Dining out with a toddler can be an adventure, and often, more food ends up on the floor than in his mouth. While you likely opt for kid-friendly restaurants when it’s your choice, there are times you may be joining a group for an outing and don’t have control over what’s on the menu. In cases like this, keeping Baby happy and fed can become even more of a challenge, especially when he is a macaroni and cheese lover in a fancy carbonara world.
But even if you’re in unfamiliar territory, that doesn’t mean Baby is going to go hungry. There are a few different ways to find food he will enjoy that doesn’t come from a menu that can be colored with crayons.
- Share a plate: Toddlers can be pretty unpredictable eaters, and ordering meals for littles ones can end up being pretty wasteful. If there’s something on the menu that appeals to you that you think Baby would like, go ahead and order that dish to split with him. Since restaurant portions tend to be large, and his stomach is pretty small, you’ll both be well-fed and happy.
- Order side dishes: Instead of going all-in for an expensive menu item that your little one may not touch, take a glance at the side dishes the restaurant offers à la carte. Chances are, you’ll be able to locate a side of fries somewhere on that menu, or even a smaller plate of pasta for him to enjoy while the grown-ups indulge in more sophisticated cuisine.
- Talk to the server: With the awareness of food allergies on the rise, many restaurants are growing more accommodating in terms of changing dishes to meet the needs of their customers. If Baby is the type to refuse a dish over a single piece of parsley, let your server know you have a picky eater on your hands, and see if the kitchen can whip up something to his liking.
Eating at a restaurant with no kids menu with a toddler isn’t ideal, but it doesn’t need to be a disaster, either. Generally, restaurants won’t mind if you have a couple of snacks on-hand as a backup plan, as a few crackers on the table is easier to deal with than a hungry little diner who’s getting fussy.
Before heading out to the restaurant, be sure to call ahead to make sure children are welcome. Though it’s uncommon, some restaurants do have restrictions about when or where children are allowed to dine. Others do not offer substitutions, or may not have highchairs available. If you’re concerned this could be the case, a quick call before packing up and heading out is a good idea to spare any surprises upon arrival.