Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reggie's Rules for Dining in Better Restaurants, Part II

Oh, la!  I realize that it has been almost five months since I published my first installment of Reggie's Rules for Dining in Better Restaurants.  Today's essay is the second, and final, installment in the series.

The art of presentation is a defining feature
for many restaurants of the better sort

The focus of these rules (and the rules I share with you in general, Dear Reader) is to provide advice and guidance to people who would like to be thought of as courteous, mannerly, and discreet by those observing them—either for the first time, or repeatedly.  In other words, to stand in stark and pleasing contrast to the tedious, loud-mouthed, ill-mannered boors one encounters with increasing frequency these days, and who are a noxious intrusion on the lives of well-behaved people who have the misfortune to be within earshot of said cretins.

While I covered the majority of my rules for dining in better restaurants in the first installment of this series, here are the remainder of the rules I was not able to cover beforehand:

10.  Don't bring young children with you to dinner in a restaurant for grown-ups

While there are very few of the city's better restaurants where well-behaved children under the age of twelve are not welcomed during the day, it is not appropriate to bring them to dinner in better restaurants where the primary clientele is comprised of cocktail-imbibing grown-ups, out for the evening.  If you can't bear to leave your children at home with their nanny or babysitter, then either take them to a different restaurant that is suitable for families, or stay at home with them and eat with them there.

It is best to leave small children at home when out for dinner
at grown-up restaurants such as this

Don't get me wrong, Reggie adores children, and believes that it is more than acceptable to take them out to eat in restaurants—but only to ones where it is appropriate to do so, and only when the child is old-enough, well-trained enough, and well-behaved enough to be able to handle the experience without having a meltdown or making a scene.

11.  If you have a petulant or wailing child with you, either deal with it or leave the restaurant with it

Too many of us have withstood the misery of sitting in a restaurant where a parent (or parents) of children allow their little darlings to kick up an unsupervised ruckus.  This is not acceptable.  If your child is misbehaving in a restaurant (or any other public place for that matter), then it is your responsibility to either quiet it down or take it outside with you if you cannot.

12.  Refrain from speaking on cellphones

Don't make calls from or answer your cellphone when sitting at a table in a restaurant.  It is rude to your table-mates, and irritating to those sitting nearby who are not interested in listening to you make plans or discuss your personal life with someone on the other end of the line.  If you feel you absolutely must use your cellphone, then excuse yourself from the table and go someplace else where you will not disturb anyone.

13.  Be discreet when texting or emailing

While Reggie believes one should refrain from using PDAs to check email or for texting while sitting at a table in a restaurant, sometimes it is unavoidable.  Under such circumstances, however, he advises that you hold the device on your lap under the edge of the table and out of view, so that others around you aren't made glaringly aware of it.

In closing, I offer you a quote from the website of La Grenouille, one of New York's very best restaurants, and a place where I have been most fortunate to have dined with pleasure numerous times over the years.  In fact, I reviewed it earlier, here.
"Out of consideration for your fellow diners we ask you to refrain from using cell phones or other devices, and that children under 12 be left in the care of a loving babysitter."
I couldn't have said it any better myself.

Photographs courtesy of LIFE Images


  1. I am completely with you on 10. & 11. but unfortunately society and social styles have overtaken any sensibilities regarding 12. & 13., even if I agree with you. If the latter two irritate me, I just say so.

  2. Dahhhling your rules seem so fundamentat and yet so many are not concerned with such basic social rules! One can only imagine what they are like in private!

  3. Nowadays, it seems that cell phones on the table during a meal is the norm. It is so rude! I live in Washington and frequent many restaurants downtown and in Capitol Hill and everyone sits down and immediately plops an iphone/blackberry, etc. on the table next to their plate! It drives me crazy. They can't all be important Hill staffers who need 24/7 blackberry access!

  4. The necessity for Rule 13 perplexes me. The ostensible reason for going to a fine restaurant is to spend quality time with and money on honored guests, so why relegate them to second fiddle by giving first priority to that phone (rare medical emergencies aside)?

    Your rules guarantee an evening of propriety once we arrive at a classy restaurant, but how to locate them? For Taiwan's answer, check:

  5. Dear Mr. Darling, I believe these rules should also be applied to attending theater screenings of films. I'm aghast at the rude behavior of many adults who take their children to see adult type films, where the child obviously has no interest whatsoever in remaining engaged and quiet during the screening. Also, the amount of loud-mouthed adults that blabber throughout the film is astonishing, to say nothing of texting, emailing and the errant telephone that goes off! I've actually given up going to the movies for these very reasons. So glad to have gotten that off my chest this morning!

  6. I go simply nuts when people bring young kids to a fine restaurant and then let them run wild....just way out of line.
    Once again....excellent post.

  7. Bravo, Reggie Darling!
    (And all my friends in France would concur.)

  8. Re #13: Under what circumstances is having a PDA or cellphone at the table, let alone actually checking it unavoidable? One does not use them at the table, PERIOD. Never. Ever, Not Ever. If something that important or vital is going on in one's life, one probably shouldn't be in the restaurant in the first place.

  9. I agree with you regarding children at dinner because most of them are extremely tired by then, but breakfasts and lunches out are a super training ground for children's manners. It is also a wonderful opportunity to expand their palate. I hold my nearly six year old twin boys to the same standard whether we are at the local eatery or at a fine establishment. Manners are manners.

    Manners in a restaurant are a set thing, and NO child should be allowed to detract from someone elses dining experience no matter the joint. I started my boys at seven months at the Ritz in Boston without a peep. "How'd you do that?" a set of parents asked me in the lobby afterwards. I've had them at my club and many different types of restaurants on both Coasts and abroad.

