.

Whether this disqualifies me to comment on this subject is up for you to decide.

Regardless, we have to ask: Should adults bring their small children to fine dining restaurants?

Almost everyone I spoke to about this agrees with me that there's a certain level of swank where you sort of have to draw the line. It's a gray line. But it's a line. And it runs nowhere near Red Lobster.

The kids and restaurant debate later took a bizarre and wonderful twist when somebody created a fake Twitter handle for the 8-month-old child.

@AlineaBaby describes itself as ... a baby who likes fine food, fine drinks, and crying.

So, you know. Now there's that.

But what should the no-kids criteria be? Is it a price range? Is it a particular style of cuisine? Or is it something undefined that you just sort of feel?

The crying baby got a fake Twitter account. Because of course it did.

Chef Achatz eventually spoke about the incident on ABC's Good Morning America where he simply said, "I could hear it crying in the kitchen."

And in response to the pop-up Twitter account for @AlineaBaby, he tweeted a photo of two giant fish heads and wrote: Definitely not baby food...

And definitely not fajitas.

I think we found our line.

Follow @JarrettBellini on Twitter.

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