One could say that my husband and I are foodies. No, it isn’t only because last year’s new year resolution was to loose weight and we never accomplished it. We are foodies because we enjoy those rare, gourmet-type foods that not many try because they are too busy waiting in the line of one of those oh-so-famous chain restaurants. Yes, one could say that we are snobs when it comes to choosing a restaurant and a dish and up until now, refused to waste our time at one of the previously mentioned places.
We were lucky enough to have a baby girl we could take ANYWHERE because she would just sleep peacefully, or be happy at the table, but then things changed drastically. No, it wasn’t because our son was born (he’s an angel too), but because our lovely daughter turned into an ever-curious toddler who can’t seat still one second and who discovered she has an opinion and can make our lives a little “difficult” if we don’t comply.
Despite this new-found behavioral changes in our little princess, we had been courageous and attempted to continue to live the life of a foodie outside of the home. Many of our culinary endeavors failed but we were not discouraged to continue trying until this week, when we were in Chicago.
We LOVE going to Chicago in part because of its diversity, in part because of all the great activities that a big city has to offer, but mostly because we really, REALLY enjoy trying new restaurants and new cuisines. Being this our first time in the big city as the proud parents of two, we naively planned to dine in a couple of places that people had recommended before.
Ha! our culinary adventure had to be cut short when we realized that we only have 30 minutes, maybe 45 if we are lucky, to get into a restaurant, get our food and get out before our toddler needs to move on to the next activity or her baby brother needs a diaper change or to be fed.
It all started our first night there when we decided to eat at a terrific Spanish restaurant called Cafe Iberico (you should totally try it, if your kids let you). The food took about 10-15 minutes to be at our table, which gave my toddler enough time to decide she didn’t want to seat down anymore and our baby time to want to get some food himself. I attempted to feed him at the restaurant but wasn’t being very successful at keeping him under my nursing cover. So we ate as if we had never seen food before in our lives, chugged down our sangrias and ran out of there as fast as we could.
Both of us were still hungry and what’s worse, we each had to deal with a moody child -sigh! Still, we were determined to eat out without having to rely on fast food or chains. Our breakfast experience was not at all pleasant, I suspect because bad karma had decided to follow us at every restaurant. The food took about 40 minutes to come out of the kitchen and we had a hungry toddler!
What do you do when that little person starts crying because she wants to eat? We took her out of the restaurant to distract her a couple of times, we tried to entertain her with the sugar packets at the table (she normally plays with them for a long time), and we even let her play with ice cubes. Nothing could be done to calm her and you know how uncomfortable can be to become “the parent with the crying child”, so I had to do something I had promised myself I would never do… I took out my phone and started playing her favorite show. I know, that is awful, but we had no other choice.
I don’t know why we thought that after the morning episode, we could bring the kids to a little Italian restaurant down the road, but we pushed our gigantic double stroller through its fancy doors and ordered our food. Service there was outstanding and being that they only had a couple other tables with customers, our food got out of the kitchen fairly quickly. This definitely helped keeping the toddler entertained but we had to dine each with a kid on our lap and keeping an eye on their little fingers (the things kids find amusing at the table!).
Though our last experience wasn’t horrible, we decided that eating like mad people not only was terrible for our digestion, but it definitely made the whole dining experience not worth it. So for dinner that night we joined the ranks of many families that had given up their foodie tendencies exchanging them for the ultimate family dining experience: chain restaurants. And we found ourselves dining at the ultra kid-friendly, Rain Forest Cafe and now we understand why so many families chose these chain restaurants. They may not have a chic atmosphere, the food might be average and overpriced, but boy, are they kid-friendly or what?