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Parents Bring Crying Baby to Alinea and Grant Achatz Considers Banning Kids

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On Saturday, Chicago chef Grant Achatz tweeted that someone brought a baby to his three Michelin-starred restaurant Alinea and that the other diners weren't happy about it: "Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying?"

And then Twitter exploded with questions: Should babies even be allowed in upper echelon restaurants? Should a restaurant be flexible in case the babysitter cancels? Does Alinea own a high chair? (No, said Achatz; the baby sat on the mother's lap the whole time.)

UPDATE 1/14: Grant Achatz responded to the crying baby incident on Good Morning America. He says it's his job to "be cognizant of the other 80 people that came in."

First, some logistics: Alinea runs on the same ticketing system developed for Achatz's restaurant Next, which means a few things. One, that the parents of this infant likely knew a good bit ahead of time that they were going to the restaurant (Alinea does release a few last minute tables every day). Two, the table was pre-paid: the ticket price, tax, and a service fee are charged when you book the table, and wine and other beverages are charged when you dine at the restaurant. Three, in case something comes up (like, say, a babysitter canceling on you), the restaurant allows you to either sell or give away your ticket.

According to co-owner Nick Kokonas, this is not the first time someone has brought a baby to the restaurant: "We've had babies before. It's never about the kids. It's always about the parents(not re:this sit.)" Still, it's an interesting question. Should a restaurant ban babies when it gets to the point that other diners' meals are ruined?

The tweeting masses had a lot to say on the subject. According to Chicago food writer Michael Nagrant, "You do not take a baby to Alinea. Unless the babysitter cancelled last minute and Alinea would not refund your ticket. No other debate." Saveur's Helen Rosner takes a harder line: "Fancy restaurants should not have to specify no babies in precisely the same way they should not have to specify yes pants." And New York Post restaurant critic Steve Cuozzo had an idea: "Parents should leave tot w/coat check as Diane Keaton attempted in 'Baby Boom.'" Also there is a prolific @AlineaBaby twitter account now.

There is precedent for banning kids from restaurants, even in Chicago. Back in 2011, Dale Levitski banned kids from brunch at the now-shuttered Sprout. Similar moves have been made at restaurants high-end and low from Pennsylvania to Dublin to Berlin to Virginia to Houston to North Carolina. No word what Achatz and company will do moving forward; Eater has reached out for comment and will update as necessary.

UPDATE 1/14: Grant Achatz responded to the crying baby incident on Good Morning America. He says it's his job to "be cognizant of the other 80 people that came in."

· @Gachatz [Twitter]
· All Alinea Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Breeders Behaving Badly Coverage on Eater [-E-]

[Top photo: Rebecca Siegel/Flickr]

Alinea

1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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