I love to eat in restaurants. I have always appreciated the entire experience that an evening out with my beautiful wife has to offer.
We met in NYC and these liasons instantly became a part of our courtship. Partially because Sarah also enjoys my love of food but mostly because the apartment we lived in was less than 400 sq. feet and we shared it with a few mice. Who also generally helped themselves to our food. (I still haven't gotten over watching a baguette wrapped in paper crinkle about without the help of human contact). But thats another story.
After moving to Seattle, the first few years were more of the same, minus our mouseguests. Nights out exploring our new cities abundance of bars and restaurants was a seamless transition to the evenings in New York we so loved and missed.
Post children, our dining frequency has barely skipped a beat. What has changed is the quality of the dining. Gone are the nights of saddling up to a bar at 11 PM, not a kid in sight, and ordering a bottle of wine and steak frites like the days of old.
Now our choices center around 2 very important things that have absolutely nothing to do with food. Crayons and play spaces. Yep- I just said that. Fortunately living in Seattle affords us some very nice non- franchised places to go- I've proudly never had to step foot into a ChuckE Cheese. I even had to Google the title of that place to make sure I was spelling it correctly. (I assumed it was 'Chucky' but apparently he has a middle initial- so grown up of him) I know its a matter of time before the inevitable happens but for now we happily stick to small, locally owned neighborhood hangouts.
The qualifying elements of these restaurants seem to be based on my children's needs. You might think I was putting them before me. That would be a dead wrong assumption. The crayons and play area are merely a ruse to ignore the beasties as best as possible while pounding a drink or 2 and inhaling what I would have compared to dog food a few years back. Ironically I now find it generally enjoyable. Its no longer about the ambience of the interior (do you think those rafters are recycled Douglas Fir??) or the meal quality (this chef makes a mean roulade!) but rather increasing the odds that your dinner or beverage doesn't land in your lap and that no glass is broken. It's a far cry from the days of being blissfully married without kids but nowadays I convince myself theres a nice ring to it.
On a recent excursion to nameless 'dining spot' (possible paranoia and legal ramifications prohibit me from calling out the destination) we were meeting up with our closest friends who just returned from vacation. We were obviously happy to hear all of the news and catch up as it had been weeks since seeing them. This allowed for an unusually long period of play space time for our kids.
During dinner, our daughter Quinn kept us posted every 30-40 second on the status of what disgusting overly touched object she was putting in her mouth, which was very sweet of her. Why a public place would have fake baby bottles and plastic food replications is beyond me but I can now confirm she has essentially kissed every child under 6 in the greater Puget Sound area because of it.
Miller and our friends child had holed up in some kind of mini- dollhouse thingy but were not causing the rest of the kids in the asylum to riot- so all was good.
Dinner was mauled, conversations were had and when we all agreed we were pressing our luck we decided it was a night. Out the door we went.
Our car was directly across the street from 'dining spot' and it was still light out As I began to put Miller in his car seat he reached into his pockets and began cackling 'HUHUHUHUHU'- it was a 'Dumb and Dumber' kind of chortle.
He proudly produces a restaurant stolen black and while plastic cow covered in enough crap to rival the underside of my car. I quickly looked over to the place expecting to see the waitstaff at the window, all calling 911 on their cellphones while pointing at us. Thankfully that was not the case.
My own peculiar style of fatherly instinct took over and instead of marching him back in the restaurant to the humiliation of being found as a thief, apologizing and learning from his mistake, I shoved him into his car seat and quickly drove off.
I'll make it up the them I promised myself.
I need to tip better next time...