This week, we’ve asked one of our new favorite bloggers, Erin Sarro, from the parenting blog Mommy Beerest, to discus the finer points of toddlers in restaurants.

A toddler in a restaurant waves his straw menacingly. He's super cute... but is it a match made in hell?

For my husband and me, trying new restaurants has always been our thing. I wouldn’t call us foodies, but we do know great food doesn’t exist in the presence of animatronic mice and fake wall antiques. When our son came along two years ago, we were determined to bring him to these adult-oriented restaurants for as long as we could. And I’m happy to report we haven’t been kicked out of anywhere yet.

Look, I get why families go to chains: the food is always consistent and they’re noisy. Statistically you have a good shot of getting your child to eat and there’s some comfort in knowing you don’t have the only little ticking time bomb in a booster seat. I’m not saying my family will never eat at a chain (because hello Red Lobster cheese biscuits), but why limit ourselves when there are so many awesome independently owned restaurants to be explored? The trick is to plan ahead and find the ones both you and your kids will feel comfortable in. Here are a few more tips to help your family enjoy a nice meal together:

Do your one-minute research. A quick search on Yelp or Google will clue you in to whether or not this is the kind of place you should bring kids. Better yet, get all 20th century and call the restaurant with any menu and seating questions.

Bring distractions. Even some adult restaurants have coloring books and crayons. But if your child is under 4, those crayons will be on the floor faster than you can yell, “Don’t!” We bring a couple of paper-thin books in the diaper bag or big purse, along with my son’s favorite pocket-sized toy. Flatbread crackers make excellent train tracks, by the way.

Eat when other families are eating. At 5:30 you’re either eating with other families or you’ll have the whole place to yourselves. Roll in after 7:00 and you’re asking for eye rolls.

Don’t go if your kid is having a bad day. Why would you do that to yourself, your server and other patrons? WHY?!? We’ve made that mistake and paid for it dearly. (Plate-on-the-floor tantrum, anyone?) Dining out is supposed to be a pleasurable, easy experience. Rather than stress, pour everyone a bowl of cereal and yourself a glass of wine then call it a day.

Dive right into the kids’ menu. Order for them right away. We all know little ones can take forever to eat, so chances are you’ll all be chowing down together anyway.

Ask for bread. This kind of sucks if you’re low-carbing, and it might also ruin their appetite. But look at the bright side: bread keeps their mouths busy!

When all else fails, apologize to your server and those around you. “I’m so sorry; he never throws spaghetti at home.” Cough. Cough cough. Throwing in a little self-deprecating humor doesn’t hurt either. “Yep, parents of the year right here!”

Erin Sarro aka Mommy Beerest is a creative director/writer, blogger, and mother (not in order of importance). You can find her reality-bites parenting blog at She also writes about adult and kid-friendly dining and events for and RVA News. Erin loves finding new cool stuff to do around Virginia’s capital city. Bonus if there’s booze involved.