The wacky windows at Cowgirl Hall of Fame have been entertaining kids for upward of two decades.
Bulletin boards and blogs are filled with endless discussions of which restaurants to bring children to, and which to avoid. Some sites favor places that concentrate on simple-minded food like peanut butter or mac and cheese, neglecting the fact that our children are the gourmets of the future, and should be offered as broad a range of culinary experiences as possible. Others only pick places with a theme — the execrable Mars 2112 is a popular choice — figuring that the youngsters will be dazzled. They won’t.
Our list begins with the assumption that the food eaten by parent and child alike must be absolutely killer. Furthermore, at no place can it take longer than an hour to eat — you know how fidgety adults can be. The places we suggest also have food that’s not too fussy, decor that’s not too fragile, and lower noise levels than usual, to facilitate intergenerational verbal interaction.
Here, then, find our favorite places to take kids.
L & B Spumoni Garden comes alive in the warmer months.
10. L & B Spumoni Garden — The outdoor seating area is a great asset for families, and the series of three conjoined restaurants — Sicilian pizzeria, gelateria, and sit-down Italian-American restaurant — will delight kids. Needless to say, don’t miss the spumoni. 2725 86th Street, Gravesend, Brooklyn, 718-449-1230
9. Sri Ganesh’s Dosa House — No, it’s not an elephant-themed eatery, but a vegetarian south Indian café specializing in the crepes called dosas, and don’t you dare tell your kids they won’t like them, ’cause they will. The act of eating with one’s fingers is always fun, and in addition to the trademark dosas in myriad flavors, there are spongy dumplings called iddly, pancakes called utthapam, and even a cream-of-rice porridge called upma. The method of delivering dishes to the table, featuring numbers on poles, is itself worth a visit. 809 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, New Jersey, 201-222-3883
8. A Taste of Seafood — This Harlem mainstay offers all sorts of bargain fried and steamed seafood, and it’s hard to imagine children wouldn’t be delighted by the catalog of sides — including faves like mac and cheese, cornbread, french fries, string beans, and Jamaican dirty rice. While the downstairs is often thronged, the spacious upstairs dining room gives youngsters room to run. 59 East 125th Street, Harlem, 212-831-5584
7. John’s Pizzeria — One of the city’s oldest pizzerias, the original Greenwich Village location is painted with crude murals of Capri’s Blue Grotto, giving the place a cavelike quality, and the furniture has long since been carved to near-obliteration with the initials of countless patrons, so there’s nothing either breakable or mar-able. And what kid doesn’t love the lush coal-oven style of pizza making? 278 Bleecker Street, Greenwich Village, 212-243-1680
6. Arthur Avenue Retail Market — The indoor market was founded in 1940 by Mayor Fiorella La Guardia to get the pushcarts off the streets, and the stalls form a sort of living museum for kids, good for browsing before you sit down at the Café al Mercato, where excellent pizzas, pastas, seafood salads, and oil-slicked vegetables are served. The kids can pick for themselves by pointing. 2344 Arthur Avenue, Belmont, the Bronx, 718-364-7681
Mount Vesuvius towers overhead at John’s Pizzeria.
Basted with lard and butter, the elemental hot dog at Bark. Now load it up!
5. East Ocean Palace — Children love dumplings, but maybe you don’t want to subject them to the tumult of Manhattan’s football-field-size dim sum establishments. East Ocean Palace offers high-quality dim sum in a more relaxed atmosphere, and, come Saturday and Sunday, the place is filled with families. Evening brings a regular Cantonese menu, another childhood favorite. 113-09 Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills, Queens, 718-268-1688
4. Cowgirl Hall of Fame — With a menu running from Southern cooking to Tex-Mex to classic American standards, and a decor celebrating cowgirls and country-western singers, Cowgirl is the mainstay of students and their parents from several schools in the neighborhood, and a store on the premises sells small toys and candy from the past. 519 Hudson Street, West Village, 212-627-6657
3. Bark Hot Dogs — What young person doesn’t appreciate a perfect hot dog? Bark’s pedigreed dogs arrive in all sorts of permutations — always good to give kids a choice — and many of the peripheral menu items, including the city’s best toasted cheese and maverick daily specials, will appeal to parents, too. 474 Bergen Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn, 718-789-1939
2. Hill Country — The Texas memorabilia and documentary photos are enough to fascinate kids, and the way smoked meats are vended by the pound on butcher paper is a trip back in time. The young will be delighted that they can eat with their fingers, and the brisket and ribs are every bit as good as they’ll find when they visit the Lone Star State. 30 West 26th Street, Flatiron, 212-255-4544
1. Roberta’s — At around 6 every evening the strollers roll in, as loft-dwelling families from the neighborhood take their place at the rustic communal tables for a very pleasant meal. In colder months, a cheery bonfire burns in the back yard, and kids will love watching the radio hosts at work in the boxcar station at the rear of the premises at this glorified pizza parlor, which pushes all the parents’ local and sustainable buttons, too. 261 Moore Street, Bushwick, Brooklyn, 718-417-1118
Line up to buy your ‘cue by the pound at Hill Country, permitting you to sample a broad range of meats.
A typical selection of ‘cue — served with white bread or soda crackers, with veggies available as sides.