My husband and I returned from Minnesota, having experienced a rarity: a gracious meal out WITH the kids. What made it so special? I think the answer partly is space.
We were at the Minneapolis-St Paul airport (Humphrey Terminal) and ate at the restaurant there, which is a typical pub. The set up of the restaurant, however, is conducive to elegance. There is a lot of space between tables for people to have room for luggage. I did not feel like I was squished in a restaurant listening to anyone else's conversation. Accordingly, our conversations felt private and I did not feel like the kids were bothering anyone.
The restaurant also has, conveniently, an entire wall of windows with airport activity outside to occupy an almost-three year old boy. And they have mashed potatoes for the baby. All in all, surprisingly elegant.
Besides physical space, we also had time, because we were early and were not in a hurry. That is an additional type of space. I think the kids picked up on it and were as calm as we were. All in all, granting people extra space is extremely elegant.