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It’s a Thing: San Diego's Best Restaurants for New Moms

What we're talking about in the office this week


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Last week, we finished our annual Best Restaurants issue (on sale May 25)! This is the seventh year I have worked on Best Restaurants.

Having just returned from my second maternity leave in February, I now look at restaurants—and the ability to go and enjoy them—in a whole new light. Man, it was so easy before children!

These days I'm likely to choose a restaurant based on noise level, speed of service, wide aisles for strollers, and existence of a changing table. Of course I also consider ambiance, décor, menu, etc.

While I was on maternity leave, I had time to leisurely lunch with friends and try new places. It was tough getting out of the house with all the baby gear—and the baby!—but I enjoyed having time to explore.

One thing I did notice through the filter of my new-mom lens was a lot of trendy places like Ironside and Buona Forchetta furnishing their bathrooms with antique bureaus. Sometimes I had to use them as changing tables. As best I could, I would clear them of toilet paper rolls and bud vases and lay my baby down on top. A few times her head dangled off the side. It was quite the operation and we would emerge from the bathroom 45 minutes later. My apologies to the other diners and the owners.

The changing table debacles reminded me that before motherhood, I didn’t always love kids in nice restaurants. I began thinking, Maybe I am supposed to be at Islands. That’s the price you pay for having a baby. Remember Samantha in Sex & the City? Suddenly I realized I was that person. Since in my head I was still the same person who enjoys a chilled Sancerre or tuna tartare, I didn’t realize I had perhaps crossed a line. Maybe the old me and the “mom” me were different people and did not belong in the same establishments. I know times have changed but, well, people pay good money to eat out and enjoy themselves. My mom still believes that too many people include their children when it’s not appropriate, and she always tells me she left me at home. 

I'm still conflicted. I don’t have the answers. But anyway, if you do bring your infant out in public, here are some of my favorites...

 

Baby-friendly restaurants:

Stroller-Friendly Aisles and Ability to Pay Up Front: Biga
​Surprisingly Legit Changing Table: Patio on Goldfinch
Day-Drinking with Baby in Arms and No One Bats an Eye: Luce Kitchen & Bar
Chinese Food with Big Area for Stroller: Dumpling Inn/Shanghai Saloon (sit in front area near rickshaw)
Place to Imagine I am Losing the Baby Weight: Café Gratitude, Sweetfin, True Food Kitchen, Naked Café (four-way tie)
Playdate: Nate’s Garden Grill
Restaurant to Appease a Hangry Toddler: Still looking
Shack to Eat My Feelings: Crack Shack, Shake Shack, Carnitas’ Snack Shack (triple tie)

 

Specific dishes and cuisine I just love:

Loaded Fries: Cutwater Spirits
Burger: Shake Shack
Breakfast Burrito: Taco Stand
Cheese Wheel Pasta: Bencotto/Monello
Lobster Roll Bread: Ironside
Pasta and Pizza: Bencotto/Monello, Dolce at the Highlands, Alexander’s and Old Venice, Buona Forchetta (quadruple tie!)

 

…And just for the heck of it, here are some places I have enjoyed sans baby, after I returned to work: 

Place to Pretend I am in Europe: Parc Bistro
Bar to Pretend I Still Live in NYC: Fifth & Rose at the Pendry
Place to Go When Someone Else is Paying: Herb & Wood
Flower-Filled Patio: Pisco Rotisserie (Liberty Station)
Go-To Fancy Lunch Place to Meet a North County Family Member Who Is Downtown for Jury Duty: Westgate Room
Favorite Place I Still Can’t Believe I Haven’t Tried: Catania, LJ Crafted Wines (tie)

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