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Chef starts Twitter debate: Should babies be banned from high-end restaurants?

7:06 PM, Jan 14, 2014   |    comments
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Chef Grant Achatz attends the TIME 100 Gala, TIME'S 100 Most Influential People In The World at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 26, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for TIME)
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If you're a parent of an infant, the thought has crossed your mind: Babies sleep so much at this age-we could sneak in a dinner out on the town with him/her on our laps, right?

That's probably what one couple was thinking Saturday night, when they brought their 8-month-old to Alinea in Chicago, chef Grant Achatz's temple of modernist cuisine.  Apparently the couple's gamble didn't go so well. 

That night, Achatz tweeted:"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..."

Predictably, the tweet set off quite a stir. One Chicagoan sharply responded, "Charge the infant for a full menu. That will stop it quickly."  Others, like Chicago cookbook author Rupert Vaughan, came to the parents' rescue: "What are they supposed to do if their sitter canceled at the last minute? $1000 worth of non-refundable tickets."

And some kept a sense of humor about the incident: "Keep the babies, and ditch the men's jacket rule," one local posted.

Instead of traditional reservations, the restaurant offers a ticketed system, where diners must pay between $210 and $265 up front for the tasting-menu-only dinner (the price does not include tax, tip or beverages). The restaurant does not accept walk-ins.  Eater Chicago reports that that the couple's sitter canceled at the last minute (likely story!), but Alinea does allow diners to sell or giveaway their diner tickets, which must be booked weeks, even months, in advance.

Dinner at the restaurant is an event-about three hours long with 18 courses, all artfully and painstakingly prepared, and sent out into a sleek dining room.  There's no sign out front; diners open a big, heavy door and walk down a long hallway, then and step onto something that triggers an automatic sliding door, "Immediately, you think, 'Where am I?' You kind of feel like Dorothy walking toward the Wizard of Oz-what's going on here?" Chicago magazine chief dining critic Jeff Ruby told TODAY.com.

Courses might include duck five ways with choice of 60 garnishes, or an edible balloon. "It all adds up to a place where a baby would not make any sense whatsoever," Ruby said. "If I had paid all that money and had been sitting at next table, I'd be pissed-and I have a baby. If you asked 100 people, 99 out of the 100 would say a baby should not be there." 

Should babies be banned from high-end restaurants?

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