Dining out with children is an exercise in situational awareness. Each experience is unique, with different variables leading to different possible outcomes, DEFCON-like in their escalating threat levels. Keen observation, forward planning and prior experience are critical in determining the proper strategy. Here at DEFCON Dining, we do the grunt work for you. It ain't always pretty.
I forgot where Fountain View Café was. I have no idea how. All I know is, I pulled up in front of Harvest Organic Grille, after having waxed more than slightly rhapsodic about pancakes for the previous 25 minutes, only to find Fountain View, that bastion of lace-edged breakfast pastries, inexplicably "gone." Of course, I was just off by one strip-mall section, and apparently blinded by my desire for breakfast foods.
I raised the question on Twitter, no doubt confusing many a hash-brown-hound, and was met with confusion. Nobody knew what I was talking about. A few weeks later, I asked again. Assured that it was still a going concern, though no less baffled by my inability to spot if from 20 yards away, I headed toward Fountain View Café with the wife and kids on a recent Saturday.
Generally, I can count on breakfast as the Switzerland of meals. Everyone loves breakfast, including my sometimes frighteningly picky six year old. If she can order eggs, I can count on order. Or so I thought. I'm not sure what went wrong that weekend. Maybe it was the early wakeup call of a new Saturday activity. Maybe it was the fact that she's a six year old. You can never tell with six year olds. Shifty bunch.
The first sign of trouble was over seating. She said outside. We agreed. Then she said inside. I made a Rum Tum Tugger joke. She didn't get it, and was not amused. We sat outside. We did not enjoy our breakfast. There was a bit of bluster about a missing ponytail holder. We made a trip to the car and sat there a while, the disapproving glare of our fellow diners stifling the breezy, beautiful atmosphere. We finished our meal quickly and angrily, and beat a hasty retreat. The worst part? In all the hubbub, I'd forgotten to order pancakes for the table.
Flash forward a few weeks to a similar setup. The six year old and I were up early for one of her extracurricular, and decided to treat ourselves to breakfast. Just the two of us. Her choice. If you're following along, you know where we're headed. Fountain View Café. Like I said. Shifty bunch.
I asked her why she wanted to go there, and she said something about pancakes and an unfulfilled sense of self-actualization. So off we went, in search of pancakes and Maslow's peak. We had a swell time. For starters, I remembered the pancakes.
While the food has a lot to do with it -- faultlessly fried eggs, hash browns with a split personality of form and fracture, and pancakes whose match I've not been so lucky to meet -- I feel that there's an element here which must not be overlooked.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
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Not to get too theme-y, but the ages-old stratagem could hardly be more true than when dealing with small children. They're like small, slightly illogical catalysts, setting off chain reactions of malcontent and abandoned brunch. While that's not always the case, nor is what I'm about to say, there are many instances in which getting them alone can pay off. It's almost enough to convince you that it's a calculated game of brinksmanship, custom designed for the disruption of normal parental thought processes, single-minded in its intent to wreak havoc, even in the face of its own destruction. Err, grounding. I meant grounding.
Food has a remarkable knack for uniting people. Sometimes, though, people don't want to be united. Especially six year olds. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try again later. Especially if it means you get another crack at those pancakes.