|A modern kids' menu. Photo: Ed Kohler, Flickr.
Hanna Raskin's first waitressing job was at a small Greek diner in Michigan. In the 15 years since, she's worked at a chop suey joint in Mississippi, an exclusive Arizonan country club, a vegetarian eatery and an Irish pub. She currently picks up odd shifts at a seafood eatery in the North Carolina mountains, where she cracks crab legs for helpless tourists. This is the sixth in a series of posts.
One of the coolest things about the now-defunct Bill Knapp's restaurant chain was the children's menu, on which every dish bore the name of an animal. Grilled cheese wasn't just a sandwich at Bill Knapp's: It was a giraffe.
But what counted as cute then is apparently considered out-of-touch today, as an increasing number of tykes shun menus designed just for them. To the delight of their beaming foodie parents, restaurants' youngest diners are now eschewing coloring pages and chicken nuggets for crab claws and caviar.
For servers accustomed to sweeping up puddles of Cheerios and apologizing to other customers for the screaming baby seated at one of their tables, the prospect of a junior epicure sounds promising.
Unruly children -- and a few overly permissive parents -- have long posed a problem in restaurants: The only customer complaint I ever received came from a mother who was upset that I asked her rowdy young daughter not to dance where the cocktail waitresses were walking.
As many servers have discovered, however, the culinarily ambitious child can prove nearly as troublesome.
As earlier posts in this series have established, there is no clear ethical code governing server and customer behavior. And in this server's experience, many modern diners assume their gratuity covers most anything they'd ask of their servers -- including providing their offspring with an edible education.
To be sure, parents who consider food and beverage knowledge an essential component of the canon deserve all restaurant workers' deep appreciation, since they're rearing the next generation of free-spending guests. The question is how much instructional responsibility lies with servers.
Is it fair to expect busy servers to explain the origins of foie gras to toddlers or show them how to peel steamed shrimp? Should a server's job include patiently coaching children on the correct pronunciation of "tiramisu"? While such a mentorship sounds charming, not all kids are equally easy-to-teach – and very few servers are trained pedagogues.
But what do you think? Are parents outsourcing a task that's rightly theirs? Or should servers be the ones teaching very young eaters about food?
|A booster seat and a smile should cover it.||157 (85.3%)|
|Servers should seize the opportunity to educate their youngest diners.||15 (8.2%)|
|Other (tell us more in comments)||12 (6.5%)|