Ask the Critic: Where Can I Take a Well-Behaved Baby?
Editor's note: Here to answer your questions is senior managing editor, former SENY editor, and frequent author of our NYC restaurant reviews Carey Jones. We'll take a few of your questions each week and give you the New York restaurant advice you're looking for. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question!
This week on Ask the Critic: A food-loving couple who want to dine well in New York but want their baby to be welcome, too. (Pass on the Babygate.)
Where Can I Take a Well-Behaved Baby?
Carey, What would you recommend as the most baby-friendly nice restaurants in NYC? I have a good baby (no, really!) who does great at restaurants. But I understand that even good babies are not appropriate guests at many higher-end restaurants. My husband and I would like to eat well when we visit for a day or two this winter and want to bring our baby with us. We are totally willing to visit for lunch instead of dinner and/or take the earliest dinner reservation available. We would of course warn the restaurant that we are bringing her, take her out at the first sign of fussiness, and tip generously.
It's true that Manhattan can seem quite hostile to young children—although I'd venture to say that if you do call restaurants ahead of time, and tell them just what you said here, many would welcome you. Even if, like you suggest, they'd prefer you come early or for lunch.
But I wouldn't want to presume—so instead of giving you my own best guess, I ran your question by a number of high-end chefs, managers, and restaurant owners. Here are just a few who would welcome you; all of their restaurants are Serious Eats-approved.
Nick Anderer, Executive Chef/Partner at Maialino
"Maialino is a great restaurant for kids! We welcome families to bring their little ones as we offer high chairs as well as booster seats. Because these seats are limited, it is helpful to mention this information while making a reservation so we can make the proper accommodations. The menu is very kid-friendly as well, offering kid pasta options like spaghetti with tomato sauce or pasta with butter or olive oil. Brunch is also a great time for the whole family to enjoy with menu options like pancakes, oatmeal and eggs just the way they like them."
Julia Travis, General Manager of Cull & Pistol
"While we aren't able to accommodate strollers, we're always happy to accommodate kids! We have high-chairs and some kid-friendly menu offers like fish & chips or a hot dog (typically only offered from the Shack in the Back, next door). However, even cooler than that is the number of kids who are adventurous eaters and had their first oysters here with us! That having been said, we would not recommend bringing kids during Happy Hour when seating is only at the bar or high tables, not quite as easy with the little ones...."
Alicia Nosenzo, co-owner of Perilla, Kin Shop, and The Marrow
"We are actually pretty kid-friendly in all our restaurants, and people do bring in their children all the time. We do not supply crayons and coloring books or anything like that, but we get quite a few kids and babies. Honestly we do not mind them, especially when they are well behaved. We've had people bring in babies after 9 p.m. in their strollers. Some babies seem to like the ambient noise and sleep right through it. I really appreciate when people are sensitive to the other diners around them, and if the baby cries or is fussy takes them for a walk away from the other tables. There are lots of places in the West Village that I think are similar in philosophy. We live in a very urban environment, and I think a lot of New York kids grow up eating in restaurants, unlike when I was a kid and we rarely went to restaurants."
Justin Hollander, general manager of Saul
"I'd say we're kid-friendly. There are definitely no parameters for our guests dining with children. While we don't have a kids' menu, we are very verbally accommodating. If a child wants something that's not on the menu, we'll do our best to make it happen. We don't usually have any issues with other guests."
I also reached out to some Serious Eats alums who have kids of their own for their thoughts.
"In general, I would recommend going early (lunch is also a good idea!) and to places that are noisy, or places that are less cozy (so you aren't right on top of your neighbors). At a noisy restaurant, other diners are less likely to notice/hear a fussy little one. Balthazar might be good, or Lafayette (we haven't taken our son Malcolm to either, for the record). Momofuku Ssam Bar is near empty at lunch, and we went there with Malcolm when he was less than 12 months old and that was fine."
"Some of the fancy food hall places might work—or would be good to keep in mind for lunch options while she visits. We often go to the Plaza Food Hall before/after a visit to Central Park. The Todd English part can be very good if you pick the right item, and the expanded part has some good vendors in there. Always lots of families so you never feel like an asshat dragging a kid in there. And there's Gotham West Market."
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