Before I was introduced to the Big Gay Ice Cream, my experience with soft serve was limited to McDonald’s. I’ve never liked it, and was hesitant to try what I’ve always viewed to be ice cream’s second-rate cousin. I’m happy to admit I was wrong when it comes to Big Gay.
Owners have created a cult following in New York City for a very good reason. Their soft-serve is developed in collaboration with Ronnybrook Farm Dairy and includes fun and creative ice creams like the Salty Pimp (my personal favourite, which includes injections of caramel and sprinklings of salt, and then dipped in chocolate).
Big Gay in the West Village is my favorite outpost to visit. They have a large seating area and we’ve always found a table, even on their busiest days. The staff are friendly, the atmosphere quirky and fun, and the ice creams are just amazing. What more could you ask for?
Last bite: A unique spin on old-school soft-serve is a winner with all age groups.
Children and ice cream . . . it’s a sure fire way to bribe, I mean, occasionally treat your kids as well as yourself. One of my absolutely favorite dessert spots in the city is Popbar in the West Village. Their iconic dessert is a custom gelato (or sorbet) on a stick, made from fresh ingredients in the store, daily. You choose your flavor (lots of fruity options like peach and mixed berry, vegan options, plus seasonal flavors like pumpkin and kiwi), then either eat it just like that, or have it dipped in mint, milk, dark or white chocolate, and covered with “poppings” like crushed waffle (my personal favorite), or nuts. It. Is. Heaven. My husband has been known to eat two at a time.
During the cooler months, Popbar serves some warmer options, like their wafflePops and hot chocolate-on-a-stick. The wafflePops are customised waffles on sticks, a nice twist on regular waffles. Pick your filling (blueberry, chocolate chip or plain, $3.49), dip it ($.50), add poppings ($.50 each), and whipped cream ($.50 each). We had a chocolate chip filling with milk chocolate, icing sugar, crushed waffles and whipped cream on top. Holy moly.
The other cooler-weather option we tried was the hot chocolate, made with chocolate on a stick. The high-quality Belgian chocolate blocks on sticks can be bought to make at home, or mixed in the store with warm milk. And yes, if you’re temped, you can eat it right off the stick, no milk needed. Simply dip the chocolate block in warm milk and stir it in — and voila, amazing hot chocolate.
On a very rainy day, Alexis and I were invited to come into Popbar with the kids and sample some of their tasty goods. As always, bringing the kids anywhere is absolute chaos these days — but watching the little ones go to town on their wafflePops and gelatos on sticks was entertaining (not to mention messy!). It was so cute to see them sitting on stools and eating at a table like big people. Little J enjoyed half of a pistachio pop and a dark-chocolate-dipped pumpkin-flavored pop. There was a minor debacle over sharing the pumpkin one, so I am declaring that the day’s winner in terms of flavors.
In my early days in New York, I was introduced to Kesté Pizza & Vino on Bleeker Street, by my Aussie expat friends. It was a welcome respite from the chaos in my life at that stage — pregnant, moving to New York City and starting my life from scratch. Inside Kesté, life was simpler. It was relaxed and casual, with welcoming staff, a cozy vibe, uh-mazing pizza, and understanding friends.
Missy E ate a lot of Kesté pizza when she was in utero, but none since popping out of it until my last birthday, when we decided to drop in for a casual lunch. As always, the staff was inviting and sat us straight away on an early Saturday afternoon, in a tiny little corner booth, backed up against the open kitchen.
It was pretty squishy at the table, but our location turned out to be a blessing when I realised that the glass behind me peeked straight into the kitchen and that Miss E could be briefly entertained by watching the pizzas being made from scratch, and then being baked in the oven. She also thought it would be fun to play with the wine bottles.
Even though it was my birthday (or maybe especially because it was my birthday?), Miss E was being a total demon child. Up, down, no, no, noooooooooo. The iPhone and then pizza occupied her briefly, but sadly this was one of the fastest and least relaxing visits I’ve had at Kesté. Ever.
