Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Friday, December 16, 2005 Baby Buffet
Trash and Blaine have begun their annual Christmas cookie craziness. Given the condition and the level of activity in our kitchen tonight, I couldn't bring home M. Small for dinner after I picked him up from day care. So instead I took him out to eat.
Ever take a baby to a restaurant for dinner, just the two of you? I wouldn't recommend it, unless you a) aren't very hungry yourself, b) have four hands, c) have a baby with the table manners of British royalty, or d) have drugged him to the gills and plan to feed him intravenously.
Last time I tried this, it was at a McDonald's, and that was only because various unforeseen scheduling snafus had forced me to come up with a plan B in a hurry. This time, I had the opportunity to think ahead about how I was going to handle this. So I decided to take him to a nearby place called Q. Cumber's.
Q. Cumber's used to be one of my favorite restaurants, although until a couple of weeks ago I hadn't been there for years, for reasons that are too boring for even me to go into. It's buffet-style, with an eighty-foot salad bar in the center of the giant octagonal dining area, as well as a hot bar, a bakery counter, and a dessert island. You pay a flat fee to get in and children under three are free, so, huzzah, clever me. Never mind the fact that I was going to look like some clueless divorced dad who had somehow gotten custody of my toddler for the weekend. With all the different kinds of food there, I wouldn't have to order one thing for him and hope for the best; I could just fill a plate with M. Small-sized portions of all the things I know he likes (of which there are many there, in abundance), as well as some new-to-him stuff (of which there are many more), strap him into a high chair, break out the bib and baby-spoon I brought with me, and let him go to town.
Two tricky bits: unlike with a more responsible dining companion, one can't exactly leave a fourteen-month-old alone at the table when one goes back for seconds and thirds and whatever subsequent plural ordinal numbers one may be up for. This obstacle is compounded by the fact that with a squirming child in one arm, the amount of stuff you can carry at any given moment becomes more limited. Which in turn necessitates a lot more trips. But I was prepared for this, and knew I would just have to deal with it. What I wasn't prepared for was the fact that one of the straps on the high chair they gave me turned out to be missing, so I couldn't strap him in tightly. He was pretty much just restrained by the plastic bars that ran across his lap and between his legs.
But as it turned out, this was actually an advantage, given the number of times I had to get him out to get him some more peas, or me some more soda, or him some more croutons, or me a fajita (which we shared), or him some eggs, or me a baked potato (which we also shared), or him some pasta, or me some frozen yogurt (which I gave him). So that actually worked out well.
And another pleasant surprise was that until this visit, I'd never noticed how many adult-toddler pairs are already there. It made me feel a lot less self-conscious, that's for sure. Although I felt bad for all of the divorced parents who only had their kids for the weekend.
The only downside is that M. Small signals that he's done with a course by throwing a handful of it onto the floor. He also signals that he doesn't like a particular item--like the broccoli and cauliflower I got him--by throwing it on the floor. He also throws food on the floor that he likes. If he especially likes something, he'll eat some, take one last bite, spit it back out into his hand, and then throw it on the floor. After a while, every time we returned to the buffet, the floor around our table looked more and more like I was dining with the Who.
And of course, you have to leave any uneaten food there at the table, because otherwise you won't be able to bring back anything new. So, what with my paranoia about pissing off waitstaff (who at Q. Cumber's are largely responsible for bringing water and, um, keeping the tables "clean") to the point where they are moved to defile my food, I was keeping an eye on my table from across the restaurant while simultaneously juggling the child and whatever we were carrying. Because it's not like my server knew I was going to pick up the bigger pieces and leave a 50% tip until I'd already done it. It's really much easier to have more adults in the party when taking a child to a buffet-style restaurant.
All told, I think we were there about forty-five minutes, which is about 50% longer than his usual meals. But I wasn't worried, because I knew as soon as he was full, he'd sit there quietly and patiently while I concentrated on my own dinner, so that I could enjoy my meal at my leisure.
Yeah, right. I'm not that stupid. We spent the whole time doing "some for you, some for me," which is good because as soon as he was full, he wanted out of that high chair for good. And since the chair was missing a strap, I didn't have much choice but to go along.
Overall, I'd say it was a success. He ate plenty, and got all of his food groups, and didn't get pissed off about anything. The two of us will probably go there again if similar circumstances arise. It'd be nice if you could show up at the table to cover me for a second when I need to get up for another dozen napkins, though. I mean, really. I can only do so much.
Today's best search phrase: "scary stick figure clips." Oh, all right. posted by M. Giant 8:30 PM 4 comments
I too enjoy Q Cumbers but haven't been there for a couple of years. I would gladly cover you while you went back for extra dressing, croutons, what have you. Give me a heads up next time, yo.
Just discovered your blog. I'll also cover at Q Cumbers if you'll do likewise.
What is Q Cumers? Is it a chain? I don't think we have one in Jersey, but maybe I'm wrong.
Dude, I would consider it a privilege to be your food wingman. If we can tag-write about it, it would be like a present from Small to me. Let's go sometime while I'm in town (i.e., anytime from now to January something).