When Paige and Shawn headed out tonight for our school’s annual Father-Daughter Dance, I quickly packed Will into the car to head out for our own special dinner. It’s rare that my boy and I get one-on-one time like that, and I wanted to do something memorable with him.
Honestly, I wasn’t really sure where we were headed. I had lots of ideas – one of the Japanese places in town? A fabulous bistro on the other side of town? The really good hot dog spot? They are all good options and totally worthy, but I wanted to head to somewhere else. Before I knew it, I was turning onto the highway and heading west.
I wanted to take Will somewhere nicer than he’s been before. Shawn and I have been slowly exposing the kids to eating out at different restaurants. It’s not fair to them not to. After all, if you don’t expose them to eating out in different situations, how will they ever learn to behave respectfully in any situation? So tonight was about dipping our pinky toes into the idea of nicer restaurants.
We ended up in Danbury, Connecticut, at Ichiro Hibachi and Sushi Bar. I’ve wanted to try the place for a long time, but never had the opportunity before tonight.
From the outside, Ichiro is nothing to look at. Located inside a former diner, it still has the same retro diner-style stone exterior and row of fans on the roof. In fact, beyond the sign, not much has changed outside. But when you step inside, you instantly forget what it looked like out there. It’s clean, serene and modern inside. And you have a choice of two rooms for eating: the hibachi room and the sushi room.
We ate in the sushi room since we both are big sushi fans. Will had a kids Chicken Teriyaki Bento Box (yay for a children’s menu that had real food on it!) that came with miso soup, edamame, salad and more. Though he wasn’t a big fan of the miso (he did eat some, but it wasn’t his favorite), he really loved the edamame, chicken and rice. He ate way more than I expected (as in there was no chicken or edamame left … and very little rice). As for me, I had the Sushi Deluxe platter, and I shared a little of the sushi with Will. It was delicious. The fish was fresh and tender. The pieces were perfectly sized to be eaten in one bite. And the presentation was beautiful (clearly, I should have taken photos).
What I loved about the place was that they welcome kids. It’s nicer than the diner or the family restaurant we often go to (cloth napkins!), but yet they still make an effort to welcome the children with cute pinwheels for the straws on kids cups, a kids menu of real food and fast service. They were attentive too.
On the downside, it’s pricey (though not outrageously so for a sushi place), so it can’t be a regular thing. But as a special dinner now and again? It was perfect.
Will was near perfect during our dinner. We had a nice conversation about the restaurant, chopsticks and eating out, and he thoroughly enjoyed his meal. He was quiet, thoughtful and ate as cleanly as he could. I was proud.
As someone who falls firmly into the camp of believing that kids do belong in any restaurant as long as they are behaved, it’s important to me to give Will these experiences. If Shawn and I don’t teach our kids how to eat and behave in a quiet restaurant, how will they ever learn? If we don’t expose them to all kinds of environments, who will? It’s our job as parents to give them life experiences, and teach them how to navigate them. And someday soon, I hope we can eat in a truly fancy restaurant where ties are required. We’re getting there.
Part of eating in restaurants is being a good patron – whether you are 5 or 65. And for children, that requires a little bit of exposure and a lot of parental guidance. Parents have to teach their kids to behave in restaurants. If a child is throwing a tantrum or banging their spoon over and over again on a table? Do something about it. Don’t just let it happen just because they’re “kids.” A little bit of manners, patience and decorum goes a long way.
What do you think of kids eating out?
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of several cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.