By Yashy Selvadurai Murphy @yashyanthi
We love eating out, scoping out new joints and seeking new experiences put quite the dent in our monthly budget. Certain people assumed that our adventurous foodie escapades would cease after the arrival of the Little Monkey. Let me tell you … it didn’t. We were also given the advice that we should stick to chain restaurants as they don’t mind the noise and clutter that accompany little ones. One problem there…we don’t really like chain restaurants. We’re more the cozy, fine dining, hole in the wall and downright odd restaurant lovers. We’ve had no problems taking the little one out with us and often get compliments on her behaviour. Yes we’re lucky she’s only 5 months and not yet into the yelling and tantrum throwing phase …hopefully we never get to that stage in a public setting.
I do follow a couple rules when dining out, I try to bring the car seat with us versus a large stroller if at all possible (respect that certain restaurants have limited space to move around, let alone parking an industrial pram), I try my best to have a bottle of milk on me so that in case of an emergency I can easily feed her before a hungry cry rings out and I’m panicking to breastfeed (though by all means do breastfeed in public…I don’t think anyone SHOULD have an issue with it) ask the server for some hot water in a cup so you can warm the bottle while you peruse through the menu. I also try to change diapers in the washroom (and if they don’t have a change table or nook to change in I ask them for an alternate spot or try my best to prolong the diaper change) and finally, if we’re having a bit of a crying fest… we pick her up and walk her out till she calms down. It’s fine, babies cry… but other diners need not be subjected to wailing noises in lieu of elevator music. There’s absolutely no need for that.
Here’s a list of some of our favourite joints in downtown Toronto that are also (relatively) baby friendly. Please keep in mind that my criteria for being baby friendly is a spot that has great service, delicious eats and a spot for me to keep the baby (change tables and high chairs are not mandatory).
Gladstone, 1214 Queen Street West, Toronto
You’d be surprised, these guys have a really fun brunch concept on weekends at the Melody Bar with a DJ spinning on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m (perfect for us who prefer to snooze in) and kid friendly live bluegrass entertainment on Sundays from 11 to 3 p.m. During our Saturday brunch session there were three prams in the restaurant/bar and the staff had no issues with that, the space and decor lends itself quite nicely to families. While the washroom didn’t have a change table there was a small window nook that I was easily able to do a quick diaper change at. As for the food…can’t complain about the great selection on offer. They always have healthy, greasy and traditional options. Many have a fun twist…like marmalade on your burger.
Mommy Lunch Dates
Adega, 33 Elm Street, Toronto
This cute little Portuguese restaurant is one our faves and a very non-traditional recommendation for a mommy date. That said this fine dining establishment welcomed us warmly when a friend and I went there for an impromptu lunch with our babies. They gave us a private area so we were comfortably seated away from the hustle and bustle. More over they were very patient with us as on this occasion we had some diaper issues and it took us about forty minutes to place an order. Not once did they try to rush us. Space is definitely an issue, they are more than happy to hold your folded pram at the entrance for you but you would be able to squeeze a car seat and not much else near your seat. The food is absolutely delicious here with lots of special features and many options depending on how hungry you are. They do not have a change table or high chairs but like I said it’s not a mandatory for me. This spot would work really well for a dinner date as well but I would highly recommend making a reservation.
Quick Lunch with working folks
Fresh, 147 Spadina Avenue, Toronto
I’m probably one of the biggest carnivores you’d ever come across and yet… I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed my meal here. This little joint is quite busy but even in the middle of rush hour they were welcoming and accommodated our baby bassinet by our table. They folded away the pram and kept it for us at the front as well. The food as I alluded to is fantastic, everything is made fresh and is a veggie’s delight with lots of vegan and gluten free options. You can do no wrong with any of the shakes, burgers, bowls, wraps or desserts. Food is made fast (surprisingly given that everything is made fresh) and is perfect if you’re looking to link up for a quick bite with working folks who are envious of your maternity leave or stay at home status!
Bannock, 401 Bay Street, Toronto
I know traditionally date night is a night away from the kids…but in all honesty we don’t mind dining out with her (for now). She isn’t cramping our romantic nights out so it’s easier than arranging to have a babysitter. Oliver & Bonacini’s latest opening near the Eaton Centre is a fabulous spot for a romantic rendezvous. I’m not going to lie…I’ ve met a girlfriend here for lunch as well but it’s way too busy during lunch for them to be overly baby friendly. Evening is just fab! We went here around 6 p.m on a Friday night and were seated quickly (without reservations)…don’t chance it though, I highly recommend reservations here. The menu features Canadian comfort food and weaves bannock bread into many dishes. Unfortunately there is no place to change a diaper here…short of getting on the floor in the secluded room that houses two bathrooms. I didn’t see any high chairs either. Yet I choose this as a fab spot for a date because the ambiance and untraditional menu gives me the fuzzies.
Duffs Famous Wings, 558 College Street West, Toronto
If you’re looking to gather some friends together for a few pints and wings, this is THE spot. The wings are awesome and yes we do love the Death wings and ensure we get a few Armageddon ones as well. Hey we like it spicy! Not only do they have a change table and a few high chairs but the staff are super baby friendly and kept checking in to see if the Little Monkey needed anything at all. This spot is sure to be a crowd pleaser with the men in your life who are looking for some suds and grub to bond over while hanging out with the family. Unfortunately they don’t accept reservations but we had no issues securing a table for a large group on a busy Thursday night (we went around 6 and held fort till the rest of the peeps arrived).
Unusual Night Out – Karaoke
Bar+ Karaoke Lounge, 2nd floor – 360 Yonge Street, Toronto
Now I know you weren’t expecting this one…but let me tell you it’s SO MUCH FUN! It’s a great spot for a gathering with close friends and/or relatives. You’ve probably walked by this spot for years now (like us!) and never noticed it on top of the Swiss Chalet. They have private rooms (small for less than 5 people $25, medium for 6 to 10 people, $40 and large for 11 to 20 people, $50) with a great selection of songs. Dr. Bombay or Puff the Magic Dragon? Yup they do! You can check out their facebook page or their app for a full list of songs and they’re good at adding any new requests on a weekly basis. They offer drinks in the rooms (push the little red button and the server pops up, just like a GENIE!) but I believe everyone has to be of legal drinking age for them to serve in there, no worries though (the hardly ever busy) bar is just outside the rooms. They also have a decent bar menu. I’d highly recommend this spot for an unusual outing, especially since they open early ( 5 p.m.!) which means you could get a couple of Madonna hours in before bedtime. I have a pair of Baby Banz for the Little Monkey so I’d just don those on her while she naps in the corner. Each room has lots of comfy couches so you could easily breastfeed or do a diaper change (use the pad!). The bathroom of course is very “club like” complete with girls saying things like “oh my gawd I LOVE that you said that. Makes me want to HUG you even MORE!!!). Of course that was well into the wee hours on a Friday night. Expected. Totally.
This article was originally published on Yashy’s blog here: www.babyandlife.com/2012/03/12/eating-out-with-baby/
Now spill it… you got any recos? I’m always hunting for new spots.