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Celebrity chef obsessed kid. 3 days/2 nights in NYC

Taking my son (11) to NYC for 3 days/2 nights right after the first of the year. He is an adventurous eater so food type isn’t a problem and he is still a kid so would be just as with happy burgers and pizza. The problem is that he recently has become obsessed with food shows like Chopped, Iron Chef, the Chew, etc so he is dying to go to an Iron Chef/Celebrity chef restaurant. The thing is I want good food too!

We have reservations at Morimoto. Reviews on here are mixed but lean towards OK. The space looks fun too. Any thoughts? recent reviews?

I will humor him and take one for the team by going to Guy Fieri's time square place for lunch as I think he will totally get a kick out of it. We will do Katz on the other day.

So where should would go the other night? Open table shows a number of Batali/Bastianich places with availability. My son would love pizza/pasta so maybe Otto Enoteca but I hesitate supporting that jerk. Past reviews ran the gamut of “good” to “horrific”.

Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill has openings too. The last review on here (Spring 2012) was basically a survival guide to get thru a meal there. Doesn’t sound promising. Thoughts?

Any place I am missing? He knows that his chance of seeing a celebrity is zero but he is fascinated by the idea....

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  1. I def recco otto, sorry. horrific it most certainly is not.

    9 Replies
      1. re: foodieX2

        Im not really a fan of MB, but Otto and Casa Mono are both great restos. I have seen him at Casa Mono a few times, tiny space, tinier w him in it, so it was kind of cool?

        Otto is prob better for a kid. Its all good, good pizzas, good pasta, good veggie sides, cool space. Its prob a safe, cheaper option.

        1. re: Hey19

          Otto is definitely NOT horrific. People who think it is are just Batali haters or expecting too much. It is in essence an enoteca and the food is fairly simple. It is the restaurant we go to the most to have a simple, delicious meal without having to worry about it being anything less than excellent. You can't go wrong with most anything so order what appeals to your son. Go for lunch if you can; dinner can get pretty hectic, especially on the weekends. The menu is the same throughout the day. Mario lives across the street, so there is a chance he may be at the restaurant conducting business, especially in the daytime hours. And make sure you save room for dessert and order one (or two) of the coppettas on the menu that day: basically an Italian gelato sundae. There are usually 3 or 4 to choose from. All terrific!

          Buon appetito!

          edited: ps...if you do go to Otto, look for the apartment building called the Brevoort across the street from Otto (11 5th Avenue). If you see a Vespa scooter parked on 5th Avenue in front of the Brevoort, it is Mario's. You're son might get a kick out of that! :)

          1. re: Hey19

            Just an aside:

            I am so happy to hear you say "I actually love Otto," kathryn. You are well respected here on CH and that goes a long way. I think it is consistently one of the best restaurants in NYC. Since it opened, the food has always been fresh and consistent. A lot to say for a place that has been open 10 years or so. And yes, the bar is wonderful. Bravo Dennis!

            1. re: ttoommyy

              I have to second Kathryn—Otto is perfect for a kid, a group, or a picky eater. It's not mind-blowing, but it's solid and affordable.

              Also, a Kathryn said: if you spy an orange Vespa in the vicinity, it belongs to Mario. (It's there quite often!)

              1. re: loratliff

                "Also, a Kathryn said: if you spy an orange Vespa in the vicinity, it belongs to Mario. (It's there quite often!)"

                I said that, not kathryn. But it's all good. :)

                Edit: dont know if its just my ipad, but i just noticed not all the responses are lining up where they should be.

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  Whoa, weird! I swear Kathryn's name was next to that post when I initially replied. I was on my iPad too at the time. Sorry, ttoommyy!

                2. re: loratliff

                  One disclaimer re: Otto with a kid. Be sure not to get put off by the highboy tables in the front bar area when you first walk in. They're not ideal for a kid, but just ignore them.

