The big restaurant news last week didn’t involve something that was served, but rather something that wasn’t. McDain’s restaurant in Monroeville, Pa., decided to ban children under the age of six, saying that they were often disruptive and couldn’t be controlled.
Their decision went viral, and touched off a firestorm of comment on the Web. Some parents, predictably, were outraged. However, owner Mike Vuick claims that the overwhelming majority of comments he has received supported the new policy. Vuick says that while he likes children, the real problem is with the parents, who fail to place limits on their kids and are often offended when asked to calm their children down. McDain’s describes itself as having an “upscale, quiet and casual” atmosphere.
“You know, their child—maybe as it should be—is the center of their universe,” said Vuick. “But they don’t realize it’s not the center of the universe.”
McDain’s is not alone. In 2008, the Victoria & Albert restaurant at Walt Disney World in Orlando banned all children under the age of ten. Yes, Disney. Victoria & Albert’s, located in the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, is probably the most elegant dining venue in the theme park; children are welcome at the hotel, but not at the restaurant.
I suspect that most reasonable people see both sides of this issue. Certainly, I do—I was taken to fancy restaurants from the age of eight or nine (probably one of the reasons I’m a food critic today). I’ve done the same thing with my grandchildren—one of my granddaughters had her first meal in a Michelin three-star restaurant at thirteen. Obviously, much depends on the child and on the willingness of adults to set an example, but six years old and under is a different story.
In this age of chain restaurants, many of which cater to children, you have to wonder why someone would want to bring their kids to McDain’s. 24 of the restaurant’s 68 seats are at the bar. “We’ve never even had a children’s menu,” says Mike Vuick. “If I had children of these ages I would never contemplate taking them to this place.”