With an unseasonably warm forecast, we head down to DUMBO for lunch at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Since we’ve been craving sunshine for months, we decided to pick up a sandwich at Foragers City Grocer and head on down to the park to eat and let the Cheese run free.
Foragers have a great range of locally-sourced breads, groceries and snacks, as well sandwich and smoothie bars. While you can perch on stools and eat in, we prefer to take everything to go.
The area of Brooklyn Bridge Park directly under the Manhattan Bridge has possibly the best views of both bridges and Manhattan that you’ll see anywhere. It also has a huge grassy area, so bring a ball for the kids to kick around, or a blanket to sit on. The pirate playground that sits in this area of the park was severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy – we were thrilled to see that it has been repaired and is due to re-open next month.
Admission: I have a huge chocolate addiction. After a sunny day turned cold, we head to our go-to place for delicious chocolate in DUMBO, Jacques Torres. Here’s what you need to know about Jacques Torres. The hot chocolate is so think it’s like mud. Delicious, but there is a high chance you’ll feel ill after drinking it. Don’t be weak though, order it while the weather is still crisp. The signature cookies are amazing – huge chunks of chocolate and minimal actual cookie. Planning to take home some chocolate for later? Try our favourites, the chocolate-covered almonds. They’re so moreish that they won’t last the subway ride home.
Highchairs: No. Stroller storage: No. Easy access: No. There are a few steep steps to get in. Change tables: No. Kids’ menu: No.
62 Water St,
Phone: (718) 875 1269
Hours: Mon-Sat 9am-8pm Sun 10am-6pm
After a gluttonous afternoon we decided to end it with … even more food, of course. Our target – the Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo, for pastries that would blow our calorie counts for the next month.
What was totally surprising was how easy it was to stop by here with a toddler. I’d previously only ordered to go from the front counter, not realising they have a large back garden area, enclosed like a conservatorium. Lots of tables free, lots of space – no one caring if our manic toddler ran around like a nut case. Miss Cheese was in heaven with all the treats coming her way – hot chocolate, croissant, cream puffs. No wonder she was manic … My favourite thing to order here is the DKA (“Dominique’s Kouign Amann”). It doesn’t look like much (it looks kinda like a rock cake), but it’s devine. The best description comes from their website: “Tender, flaky, croissant-like dough with a caramelized crunchy crust”. Yes please.
Highchairs: No. Stroller storage: No. The front of the store is a bit tight, but they have a large (enclosed) garden out the back where your giant stroller will fit. Easy access: Yes. Change tables: No. Kids’ menu: No. Baby-friendly rating: ♥♥—
After a failed attempt to visit the new Meatball Shop in Chelsea (it wasn’t open despite the website saying it was, so I’m still not sure what happened there), we were left with a group of four adults and one kidlet for lunch at prime time in Chelsea. Not a positive start to the afternoon. Lucky, our friend suggested a local fave of his, The Grey Dog, and, best of all, they had a table free so we could sit down straight away.
On its website, The Grey Dog calls itself the “best cafe in New York”. This is a HUGE call to make, people. Huge. I have to admit though, that it’s right up there – we had a really great experience at this cafe.
When you enter, the waitstaff will show you your table – but you order and pay at the bar. This is a little disorganised when the cafe’s full – or when, like us, you’re juggling a whingy toddler. On the plus side, it allows for a very fast getaway after your meal.
We just missed the breakfast menu (it ends at 3pm), but were just as happy with the lunch menu offerings. As was the Cheese. She absolutely loved trying everything, from the soup to my sandwich and the table favourite, sweet potato fries.
The cafe does have high chairs, but with the way the tables are arrange, close to the walls and tightly together, I can see it would be hard to actually fit a highchair at your table unless you had an uneven number of people with you.
What we loved – the food was delicious and fast. Everything was super tasty and freshly made. They didn’t mind that we wedged the toddler between us on a window ledge so she could pilfer parts of our meals and bang on the window alternatively (sorry again for that, people sitting next to us …).
We will absolutely be back. I can see The Grey Dog becoming one of our neighbourhood go-tos.
Highchairs:Yes – it’s a tight fit though to squeeze them in next to you at a table. Stroller storage: Minimal. We folded our umbrella stroller and wedged it in a space next to our table. Easy access: Yes. There is a ramp near the exit, next to the main entrance. Change tables: No. There is however a large wooden bench in the restrooms that could be used as a change table. Kids’ menu: No. Baby-friendly rating: ♥♥—
The Grey Dog
242 W 16th St,
New York, NY
Phone: (212) 229 2345
On a day with torrential rain and a toddler with cabin fever, we ventured out for hot chocolate and snacks at the nearby Nunu Chocolates.
