There are two entrances, side by side and under the same awning, to A Piece of Quiet, an unusual new restaurant in Denver’s Old South Pearl Street section. Each is marked by a gold plate. One, affixed to the wall about 3½ feet from ground level, reads CHILDREN. The other, at grown-up eye level, reads ADULTS.
Patrons usually enter the children’s entrance first. There they find a decor not generally associated with four-star dining establishments: The walls are painted bright yellow and are lined with shelves filled with toys. There are stuffed animals, tape recorders, books, a playpen and Nintendo. Fish swim in their bowls, the wallpaper has a cartoon-character motif, the VCR comes complete with The Little Mermaid, and the furniture runs to high chairs and pint-size tables. One wall is covered with mirrors.
At this stage, if all goes well, parents leave their little ones in the care of adult supervisors and head out the door. Once on the sidewalk, they reenter through the adjacent door marked ADULTS. Here they find a grown-up restaurant, decorated in burgundy and forest green, with linen tablecloths and antique sterling silverware. Five raised booths are on one side; five tables are on the other. Along one wall, four large windows look in on the children’s dining room. These are actually one-way mirrors, so parents can keep an eye on their darlings while they dine. “There are times,” says Piece of Quiet’s coowner Dale Goin, “when we notice that not a fork is being lifted, because everyone is watching the kids.”
Goin and his wife, Piece of Quiet’s coowner and chef, Sally Rock, met three years ago in another restaurant that Sally owns. They married a year later and soon were tossing ideas around for a new restaurant. Both had been divorced single parents, with one son each, and both had gone through the harrowing experience of dining out with their kids. “You always felt half guilty about taking them out,” says Dale, 40. “They didn’t have as good a time as you’d want when you went to restaurants you wanted to go to. And when you went to restaurants they wanted to go to, it was a circus. We thought, ‘Why not try to have a restaurant where everyone can have a good time on their own terms?’ The parents can enjoy a wonderful meal in a nice, romantic atmosphere and not have to worry about the children or the baby-sitter.”
In fact, A Piece of Quiet may be putting a few Denver baby-sitters out of work. “There’s no hassle of finding a baby-sitter, picking up the sitter or taking the sitter home,” says Jeannine Lee, who ate at the restaurant three times within its first two weeks with her husband, Steve. Their son, 3-year-old Harrison, enjoyed the place so much he now asks to go there almost every night. “We’re spur-of-the-moment people,” says Jeannine, “and when we go to A Piece of Quiet, we can go out without scrambling for a sitter.”
For parents, Sally, 46, prepares such eclectic entrees as salmon en papillote, Mexican steak and black lobster ravioli. The tab for adults comes to about $20 a person. Dinner on the other side of the mirrored walls is a mite less haute. Kids choose from a menu that ranges from baby food, rice cakes and carrot sticks to hamburgers, pizza and apples stuffed with peanut butter. The children also have a dessert option that their parents don’t have—chocolate pudding and crumbled Oreo cookies mixed together, served in a flowerpot and enticingly titled Dirt for Dessert. (There’s a silk flower and a gummy worm for added realism.) All of this adds $4.50 to the parents’ tab for one child, and $4 for each additional child.
A converted diner, A Piece of Quiet opened last October, and business has been booming ever since. Reservations are encouraged so that Sarah Guenther, 21, the chief child supervisor, isn’t overwhelmed by an influx of kids, who range in age from 4 weeks to 12 years.
For patrons who may wonder about the restaurant’s name, the menus carry an explanation: The name was coined seven years ago by Sally’s son, Willy, who was 5 at the time. His mother had asked him for a little respite while she did her bookkeeping. “I need some peace and quiet,” she said. “Just give me five minutes, please.”
Sure enough, five minutes later, Willy was back, demanding attention. “There,” he said to his mom, “I gave you a piece of quiet.”
Michael Neill, Joni H. Blackman in Denver