Fine dining and toddlers may seem like a disastrous combination, but take a deep breath and another sip of wine, perfectly paired by the sommelier. While I'd be the first to suggest calling your favorite babysitter and enjoying your special meal without the risk of a cranky toddler, sometimes you're traveling in another city and don't want to leave your child with a stranger, even one that is highly recommended by your hotel concierge. If there's a special-occasion place you've been wanting to try, don't give up on it or assume you'll have to wait until you go on a vacation sans kids or they're pre-teens capable of sitting through a multi-course meal. Here are my tips for those times you want a world-class meal but don't have a trusted babysitter. You may also want to check out other TravelSort family travel articles.
Lastly, know the limits (of your child and the restaurant): Naturally, everything has limits, and there are some children and restaurants where this just won't work. If your child barely eats and can't sit still for any stories, you may be out of luck. In New York, I wouldn't attempt to bring a toddler to Thomas Keller's Per Se (unless sitting in the bar area) as the dining experience is 10-11 courses, and there's no option for shortening that. You'll need a restaurant where ordering 2-3 courses is an option, and it can realistically take about an hour. In San Francisco, my recommendation for this is Restaurant Gary Danko, which is not only superb, and arguably the best restaurant in the city, but also has a kitchen that can turn out three sumptuous courses within the hour and a friendly, very accommodating staff. In New York, try weekend brunch or an early dinner at Telepan, on the Upper West Side.