Is it appropriate to take food from one restaurant to another restaurant’s patio and settle in? Is it okay, when several families go out to dinner together, to put the kids on the patio and the adults inside?

After reading one of my recent restaurant reviews, an empty-nester friend and her husband gave the popular new place a try for dinner. It was a nice night, so they opted to enjoy their food on the outdoor deck.

Pretty soon, some cute young families arrived with 9 elementary-aged kids and a couple of large pizzas. They arranged the children on the patio and went inside to order their own meals and dine in. The children didn’t behave badly, she says, but they were “enthusiastic” – louder than they would have been if they’d been sitting with their parents. One of the dads came out once to check on them.

My friend couldn’t help wondering aloud if this was a common practice. I’m not naming the restaurant because I don’t want anyone to stay away due to my story about one evening. Children going untamed while seated next to their parents is one thing. Exuberant children seemingly left on their own is another.

It’s possible the parents were watching through the big front windows. It’s also possible they intended to, but got distracted with their own fun. I know when I had young children and a backyard pool, the kids were most in danger with the largest number of adults nearby.

My friend was also surprised that the restaurant didn’t protest the food brought over from outside. Seats on the patio were scarce enough and the group stayed long enough that paying customers, it appeared, were denied outdoor seating. Still, management remained mum.

It’s not the first time I’ve touched on the subject of what’s appropriate when dining out with kids (and I admit it scares me a little to go there again), but it’s worth thinking about as Lake Highlands welcomes flocks of wonderful young families and prepares to add great new restaurants at the LH Town Center site.