Couple criticized for bringing crying baby to 3-star restaurant

BY BRIAN SLODYSKO Staff Reporter

January 13, 2014 12:32PM

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Updated: February 15, 2014 6:17AM

Diners at the upscale Alinea restaurant were treated to an unexpected serving of whine Saturday night, after a couple with reservations at the three-star restaurant brought a crying baby to dinner.

The dilemma over whether to allow babies at the vaunted restaurant, where a meal cost $235 Sunday before tax and tip, prompted Chef Grant Achatz to pose a question on Twitter.

“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 …,” Achatz tweeted, noting that the couple dined with the baby on the mother’s lap.

The response from prominent voices in the food community was swift and unforgiving. Over the weekend, Twitter shifted into high gear with debate focused on the propriety of bringing children to fine-dining restaurants such as Alinea.

Michael Nagrant, who reviews restaurants for RedEye, tweeted in capital letters: “IT IS ABSURD TO BRING YOUR BABY TO ALINEA.”

He continued: “You do not take a baby to Alinea. Unless the babysitter canceled last minute and Alinea would not refund your ticket. No other debate.”

The restaurant-scene website Eater wrote a story about the incident with a headline reading: “Breeders behaving badly.” And food writer Carol Blymire, who writes the blog Alinea At Home, tweeted: “When you have kids, the world shouldn’t be catering 100% to your every need. Things have to change.”

By Monday morning, the matter took a life of its own, with the birth of the Twitter parody account, @AlineaBaby (bio: I’m a baby who likes fine food, fine drinks, and crying).

A tongue-in-cheek review on Yelp said the baby decried the lack of highchairs and complained that the sippy-cup was not refilled.

At issue appears to be the way restaurant-goers make reservations at Alinea. Like Next, another restaurant run by Achatz and owner Nick Kokonas, Alinea issues prepaid tickets — often sold months in advance.

It was not known whether the couple tried to cancel their reservation or work out an alternative arrangement with restaurant staff.

The couple reportedly had a baby-sitter cancel at the last minute but decided to go to the restaurant anyway, according to WMAQ-Channel 5 news.

While Alinea does not refund tickets, they may be resold. “Just like a sporting event, concert or theater ticket, all sales are final,” the restaurant states on its Facebook page.

Neither Kokonas nor Achatz could be reached Monday. But on Sunday, Kokonas questioned the wisdom of parents who bring kids to Alinea.

“We’ve had babies before. It’s never about the kids. It’s always about the parents,” his tweet read.

Achatz summed up his position with a picture he posted to Twitter of two fish heads prepared on a serving platter.

“Definitely not baby food,” he tweeted.

Email: bslodysko@suntimes.com

Twitter: @BrianSlodysko

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