Our visit might have been improved if the staff had been a bit friendlier towards us — especially towards Miss E. Yes, I know she can be INCREDIBLY annoying (such as on this particular day), but it would have made our lunch just that much more enjoyable and less stressful if we’d felt that they liked kids a bit more (or at least pretended to). While the staff were very efficient, we felt like they were really rushed on this particular day and our food was thrown at us, with no effort to make us comfortable, such as offers to get us things like a plastic cup for the child (I think we actually asked for this and it was ignored), or just basic welcoming conversation. It could just have been because we arrived during a busy time and the staff were super busy, so I would absolutely return with Miss E to give it another shot — if only because their pizza is SO FRICKING GOOD.
At Kesté, they make each pizza to order, from the crust up, so the pizzas super fresh in every possible way. They even make gluten-free pizzas for those who request them.
The tomato sauce on my Margherita ($13) is the perfect sweet tomato blend, with giant gloops of fresh mozzarella and little basil leaves. We ordered a pizza per adult — between the two of us, Missy E and I polished ours off. Alec was so hungry he ate his entire pizza.
We hope to return to Kesté on another day when our daughter is not trying to destroy our souls.
Last Bite: One of the best pies you’ll get in the city, at one of the most reasonable prices. The perfect place to introduce kids to what a quality pizza actually tastes like.
I have to admit, I like a challenge. When Alexis recently wrote a post on the best afternoon tea spots in New York City, and listed Tea & Sympathy as the least kid-friendly, it sparked my interest. “What?! But WHY isn’t it kid-friendly?” I thought. I LOVE afternoon tea and am constantly in search of proper English scones like I used to get at home. This overwhelming desire to immerse myself in a proper British afternoon instilled enough bravery in me to attempt an outing to Tea & Sympathy with Miss E.
Tea & Sympathy don’t take reservations. It’s a teeny tiny little cafe in the West Village (it fits about 30 people). It is literally so squishy that people are sandwiched together while eating their scones with jam and cream. Watch out for your elbows, there is hot tea on its way through!
It’s also a super popular afternoon tea spot, not just for the expat crowd like us, but for anyone craving a bit of REALLY good British food. While Tea & Sympathy is best-known for their afternoon tea, they actually serve a full British menu, including items like bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie and baked beans on toast with grated cheese. (Side bar: British baked beans are VERY different to ones made in the USA. They’re less sweet and more . . . beany. I found a store that stocks imported British baked beans and it seriously changed my life.)
Even though we arrived in prime lunch time (they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, none of this brunch business), we only waited a few moments to be seated at our table. Our friendly Irish waitress came by for a chat and took our order, and, pretty quickly, the order arrived, hassle -free. I ordered the Afternoon Tea For One (Assorted finger sandwiches, vegetarian upon request, scones with clotted cream and strawberry or raspberry jam, a selection of cakes and a pot of steaming hot tea, $35). Alec ordered the Shepherd’s Pie ($14.95), which he had been craving (we eat a lot of savoury pies in Australia and REALLY miss them).
Everything arrived pretty quickly, which was great considering how tightly we were squeezed into our table with a restless toddler. Our table was literally so small that we had to put the tea pot and my water glass on the windowsill.
Back in Sydney, we eat a lot of afternoon tea (well, I did anyway). The Aussie-style of afternoon tea is basically British, which is a bit different to the American style in subtle ways. The scones are drier and less sweet, the cake is a sponge with thick clotted cream (not sweet cream, so dense it stands on its own), and there is usually a bit of sticky date pudding. My afternoon tea was expensive, but so large it could be eaten by two people. It contained: three sandwiches, two scones, a huge slice of sponge cake with cream and jam, and a sticky date cupcake. Lucky for me our cheery waitress offered to package up everything I didn’t eat for me to finish off later.
Alec loved his shepherd’s pie — the perfect amount of fluffy mashed potato on top of a steaming boat of mince, with peas and corn on the side. Just like home.
