The Big Spoon: Dining Out – With Kids (Part One)

click to enlarge The Big Spoon: Dining Out – With Kids (Part One)
Jess Elizarraras
Editor's Note: The following is The Big Spoon, an opinion column on San Antonio's food and drink scene.

The best column prompts come from readers. When I first urged San Antonians to dine out during the week, the two most deafening reasons were these: money and kids.

I break down money woes and why things are priced as they are in a monthly “Food Costs Money” column where I visit with restaurant owners and they price out their most popular items into labor and food costs. It’s eye-opening, and it helps showcase what goes into our food.

Kids, on the other hand…

At 32, I’m still a ways away from thinking about maybe considering having kids. Our state’s maternal mortality rates are terrifying, and the plethora of other things that could go wrong during child-bearing, let alone child-rearing, mean I’m still decidedly on the fence.

Yes, your kids are super cute and oh-my-goodness so smart, and they are part of the most stylish generation. But – and most of my kid-having friends can confirm this – I don’t know how to act around children. My friend groups now include littles, but I don’t have nephews or nieces or cousins with small children whom I see on a regular basis. My millennial is showing, but kids kind of weird me out. They have little hands. They’re full of germs. They have no sense of personal space. They can’t control the volume of their voices!

But even this child-averse weirdo knows the children are our future (see: Parkland survivors). It may be cliché, but it is true, regardless of whether I take that leap into motherhood or not. And kids deserve a place in restaurants. Learning how to be around people who aren’t their parents, teachers or friends is essential to their growth. Kids can learn new cuisines and social mores by partaking in this whole dining-out process… right?

In a moment of courage, I posted on my Facebook wall, asking parents to let me “borrow” their kids, and people actually volunteered their children!

Were it up to my editor, I would film the entire ordeal because hijinks would surely ensue. And maybe I will, because I think exposure helps, and maybe next time that sweet little baby behind you lets out an ear-piercing scream, your shoulders won’t immediately tense up (guilty).

But I couldn’t just dive into the damn thing because being responsible for another life is terrifying. I eased into this column series by testing it out with a friend and her wicked smart 9-year-old — we’ll call her Z — last week.

Z is a vegetarian, which limits our restaurant choices to begin with. I won’t break down the entire dinner, but here’s some of what I learned:
1. Kid menus are a thing, and you may have to ask for one. Crayons are optional.
2. Ordering takes longer, regardless of how persistent your server may be.
3. They might not like what they ordered, so additional plates are a thing.
4. Texture is tricky.
5. New flavors can be difficult to introduce. See: anything spicy, anything vinegary.
6. Nine-year-olds don’t really care for political chatter. Sorry, Z!
7. They may require an assist in the restroom.
8. Quesadillas are usually a win.
9. Pickles are a no for Z.
10. I may be in over my head.

If you’re a pro at eating out with kids, shoot me an email and send me your tips. If you’re not a pro, and hesitate to dine out with your own kiddos, send me your horror stories so I know what to watch out for.

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