It's vacation time, and the whole family is headed to New York City. Theater tickets? Check. Museum passes? Check. Restaurants? Hmmm. Sure, those theme-park-style "kid-friendly" restaurants entertain the kids -- but really, how many chicken fingers can you stomach when you're in one of the greatest restaurant towns in the world? (And how many families actually eat all their meals on butcher-block paper covered in crayons?)
New York City is filled with terrific restaurants that give the grown-ups a real night out but also welcome kids with creative options. You'll find that even New York's top restaurants are quite accommodating, especially if you eat on the early side and have well-behaved kids. And who knows? Exposing your children to more sophisticated food choices may even raise your kid's culinary I.Q. I know at least one seasoned 4-year-old whose favorite restaurant is Momofuku.
If you have an outlier in your group, find a place with outdoor seating to blunt any unforeseen accidents or meltdowns. Of course, if you're traveling with a group of toddlers, forget everything I just said and hit the early-bird special at the closest theme joint you can find.
Here are a few of my favorite places where grown-ups can eat out with their children in the Big Apple:
- Landmarc (179 W. Broadway, at Leonard St.; tel. 212/343-3883; www.landmarc-restaurant.com). With an easy-going atmosphere, a well-priced wine list, and a creative kids' menu, this smart American bistro is one of the best family restaurants in the city. Kids' choices include standards like grilled cheese sandwich, fish sticks, burgers, and pigs in a blanket as well as petite filet mignon, buttery orrechiette, and green eggs and ham pesto.
- Odeon (145 W. Broadway, at Thomas St.; tel. 212/233-0507; www.theodeonrestaurant.com). The 1980s happened here, but this joint has morphed into a neighborhood fixture that welcomes families with its unfailingly delicious, well-priced bistro food. No kids' menu, but there are state-of-the-art pommes frîtes.
- Sweetiepie (19 Greenwich Ave., between Christopher and 10th St.; tel. 212/337-3333; www.sweetiepierestaurant.com). Don't let this spot's high-fructose décor turn you away. With padded pink banquettes, walls of mirrors, and a gilded birdcage in the window, Sweetiepie looks like an old-timey soda shop plumped up on estrogen. But wait: That's a real bar there, no? And it's actually quite comfy and nicely lit. The thoughtful menu offers something for everyone, from mac 'n' cheese and spaghetti and meatballs to terrific salads and a smart cocktail list.
- Morandi (211 Waverly Place, at Charles St.; tel. 212/627-7575; www.morandiny.com). Lunch is the time to hit this sunny Italian trattoria, which sees a sprinkling of locals, actors, models, and European moguls relaxing with their families and having a good time. Kids of all ages are welcome here -- dogs, too (outside only, of course).
- Blue Smoke (116 E. 27th St., between Park and Lexington Ave.; tel 212/447-7733; www.bluesmoke.com). This one's a no-brainer. Restaurateur Danny Meyer has some of the most kid-friendly restaurants in the city, including Shake Shack and Tabla, the latter with its family-style platters. This airy space has big, wide booths that are perfect for families. Yes, it has a kids' menu, and yes, barbecue is messy, gloppy finger food. But Blue Smoke also has elegant grown-up fare, such as an English pea and asparagus salad or seared sea scallops in a charred leek vinaigrette.
- Sarabeth's Central Park South (40 Central Park South; tel. 212/826-5959; www.sarabethscps.com). A welcome break from the glut of Midtown themed restaurants, this serene spot is part of the Sarabeth's Kitchen empire, which started in 1981 as a bakery and jam shop on the Upper West Side. While you dine daintily on the Central Park Cobb salad (here with lobster, crabmeat, and shrimp), your kids can chow down on free-range-chicken potpie and the mini bacon-cheeseburgers. The outstanding breads and desserts (a generational common ground) will have everyone singing.
- Arthur Avenue, the Bronx. If you're visiting the Bronx Zoo or the New York Botanical Garden, don't miss a meal at the Little Italy of the Bronx, a stroll or a short cab ride away. You'll find a number of restaurants along Arthur Avenue serving family-style platters of delicious Southern Italian food and welcoming kids of all ages. At Dominick's (2335 Arthur Ave.; tel. 718-733-2807), order the kids some red-sauce spaghetti while you dine on impeccable baked clams and stuffed artichokes.
Talk with fellow Frommer's travelers on our New York Forum.