Family-Friendly Restaurants (That Should Exist)
The Gestating Gourmet
Our Goal: To serve maternity delicacies full of calcium, folic acid, and iron that actually taste like real food. No sushi, unpasteurized cheese, or cured meats, ever.
Ambience: Tropical oasis, with any nauseating oasis-y smells replaced by the scents of cinnamon and happiness.
Menu Highlights: You've heard of parents disguising veggies to look like desserts. Here we can make any good-for-you entrée look like a maternity "no-no" -- say, a blue-cheese tart or raw-cookie-dough canapé. From our Whatever You're Craving buffet, enjoy licorice soup or a Cracker Jack & turkey sandwich.
Dining-Room Amenities: Seating consists of velvet gliders in front of ergonomic tables with adjustable belly space. Our custom-made Plexiglas spouse-'n'-partner barriers, available at every table, allow moms-to-be to see significant others while also being able to press a button to mute them, should they say things such as, "When you look normal again" or "You know I'm not good with diapers, right?"
Specialty Features: Nonalcoholic-drink mixologist. Roaming foot masseuse. A 24-hour drive-through window staffed by workers who won't judge you for your sudden craving for chocolate lasagna.
Notes: Please visit our sumptuous ladies' room with (of course) a revolving door, where you may find many of our guests meticulously reorganizing the hand towels in a sudden paroxysm of nesting. We actually blow most of our décor budget on this space, as we know you'll be spending the majority of your time in here.
Thud: A Toddler Experience
Our Goal: We believe, as our patrons do, that food is always better when smeared on a forehead or snatched from someone else's plate. We specialize in meals that our guests can digest while on the go or when doing accidental somersaults.
Ambience: We like to refer to it as "rowdy pub meets dog run." We offer an open floor plan with...Oh, what do you care? There's an ice-cream fountain!
Menu Highlights: Our heaping platters of rainbow-colored mashed potatoes are strong enough to hold the weight of your average 2-year-old, earning the famous nickname "Sit-in-Spuds." We feature several kinds of pasta sauce that also work as leave-in conditioner. Patrons are encouraged to choose bowls by head size.
Dining-Room Amenities: Visitors are welcome to flop down on our padded floor any time and frolic in our randomly distributed piles of sheets. Conveyor belts rotate throughout the room, carrying a variety of entrées, appetizers, desserts, and, of course, our youngest guests.
Specialty Features: Condiment-bottle pyramid-building contests. Booster/Ejection Seats (parachutes are optional). A Belly Button Comparison Station.
Notes: For your enjoyment, all of our place settings, tablecloths, and furniture are BPA-free, washable, indestructible, and edible.
Mine! My Restaurant!
Our Goal: To serve preschoolers in whatever way they want, while understanding that we will never figure out what that is.
Ambience: Storybook-Tiger-Train-Ballerina-Fire Truck Land in Space
Menu Highlights: Everything may be eaten with curly straws, chopsticks, or magic wands. Entrées are delivered by trapeze or construction vehicle.
Dining-Room Amenities: Servers are trained to answer all questions ever asked and to repeat daily specials several times in a high-pitched, whispered, slow, or strange voice upon request, without showing signs of frustration. When guests pretend not to hear servers, they are hoisted in the air for an impromptu clown parade until they finally decide to place an order.
Specialty Features: Once an hour we play fun games like "What Happens When I Lick This?"
Notes: Restaurant sections are divided by moods -- cranky, lovey-dovey, silly, and more. Feel free to move about among them as frequently and speedily as desired.
Originally published in the August 2013 issue of Parents magazine.