Editor's note: Eating out with kids can be a challenge—especially in New York. Here to show you around NY's kid-friendly spots is Aya Tanaka. Enjoy!
505 Columbus Avenue, New York NY 10024 (at 84th Street; map); 212-873-0200; kefirestaurant.com
Kids' menu: Yes
Kids' Amenities: High chairs, stroller storage, crayons, activity sheet
Best Dishes for Kids: Meatballs, mac & cheese, sheep's milk ravioli
Cost: $6.75-$9.95 for appetizers, $9.95-17.50 for main courses, $3.95 to $7.95 for desserts
Kefi, now in its second incarnation since 2007 on Columbus Avenue and West 84th Street, is big at 200 seats on three levels. At peak times, the restaurant can feel cramped and noisy; still, going to Kefi with your kids is a great bet. Thanks to Chef Michael Psilakis' focus on clean flavors and fresh ingredients, the solid menu can please not only food-loving parents but also their little ones.
We went to Kefi at 6pm on a Monday evening and were swiftly accommodated. Our stroller was put away and a highchair was provided upon request. Crayons, an activity sheet, and bread were all brought to the table to pacify the little one. Service was attentive and child-friendly throughout the evening. Even an intense-looking Chef Psilakis smilingly played with my daughter when he was out and about in the dining room.
Although Kefi has a children's menu, its regular menu provides many opportunities to share plates with children. From the appetizer menu, children with milder preferences may like the warm fingerling potato salad with string beans, feta and olives ($6.95), or the plate of spreads for two ($9.95), featuring yogurt, eggplant and chickpea spreads, and taramasalata. More adventurous little eaters may like the crispy calamari ($7.50), grilled sardines ($8.95), and crispy sweetbreads ($7.95).
We ordered the pork-and-beef meatballs($6.95)—moist, light, and a little crumbly. My daughter promptly devoured two of the four meatballs in the dish while my husband and I happily split the remainder with the accompanying garlic, olive, and scallion-flavored chunky tomato sauce.
The crispy cod ($7.50) appetizer was not particularly crispy, but the mashed potatoes with roasted tomatoes were nice: light and garlicky. The fish was appropriately flaky, dressed with lemon juice and and a fruity olive oil that's used to great effect in other dishes (like the the grilled branzino with roasted fingerlings ($17.50)).
My daughter and I shared a main course of sheep's milk dumplings with spicy lamb sausage ($13.95)—the spicy merguez-like sausages for me and the pillowy soft dumplings for her. Topped with roasted tomatoes and feta cheese, it further benefitted from a generous addition of spinach and the crunch of toasted pine nuts.
Kefi boasts a few other macoronia (pasta) dishes that may please young palates, such as the sheep's milk ravioli with brown butter and sage ($9.95), Kefi Mac & Cheese ($9.95), and flat pasta with braised rabbit ($12.95).
The lamb burger ($15.95) was succulent, satisfying, and spicy, thanks to a tangy-spicy, feta cheese-peperoncini sauce. My daughter tried a sauceless corner of the burger, but wasn't too keen on it.
For dessert we shared an airy and moist walnut cake with walnut ice cream ($5.95). Made with turnips, it had the coarse crumb of a carrot cake. It had plenty of spice and was well complemented by a chunky walnut ice cream. Also on the dessert menu and sure to please children are a few other flavors of ice cream ($3.95), chocolate mousse ($7.95), Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts ($4.95) and rice pudding ($5.95).
Kefi is very well-priced: the most expensive item on its regular menu is the grilled branzino at $17.50. If you have early dinners with your children, their early-bird special is one of the best in town: before 6pm you can enjoy a three-course dinner for $16.50. At lunch, prices are slightly lower and the menu features more salads and sandwich/soup/salad combinations.