It’s not exactly the most kid-friendly establishment around, but the owners are lovely and adore kids, so made us feel totally at home. Sure we could leave our giant stroller infront of their register. Sure they could fit us at a table (we then watch as they kick their employees off a long bench to continue whatever they were doing elsewhere). We love you too, Nunu!
Nunu Chocolates are sold all over the city, and made right here in their flagship store in Brooklyn. They serve a limited menu of beverages, chocolates and pastries, but what else do you want from a chocolate shop?
Cheese adored the hot chocolate – it turned her mood from feral toddler to charming kid. She also loved grabbing the teaspoon and feeding herself the hot chocolate. Bring wipes if you’re going to attempt to give your small child freedom with chocolately beverages.
We had a wonderful break from the nasty weather at Nunu Chocolate, and felt so welcome that we will most definitely return over and over again. Don’t let our low baby-friendly rating stop you from bringing your small kids. Despite physical limitations, it’s a real find for families in the neighbourhood.
Highchairs: No. Stroller storage: Minimal. Bring a folding stroller or carrier if possible. Easy access: No – several steep stairs. Change tables: No. Kids’ menu: No.
With the weather so cold and foul, I planned a lunch with friends at Smorgas Chef @ Scandinavia House purely because they also have a playroom in the building, and because they take reservations for brunch. Smorgas is known for its Scandinavian food, which makes most people think of meatballs. Being vegetarian, obviously meatballs are out for us – thankfully their brunch menu is full of traditional brunchy fare that everyone will like, including picky toddlers.
On arriving, we were met by a friendly hostess who immediately offered us a high chair and kids menu with crayons, and directed us to the stroller parking area. Immediate score! Between the waffles we ordered for the Cheese off the kid’s menu and the crayons, our cheesy little friend was having a ball.
Our server was a bit slow to take our order – and we had some really annoying screw ups with my order in the kitchen. Take note – do not try and make changes to any items on the menu, or you’ll be sorry! Also, if you’re a vegetarian, check your dish carefully for meat as you eat it.
The food was pretty good – the Cheese loved her waffles (which came with a little milk box).
After lunch we made our way to the Heimbold Family Children’s Playing and Learning Center upstairs. It was a pretty cute little area – lots of engaging things for kids to play with, like a slide, train table, play kitchen and mushroom house. It was also completely packed with parents and kids, so it wasn’t the best experience – toddlers all wanting to play with the same toys … cue all kinds of excitement!
Would we be back? Probably not to the restaurant, unless we wanted to go to the play space again. When the weather is nasty out, it’s definitely a really good option for a Saturday afternoon.
Highchairs: Yes. Stokke of course! Stroller storage: Lots – bring your giant stroller if needs be. Easy access: Yes. They have elevator access. Change tables: Yes – although you have to get the elevator down to the floor below to use the restrooms, which is a bit odd. Kids’ menu: Yes. Baby-friendly rating: ♥♥♥♥♥
It seems like something as simple as a really good crepe can be hard to find. We’ve been obsessed with the Vive La Crepe chain for a while, and last weekend went to SoHo just for crepes.
The store is run very efficiently. Order and pay at the counter, and your crepe will be ready within about 10 minutes. They’re super friendly towards the babes, and will bring over your food if they see you have your hands full.
What makes them so good? The perfect batter, crisp on the edges, soft and slightly sweet in the middle, and plenty of fresh toppings like mozzarella, tomato and basil (my favourite). Their dessert crepes also rock my world – we can never settle at just one savoury crepe, we always need to go back for more.
It turns out that babies have good taste and love crepes too. Cheese went wild for the batter as well as the fillings – gooey cheese in particular. They’re fab for kids cos they can hold pieces in their hands and it doesn’t make too much of a mess.
The only downside is this SoHo location is a bit cramped when you bring a baby. The chain has various locations though, and we’ve also been to Vive La Crepe at Union Square, which had lots more space for strollers as well as lots more tables in general, so you don’t have to stalk other diners to get a seat. Note – none of the locations that we’ve been to have highchairs, so prepare to balance your kid on your lap and eat one-handed – which is actually fine because you can easily do this with the crepes (they come folded in a triangle shape in a little paper cone). Vive la crepe! See you again soon!
Highchairs: No. Stroller storage: No. There is a small space next to the counter where you can fold a stroller, or if it’s pretty empty inside you can park the stroller next to your table. Easy access: Yes. One step to get in. Change tables: No. Kids’ menu: No.
Vive La Crepes
51 Spring St,
New York, NY 10012
Phone: (646) 484 6897
Hours: Mon-Sat 8am-12am, Sun 9am-12am
I am powerless to resist a good cupcake. The ladies behind Georgetown Cupcakes certainly know what they’re doing. Their cupcakes are almost perfect and my current favorites. What makes them so good? The combination of fluffy, moist base and buttercream swirl, in the perfect ratio. I also love their inventive flavours, like cookies and cream cheesecake.
It was a pleasant surprise to see that the Georgetown Cupcakes in SoHo is great place for an afternoon tea stop with kids. They have a few tables to sit at so you’ll have to strike it lucky to get a spot. The line for cupcakes moves very quickly thanks to their organisation and efficiency, which is another thing I love. You give your order and pay, then move down to the next counter where someone else has already boxed your order for you. Super fast, in and out – perfect when you’ve got a fussy kiddo.
Highchairs: No. Stroller storage: No. You can wheel your stroller in and park it by your table, or fold it and keep it with you if it’s small. Easy access: Yes. Change tables: No. Kids’ menu: No. Baby-friendly rating: ♥—-
I had a massive craving for mac & cheese, so off we went on a freezing cold day to Sarita’s Macaroni & Cheese – AKA S’MAC. There are so many things I love about S’MAC – the number one thing being they share my philosophy that mac & cheese is more than just a side dish – it’s a genre of meal to be celebrated.
The restaurant is pretty tiny, with tables squished together. Come on a weekend at peak lunch time and be prepared to stalk other diners to score a table.
There are several size options for your mac & cheese. I like the Major Munch because it means I have leftovers to take home.
You will also be overwhelmed with options for your mac dish – do you want it classic, with veggies, garlic or meat mixed in? If you have special dietary needs you’re taken care of. S’MAC offers gluten-free and multi-grain pasta, as well as lactose-reduced and vegan cheese.
When your dish arrives (they’re pretty quick!), it comes piping hot in a little pan. It’s not the prettiest dish in the world, but damn, it sure is tasty!
While the restaurant isn’t the most baby-friendly place around, it’s very welcoming to kids with its chaotic, colourful environment, and fun food that most kids will love.
Highchairs: No. Stroller storage: No. This place is super tiny. Bring a carrier or folding stroller and prepare to squeeze in. Easy access: Yes. One step to get in the entrance. Change tables: No. Kids’ menu: No. But did I mention pretty much all they serve is mac & cheese? Baby-friendly rating: ♥—-
With Restaurant Week hitting New York, I was excited to try out Norma’s for their all-day breakfast. The Restaurant Week deal was pretty sweet ($25pp for continental bread basket, entree and smoothie), and made the over-the-top prices seem more reasonable. We booked a table for 9am on a Thursday since I thought it would be a good time with Cheese’s naps. Sadly, when we arrived, we found out that the Restaurant Week promotion was only in effect from midday, despite this not being written anywhere on the Restaurant Week promotional material. Since we’d come so far and we already being led to our table, we felt like we had to sit down and order a ridiculously expensive breakfast. So disappointing.
Note to those visiting Norma’s for the first time. The dishes are all stupidly expensive. They average at about $21 an entree. They are huge however and will definitely fill you up for a while. Where you have to watch out is the extras that they they push on you. When we sat down, a waiter approached and gave us free samples of a smoothie (which we were supposed to receive as part of the Restaurant Week deal), and offered us glasses of juice from a pitcher instead of water. An unsuspecting diner might think this was either a) complimentary or b) reasonably priced. Just so you know, it’s neither. The orange juice is $9. Apparently you get unlimited refills, but still. $9. Be warned!
I was hoping that Norma’s would be really kid-friendly after I read their website. The whimsical, fun description of the restaurant is below:
“Breakfast for lunch? Always.
Will I still be hungry? You gotta be kidding.
Do we like kids? More than whipped cream.”
Sadly the reality was very different. While they did have a highchair, that was the extent of the baby-friendliness. The menu is so exorbitantly-priced that it’s way too pricey to order a kid their own meal, and there is no separate kid’s menu. Our waiter was aloof and made us feel unwelcome. The food took forever to come out. We had to break out the Cheddar Bunnies to keep Cheese amused while we were waiting.
Alec ordered the Sweet Suzy. He said it was amazing and was really happy with his dish.
I ordered Nutella Packed Jacks and while the fruit was really fresh and sweet, the pancakes were undercooked and doughy. Usually I’d send them back, but it had taken so long for us to get them that there wasn’t time before we had to leave and take Cheese home for a nap.
I have to make a note here to say that we came on a weekday – the restaurant may be more kid-friendly on weekends. If you’re keen to give it a try, book a table to minimise your wait. They have long queues every day of the week as they have a restaurant that seats 100 and service the hotel they’re housed in, which has 700 rooms.
Highchairs: Yes. Stroller storage: Minimal. Bring a folding stroller or carrier. Easy access: Yes. They have elevator access. Change tables: I didn’t get the chance to check out the restrooms, but there is ample space to change a baby on the benches in the foyer. Kids’ menu: No, but lots of food kids can share with you. At an average of $21 per entree, you probably won’t want to buy them their own dish. Baby-friendly rating: ♥—-
At Le Parker Meridien
119 W 56th St,
New York, NY 10019