Chow Town

The Alinea incident: Do kids belong in fancy restaurants? (Poll)

Updated: 2014-01-21T16:33:32Z

By Tess Hart

Special to the Star

It’s an age-old question: Should children be allowed at upscale restaurants?

But the debate turned into a frenzy after Jan. 11, when a couple whose babysitter canceled at the last minute showed up with their 8-month-old at Alinea in Chicago.

Alinea is one of the city’s most critically acclaimed restaurants. It has three Michelin stars. You have to buy a ticket to get into the restaurant at least two to three months in advance. Yes, a ticket. Alinea is so popular that it stopped taking reservations by phone because the six people answering couldn’t keep up.

According to the Chicago Tribune, a ticket for pre-paid tasting menu will cost around $210-$265, and that’s without drinks or tips. If you decide you can’t make your reservation? Well, there are no refunds.

So Chef Grant Achatz faced a tough situation on Jan. 11 when the baby started crying. He told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “I could hear it crying in the kitchen.”

In 21st-century fashion, Achatz naturally turned to Twitter.

Tweeting from the kitchen, he asked, “Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no, but..”

Of course, responses from both sides flooded in. Young children shouldn’t be allowed to step foot into nice restaurants like Alinea; the parents can’t be blamed for not wanting to lose more than $400.

In the end Achatz didn’t ask the parents to leave and Alinea still doesn’t have any special rules about children in the restaurant. Co-owner Nick Kokonas told Chicago Tribune that the restaurant has no plans to change its policy on children and that they want to welcome everyone to experience what Alinea has to offer.

Perhaps the baby will return. A new Twitter handle has popped up to parody the episode, @alineababy. It has 1,000 followers and its bio is: “I'm a baby who likes fine food, fine drinks, and crying.”

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