SF Chowounds took the Chowpups (6 and 8) to New York for Spring Break. We all had a blast. Thanks to the regular posters on this board who gave us some good ideas.
Just wanted to give a quick report on a few places that we went with our kids this week. Over our past couple of New York trips, we've confirmed that New York is a great place to take young children out to eat--with a few caveats. Our kids are serious chowpups. They chowed their way through Italy this summer and know their regional Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Indian, etc.
We always (almost!) bring along a couple of iPhones, and non-electronic entertainment to keep them occupied between courses. We also benefit from the fact that our kids pretty much stayed on West Coast time, allowing for much later dinners than usual. And of course, we don't press our luck! I am always reminded of the brilliant piece Michael Lewis wrote in Gourmet many years ago about taking his daughter to Masa's in SF: What better place to take a young child than a fine dining establishment which is used to catering to the every whim of temperamental, demanding customers!
We stayed at the Gramercy Park Hotel, which was a great location. you even get access to the private Gramercy Park. Our package included a 3 course breakfast every day at Maialino as well as a food credit. Breakfast at Maialino and brunch on Sunday was very good. Kids particularly enjoyed the cacio de pepe eggs, the pastries, and the pizza bianca. The carbonara was also a big hit--definitely reminded us of Rome. This was obviously a place that always had a bunch of families with kids while we were there.
Since we had a 3 course breakfast each day that never started much before 9:30 since the kids were still on Pacific time, we didn't do a lot of lunches. Our daughter did, however insist on a trip to Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Aside from that, some nibbles at the Union Square Greenmarket, and some non-descript UWS diners and bagels filled in most of our lunches.
On our trip last year, we hit some of the classics of "New Yorkian" cuisine (as our 6 yo would say): Katz's, Russ and Daughters, Keen's, as well as the Modern. This time, we largely stuck to Gramercy/Flatiron, Chelsea for dinners.
The highlights of the trip were dinners at NoMad and Craft.
* NoMad. I had read the breathless coverage on Chowhound (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/840831) and elsewhere of NoMad and when I saw a 6:00 table on Opentable, I grabbed it. I wasn't sure it would be appropriate for the kids, but it turned out to be a great experience. We were seated in the "atrium" I think there was one other family with 2 slightly older girls. The food was absolutely awesome. My wife was momentarily horrified to realize she had left her iPhone charging at the hotel, but the kids were so entertained we didn't need any electronics. Highlights included the chicken, which our son said was the best thing he had ever eaten; the scallops, and the fruit de mer. The flatbread was also adored by everyone at the table. And our daughter is still talking about the milk and honey dessert a few days later. We also had some great cocktails. The staff was so professional and friendly to the kids. Granted, our kids had their charm turned onto maximum that night. They both loved their "orange julius" cocktail, which really was a very nice Orange Julius. We had a table where we could peek into the tiny kitchen and watch them constantly pump out the chickens. Especially considering that the restaurant had been open for only six days, this was a nearly flawless meal. Everything was so well seasoned, and just yummy, without any fine dining pretension. This was definiltey a meal the kids won't forget. The only dish I didn't love was the chiffonade of snow peas. It was a perfect bite of spring, but for me, it didn't need to addition of prosciutto (blasphemy, I know!)
* We also took the kids to Craft. This time, both kids were a bit more tired, so there was a lot more game-playing on the iPhones. But it was still a ton of fun for them. In case anyone has any doubts, Craft is an extremely kid-friendly restaurant. The couple next to us had a toddler with them and the waiter happily brought a high chair. There were a number of other well-behaved kids in the room too. Craft is really the perfect place since everything is so simply prepared. Highlights included an artichoke and fennel salad, the short-ribs, scallops, roast lamb with olives, and roast hen of the woods mushrooms and in particular, roasted ramps. Our beloved daughter had a fit of vegetarian guilt (yes, the same one who insisted on a hamburger from Shake-Shack earlier that day), but was convinced to eat the scallops and halibut! Our son particularly loved the ramps and the short ribs. Everyone quickly devoured the donuts. But best of all for the kids was the drinks. Both kids ordered grape juice. The server came over ceremoniously put wine glasses in front of them, showed them the bottle, discussed the wine's provenance, poured them a taste, and then a full pour. They were both completely delighted! We are on the plane now and the kids are polishing off their Craft scones.
Other places we hit on this trip.
* Lupa. Cousins made a reservation here and I wasn't sure what to expect given the mixed reviews on CH. We were pleasantly surprised. Kids both had a special agnolotti stuffed with beef in a very light fresh pea sauce with crunchy bits of proscuitto. They loved it and the adults fought over the leftovers. We also all enjoyed the antipasti: in particular the sardines and a pork tonotto dish. And our 6 yo was so excited to eat at a Mario Batali Restaurant. Though he was amazed to hear that the last time I had been at Babbo, we saw Mario and Emeril holding court in the bar. He was less impressed about us seeing Yoko, though for the adults, that was pretty cool!
* Went to Almond Restaurant which was right around the corner from our hotel when we arrived at 11:00 pm. Was fun to take the kids to a very lively place blaring the Velvet Underground at an hour that was WAY past their bedtimes. I had a perfectly decent salad. Our daughter's roast chicken was quite good. Shared artichokes were mushy/over-cooks with forgettable sauces.
* Shake Shack. Shake Shack is Shake Shack. What more need I say? It was, as always a very good burger--especially in Madison Square Park as we watched the Lubovichers roam around looking to fill the mitzvah tank in honor of the Rebbe's 110th birthday.
* Loved the Union Square Greenmarket. We always try to hit a market wherever we travel. It brings endless comparisons to what's different between this market, the Ferry Building Market, etc. On a cold and rainy day, the hot apple cider was much appreciated!
* Grom. We were walking by Grom right as our son announced he was "starving." I thought it was quite good--especially the pistachio. Certainly as good or better than much of the gelato we had in Italy this summer (Don't think we went to a Grom there...)
* Eataly. Just a quick spin through to grab some pastries for some "starving" children. Looked like a fun place to explore more another time.
Next time, we hope to hit some of the other boroughs and hopefully explore some of the ethnic cuisine where NY has CA beat. If we include LA and SF, not even entirely sure what that would be! If you have suggestions on places we can't miss on our next NY trip, we would love to hear them.
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