The scones were phenomenal — I have to say here that I’ve grown to enjoy American scones too, but oh man, there is NOTHING like a traditional English scone with tea.
Next door is a store selling everything British you can imagine food-wise, plus some cute paraphernalia like teapots. They’re expensive, so shop with care. We were happy to be able to find some Mars Bars and Ribena. SCORE!
Last Bite: Tea & Sympathy is not for the feint of heart if you’re bringing small kids. Be prepared for a possible wait, super tight surrounding that require kids to stay seated. You will, however, have one of the most authentic afternoon teas in New York City, making it totally worth the adventure.
Highchairs: Yes. Stroller storage: Yes – in the store next door, for folding strollers. Easy access: Yes. Change tables: No. Kids’ menu: No.
Tea & Sympathy
108 Greenwich Ave,
New York, NY 10011
Phone: (212) 989 9735
Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-10:30pm, Sat & Sun 9:30am-10:30pm Get directons
Freshly grown and picked fare is what you’ll get from Rosemary’s, an Italian restaurant with a rooftop farm in the heart of Greenwich Village. Created by Carlos Suarez, the owner of Bobo, Rosemary’s is named after Suarez’s mother and is inspired by both her home in Lucca (Tuscany) and the rich heritage of the restaurant’s Greenwich Village corner.
Walking into the restaurant I was struck by several things — the sheer size (it’s huge, even by non-NYC-standards!) the natural light (it’s a photographer’s dream), and the friendly hostess who made us feel welcome straight away with her kind words about Cheese, and with how discretely and obligingly she whisked our stroller away for us (STROLLER STORAGE!!).
Executive Chef Wade Moises serves seasonal Italian dishes that highlight the herbs and produce from the rooftop farm above the restaurant, as well as house-made pastas and a selection of focaccia — as an homage to the location’s predecessor, Sutter’s Bakery.
Not only was our offspring welcomed by the staff with big smiles, she was also handed a Lorax-themed coloring sheet, a children’s menu, and Crayola crayons (as opposed to the generic kind most restaurants offer, that don’t actually color when you try and use them). Fancy!
The food was delicious. Collectively, our table ordered the following: Salmone (smoked salmon on toasted focaccia, with mascarpone and lemon jam, $12), Orecchiette (broccoli rabe, homemade sausage, $14), Pollo Orosto (roasted half chicken, egg salad, asparagus, spring onion, spring onion, lemon, garlic crostino $20), Frittata (vegetables, herbs, stracchino cheese, $12), and the Caprese Focaccia (mozzarella, tomato, basil, $7) for Cheese. My frittata was a bit of a letdown — it was cold and not that remarkable.
I ended up carb-loading on the caprese focaccia instead. The focaccia was nice and salty and olive oily, the cheese was mild and light. Cheese wasn’t a fan, even though she usually loves all things bread — instead she ate a few Plum Organics baby food pouches (there’s no accounting for toddler taste). Side bar: Does anyone else’s toddler have a baby food pouch addiction?! It’s getting expensive and really frustrating over here . . . especially when we are going to the effort of trying to expose her to new tastes and cuisines.
Eating out with Cheese has been a hit-and-miss experience of late. The big question looming over every meal: Will she sit long enough for us to eat, or will we take turns entertaining her and eating? This meal we got lucky. Even though she didn’t want to eat the food, she loved coloring with the pack Rosemary’s provided, and, when that lost its appeal, there was always our best friend, the iPhone. Her current favourite thing to do is surf YouTube for Disney collector egg videos. Yes, it’s a thing. A very weird thing.
Upstairs is the rooftop garden. It’s great for little ones to climb up the stairs and run around in the sun while you’re waiting for your table or food. While the veggie patch is probably a hit with the older kids, Cheese is more into stairs (up, down, up down!) and trying to climb over the balcony edges. I’d like to say it was an educational experience, but in reality, it was more about trying to take super-cute pictures and preventing Cheese from injuring herself.
The metal chicken with flowers was a particular hit. “Bock bock bock!”.
