Before LB was born, one of my favorite spots in San Francisco was Chez Maman, on Potrero Hill. It’s a tiny spot, about 15 seats total. There are two small tables and on a sunny day a few more outside, but most of the seating is at a long counter that spans the length of the restaurant. Behind the counter two cooks busily prepare crepes, burgers, fries and other bistro fare. The chicken crepe is one of my favorite dishes in the city.
Chez Maman is perfect for a casual date. However, there is nothing about the layout of the restaurant that makes it perfect for a baby.
That’s really never stopped me before. I hadn’t been there since LB was born and I wanted my crepe. I thought that LB would like seeing the food prepared. It’s normally very fast, so I rationalized that if it went south, it would be over quickly.
LB woke up from his nap and we jumped in the car. I was positive they wouldn’t have highchairs, so I brought my trusty little seat. Knowing that the place is teeny, I left the stroller in the car. It was around 11:30, so we were among the first people in the restaurant. I’d actually never seen it so empty. In the past, we’d arrived later and always had a few minutes to wait for a seat.
I was directed by the waiter at the opposite end of the bar to have a seat. I kind of felt like it was a challenge. Like “let’s see where you put the kid.” Or maybe he didn’t even notice Ryan. Or maybe I just looked like I had the situation completely under control, as I did. There was no way LB could have sat at the bar – the stools are real bar stools and not high chairs with backs. Out went the vision of LB watching in fascination as the food is prepared. I strapped him into a chair at one of the two tables.
I was a little nervous taking him somewhere that was so obvioulsy wrong for a toddler that eats in a highchair. I think I know my son well enough to know how he’s going to act – but he changes the rules on me every few months just to keep me on my toes. (New rules as of last week: crunchy rice crackers are OUT! Graham crackers are IN! Mushrooms are OUT! Spinach is IN!) I know that at any minute sitting could be OUT! And screaming could be IN!
LB and I chatted away while we waited for the waiter to come take our order. I went for my usual chicken crepe with frites and I ordered a side of ratatouille for LB. He generally likes anything with tomatoes. I thought he might eat some of my crepe too. After we ordered, he happily chewed on a piece of crusty bread.
As we were among the first diners, our food arrived very quickly. The chicken crepe is buckwheat and is filled with shredded chicken with mustard. The crepes are made to order and they are the perfect consistency. LB wasn’t really into the chicken, but he has been on a chicken strike for about a week now. He did like the fries, which was interesting. Usually he prefers thicker fries, but these were skinny fries. He likes the thicker ones and usually eats the insides only. He has this adorable (or maybe gross?) method of pulling the fries through his teeth, eating only the inside and discarding the outside. Not so at Chez Maman. He ate those wonderful potatoes like any normal human being would – by the handful.
I cannot say the same for the ratatouille. I thought it was delicious, but LB wasn’t having it. So that came home with us. By the time we’d finished eating, LB was antsy. Looking back on it, I probably could have ordered him a sweet crepe and he would have loved it. That’s one of the challenges I have with my dates with LB. Whatever I order for him, I usually have to be prepared to eat myself if he decides he doesn’t want it. That’s not very good for my pocketbook or my waistline.
We wrapped up our meal and departed without even leaving a crumb on the floor. LB even picked up a handful of fries from the plate to take as a souvenir to the car. He didn’t want to eat them; he was full. He just wanted to carry them. When we arrived at the car, he promptly added them to the collection of food that he has made on the backseat of my car.
It wasn’t my most relaxing meal, to say the least. But I did get my crepe. I am sure that as LB gets older I will embellish this story until I’ve made it ten times better than it actually was. I can’t in good faith say that this is a good place for a toddler, although maybe a baby in a sling would be just fine. I do think Chez Maman will be the perfect place to introduce LB to one of my favorite cuisines when he is old enough to sit at the bar. We’ll go back and he’ll sit on a barstool next to me and watch in awe and admiration as the crepes are made in front of him.