My husband is an amazing dad and cook, so when he had to work late every night this week I decided to dine out with my 22 month old boys a few times to ease up on kitchen duty. If we hadn’t spent months perfecting our eating-out strategies, this may have proved trickier than staying in, so here’s what I’ve figured out to make a “table for three” possible:
Pick the right spot: Kid friendly is crucial of course (tablecloths or a line outside are great steer-clear signs). A diner is our #1 destination because their goal is quick service and so is ours! We first figured out the best diner in our neighborhood, then we made a point to become regulars there with twins in tow. By establishing a relationship we’ve accomplished several perks. We got to know the staff and they got to know us. The boys are now on a high five basis with the servers and our favorite cook comes out of the kitchen to say hello. When they see our double stroller pull up for breakfast they throw a waffle on the iron as they know that’s what the boys are looking forward to. As a former waitress, and having been on the other side of kid-table-clean-up, we also find it important to always tip well.
Choose a good time: Earlier than a rooster in the morning or earlier than the senior set in the evening. As sleeping in is a luxury of the past, if we are going out to breakfast we go ahead and get there as early as possible. Most folks are not interested in Sunday brunch when the sun is only just up, so this means we often have the place almost to ourselves. Same goes for showing up just before 5 for dinner, when there is absolutely no dinner rush to speak of. This means the food comes out quicker, and if there is screaming or general loudness emitted from our table it is way less embarrassing. One other timing trick is heading out to eat directly from the playground. This way we arrive tuckered out and less likely to treat the restaurant like a jungle gym.
Lower your expectations: Three courses? I think not. I’ve always been a quick eater and this comes in handy when dining solo with the boys. If the actual eating lasts as long as 15 minutes I am impressed. While they are still munching happily I ask in advance for the check or any take home containers- that way if all heck breaks loose I can load left overs and high tail it out of there quickly. We also know what the boys love on the menu and we stick with that. There is no trying new stuff while dining out. I can go wild on my own order, then if they want to expand their taste buds’ horizons they can have a bite of mine.
What to bring: I bring a few small toys that are not in the regular rotation at home so they seem new and exciting while we wait. When the food arrives I slap on their biggest scoop bibs from home to catch most of the scrambled egg and bacon bits before they hit the floor. Also handy-a huge pack of wipes for small hands and spills, and sippy cups from home to keep huge spills at bay.
Improv 101: Who knew that dinner out on the town with your twins was a chance to participate in your own improv troupe. How many ways can you play with sweetener packets?
“Lets match the colors- here’s a blue Equal pack Sam, can you find another one in the box?”
“Let’s load them into your toy truck Ren, can you dump them out over by the ketchup bottle?”
“Let’s count them up as we stack them higher and higher until they fall over!”
Next it’s craft time, and we make straw snakes. I scrunch the paper on the straw all the way down into a little tight ball. Then I add a drop of water to the paper wad and we watch it grow into a “snake”. The boys like to slither their snakes around the table hissing with glee. Finally, I launch into a short table-top play starring Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper (complete with french accents just like on Blue Clues). Sure the neighboring tables may think you’re nutty, but as long as there are two gigglers and not grumps at my own table that’s what counts.
I can’t say that dining out with twins is a relaxing experience, and we won’t be sampling the fine delicacies at an “it” spot anytime soon. Still, we’ve found a way to feel like home while we eat out and then return to our own home with nary a dish to wash.