                  1. re: sugartoof

                    the food at otto is good, just that what it is suppose to be known for, the pizza is the weakest offerings among the other stuff like the pasta, antipasti and the dessert. the Dessert at Otto should not be missed, I would say skip the pizza at Otto because you can do better and why waste the stomach space

        2. I have seen Lidia Bastianich at Felidia, Jean Georges Vongerichten at Nougatine and Jean Georges, Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin, Wylie Dufresne at WD-50, Daniel Boulud at Boulud Sud, Vikas Khanna at Junoon, Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison Park, and Marcus Samuellson at Red Rooster. I think your chances of seeing and even meeting a celebrity chef are pretty high at these places.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Lacrosse_Gastronomic

            When my son discovered celebrity chefs, I took him to WD-50. He was 10, so it was 5 years ago. He had such a blast and developed a taste for bone marrow that night. Obviously it was before the recent menu upheaval, but he also loved the pizza pebbles, pretzel soup, and corned duck.

            Before dessert, a gentleman who I assumed was the maitre d came to our table to ask if my son wanted to tour the kitchen. He was escorted through by Wylie Dufresne, who sent him off with an autographed menu and a promise of an internship interview when he was old enough. It was unforgettable for him and Dufresne's attention and kindness won him some lifelong fans.

            I hope your son gets some of those magical moments as well!

          2. venture up to 125th and go to Red Rooster

            3 Replies
            1. re: princeofpork3

              Menu looks great! Unfortunately the only time they available is 9:30 at night. After a day in the city including a matinee at the theatre I don't think even I could stay out that late. :(

              1. re: foodieX2

                If you're planning a late lunch or early dinner you should be able to get a seat at the Red Rooster bar with a minimal wait, if any.

                1. re: Lacrosse_Gastronomic

                  She's with an 11 year old. Bar seating would not be ideal

            2. The space at Morimoto is definitely cool and fun, maybe a little too adult (too clubby?) for an 11 year old, though. The food can be hit or miss dependent upon what you order. Sushi is *not* their strength.

              I actually love Otto, especially sitting at the bar (the bartenders are great) but it might be odd with your son.

              Actually if you want a shot at seeing Mario Batali, I've seen him at Eataly more often than not. He also apparently visits all of his restaurants at/after closing time each night to check how they did that day. My in-laws saw him eating at Pearl Oyster Bar at a few months ago while they were having lunch.

              Chef Marc Forgione won the third season of The Next Iron Chef and his restaurant might work better than Morimoto or Guy's American Kitchen.

              What about Sue Torres' Suenos? It flies a little under the radar but she's been on both Chopped and Iron Chef.

              Scott Conant's Scarpetta is also excellent. He has been on both Chopped and Top Chef.

              Does he watch Top Chef at all? You could maybe try Kin Shop or Perilla (Harold Dieterle won Season 1), or Tom Colicchio's restaurants: Craft, Craftbar, Riverpark, Colicchio & Sons, etc.

              Marc Murphy's (he's on Chopped) Landmarc restaurants are also VERY kid friendly. And good for adults, too.

              1. What about KinShop or Perilla - Harold DIeterle - winner 1st season Top Chef. Excellent food. The judges on Chopped have some very good restaurants. Scarpetta (Scott Conant) Stanton Social - Chris Santos; Landmark - Mark Murphy (?) Maybe too pricey for an 11 year old. KinShop might be the most fun.
                Sorry - i posted without reading the one above me.

                2 Replies
                1. re: JC2

                  I wouldn't normally suggest this, but in the case of Perilla, I would even go so far as to send a nice short note to explain the scenario, and inquire if they might know Harold's schedule. I would expect he's spending most of his time at their newest location, The Marrow.

                  1. re: sugartoof

                    The Marrow opens tomorrow, so it could be an option for the OP if they'd like to try a new spot.

                2. Despite the stories, I think Mario mainly just drops into his restaurants during prep or closing. I've seen the moped outside Casa Mono a number of times during the day, but I don't think that particular establishment is going to fit the build up a lot of people have when they think of a celebrity chef owned place.

                  I'd check into the events section of Eataly, and look for other food events or book signings going on during your stay. I think Food Channel gives tours of their studios, which are located above Chelsea Market.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: sugartoof

                    As I said above, Mario is often at Otto at lunch time. His office is located there.