Our meal wound to an end and we took Cheese for one last run in the garden before heading off to our next destination. As far as meals with a toddler go, it was pretty relaxing, thanks to the welcoming staff and easy-going atmosphere. We often feel harried after a whirlwind meal with Cyclone Cheese, but this dining experience was remarkably stress-free, and everyone, including the toddler who hates sitting down, left in a strangely cheery mood. I’d like to thank Rosemary’s for this happy dining experience.
Last bite: Rosemary’s delivers a delicious and relaxing dining experience featuring extremely fresh ingredients from their roof-top farm, and is great for parents looking for a hip eatery, without the snobby atmosphere.
18 Greenwich Ave (between Charles St & 10th St)
New York, NY 10011
Phone: (212) 647-1818
Hours: Breakfast, weekdays from 8am-11:30am; Lunch, weekdays from noon-4:30pm; Brunch, weekends from 11:30am-4:30pm; Dinner, daily, 5pm – midnight
One super hot day wandering through the West Village, my family and I stumbled into Popbar in a heat-induced daze. Desperate for something cool, I ordered my first hand-crafted gelato on a stick (mango!) and there it was: A delicious, cooling treat that took me right back to the summers of childhood, riding my bicycle around the neighbourhood and getting sticky hands from eating popsicles.
Order your custom-made treat at the counter. First, choose your base flavor: PopGelato, PopSorbetto or YogurtPop. Then, either eat it as-is, or have it dipped in dark, milk or white chocolate. The last step is toppings – you can choose from a variety extras like crushed nuts, sprinkles and waffle cone to have your pop dipped in for the finishing touch.
The inside seating is limited to bar stools at the counter, so we usually sit on the bench outside, or walk across the street to the park and sit next to the fountain.
My favourite flavor is peach with milk chocolate and crushed waffle cone. Alec’s is strawberry with dark chocolate. A custom pop isn’t cheap. A basic pop starts at $4.50. Add 50c for dipping in chocolate and 50c for additional toppings. It’s worth it though – every bite is a taste of sweet, decadent heaven.
Last bite: A fast, sweet, customizable treat that will please the pickiest snackers in every family.
Today’s Brunch Special is courtesy of Lisa Greenwald, co-founder of Chewbeads and Juniorbeads, necklaces for adults and kids that are safe for kids to chew on. Lisa lives with her husband (and co-founder), Eric, and kids, Benjamin (almost five) and Jordan (almost two), in the West Village, her neighbourhood for the past eight years.
Tell us about Chewbeads and Juniorbeads Chewbeads was started shortly after my son Benjamin was born. He used to put all of my necklaces in his mouth. I knew that developing a necklace that was safe to chew on was a great idea, so I researched materials that were safe for babies and landed on silicone (commonly used in pacifiers and nipples). After several rounds of samples and revisions, we placed an order for the Holiday 2010 season and we started out receiving and shipping the beads right out of our apartment. We’ve since moved into a small office and outsourced our shipping and fulfillment to a company in New Jersey.
As for Juniorbeads, we started getting a ton of emails and pictures from our moms showing us how much their older kids also loved Chewbeads. They loved accessorizing as much as their moms, except that the Chewbeads were a bit long for them to wear. We decided to introduce a line just for the kids, making them 10 inches shorter, designing some bright vibrant color combinations, and adding a glow-in-the-dark line. Plus, because they are made with the same non-toxic silicone, it’s okay if they put them in their mouths!
On to the food! Your kids are almost five and two. At what age did you start taking them out to eat in restaurants?
We pretty much started taking them out to eat immediately. Babies are the easiest to take out, (so go out as much as you can when they are still in the infant car seat!), and we’ve found the hardest age is definitely around 2 (Jordan’s age)—they sit still for as long as it takes for them to eat and that’s it! After that, it’s pretty rough getting them to stay still (at least with boys!).
How do you handle eating out with multiple kids?
