I eat out a lot. With friends, with family, and sometimes with my daughter. In fact we have a lunch date somewhere in the city about once a week, so I'm pretty accustomed to dealing with kiddie behavior in restaurants. And I get annoyed by kids in restaurants all the time, including my own. There's been more than one occasion when I've taken my own precious little girl out of an eating establishment because she was fussy or cranky or just ready to go.
Local restauranteur Jennifer Bennett of Zazie ran into some kids last night that drove her to cranky Facebook posting. Sadly she didn't consider how her words would be received to the legions that wait in long lines, often with kids, to dine at her restaurant in Cole Valley. I'm a long-time fan—Zazie was one of the first restaurants my best friend took me to when I moved to San Francisco five years ago.
I always noticed how the staff seemed so helpful when diners with kids came in, so when Mia came along it was naturally among our preferred places to eat. It was close to our old Upper Haight apartment, on weekday afternoons there's never a wait and that sunny back patio is a lovely place for a mama to catch up with friends, to get out and feel connected to the world beyond their baby.
We went several times together and Zazie was naturally one of my early Mama's Guide reviews. On one visit Mia dropped her Sophie and a waiter snatched it up, rinsed it off and handed it back to her before I could move. That level of attentiveness and kindness doesn't just happen. It has to be embedded into the culture of a place. We eat out a lot and I rarely see the consistency toward kids that I've seen at Zazie, and which is why I'm willing to let this incident slide.
When this "news" broke on my Facebook feed I was dining out for a friend's birthday at Drake's Dealership in Oakland. On the outdoor patio couples, friends and families ate together, including a big group with a squirrely toddler and a little baby. The toddler ran around and fell down and cried and jumped back up and ran some more. Everyone passed the baby around until she fell asleep in her mama's arms. It was comforting that we could all celebrate our separate joys and enjoy the same space. Despite what internet commenters would have us believe, kids have a place at restaurants like everyone else. We can debate the timing or the space or the parenting necessary once they're there, but our community includes children and some of them will be in restaurants. You may never see or hear them. They might bug the hell out of you. But they'll be there at some point and you will live.
The initial reaction was shock that Bennett did not want kids in Zazie anymore. A day later we now know that she was expressing sentiments based on her own experience dining out and not based on anything in her own restaurant. Her mistake was the Facebook post, which is not an uncommon mistake for people to make these days, but given Zazie's appearances in national news this summer for recent move to a no-tip structure I expected more media savvy. If she was a waitress at Chuck E. Cheese she might be fired for her opinion. But since she's at one of the most popular and stroller friendly restaurants in the city, she'll survive this and so will Zazie.