Fine-Dining Club in NYC Makes Eating at Restaurants with Kids a Breeze

Without young kids dining out is simple.  You make a reservation, enjoy your meal and pay the check. With kids it’s more complicated. You Google hot new restaurant openings wistfully but then decide to go to local diner instead. Once you are there you grit your teeth as your child refuses to eat/throws food/tips cutlery onto floor/gets bored waiting for food and starts crying. You then leave early, tipping generously to make up for mess on floor under crusty high chair. On the way home you realize you only ate half of your own meal.

Nibble + Squeak founder Melissa Elders wants to change this all. In January she launched a dining club for tots and their parents that hosts events in the fine restaurants of New York City and London.  So far the club has seen parents enjoy meals at top establishments such as Delaware and Hudson, Upland, and Luksus, with many more planned. Elders, herself a mother of a fifteen month old, wants parents to be able to enjoy their local food scene as much as non-parents and normalize restaurant dining for families.

The Brooklyn mom of one works with restaurants to create child friendly fine-dining, proving that that’s not an oxymoron. There are kids menus, private rooms, high chairs and most importantly, a relaxed attitude to the sorts of toddler shenanigans only a two year old on a sugar high can provide.

My husband and I tried out the concept at a recent event at the Landmarc, Time Warner Center, along with my two year old son and five month old daughter.

We arrived to see a dozen strollers parked outside the front door. “We must be in the right place,” my husband commented, before we were led into a private room with large circular tables, already half full of families with toddlers and babies. While not all the events are in private rooms, doing it this way gives families more freedom and less concern about disturbing other diners.

We sat down at our communal table, and were joined by another family of four with two kids about the same age. Although a little awkward at first, we soon bonded over the shared pain of dining out with kids.

Appetizers of calamari and Mediterranean salad were served family style, followed by a choice of three mains from the Landmarc’s usual menu. My son chose chicken fingers and fries from the kids’ menu and, unlike our local brunch spot, it arrived quickly and before our food. We breathed a sigh of relief knowing that he wouldn’t start acting out due to low blood sugar. I enjoyed bites of my grilled chicken with warm market bean salad, roasted potatoes and smoked onion romesco in between standing up to try and rock my daughter to sleep in her baby carrier.

The atmosphere was kid friendly, so we didn’t feel that we had to leave as quickly as possible to avoid incident. The best bit was when my son decided he wanted to run around the room in circles and grab Landmarc’s “signature” cotton candy from the desert table. Usually we’d have panicked. This time no one noticed as half the other kids were doing the same. There were no tantrums, possibly due to the fact that the children were free to get up and move, rather than being told to sit still and shhh.

With Nibble+Squeak you get to experience the best of the city’s culinary scene again, without having to pay a babysitter (in fact most of the events are over lunch). So why not ditch the diner and try out something “finer” this week? Because where else but NYC would you find foodie tots? @nibbleandsqueak. The next events are on May 17and May 25.  Prices vary.  

Photo: Melissa Elders @nibbleandsqueak