Sunday, January 12, 2014

'BabyGate' Happened At Alinea Saturday & Twitterverse Explodes In Response

The Grant Achatz tweet that set the Internet ablaze Saturday night (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

After what happened this weekend it looks like I need to drag out this article again regarding small children and social graces in restaurants.

When I originally wrote it in 2013, I had restaurants like Blackbird, Naha and Perennial Virant in mind. No freaking way did I ever think someone would think to take a child—let alone an infant—to the likes of the three star Michelin rated Alinea (Check out this list of the best child-friendly restaurants in Chicago).

As soon as Alinea chef/partner Grant Achatz posted that already-infamous tweet around 7pm Saturday, the Internet exploded in response. I was pretty shocked with how many people were in defense of the parents—who allegedly had a last-minute babysitter cancellation.

Here are the Top 21 twitter responses of the night:

"Which is worse...crying baby at the next table or pretentious asshole douchebag?"

"Wait. Someone brought an infant to Alinea? What in the actual fuck?"

"Charge the infant for a full menu. That will stop it quickly."

"We can barely enjoy a 30 minute stretch, w/o crying, during dinner at home with a newborn, let alone Alinea. Not appropriate!!"

"If I'm splurging on a big ticket dinner, I guarantee I don't want a screaming baby soundtrack."

"If you can afford a meal at Alinea, you can afford a sitter. How inconsiderate."

"Everyone seems to be addressing the sitter issue. Why not maintain a restaurant policy governing disruptive people? Does it exist?"

"Our son has been out quite a bit. We eat out early. We eat out on off nights. We eat where we know the chef and know it's cool."

"Speaking as a mom and a restaurant owner I would NEVER take an 8mo old to a restaurant like Alinea."

"Part of lure of Alinea experience is you control all the sights/sounds/tastes. Non planned noise breaks that quiet."

"I don't know how you take an 8 mo old to Alinea and not step out if s/he cries. Selfish. You take crying kid outside. Period."

"I agree 100%. Little kids do not belong in high end restaurants. And they don't want to be there either. Hire a babysitter people!"

"If people save up to go for a special night it's hard to flush several hundred down the drain. Especially if they do it 1 x/yr."

"If the kid isn't old enough to bargain for their patience they shouldn't be there. Kids mature differently though. Gray lines."

"Hard when you shell out that money for non cancel able tics and lose sitter last minute. That is a ticket vs. reservation issue."

"What are they supposed to do if their sitter cancelled at the last minute? $1,000 worth of non-refundable tickets."

"A sad statement on society when stunts like these are pulled and ruin everyone's night."

"I should start offering my #adventuresinbabysitting services to certain restaurants in the city..."

"I'd be furious if I fought for that ticket/experience and had to listen to a crying kid."

"Fancy restos should not have to specify no babies in precisely same way they should not have to specify yes pants."


"I don't bring my bottle of whiskey to Chuck E. Cheese, please don't bring your infant to Alinea. And yes. If you can afford a ticket to Alinea, then you can afford a babysitter."

After this firestorm, there will likely be some policy changes regarding children at Alinea—as well as at Achatz's seasonal and theme-inspired restaurant Next.

UPDATE: And now some silly adult with way too much time on his/her hands has actually created an @AlineaBaby twitter account.


Anonymous said...

We actually don't know why they brought the baby--"no babysitter" was merely an example of "what would be best possible reason" and discussion ensued...

Michael Benami Doyle said...

No one had to strain to *hear* their dinner. If some people can't stand human beings of certain ages or sizes, then they, themselves, should stay home.

Anonymous said...

What would the parents say if I went to the Children's Museum and I was causing a scene (drunken or not). I would be thrown out. Why? Because it's inappropriate, and so is a baby/ kid at a place like Alinea. Use discretion people.

Anonymous said...

The bigger issue here is the ticketing system, which I'm generally in favor of, and how it may have left people who had a lot of money invested in the lurch. I don't think anyone in their right mind thinks it's okay to bring a baby to this restaurant. (Parent of a 20 month old speaking right now, and I've also been to Alinea.) It should be taken for granted that the guest were embarrassed (I guarantee they were mortified) but they probably made a snap, hopeful decision (that the baby would sleep) to try and use the reservation.

The ticketing system shouldn't neglect the need for a high level of service and accommodation in these types of circumstances. Given the unfortunate situation of losing a babysitter last minute, could Alinea have offered a rain check for another date? Is there another location (private dining area, office, back of house or transitional area that was more secluded location in the restaurant) where they could have accommodated the guests with more privacy? These types of situations have the capacity for great innovation and problem solving and ultimately a very positive experience for all involved, with a little quick thinking and grace. If it were me at service, I'd find a back of house location to set up quickly, and then add some amenities to make up for it (meeting the chef, kitchen tour, etc) to make up for the fact the guests were asked to leave the dining room and relocate to another location (I bet my bottom buck that the guests would've been delighted to take any solution offered.) Alinea has such a beautiful, high level of service I'm sure they're absolutely capable of these types of contingencies.

Anonymous said...

WBBM-AM reported that the parents' sitter cancelled at the last minute and they didn't want to give up the money they had already paid. You know what? Kids are expensive and you win some and you lose some. You will miss out on events because you are at your kid's event. You will miss your kid's event, because you have to work. That was your decision when you decided to have kids. To take a situation that affects 2 people (the parents have no sitter) and inflict it on a whole restaurant of people, who also don't want their money to go to waste is the height of selfishness and arrogance. The parents' mindset seemed to be, "If we can't have a grown up evening without the baby, than no one will." What's next? Taking your chicken pox afflicted kid on a plane because you don't want to forfeit the money you'd miss out on by cancelling a cruise you had planned?

Anonymous said...

I have been to Alinea twice and normally cry when the bills comes. I only get sympathetic looks.

Anonymous said...

Babies should be handled the same way any person would be that do not meet the dress code.

Anonymous said...

Really, really people can be offended by a baby crying? are we really talking about dress codes in 21th century? do we really do not see the problem in the ticketing concept? empathy, humanity, folks.

ask the big question: do you really need stress like focus/trance state to enjoy a meal? they didn't rang a mobile during a violin concert, the other sense should be in play here. and if they're not there is a big big problem with all us foodies, cause its clear things got out of hands.

before commenting on how outrageous is to hear a baby cry (a baby! in this society of humans! what a scandal) think at your top 3 best experience with food. how many of them were about religious silence, praying that you really understood what the server told you about the dish and that the chef wants you to know or you'll be damned. i surely have a tetsuyas wagyu experience with a kiddo from another party asking me if can draw a rabbit.

we really are going to a "no molecular soup for you" @n2oNazi?

Anonymous said...

I had the the great experience to have dinner at Alinea. Loved it. If I was at IHop I wouldn't mind the baby. At this price point, no baby is that cute!!!!

Anonymous said...

Dining at Alinea can take 4-5 hours. What baby goes that long without a diaper change? And seriously, who wants to smell a stinky diaper during a $700 meal?

Anonymous said...

I agree completely. The parents may or may not have reached out to Alinea about an alternate date, but a savvy dining room manager made a poor call. Maybe after babygate they'll survey their back house areas and be ready to deliver next time.