Ed's Chowder House
at The Empire Hotel, 44 West 63rd Street, New York, NY 10023; map); 212-956-1288; www.chinagrillmgt.com
Kids' Amenities: High chairs, stroller storage
Best Dishes for Kids: Great choice from prix-fixe kids menu; also regular kids' menu; fish and chips, chowders
Cost: Adult prix-fixe lunch $24, children's prix-fixe $15
A recent brunch with my daughter at Ed's Chowder House has convinced me that this is the best "grown-up" place to take kids to eat around Lincoln Center. Located in the Empire Hotel across the street from the New York City Opera, the restaurant is beautifully decorated in white (the whitewashed reference here might be New England, but it's hardly shack-like), and its large windows offer a placid view of Dante Square at the intersection of Broadway and Columbus Avenue.
With the 2011-12 season at Lincoln Center having just started, and the Nutcracker coming soon on stage, a visit to this East Coast seafood eatery is all you need to top off a cultural outing with a meal that pleases children and adults.
Ed's Chowder House has a great bread basket that includes two special items: cornbread in the shape of corn, and a jalapeño biscuit (in addition to standard, but delicious bread). If nothing else, your kid might just love those and call it a meal.
The restaurant has a typical childrens' menu all year round, offering the usual plain pasta and chicken fingers, among other items ($9-12). More recently, however, they introduced a special MasterCard/TimeOut New York kids' menu where for $15 dollars your child will get a generously served three-course meal, with a much more interesting range of choices. So to start, we ordered the crispy calamari with saffron aioli. There were plenty of calamari to share, especially as my daughter was fishing exclusively for the legs. The calamari couldn't have been crunchier.
I also went with a prix-fixe, three-course menu for myself ($24) and started with the salmon tartare. The fish was awesomely fresh, the seasoning there only to highlight it. The creme fraiche and caviar that topped it were also nice touches, and my daughter was intrigued by the little tiny "fish eggs"!
My entree was a pan-seared skate with Israeli couscous, delicious because of, or perhaps despite, its excesses: the fish was a tad salty, and the Israeli couscous a tad too buttery. What could have been a light dish was actually a combination that saturated your palate.
My daughter's main was a Chatham cod with potato chip crust, and if you just look at the picture, you realize this is probably beyond what a three-year-old can consume in one sitting—especially after the bread basket, calamari legs, and, I forgot to mention, oyster crackers (another big "distraction" at any seafood restaurant).
Still, the dish is appropriately mild, and she took a top-down approach, starting with the chips, moving on to a little bit of fish, and even eating a little spinach too. She happily consumed the rest of it that same night at home.
Both prix-fixes come with dessert, and my daughter enjoyed a honeydew sorbet, although what we all really fought over was the delicious dark chocolate pudding with Bourbon pecans. I would have been happy with the bourbon pecans alone, but the chocolate pudding provided a luscious and assertive creaminess to the combo.
For the parent, Ed's Chowder House offers not only serious seafood, but also a relaxed, adult environment (that's also comfortable for the little ones). And although adult prix-fixe lunches are all over town, a children's prix-fixe such as the one we found at Ed's Chowder House are a vote of confidence in our budding gourmets, and a wonderful example of a new wave of restaurants that believe that your child deserves better than chicken nuggets. Even if she didn't finish all her food, I was very pleased that she tried (and liked) all of it, and even more pleased to have dinner all taken care of that same night, thanks to the leftovers we took home.