Tag Archives: family-friendly dining

Fine dining in Banff, with children

Should children be present at a dinner that involves horseradish-crusted lamb shank and white tablecloths? My gut tells me no on this one, and yet, there we were at a fancy round table inside the Terrace Dining Room at the Banff Park Lodge, contemplating whether to order seared scallops with crepes or sablefish a la shrimp. Avery and Bennett, being kids, just wanted French fries.

Bennettt: “Mommy, I won’t eat my fries unless I like the presentation! Now, where’s that tablecloth so I can wipe the ketchup off my face?”

Normally I would leave the kids at home for this type of meal, but we were in Banff for the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food festival, and fancy dinner for the family was on the itinerary. The waitress brought paper and crayons, and Bennett promptly scribbled orange and blue onto the tablecloth (look really hard in the above snap and you’ll be able to see it). After colouring for approximately 30 seconds he asked Blake, “Daddy, where’s iPhone?”

After a palate-cleansing granita, Avery gets back to more interesting pursuits.

In situations like these, it pays to have an iPhone. Better to let the kids zone out playing Angry Birds than repeatedly ask, “When is our food going to come?” or, more to the point, “Where is French fries?” Valid questions, Avery and Bennett (appetizers really do prolong the dining experience when kids are along. And not in a good way). Inexplicably, when the waitress asked me whether I wanted the kids’ meals to come out early or with our entrees, I decided we should all eat together. Parenting fail.

The best part of the dinner was when our server finally brought out the children’s orders. Truly, I have never seen fries served in a separate white porcelain bowl, nor steamed veggies arranged just so, with dipping sauce in a little metal tin. The artistry of their dishes was lost on my kids, who immediately smeared ketchup all over their plates and faces. I cringed inwardly and took a silent moment to appraise my own entree:

Lamb shank on a bed of risotto. Yum.

The dinner was a success, but I’m not sure we’ll be making a reservation for four at Rouge anytime soon — I don’t think they serve fries.

Do you take your little kids out for fancy meals? Success or failure?

Family-friendly dining in Calgary

My husband and I have always avoided taking our children out for meals at restaurants. Frankly, an eternity can pass between placing the order and the arrival of the food, and the experience can go off the rails faster than you can whip out an iPhone for entertainment. Why pay for good food we won’t enjoy when we can eat passable fare at home in relative peace? (That’s our rationale, anyway.)

I remember eating brunch at Humpty’s on New Year’s Day one year. Bennett, then just a newborn, was supposed to sleep in his carseat. Instead he woke up and I had to nurse him right when my French toast arrived. By the time I got to it, it was cold and rubbery and I just scarfed it down, all while he bawled. Another time at King’s Bennett threw a fit when the food finally showed up because we took the iPhone away. He screamed and cried and refused to eat (cue the rest of us inhaling wor wontons while avoiding eye contact with the other diners).

Now we pretty much only take the kids out for dim sum at the Regency Palace in Chinatown. It’s loud, it’s crowded and chances are there will be another baby or toddler screaming louder than our kids. Since the food comes by on carts at approximately three-minute intervals, we can start eating immediately without having to wait. As a bonus, Avery and Bennett love sticky rice.

The rice is so sticky, it sometimes gets in your hair.

Not quite ready for chopsticks.

 At the entrance there’s also a fish pond filled with koi. You can buy koi food for $1 and watch the fish (which may actually be carp, come to think of it) fight over the little pellets. It’s so entertaining, there’s no need to bring crayons or hand-held electronic distractions.

Let's hope these giant fish aren't being farmed to make koi dumplings!

Plus, there are fortune cookies for dessert! But just in case we get sick of tripe and pig’s feet (kidding! We stick to the rice, pork buns and shrimp dumplings), I polled Calgary moms for other kid-friendly Calgary restaurants, below. A couple moms recommended places such as Notable and Belgo, but we’re a ways away from a fine dining experience just yet. And I can’t imagine spending $12 on the Belgo Poutine & Sausage for my son to take one bite and say, “No, I don’t like it.” Sigh.

  • Stick to “chain-type” restaurants and you’ll be gold. One mom of two active boys swears by the Olive Garden, East Side Marios, Boston Pizza, Montanas, the Old Spaghetti Factory and Milestones.
  •  The Danish-Canadian Club is great for brunch on Saturday mornings, says another mom with two school-age boys. “There are always lots of kids there, and we all enjoy it.”
  • Little Chef in the Strathcona shopping plaza serves up burgers, sandwiches and meat pies.
  • Without Papers Pizza in Inglewood plays kids movies on Saturday afternoons. What kid doesn’t like pizza and movies?
  • And everyone agrees you can’t go wrong with Chinese food, or anywhere in Chinatown, such as the Silver Dragon.

But no matter where you go, remember to bring distractions in the form of crayons and colouring books as many places do not offer these items. For those restos without a kid’s menu, order off the appy list or just a bowl of soup. And if your kid starts screaming, “just eat faster.”