If you're a parent, and you go out to eat with your younglings, you probably understand me a little already. If you have a baby or toddler and you're still going to the nice sit-down thai restaurant or that sweet downtown pub, and everyone is well-behaved and quiet and no one is infringing upon the grown-up Peace and Quiet (capitals are well-deserved!) and all of your friends etc. think it's totally cool and appropriate for you to have brought said younglings, well, you're as imaginary as my justification for this run-on sentence.
The term 'Family Friendly' exists for a reason. It's not just another case of a buzzword being created by an industry that wants to keep us fat and complacent. It is a secret code-word, a word of Power.
Family Friendly tells us we're allowed to bring small humans who occasionally yell or throw tiny packets of jam or demand to SEE DEM FISHES AGAIN, MUMMA! This lovely double-F lets us know that there will be a child's menu for you to optimistically order from (while your child eats half of your grilled cheese, instead) and boosterseats and possibly those placemats with mazes that come with crayons to colour with. Weapons to keep the child-boredom-rage at bay.
But of course the most important thing is that you won't be the only one with a child there. You will be quietly assigned to the Child-Heavy Quarter of the restaurant, and your child will stare/yell at/dance for/gape quietly at all the other children. And your hackles and sense of parents-in-public guilt won't immediately jump up every time your youngling shouts "Bear!" or starts kicking the table leg or starts singing Doddlebops tunes in an off-key fake mexican accent.
Family Friendly means just that, but more: it really means Wee-Child and Overtaxed Parents Friendly. It means you can let your child be him or herself for half an hour while you consume four thousand calories one-handed, wthout spending the whole time trying to monitor and correct behaviours that really aren't bad - not expressions of aggression or petulance or spite, just little sparks of boredom and adventurousness. You're allowed to have a new baby that sometimes cries, a toddler that demands everyone SEE and WORSHIP her, and you're allowed to eat something resembling food, something that doesn't come in powerbar or instant-packet form.
To me, that's worth the cultural embarrassment I feel for this horrible downgrade in my Fine Dining. It makes up for the facts that these burgers are only 35% as tasty as the ones I could get at a pub, that we don't get the option of wine with dinner ever again, that napkins shall evermore be paper, amen.
I go to these places now because I want tasty food that I didn't cook, no mater how classless that food is, and I want to be forgiven, for the duration of that meal, for bringing a source of random and ceaseless Noise (or in my case, two) into the world.
Also, I go there for the fries.