Ask the Critics: What's a Fun Restaurant for a Teenager?
Marisa M. asks: I'm taking my young teenage cousin to dinner this week. Can you think of somewhere that's not too challenging that has like, yummy burgers or pizza and good people watching? Last time we went to Veselka. I want to take her to Momofuku Milk Bar for dessert, so somewhere in that vague vicinity would be great.
Dear Marisa: Teenagers can be tough dining companions because they don't always have adventurous palates. But luckily New York City is filled with dining options that can please both you and your cousin.
First off, how about Caracas Arepa Bar? Made from masa, arepas are small patties stuffed with meats or other fillings. They might sound exotic to a teenager, but they are just like regular sandwiches with a South American twist. I particularly like the one with shredded beef, cheese, and plantains, but they also have simpler ones with chicken or cheese. Plus, Caracas offers a tasty guacamole served with plantain chips, and what teenager doesn't like guacamole?
When I was a teenager, I really enjoyed going to the Coffee Shop. The Brazilian-influenced food isn't going to win any Michelin stars, but the standards aren't too bad. The coconut shrimp is good (really, how can you not like anything deep fried and dredged in coconut?), as are the barbecue chicken sandwich and the rosemary-flecked french fries. But the real reason for going is for the people watching -- both the model-esque waitstaff and the too-cool-for-school (or so they think) crowd.
I also thought Mama's Food Shop was awesome when I was younger. I mean, $10 for a hunkering plate of fried chicken and two Southern-style sides in a super-quirky atmosphere (portraits of various "mamas" deck the walls). Plus it's very vegetarian-friendly, which may be applicable to you, since it seems like every teenager has a vegetarian phase.
For something equally fun but meat-centric, there's always Crif Dogs. No teen should find fault with a bacon-wrapped hot dog. Plus, if you go in the evening, you can gawk at the people waiting on line to get into PDT.
I'd also suggest Mono+Mono, which I reviewed recently. The ambiance is really cool (especially if your cousin is a music fan), and the Korean-style fried chicken is succulent and probably something your teenage cousin hasn't eaten before (but will surely like).
And finally, if it's pizza that you're looking for, I'd go with Lil' Frankie's. The restaurant is low-key and reminds me of grandma's living room, plus the wood-oven pizza is quite good. It's also cheaper and has less of a wait than nearby pizza places like Motorino.
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