Nettie’s House of Spaghetti in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, isn’t a place others would want to hang with your kid. Sure, there are cushy banquettes and plenty of tables, and should we ever need to socially distance again, there’s ample space between them. But it’s more mid-century design conscious, less Olive Garden.
Nevertheless, kids have been welcomed since Nettie’s opened in 2018, but the restaurant announced on social media this week that it’s banning young children starting March 8.
“Between noise levels, lack of space for high chairs, cleaning up crazy messes, and the liability of kids running around the restaurant, we have decided that it’s time to take control of the situation,” the announcement reads.
The new policy has led to a flurry of close to 3,000 comments that run the gamut from “I love you” and “Stay The Fuck Home, Kids,” to complaints of how “awful” it is since “children are a part of the family unit.”
Meanwhile, over on Nettie’s Yelp page, there’s a “higher activity than usual” message that prevents users from rating Nettie’s at all, while on Google, ratings are mostly five stars from the past week, with only one user goose-egging the place because it doesn’t allow children. Eater reached out to Nettie’s which hasn’t yet responded.
Restaurants banning kids seems like cyclical news, with this round noteworthy because many young kids just hadn’t been out in restaurants because of COVID. Back in 2018, Steve Inskeep, of NPR’s “Morning Edition,” was turned away by a Pittsburgh restaurant when he was told his family was not welcome; its policy does not allow kids under six years old into the dining room — but as is the case with many restaurant policies, it wasn’t announced on social media.
Publications like Washington Post and Vogue have written etiquette assistance pieces for taking kids out in public while Eater has its own guide to kid-family restaurants in the city.
Rather than set rules, more New York restaurants are using their restaurant story or narrative to encourage parents to bring kids to restaurants — or not. Patti Ann’s Family Restaurant chef and owner Greg Baxtrom, who also runs Olmsted and Petit Patate in Prospect Heights and Five Acres in Rockefeller Center, said that even though he has several kid-friendly restaurants, he’s still navigating how to attract both families with kids and a couple that’s out for a bite and a couple of drinks. “How do you have something that’s family-friendly and still accommodates the 9 p.m. drinking crowd?” he says.
The restaurant named for his mother is his most family-friendly restaurant, he says. It leans into the grade school motif in design and with a menu of dips, blooming onion, adult fish sticks, and a root beer float, childlike appetites. He also just recently just bought games for the restaurant like Connect 4 and Uno for kids to use in the space.
Michael King, the executive chef of As You Are in Brooklyn’s Ace Hotel, and the father of two children, is sympathetic to parents dining out. “Eating in a restaurant with your child sucks,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the bagel shop in the neighborhood or the Smith — or if you dare to take a kid somewhere fancy.”
His restaurant offers a kids’ menu of greatest hits like pasta with butter, grilled cheese, sliders with American cheese, and chicken fingers. Instead of fries, kids can get apples and carrots. It also has a drawing of Brooklyn on the back and it comes with Crayons to keep kids occupied. “We can just hand it to the parents so you don’t have to negotiate with the server or with your own children,” he says.
Brunch is the meal most attended by children, who may be into it as much for the chocolate chunk cookies and black and white doughnut, King says. Regardless of the time of day, kids’ meals at the hotel are economical for families.
“We don’t make money on kids’ food,” he says. “But it’s a big undertaking to take kids out to dinner, so we might as well assist these brave parents.”