When you hear "family night" and "restaurant" together, what do you think of?
Yeah. Me, too. *shudder*
But when Legume (one of my favorite restaurants) quietly advertised its first family night, I was intrigued. We've always taken Liv there; though there is no kid menu and many items are a little too adventurous for her, she always managed to find something. Plus, the mix-your-own fresh lemonade more than made up for any "mom, I'm not sure I want to eat veal cheeks" moments she had.
Bea has changed our dining-out habits. And, um, not for the better. Whereas Liv was a restaurant superstar and spent many a dinner at nicer places like Eleven or Soba or Legume, Bea is... well, she's not quite there. When everyone you pass says "Wow, she's really BUSY, isn't she?" then you know it's asking for trouble to plop her at a table in a quiet place for a prolonged meal. That's not to say we don't try -- after all, how else will she learn? -- but the dinner ends up being somewhat stressful.
I digress. Back to Legume.
Family night at Legume was a way for me to inhale the amazing sweet potato ravioli with fermented beets and sauteed mushrooms while not having to worry about Bea disturbing the other diners. It was genius (mostly).
When we came in, the kids were given brown sacks with crayons, stickers, and a coloring book made from old menu pages (ironically, these were the beer and wine lists). One of the enclosed dining areas was set up as a craft room, with a young woman in there to supervise and help.
The kids came in, decided what they wanted to eat, then scurried off to the craft room. They spent the better part of our two hour dinner gluing all manner of dried grains to paper and doing drive-bys of the table for appetizers and dinner. John and I had a drink, ate our meals, and talked.
I was amused by the juxtaposition of my salad (warm fresh ricotta, farro, endive, apple, pomegranate, and date-infused honey) with Bea's plate of carrot and apple slices:
And here's where I had my only nitpick: The kids' menu. The snacks were decent: slices of good farmhouse cheddar (which Liv ordered but Bea ate because Liv was too busy with the glue and the lentils), homemade applesauce, ants on a log, etc.
But the main course? I was seriously disappointed. Liv was, too. There were only two offerings: chicken fingers with fries, or buttered noodles. Really? In a restaurant that specializes in local, seasonal cooking, THIS is what's on the kids' menu? Granted, the quality of both was great, but come on, Legume -- you can't come up with something more inspired than that? I mean, fine... play it safe with one or two menu items, but I'd love to see something a bit more interesting. Not every kid eats only chicken fingers or plain pasta. How about a grilled or broiled fish? Or some homemade pierogi? Or a good pasta with something other than just butter?
Aside from that, the whole experience was great. I applaud Legume for doing this, and hope they continue to do so. I also hope the trend catches on with other local restaurants. It's a win-win situation as far as I can tell: parents are happy, kids are happy, restaurant is full. It's a great way to give someone like Bea more practice in good restaurant behavior without causing me or John to rip out our hair or worry about what everyone else is thinking.
Which reminds me: All of the kids (and there were a lot) were well behaved. There was no running, no shouting, no throwing of food. Aside from the steady stream of kids to/from the craft room and the presence of plastic cups on some of the tables, it didn't seem that different from any other night at Legume.
Take THAT, you crotchety table of old people who came in, looked around, and grimaced when they saw all the kids. I heard one of the women mutter in a disgusted voice, "Is it *always* like this?" Pbttthhh on you.