Benjamin is pretty good at this point, so we try to focus on taking turns entertaining Jordan. We always try to bring something for each of them to do, so we’ll bring some sort of game/entertainment and toy. As soon as we sit down we usually ask for bread and butter, as this usually gets their attention. Benjamin always likes to go to the bar himself and ask for a Sprite with cherries (this usually is pretty entertaining, as most bartenders aren’t sure what to make of him).
Any recent dining experiences you’d perhaps prefer to forget?
I recently had a meal with Jordan that ended with him splayed out on the floor pretty much asking to go to bed!
You live in a such a great neighbourhood for restaurants. What are your fave local places to eat out with the kids?
We love Malaparte and Bakehouse. Malaparte is sort of our go-to spot for Sunday night dinner. The owners are amazing and so accommodating to our kids. Bakehouse is great for brunch, especially if you’re meeting friends. They have big tables and, for the West Village, it’s pretty spacious and stroller-friendly—plus, the food is delicious.
Your fave spot to stop for treats?
We love Milk and Cookies—most amazing ice cream sandwiches (pick your cookies, pick your ice cream, everyone is happy).
Do you have any eating out traditions with your family?
We do go to Malaparte almost every Sunday—I think we’ve had everything on the menu, it’s amazing! In the summer, we go to Soho House on weekend mornings for a family swim and some breakfast.
Fave spot to go for special occasions or events?
During college football season, we try to meet up with friends at a local restaurant called Dublin 6. They have all the games on, a big, open space in the back, and they are happy to have the kids around (they’re located across the street from Bleecker Street Park, so they have to like kids!).
Number one tip for other parents when eating out with kids?
Just relax, and don’t think the meal is going to be peaceful and calm. Go with the flow and try and keep the kids entertained and full. Engage them in the meal whether it be asking for more bread, water, or a new spoon! If they are still at the age when you are holding them, definitely wear Chewbeads! It will keep them entertained and quiet, I swear!
Cupcakes, cupcakes, and more cupcakes. Magnolia is still the go-to place for cupcakes in New York. They’re the perfect mix of fluffy, moist base, with just the right amount of buttercream frosting. Visiting the original, and most famous, location in the West Village however, is a bit tricky when you factor in an infant. The shop is tiny, with nowhere to sit down at all. There is just enough room inside for a giant queue of tourists making the Magnolia stop on their trip.
This doesn’t mean that you should skip the deliciousness however. The best method is to come with a friend if possible, who can wait outside with the baby while you duck in and buy the food. Right across the road is a little square with benches and trees, so you can take your treats there to relax and eat. If your baby is more towards toddler age, head to the park attached to the square so you can let your kid run wild on the play equipment and still enjoy your precious cupcake.
Highchairs: No. Stroller storage: No. Easy access: Yes – one step. However, the bakery is always packed to the rafters, so you’ll be lucky to be able to squeeze in there with a stroller. Change tables: No. Kids’ menu: No. Baby-friendly rating: ——
Delicious organic, vegan food – that even the fussiest carnivore will enjoy. Welcome to Cafe Blossom.
Alec took me to Cafe Blossom for my first Mother’s Day. It was the perfect location for a special outing – unique (and cruelty-free!) dishes, made with flair and obvious love.
I was pleasantly surprised at how baby-friendly Cafe Blossom was. They couldn’t have been more accommodating, or friendly towards us and Cheese.
Cheese loved the (healthy!) fries, while I was enamoured with every dish on the menu. Usually I only get a choice of one or two vegetarian items, so to have an entire menu of dishes that I can eat is such happiness.
Cafe Blossom take reservations – which I would strongly recommend, especially on weekends.
Last bite: If you’re vegetarian, vegan, or just love delicious food, check out Cafe Blossom. Be sure to try our favourite dishes, the BLT and fruit crumble.
Highchairs: Yes. Stroller storage: Minimal. Bring a small, fold up stroller or carrier. Easy access: Yes. Change tables: No. Kids’ menu: No.
41 Carmine St, New York 10014
(Btwn Bedford & Bleecker St)
Phone: (646) 438 9939