Where Do Kids Love to Eat? Bars.
Recently I was at Whitlow's early in the evening waiting for a friend to arrive when I noticed that of the scattered groups seated for dinner, most were families. They stuck out a bit more because it was too early for the young professionals to be out for dinner and drinks, but it's a pattern I've noticed at other places as well. Go to Clarendon Grill for brunch on a weekend and there's almost always at least one family there. The kids love dancing on the stage where a band had been playing a few hours before.
My theory is that the same characteristics that make bars inviting to the drinking crowd make bars more attractive to young couples with kids. One of my best friends has a 6-month-old and an 18-month-old and says when they're going out to dinner, they have a choice to make:
* Go someplace nice and hope the kids are good but be ready to bailBars are already loud, so they don't care if the kids make a little noise. They have cement floors, so it's not a big deal if the kids spill. The dishes are made to be broken. And the parents not only get to eat much better food than they would at Applebee's, they can revisit some of their favorite places from their single days.
* Go to a family-style place like Red Robin where the food sucks but at least you can let the kids be kids
It's not ideal for parents to be taking kids to places where smoking is allowed, but it's not like they're showing up at 11pm when the smokiness is at its peak. You can get a list of smoke-free bars and restaurants at the Arlington Civic Federation website.