    Take them out and take them often. Start them young and you have young gentlemen/young ladies who will have it down when they reach maturity. It will be second nature to them. It is the highest complement, really, when someone in a restaurant comes over to me and says my children are well behaved.

    If you are fortunate enough to have help or a sitter, bring them along to assist or remove the child if necessary............. but how are these kids going to learn to behave in a restaurant if they don't come along? Most of the nannies I encounter merely make sure the kid is safe, not schooled.......

    The problem these days here in Fairfield County is the poor slops think a large house, a "Naaaanny", and a leased European auto automatically gives them panache............ when all they have to do is go to the local book store and spend $79.99 on an Emily Post. Poor schmucks.

    I don't actually know the current cost of an Emily Post, as I have my grandmothers original 1924 publication which is as modern today as it was then. I should also say here, I am a single father with no nanny... and very limited funds. If I can have my children behave in a restaurant, anyone can.

    Now regarding cell phone usage at the table: If a knowing glanse at someone who should know better does not work, I tell them outright that I consider it extremely rude........ If they prefer the company of that person then go have breakfast/lunch/or dinner with them. Turn the cell phone off. It's the modern day cigarrette.

  10. I cannot tell you how many first dates I've been on where my companion put their phone next to the plate. It's insulting and I never make a second date with anyone who does that. I'm never sure if they will start using their phone in more intimate moments.

  11. Columnist: Thank you. I find cellphone usage in restaurants highly irritating, more so than PDAs, actually.

    DTC: Thank you!

    HRH: The problem is, I suspect, they act no differently in private than they do in public...

    Ms Mindless: Indeed!

    Parnassas: Yes, being relegated to second fiddle to a PDA whilst sitting at table in a restauarant (or anywhere for that matter) can be most irritating and offensive.

    LizaE: The behavior one encounters by the jabbering, mouth-stuffing "them" in movie theaters has become so obnoxious to me that I now confine my movie going to watching TCM, AMC, or DVDs in the quiet of my own living room!

    MLS: Thank you!

  12. PVF: Thank you for discreetly noticing the discrete. Much appreciated!

    DED: Living the NYC IBanker life I have relucatantly and with much kicking of my (well shod) heels, regrettably succumbed to the need to check my BB obsessively, even under tables in restaurants. Not because I want to, mind you, but because I'll get such snarky grief from the cyborgs that I work with (and for) if I don't respond to some work request within minutes of it being sent, whatever the day or hour, or what have you. I'm looking forwrd to breaking that habit as soon as I am able to...RD

  13. Anon 1:05: Thank you for your lengthy and thoughtful comment. I completely agree that children should be taken to restaurants. However, as you point out, only under careful and loving supervision by their parents, who take the time to properly train them how to act appropriately in such establishments.

    Emmaleigh: I think your approach is quite sensible! Thank you for your comment.

  14. Great post! Agree with everything. You know, I don't mind even a little good natured noise in a fine restaurant, after all, its not a library. Thought it was charming and fun in Under The Tuscan Sun when Diane Lane stood up and announced she was going to be an Auntie. But please, oh, please turn off the cell phone!

  15. Reggie, Thank you for this post. I sent it on to someone who answered their phone at my dinner table.

    I think this will answer their question on why they have not been invited back. (If they even have a question)

    As for children, I used to have 'dress rehersals' on how to behave in restaurants.

    Children will be children, it's up to the parent to teach them accepted behavior, something I find so lacking in the USA.

  16. Interesting and informative, as always. Though I would agree with Anonymous, the appropriateness of children in restaurants and other adult venues has entirely to do with the particular child. My parents both worked and were very social people, which meant that if they didn't keep me up late and take me to dinner parties and dinners out we wouldn't have seen each other much.

    I remember times in restaurants where I was mortified by the behavior of other children, and silently irritated whenever I was complimented on my behavior; no one wants to be a well-trained spaniel.

    There were ups and downs to my over-exposure to adult company, though: interacting with other children was tough, as the conversation always seemed foreign -- I didn't get the argot. On the other side, I never had that awkward phase of life where children/teenagers seem incapable of interacting with adults. My parents' friends were my friends, and continue to be so.

    But I guess I was never a child in the screaming sense; I don't think I missed much.

  17. J&G: Thank you for your comment. I agreee, a bit of noise is acceptable, indeed. One is in public, after all. My objection is with the parent who isn't able or willing to fulfill their responsibility to the child and fellow diners to ensure that the child is appropriately trained in its behavior for the venue. Just as one doesn't give a toddler a heavy suitcase to carry, one shoud carefully select which restaurants are apprporate for the child's development as well.

  18. Sandra Jonas: Your "dress rehearsal" dinners are a brilliant and thoughtful way to prepare children for dining in better restaurants. It is a teaching practice i have heard from others, and I believe it makes perfect sense. It provides fun without pressure, and is a prelude to what will be a marveous treat, indeed!

  19. Nick Heywood: Thank you for your comment. I, too, spent much of my childhood in the company of older siblings and grownups, and was a (mostly) well-behaved, and mostly fastidious, (some would say to the point of being persnickety) child. I suppose that is why I knew from a young age that I was 'different' from many of my contemporaries and why it is that today I find myself writing essays on the proper use of one's knife and fork when consuming dessert. Oh, dear me,

  20. The wording of #11 I find offensive as it depersonalizes a child into an "it." A child is a human being as much as any adult is, and deserves the personal pronoun.

    If, however, you rephrase the rule to read "deal with the little bastard or leave the restaurant with the little bastard," then I am in complete agreement.

    Arthur Orton


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