Surprise! Dining at a party at Volt was more kid-friendly than we expected

When you travel to China to adopt your children, you start eating in restaurants with them right away. Unless you want to live off of ramen noodles in your hotel room, you don’t have another choice.

Maybe that’s why, even though we have had moments of poor restaurant behavior, eating out with our children doesn’t intimidate me.

Still, when we were invited to a surprise 70th birthday party at Volt in Frederick, Md., I was a little unsure what we would encounter. We had never been to Bryan Voltaggio’s restaurant, but a quick look at its website made me fairly confident it wasn’t the kind of place that catered to children.

So, as we headed out the door, I grabbed a few Matchbox cars, a stack of paper, and some crayons.

When we arrived at Volt, the staff sent all the children—and there were several—into a garden adjacent to the restaurant.

The children ran laps through the grass. The waiters served them glasses of pomegranate lemonade.

They offered us sweetbread and crab balls and pureed cauliflower on bent spoons.

After we all yelled, “Surprise!” and shocked the birthday girl, we found seats inside at a table near my parents and my sister and her husband and my niece. We also happened to be right near the kitchen where the chefs were preparing the food. Built-in entertainment!

Then the multi-course meal began. It was amazing.

The waiters brought out rolls, and Daniel ate roll after roll after roll. I hadn’t realized how many he had eaten until a waiter arrived with a new bowl of butter for our 5-year-old.

Salads arrived and disappeared.

Buttered noodles came for the children.

Halibut came for us.

“Did she say hali-butt?” our boys giggled. Then they saw that it was fish.

“You can have my noodles, Mama,” Daniel told me, pushing his plate toward me. Then he and his brother ate most of our fish.

Then came steaks in a pistachio reduction (I think) with peas and mushrooms—and chicken fingers and fries for our children.

And then came dessert, which was extraordinary, especially since we watched them use a propane torch to make it. There was Guinness Stout ice cream for us and Chocolate Cola ice cream for the boys.

That was before the two kinds of cake arrived.

Through it all, our boys sampled and nibbled and ate with gusto.

There was, of course, also a great deal of waiting between courses. After all, this was not fast food. We were at the restaurant for four and a half hours. The wait staff could not have been more attentive to us and our children, showing them how a crumber works, carefully moving their drawings aside to remove dirty dishes, and treating our boys with the same friendly respect they gave us.

To fill the time, we made the most of our Matchbox cars, which Daniel shared with his 7-month-old cousin.

And we used every piece of paper I had.

We drew pictures and created mazes.

We played Hangman.

John and Leo played a game I believe is called Boxes, where you try to connect dots with lines to make boxes.

Then Leo started building paper structures.

We played several competitive rounds of “I Spy.”

And I may have sent Daniel to “check on Grandpa” a few times when he was too antsy to stay in his seat another minute.

Our niece did amazingly well, especially considering it was her first trip to a restaurant. I’m not sure how her parents will manage her expectations in the future.

And it’s a good thing someone besides Daniel took photos to show that she was there with all of us.

What did I learn? Blank paper offers endless entertainment. It pays to have children who love to eat. And our children have greater stamina than I had realized—especially when their grandparents are there to help.

Oh, and I can’t tell you much about the halibut. But the chicken fingers were excellent.

Check out a Catholic Review restaurant review of Volt here.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.