Manhattan for a day with a toddler
We'll be in Manhattan for two dinners and one full day of exploring with a 2.5 year old. We're coming from LA. The only set place we have to be is near NYU for a picnic lunch with friends. I'd love any suggestions on where to get food for the picnic (near NYU) and any places for snacks and treats throughout the day. I'm curious about Momofuku because I've read a lot about it.
Our plans right now are open and I'm the kind of person who will plan the day around food. My toddler will be happy to be at a park and maybe hit up the zoo. After Manhattan we're off to Rhinebeck for a few days.
Near the Central Park Zoo you might try Serendipity. A bit of a walk, but not too bad. My grandchildren (3 and 5) liked riding the Roosevelt Island Tram which is right near there.
We also took them down to Chinatown which they loved. All of the restaurants down there are kid friendly.
Bleeker St. between 6th and 7th Ave. is definitely a great place to start for your NYU-area picnic lunch. Murray's, Amy's, Faicco's, Keste and Grom are all on Bleeker St.; L'Arte del Gelato, which I like just a bit better than Grom for gelato, is just around the corner from Bleeker, on 7th Ave. L'Arte has a very good, interesting olive oil gelato that I think is even better than Otto's famous version. Victory Garden is also around the corner from Bleeker on Carmine St. and has lovely goat's milk soft serve, which might be interesting to try if you've never had it before. My favorite flavor is the salted caramel.
Momofuku Ssam Bar and Momofuku Noodle Bar are actually pretty child friendly if your toddler isn't fazed by a possible wait and a high noise level. If you go around 5ish or at lunch, there probably won't be a wait. As you probably know, opinion is divided re: Momofuku Milk Bar. I personally find it sickeningly sweet, but there are plenty of people who like it a lot.
Il Cantuccio on Christopher St. is child friendly with some room to sit down, and has some very nice cantucci (biscotti). The fig flavor is excellent.
Check out this current thread for snacks to try in Chelsea Market: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/844638
For other snacks, there are really a lot of good ones to choose from in NYC. Can you maybe narrow it down by specific items you're interested in trying or cuisines or part of town? (Unfortunately I can't help you with the area near the Central Park Zoo, since I don't know the UES well.)
Near NYU for a picnic lunch, I assume you'll be going to Washington Square Park, assuming the weather cooperates?
Murray's Cheese for cheese, cured meats, antipasti (love their white bean salad), they also have a grilled cheese bar, soups, and I really like their prepackaged upscale versions of Ho-Hos, etc.
Amy's Bread - bread, cupcakes, cake, sticky buns
Faicco's - Italian sandwiches
Payard - French patisserie
Bosie Tea Parlor - French patisserie, scones, cookies, macarons
Mille-Feuille - croissants, brioche, cookies, macarons
Joe the Art of Coffee -- Ceci Cela croissants and/or Doughnut Plant donuts
Grom - gelato Note: the price is actually reasonable if you get a to go container to share instead of their tiny 3.8 fl oz sized small
For coffee, I like the cold brewed at Third Rail a lot, too.
If the weather doesn't cooperate, try Otto, instead. It's just north of the park and very kid-friendly.
As for self-guided noshing tours, Manhattan is a great place for those:
Try also RGR's famous self-guided eating tour of the LES.
Note two changes: Guss's Pickles has closed, so substitute The Pickle Guys, on Essex off Grand. And the correct address for Economy Candy is 108, not 145.
As for Momofuku, I would choose lunch at Ssam Bar, so you can try their duck over rice. Lunch also tends to be less hectic than dinner. Recently, I had friends take their infant and 2 year old there (with grandparents), and it was fine, in terms of kid-friendliness.