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Top New York City Restaurants for the Toddler Set

This weekend’s New York Time featured a short and slightly quirky article about some of the more surprising city restaurants that welcome the toddler crowd. For the most part, they do not feature children’s menus with their ubiquitous chicken fingers and French fries, but they do offer a number of items that most toddlers will love and, even better, possess a staff that is happy to see their youngest customers.

The article made me laugh. I lived in Los Angeles when my oldest, now 10, was a toddler, and one of my favorite activities was to take him out to brunch, lunch and dinner. While I never took him to a four-star restaurant, by the time he was three he had dined at Hal’s, Fred 62, and The Farm, where he was a huge fan of the Caesar salad. Admittedly, I was lucky. If there is a dining-out gene, my son has inherited it, and my husband and I were routinely complemented by fellow guests on our little one’s excellent manners.

Or maybe my fellow patrons were lying to us. The vitriol in the New York Times’ comments section was blistering toward parents who have the temerity to take their children out to dine. “Over the top sense of entitlement … GET A BABYSITTER,” opined one Peter of Brooklyn.  “People who force their toddlers on others in enclosed public spaces like fine restaurants (and airplanes) are even more selfish than those who insist on talking on cell phones in such places,” wrote another. Many others thanked the New York Times for tipping them off to restaurants they will now avoid.

I confess I never quite get the anger and passion surrounding the topic of children in public places. I don’t know about anyone else on this board, but before I had the boys, I didn’t spend five minutes of my life thinking about this issue. If they weren’t my children, they didn’t impact my enjoyment of the food. I’ve no recall of out-of-control children running around restaurants, or otherwise wreaking havoc on a regular basis. (OK, I was once in a Japanese restaurant where a elementary aged patron played a toy French horn while his adoring parents watched, but the staff put an end to that fast).

So what about you? Do you secretly with the majority of those who took the time to complain on the Times’ website or do you think they are just a bunch of killjoy cranks? Do you take your young ones out to fine dining establishments, or have you resigned yourself to a life of pizza parlors and kid friendly chains such as Olive Garden till your children are older?

As for us, I’m planning to take my boys to one of the restaurants the Times mentioned within the next few weeks. We are leaning toward Latino-Indian restaurant Vermilion, famous for its entrees with “heat,” which also offers free mini-thalis for children under five, as well as a “milder adaption” menu set for the more sensitive taste buds of the young set.  But our other choices are excellent and include Gramercy Tavern, Fred’s at Barney’s New York, L’Atelier De Joel Robuchon and Café Boulud. After all, someone has to help them out so they don’t lose business as a result of being outed for being parent friendly.

Photo Source: Creative Commons.

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