Thanks to everyone for the great suggestions for our first big trip to NYC with our two daughters (ages 4 and 2). The food experience was outstanding! Here's what happened.
Friday evening: Once we checked into our hotel in Times Square, everyone was pretty wiped out so we decided to stay close and eat at Virgil's BBQ. Wow. We lived in Austin, TX for 10 years and I haven't had brisket that good since we left. Very surprising. The ribs were also very good - very tender. Everything could use a little more flavor, though. A spicier rub would have been to my taste, but still, the meat was great. The kids wouldn't eat the cornbread (it had green onions in it - whoops) but they loved the barbecue beans. The place was very kid-friendly and the service was great. Two little and two big thumbs up.
Saturday morning: Tried Sarabeth's on 59th. Even though we didn't have a reservation, we were seated within 5 minutes. My daughter has been pestering me to make her pumpkin waffles non-stop since she had one at Sarabeth's. I had the lemon ricotta pancakes, which were sublime. My dh's blintzes were very good. The baby had a bowl of oatmeal which is kind of hard to mess up. The pomegranete/mixed fruit juice was a little too sweet for us, but was very fresh. Service was very friendly and quick. There were clean plates all around. Again, two big and two little thumbs up.
Saturday evening: Decided to take a chance on Petite Abeille on West Broadway. My dh was in the mood for moules frites and a good Belgian beer. Again, a great experience. I had the salmon entree with sauteed spinach over Israeli couscous. The salmon was done just right, the combination was light and refreshing. It wasn't fancy or adventurous, but was done well. I'm not a big mussels eater, but I liked the ones at Petite Abeille. I'm sure there are fancier places with better seafood in the city, but Petite Abeille actually suited us just fine. After the excitement of the Little Red Lighthouse Festival, the girls wanted grilled cheese but they were accomodated and were happy. Two big and two little thumbs up.
Sunday morning: We made the trek down to Bubby's in Tribeca for brunch. It should be called "Grubby's". Wasn't all that impressed. The biscuits they brought to the table were dry as dust. The jam was slopped into an old mason jar and had crumbs in it. At first I thought they were seeds, but then I realized they were crumbs. Yuck. The walls and door jambs were black with grime. Really, I'm all for atmosphere but this place needed a good wipe-down. We had to remind the waitress to bring the fruit for my daughter's pancakes and my asparagus omelette arrived without the roasted red peppers listed in the menu. The food itself was good. Very light, fluffy pancakes. The omelette was good - eggs were done through and it was served hot (although I never did get those peppers - hmph). My dh had the lox scramble, which he enjoyed. The baby had another bowl of oatmeal . Two little thumbs up. Two big thumbs half down because of the sheer dirtiness of the place and the spotty service.
Because of the voluminous brunch, we never did eat in Brooklyn. My daughter has a thing for bridges (as well as lighthouses) and desperately wanted to see the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges but we just couldn't face another meal so soon after Bubby's. So, we'll have to save Grimaldi's for another trip. It looked (and smelled) good, though.
Again, thanks to everyone for your suggestions and comments. It felt great to have a list of places in my back pocket that were 'hound-recommended. I've gone far wrong in New York before, but this trip everything went (almost) right!