There are precisely two – TWO – foods that all three of my kids will happily eat. Porridge and pancakes. That’s it. So, like true New Yorkers, we eat out a lot.
I’m constantly on the look out for good places to eat out with the kids, especially now that Baby J, 7 months, is also on the solids. It’s surprisingly rare to find fresh veg or fruit on children’s menus here in New York. Lots of places don’t have kids portions at all, so you have to order full size portions and take home the leftovers in doggy bags.
Here are my top picks for the most family-friendly places to eat in Lower Manhattan. If any of you have your own favourites, please add them in the comments at the bottom.
85 Broad Street, on the corner of Pearl
This Belgian cafe chain can be found all over New York, and it’s always a good option because it offers a welcome break from all the classic New York kids’ menu staples (mac n’ cheese, hot dogs, chicken tenders…). We always go for the Children’s Platter, which gives a choice of turkey or ham, guacamole or hummous, with cheddar, crudites, baguette and a small ramekin of chopped fruit, plus either juice or milk. All for $7.25, which is excellent value for money here in Manhattan.
If the kids have eaten reasonably well, as a treat afterwards we like to order a hot chocolate to share. It’s basically a bowl of hot milk with a little matching jug full of molten chocolate for you to artistically drizzle all over the froth. Ask the server for paper espresso cups so each child can enjoy pouring their own chocolate.
For the grownups, tea is also served in handless bowls, which I still find a little odd, but it’s well made with actual boiling water (trust me, this is rare here). Or wine by the glass. They do that too.
There are a lot of Le Pain Q’s in New York. There are two in Battery Park City alone, and there’s an enormous one right in the middle of the Financial District on 85 Broad Street, on the corner of Pearl. They all have large wooden tables, plenty of high chairs, and the bathrooms are big enough to fit all your children plus the pushchair when the kids inevitably decide they need the loo just as the food arrives.
130 Franklin Street, between Varick and West Broadway
This is a fairly new find of mine, the food was a little too fancy for our own kids’ (ridiculously limited) taste, but I liked it so much I want to include it in this list. There’s currently two in Manhattan; Tribeca, Midtown, and one in Williamsburg (Brooklyn).
The Tribeca location is very much how I pictured New York cafe culture based on movies – lots of scrubbed wooden communal tables, free wifi, and trendy customers and barristas. Tea and coffee is taken veeeeery seriously (tea served by the pot on little hot plates!! Yes!!).
The menu is simple and tasty, things like avocado toast and scrambled cheddar biscuit (a kind of scone Americans often have with eggs). In a rare fit of healthiness I had the tuna, avocado and poached egg salad, which was utterly, utterly delicious. I might possibly have wiped the plate clean with my finger when the kids weren’t looking.
There isn’t a baby changing table, but the bathroom is very large so plenty of space for you plus the pushchair, or you could change the baby on the sufficiently clean floor. However, the cafe does get crowded, not much space for a large pushchair.
230 Vesey Street between West and Liberty Streets
This is the food hall at Brookfield Place, just across from Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial. I’ve blogged about it before as it’s one of the things we like most about living in Battery Park City (you can read the full article here).
It’s excellent for young families as there’s so much choice. There’s everything from bagels, grilled cheese sandwiches and pizzas to cucumber rolls specially-made on request at the Blue Ribbon Sushi.
The place is enormous and can get pretty crowded at lunch times and weekends. One great attraction is the Saturday Morning Show, a free children’s dance party between 11-1pm with fully grown men dancing far more enthusiastically than you’d ever get back in Britain. It’s ace.
179 West Broadway between Leonard and Worth Streets
This is a proper restaurant complete with white tablecloths, but they are well geared up for kids and have a healthy, balanced children’s menu for $14. Choices include things like crudite with hummus and pitta, pigs in a blanket, pbjs (Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches) or mac n’ cheese, with either veggie sticks or french fries on the side. Desert is a choice of either apples and bananas in a little ramekin on the side, or an icecream. The only downside is that they’ll ask you to leave your pushchair outside unless your child is literally sleeping in it.
We go to the Tribeca location at 179 West Broadway, but there’s another one up on Columbus Circle, near Central Park.
255 Vesey Street, between West Street and North End Avenue
Another firm favourite of ours is the Blue Smoke ‘American south’ chain. There’s a special place by the bar to park your pushchair, and there’s plenty of high chairs, bathrooms and a baby changing table. Our girls particularly like using the foot pump at the large water trough to wash their hands.
The kids’ menu isn’t super-healthy but it goes down a treat; ours always go for the chicken breast with giant potato wedges, followed by a chocolate brownie. The best part for them is the free piggie-shaped cookie they are given to decorate with rainbow sprinkles, which get baked as you eat your meal. They also provide Wikki Stix to keep the children occupied until their food arrives.
There are two locations in Manhattan; Flatiron and Battery Park City.
270 Greenwich Street, between Warren and Murray Streets
This is a little unusual but it’s useful to know about if you just want something informal but with good, healthy choices. Pick up something from the supermarket’s hot or cold food bars, (charged by weight), pay, and then head upstairs to the enormous community room which has loads of tables, a bathroom, and a very basic soft play area in the corner. It’s a firm favourite with the local nannies as it’s big enough for unlimited pushchairs.
185 Greenwich Street, on the Brookfield Place end of the underground passage
C’s favourite cafe to take the kids for a quick fuel stop is Joe & The Juice which just opened in the new Westfield World Trade Center. It’s in the passage that connects Brookfield Place to the PATH train station and jaw-droppingly beautiful Oculus. Incidentally, this is a nice place to shelter from the weather and has what must surely be the world’s longest AV screen which lines the whole length of the passageway.
We mainly nip in for fresh juices and coffees, but they also serve toasted sandwiches which look delicious.
It plays what T calls “big movement music”, we all find ourselves merrily dancing around the big arm chairs and padded stools. There’s also a free photo booth which is always fun.
190 Front Street, between John and Fulton Streets
Finally, I asked T what her favourite cafe is, and she lobbied hard for Rtisan Coffee Project. It’s absolutely tiny, with one table inside and one on the street, but they serve lovely hot drinks and Blue Marble icecream tubs and Melt icecream sandwiches. It doesn’t have a bathroom or space for pushchairs, but it’s a good pitstop if you just need a drink and a cookie or muffin. It is also just round the corner from our favourite Imagination playground, on Front, John and South Streets.
This week’s Highs & Lows:
- Unearthing emergency warm clothing from the depths of the pushchair during the sudden cold snap on the school run today. Pity it was T’s BEAR hat, but still, I think I managed to pull it off…
- Going to see our v first American Football game with some friends at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. It was the New York Jets vs the Baltimore Ravens. J.E.T.S. Jets! Jets! Jets! Like so much of our experiences here, it felt unnervingly like being in a movie. I was completely sidetracked by the cheerleaders who must have been freezing
- The Attack of the Body Fluids. In the space between 6.15am – 8am today, the children managed to get wee, poo, milk spit up and breakfast-sticky fingers on my clothes. And of course it was a school day, when there’s a hard deadline to get everyone out the house. Sigh.