Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, the owners of Chicago’s Alinea, Next, and The Aviary, know more about service than most people will ever know, but they found themselves in a conundrum Saturday when someone brought a baby to Alinea.
“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.
The announcement of a crying baby in the Michelin 3-star restaurant set off a Twitter debate over the appropriateness of bringing children to high-end restaurants. Most commenters were vehemently against the idea, but a few people did step up in defense of the baby-toting parents. Some even blamed Alinea’s ticket-based reservation system, wherein reservations are scheduled like theater tickets and can’t be refunded.
“Hard when you shell out that money for non cancelable tics and lose sitter last minute. That is a ticket vs. reservation issue,” one parent-defender said.
”What are they supposed to do if their sitter cancelled at the last minute? $1,000 worth of non-refundable tickets,” another chimed in, though many loud voices quickly stepped in to opine that in that situation the parents should get a new sitter or one of the parents should skip the dinner, rather than risk a crying baby ruining everybody else’s $1000+ dinners.
Another twitter user suggested Achatz charge infants for a full menu.
“That will stop it quickly,” he said.
Predictably, it took no time at all for someone to create an “Alinea Baby” parody twitter account to "tell his side of the story," because that is the world we live in now.
Later, Achatz joined in again to post a picture of an Alinea dish of fish heads with their mouths stuffed with whole shrimp that is virtually guaranteed to give any small children nightmares.
“Definitely not baby food,” he said.