                  2. Was about to recommend Scarpetta as well. I actually went there with my daughters (12, 10) and they loved it. If he's gonna be eating spaghetti with sauce somewhere might as well be Scarpettas

                    The other day on chopped the chef from a place called "Family Recipe" which has been on my radar for a while lost to a chef from New Orleans (we happened to visit his place Boucherie last month). So Family recipe could be an option but its a little out there.
                    Another option is Eataly of course.
                    And if you can score Marea you can show him this before eating the dish...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Ziggy41

                      A funny note about Scarpetta. I've only been there twice (loved it both times). While I never saw Scott Conant, I had two pretty good food-celebrity sightings there. I sat right next to Tyler Florance there on my first visit. My second visit I was sitting about 10 feet from Martha Stewart.

                      Maybe a little too adult for an 11 year old, but you'd have a very good chance of seeing Anita Lo at Annisa. Also, it's WAAAYYY out in Brooklyn but I normally see Dale Talde at the pass at Talde in Park Slope.

                    2. Celebrity chefs are far more likely to be in the restaurant during lunch service. If you give the reservationist the heads up, this charming story is sure to get your table a personal visit from the chef if he's in house. At dinner, the lesser the fame, the more likely you will see the chef working dinner service. Whether your son gets a sighting or not, if you give the restaurant notice, your story will go a long way. Ask the restaurant for a menu signed by the chef, your son will be thrilled!

                      1. If it's not just the celebrity, and he's also interested in professional cooking technique/kitchens/etc, you might consider a recreational cooking class at the Institute for Culinary Education. They have some classes tailored for kids and teens. He might get a kick out of learning to make pasta from scratch (one example) if that's not something you do at home.

                        1. thank you everybody!! I am in the process of trying adjust our schedule so we can do a "celebrity" lunch instead of dinner since so many places recommended sound fabulous but have no availability for dinner. We have theatre mid day one day and ice skating at Rockefeller center on another so I had been focused dinners.

                          You guys are the best! I will post back our game plan.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: foodieX2

                            Ny has other ice skating options (Bryant Park comes to mind) that are available after lunch, and early evenings, with slightly less crowds.

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              Yep, even the Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District has a nice little rink with hot cocoa and "apres skate" snacks. I'd recommend it over Rockefeller Center or Bryant Park.

                            2. re: foodieX2

                              I strongly advise to avoid Guy's Time Square money machine. The place is a joke and a disgrace. There are many places with cool celebrity chefs. If you guys like Mario Batali, try Esca. It is a wonderful Southern Italian seafood restaurant perfect for a special meal with a young adventurous eater. Do not miss the pastas, some of the best in the city.

                              1. re: AubWah

                                "Do not miss the pastas, some of the best in the city."

                                Agree. Especially the Spaghetti with a one pound lobster, chilis and mint.

                                1. re: ttoommyy

                                  I guess I have to return to Esca. All I had there was fish, that had Middle Eastern flavors to it i.e. cumin
                                  I didn't try the pasta, since I always thought the thing to eat there was fish. Thanks for the pasta rec.

                              2. re: foodieX2

                                When we went to WD-50 (see above), it was on a Monday night when most restaurants are closed. It was packed and Dufresne was there. Also, most restaurants keep some tables for walk-ins that won't be listed on Open Table or even mentioned if you call for a reservation. Getting to a place at the beginning of service or 90 minutes shy of the end of service will really improve your chances of getting a walk-in table. Of course, there are exceptions, but the Batali places definitely reserve tables for walk-ins.

                              3. --Morimoto opened a new restaurant with different style food called Tribeca Canvas.
                                ---- Becco Italian Restaurant, is owned by Lidia Bastianich and she is usually there
                                ---- Recette features Iron Chef winner, Jesse Schenker
                                ----Pig and Khao features chef/owner Leah Cohen a finalist on Top Chef
                                ---- Mario Batali is at Otto very often, he lives right there, easily spotted by his orange Crocs

                                1. What about Gordon Ramsay, Daniel, Jean Georges, Le Bernardin, EMP, or Bouley. These are all pricy but worth the splurge. For Ramsay you can go to the London bar at lunch for much cheaper.

                                  1. Hi everyone- We are back from our trip and had a great time! While we had no celebrity sightings my son enjoyed experiencing the NY he sees portrayed on all the food channels.

                                    Here is the recap: