During a recent lunch at Upland, a chic Gramercy restaurant that serves California-inspired cuisine, I spotted one of my fellow diners gnawing on her menu, totally ignoring her Creekstone Farms skirt steak.
To be fair, the offending guest, Gabriela Brody, was barely a year old. As she chewed her paper feast, her mother, Alyssa Brody, calmly rocked her stroller while taking elegant bites of her own five-lettuce Caesar salad and chatting with her friend, who had brought along her own child.
“Obviously, it’s pure chaos in here,” Brody said, as another child in the room started crying. “But it’s okay.”
Indeed, having space in a fancy restaurant like Upland where young ones can make a mess of themselves (and the floor) is the whole point of Nibble + Squeak, a new dining club for parents who don’t want to give up eating Michelin-starred meals just because they have children.
“Being a parent is so much harder than even I imagined it would be, so you kind of feel like you need a treat sometimes,” said Melissa Elders, who founded the club when she returned to New York after living in London for 10 years. Before having her daughter, Serena, she loved eating out in nice restaurants but found it “stressful” to do so with her baby. “I was constantly afraid of disturbing other people. We would scarf down our meal very quickly so we could get out,” she said.
“This is really good birth control, isn’t it?”
When you eat with Nibble + Squeak, however, you are eating only with other parents of young children, who seemed grateful for the opportunity to eat fine food (and drink the occasional cocktail) without judgment from their fellow diners.
“We love good food and it’s not often that we get to do this,” said Lindsey Hutter, who brought her son Robert. “We have kids, so the fact that we can incorporate them is a dream.”
Nibble + Squeak usually rents out the entire restaurant for a meal (our meal at Upland took place in the party space below the main dining room), and Elders said she targets restaurants that are only open for dinner, the hardest meal to eat with very young children. “You don’t want to bother people who are out for a nice evening on the town, especially a romantic dinner.”
The presence of children in a restaurant can, after all, have unintended consequences; one child wriggled part-way out of her high chair and got her head stuck, prompting some wrestling from her flustered mother. Hutter nudged me and whispered, “This is really good birth control, isn’t it?”
Upland is the first Manhattan restaurant to participate in Nibble + Squeak (the full meal, including tax and tip, cost $74 for a parent and a child), and the club has meals scheduled at fine restaurants around the city, including Luksus in Williamsburg ($125) and Landmarc in the Time Warner Center ($53).
Whether the kids will eat the food, though, is another question. Robert, for one, wasn’t interested in the fare and when the meal was over, Hutter and her friend discussed where to take their hungry brood.
Suddenly, Hutter hit on the perfect plan. “If the line isn’t too long,” she said, with her eyes brightening, “we can get them a burger at Shake Shack.”