5 experiences dining out in Charlotte with a newborn

5 experiences dining out in Charlotte with a newborn
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My wife and I are foodies. When we aren’t tinkering in the kitchen, we’re salivating over new restaurant openings, researching Charlotte staples we haven’t tried yet, or looking forward to dinner at one of our Queen City favorites. A weekly dinner date has been “our thing” as a couple for nine years of marriage.

Bryan Richards and wife

It was also one of the reasons why we delayed having children. We clung to our lifestyle and feared disruption. Then, the churn of life planted the parenting impulse in both of our brains. Lifestyle be damned, we wanted a family.

We’re four months into the journey. I’d be lying if I said life resumed its normal course after Deacon was born. Naturally, things have slowed down, but we haven’t become the homebodies that many first-time parents think they need to become. A few weeks after the initial shock of our two becoming a three, we attempted to resume life as our new normal starting with dinner dates. Since we don’t have family local to babysit, we’ve brought Deacon along with us.

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Our First Success – La Poblanita Restaurant

I spent a good amount of time in Latin America and always found the culture to be more “family friendly” than in the United States.

And at La Poblanita, they treated us like any normal customer. That was exactly what we needed: to be reassured that some semblance of the past lived in our new normal.

baby sleeping through dinner

An Awkward Experience – Saffron Indian Cuisine Restaurant and Bar

Our next attempt was at a neighborhood favorite – Saffron. The host greeted us, glanced down at our baby carrier, and escorted us to a room that I didn’t know existed. It looked like their supply closet.

Throughout dinner, the staff filtered into the room to grab linens as tables turned. Each stopped to smile at Deacon and pinch his cheeks while he quietly stared up at the lights. While it was awkward to be sitting by ourselves, I could feel a genuine warmth from the staff towards our son. They didn’t seat us in the back room because they’re not family friendly. They just didn’t know if he would start crying and disturb other guests in their upscale restaurant. Later experiences helped me understand their family dining room better.

Baby Does Fine-Dining – The Mandrake

the-mandrake

Perhaps it was a little gutsy to elevate our dining out game to upscale trendy so quickly. We played it safe and headed to The Mandrake early in the evening before the dinner rush. I was worried about eye rolls from other customers. I’ve given them myself in the past.

We worked through a four-course dinner while Deacon sat entranced by the hypnotic background music and funky lighting (it’s like crack for a baby). He was so well behaved that the staff, and even some customers, complimented him as we left the restaurant. We left just in time, as the crowds started to filter in.

A Bite of Reality – Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar

Nothing is more of a shock to your system than your first experience at a family friendly restaurant with your own child. You see the chaos in a completely new light.

We popped into Bad Daddy’s Ballantyne location for lunch on a Sunday. I nervously stood at the host stand while we waited for a table. I had one eye on the bar (where I used to wait) and one eye on the dizzying display of a family restaurant (where my life was headed). For a fleeting moment, I wished for a stool at the bar and life before Deacon.

bad-daddy's-family-friendly

As we took our seat, and Deacon became a little fussy, it was reassuring to know that he wasn’t a bother to those around us. And, Bad Daddy’s burgers sure beats Burger King. If this is an option for a family restaurant, then things would be okay.

A Disaster at Miro Spanish Grille

There comes a time when you realize the newborn honeymoon phase is over. Gone are the days when you can sit through a multi-course meal while your baby sleeps peacefully through dinner. We learned that lesson last weekend at Miro.

Deacon sat peacefully while we split a bottle of wine and a grilled octopus appetizer. The main course arrived about the same time that Mr. Cranky Pants decided to make an appearance. I picked at my Paella de Carne with one hand and wiped up spit-up and occupied Deacon with the other. Let’s just say I ended up taking half of my dinner home while I encouraged my wife to “get a move it” with hers.

Deacon Richards and mom

I didn’t walk away from Miro discouraged by any means. Instead, the experience, like all the others, taught me a valuable lesson. Yes, we can still enjoy our Friday night dinners out even with baby in tow.

That doesn’t mean fine dining at restaurants like Miro and The Mandrake are a thing of the past. Instead, they should be reserved for occasions when Mom and Dad can enjoy an evening out while a babysitter watches the little ones. Both experiences are essential for a happy family and a happy marriage.

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