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Aug 13, 2012 06:58 AM

Large family-friendly restaurant

I'm looking for a family-friendly restaurant for tonight. There's 21 of us. 10 adults, 11 kids - 10 of which are 6 years old and under.

We had reservations at Ninja, but that's now been called off. Been to Mars 2112 (never again), Stardust, et al, all of the usual suspects. The place doesn't have to be especially themed for kids, just has to have an approachable menu, and some elbow room for a group with 3 babies and 5 toddlers. The kids aren't out of control, but we don't want to bother anyone's quiet evening out. A couple of the adults are pickier (read: xenophobic) than the kids, so anything "too ethnic" would likely be out.

We'll be in the financial district all day and then the minivan caravan back to long island, so someplace in Brooklyn or Queens with the possibility of parking would potentially be better than someplace elsewhere in Manhattan.

Some places on the short list for consideration are Bubby's Brooklyn, Cowgirl, RollNRoaster (been there, would like something nicer), Max Brenner (been there for desert, not sure about dinner), Peanut Butter Co (location too small?), Hill Country.


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  1. For Brooklyn and Queens, post to the Outer Boroughs board.

    If you're in the financial district already, why not Shake Shack? Good for kids and picky eaters.

    1. you've mentioned possible places in manhattan, so Im confused as to exactly where you want to dine, but honestly, considering the resturants that you are considering, why not a place like carmine's?
      Food there is substantially better than ninja, mars, Roll n roaster (which is fast food) or PB&co.
      Loud and serves large groups...

      1. Hill Country usually does not take reservations, but for a party your size, they might. You should be able to find free street parking neaby after 6 p.m.

        Re: the FiDi. I think Blue Smoke would be a better option than Shake Shack. Blue Smoke has table service and takes reservations -- imo, two huge plusses when dealing with your kind of group.

        1. As a follow-up for anyone interested:

          We walked over to Blue Smoke as it was our best option locally. They were pleasant, but the hostess needed to consult with her manager to see if they could accommodate our group despite the indoor portion of the restaurant 80% empty. I saw this as them deciding if they wanted to serve us at all regardless of their capacity to. We were eventually offered to stay, provided we agreed to their "family-style" menu at $50 per head. This was a similar scheme to what Ninja wanted from us. Can someone explain why I have to pay MORE (per person) for a large group? This is the polar opposite of every other industry on earth, where the more you buy, the cheaper the unit price is. Baffling.

          We decided against that. At that point the portion of our party that caused us to abandon Ninja left altogether (you can't pick family). Leaving us at 8 adults and the youngest 8 children.

          We walked around the other side of the WFC and asked to be seated at P.J. Clarkes. There was an hour wait to sit outside (it was beautiful out), but they would "see" if they could sit us inside. Of course, the interior was 98% empty, so again we faced discrimination. They let us in and we had a fine time despite their overly-salty food and my having to explain a "black and tan" to our waiter. The service was competent and polite, and for our part you wouldn't have known we had small children except for a few errant pieces of food on the floor; the wall street guys outside were louder. They automatically tacked 20% gratuity onto our bill as noted on the menu.

          I understand that small children don't order expensive items - although my son's 12 cents worth of pasta and butter was probably the most marked-up item ever sold by the restaurant. I know that sometimes an obnoxious child can upset other diners. However, if these kids don't learn to eat out then they'll never go out to eat and it's the restaurants (and society) that suffer in the long run. Take a chance and serve the family, and kick them out the same way you would any patron that is disturbing other guests if it comes to that. How would you feel if you had faced scrutiny based on the race or handicap of someone in your group?

          Per Carmines, we've been to both locations plenty; the problem there is the wait. If I have small children stuck in a small bar area for a half hour before we're even seated (even with reservations), they're done by the time the food arrives.

          Thanks for the suggestions.

          5 Replies
          1. re: ceestand

            What time did you arrive? Even if a restaurant is 80% empty at a certain time, it might mean that those tables are held for reservations coming in 30-90 minutes time.

            Smaller groups are usually separate parties at separate tables, arriving at different times, so a large group means that the overall timing of "turns" is less efficient. So if the restaurant is really busy, it theoretically can get multiple turns of smaller tables more quickly than waiting for a large group to vacate. So that's one rationale for why you have to pay more for a big group.

            Also it's harder for the kitchen to make sure the entire group's food all comes out at the same time while maintaining quality (especially serving food at the right temperature). This becomes easier if everybody does a prix fixe or a family style menu. Another reason why you'll end up paying more for a big group.

            Both restaurants might have been better prepared had you called ahead and made a reservation. Or at least warned them you were coming. 16 or 21 people is a huge group by Manhattan standards.

            I'm thinking you weren't "discriminated" against because you were a family per se, more because your group was huge and you didn't call ahead. Possibly also because all adult group will order much more liquor/wine (or at least have the potential to).

            1. re: kathryn

              We got there around 7. It's certainly possible that there were reservations coming in, but 1- I doubt it as it was Monday, and at the restaurant we ended up at there were no other diners seated inside that I noticed so that was factually not the case, and 2- given the emptiness of the restaurants it would look like a flash mob showed up if that were the reality.

              I can acquiesce to menu limitations given the logistical problems of serving the large party at the same time, but I feel it's unreasonable to both limit me and make me pay more for the privilege.

              As for the discrimination - I'm using the word properly - the restaurants didn't come up with alternative menus and automatic gratuities when we arrived, these are SOP methods when dealing with large groups. I'm not complaining that it took them time to figure out how to accommodate us.

              An adult group probably would purchase more alchohol, a money-maker for restaurants. However, you could statistically make a case that blacks are more likely to be a cab fare to a location where a return fare is unlikely and thus not a money-maker for taxis; as a society we don't allow for that kind of behavior from one service industry based on race, why should we allow it from another based on age?

              For the record, I'm not all up in arms over this, the restaurants' staff were relatively polite and eventually offered us service; just you have someone look you up and down and then tell you they'll "see" if they can accept your money.

            2. re: ceestand

              FYI for future visits, Manhattan doesn't accodmodate PARTIES OF 16(!!) without reservations and yes, for parties of 16 (even less), they will offer you a pre-fixe. I would never suggest you going anywhere but fast food had i known that you had no intentions on making reservations.

              1. re: RebelWithaCause

                I'm not trying to get into Nobu on a Friday night, this was a lazy Monday and all restaurants had plenty of room. PJ Clarkes had entire rooms empty. Based on their website they could have seated 150 additional diners when we showed up! So seating is not an issue and there were only 10 to 8 adults so the kitchen was unlikely overwhelmed. Reservations for reservations' sake are insipid.

                1. re: ceestand

                  What is so hard about making reservations for a LARGE group?

                  Did you get what you wanted? No.

                  Lesson learned.

                  Keep arguing if it makes you happy but it wont put your 20 person group at a table with delicious food in their bellies any time soon in this city.