Baby-friendly dining over MLK weekend?
My husband and I and our five-month-old baby will be driving up to NYC next weekend (our first post-birth trip to Manhattan). We're excited about embarking on a food adventure, which ideally would include some "best of"/"can't miss" joints. But they should be baby-friendly places too. By baby-friendly, we mean a place where a fussy baby would not draw too much unwanted attention and where nursing would not be frowned upon. Any ideas?
For anyone following this thread post-MLK weekend:
We've gone for brunch at Norma's at Le Parker Meridien several times with our kid, and we'd definitely go back. If you're willing to venture to Brooklyn, you might also consider Peter Luger. We've taken our now-2.5-year-old there several times (most recently this past weekend), and our kid loves the creamed spinach, bread, and steak. I don't remember what the baby changing situation in the bathrooms of Norma's, but Peter Luger bathrooms aren't well-equipped for diaper changing. We put on a fresh diaper as close to the mealtime as we can (sometimes even in the car, just before going into the restaurant). And a strategy we've used whenever the kid gets fussy (no matter which restaurant or city we're in) is to take a brief walk outside for a change of scenery. Sometimes that's all it takes. A small bead maze works too.
I wanted to follow up on our MLK weekend adventure with baby in tow. Thanks so much to all of you for your advice and for pointing me in the right direction (I'm new to Chowhound). We had a fantastic weekend in NYC and found most of the places we ate at to be very baby-friendly. It helped that we carried our baby in a sling everywhere and traded off holding him during meals. I ended up not nursing him in any of the places we ate at because our baby was too stimulated to want to eat (plus, at five months old, he doesn't care to eat underneath a dark nursing cover).
For future reference for other parents with infants, following is a list of where we ate at:
(1) Ping's Seafood, Chinatown -- very baby-friendly and accommodating of our little guy. We showed up at 2 pm and ate in the lower level of the restaurant. It was still bustling at the time we arrived, but by the time we began eating, it got much quieter. I tried nursing here but baby wasn't interested. Nursing here, however, would have been easy, as we had a corner table tucked out of the way. Yummy dim sum too.
(2) Ferrara -- just picked up some treats for take-out. The place was jam-packed and the compact seating arrangement didn't look all too conducive to sitting with an infant. But no matter, since we did take-out. The cannoli wasn't bad, but the cookies (especially the pignoli) were heavenly.
(3) Murray's Bagels, Chelsea -- another baby-friendly place. We sat at a corner table with bench seating (the cushioned bench made it easy to take our baby out of his cold-weather outfit and put him back in it after our meal). We assumed this place would be uber-crowded on a Saturday morning, but found it not so when we went (around 9 am). Good bagels (and much better than Ess-a-Bagel, we thought).
(4) Doughnut Plant, Chelsea -- just did take-out, but the place looked fairly baby-friendly (albeit not much seating inside). The cake doughnuts were melt-in-your-mouth delicious and tender.
(5) Chelsea Market -- we ate a croissant at one of the bar tables along the window at Amy's Bread, and just kept our baby in the carrier. Because they were baking at the time, the store was too warm to stay longer than ten minutes. We meandered through the market, had decadent hot chocolate and a chocolate chip cookie at Jacques Torres, and enjoyed people-watching from one of the indoor patio tables next to the gelato shop. This was a fun thing to do with a baby, and our baby seemed to enjoy the bustle (but it became a bit over-stimulating by late morning due to the increasing crowds on a cold Saturday). I didn't try nursing here but I think it would have been a challenge.
(6) Joe's Pizza, the Village -- not too baby-friendly, but fellow pizza-noshers were so kind as to offer us their bar stools along the window. As with other places, my husband and I traded off holding our baby while the other gobbled up a slice.
(7) Ess-a-Bagel, Midtown -- pretty baby-friendly. Again, we sat in the back corner and traded off holding our baby so the other could eat (bagel with cream cheese and lox was unexpectedly precarious to eat one-handed). We saw several other families with toddlers and infants in strollers here.
(8) Sal & Carmine's, Manhattan Valley -- the worst place, of all the places we ate at over the weekend, in terms of baby-friendliness as well as quality of food. Even with baby in baby carrier, there was barely any room to eat. Employees were breathtakingly rude and inconsiderate. And the pizza (they kept none of their toppings in stock, so we just had plain cheese) was less than mediocre. Our slices had so little cheese that all you could see was dried red sauce, the crust was too thick and yeasty, and the little cheese that was on the slice was flavorless. Joe's Pizza was far superior in every regard.
(9) Nussbaum and Wu, Morningside Heights -- not baby-friendly. We just bought two black-and-white cookies for take-out, but had we wanted to eat inside, we would have had to wait for seating and put up with an uncomfortably warm and stuffy interior. The kitchen also managed to burn a batch of bagels during the few minutes we were inside the store, so they had to open all the windows and doors to air out the smoke. We had to leave in a hurry because we could barely breathe and were worried about our baby. Regardless, this place looks like it might be fun to experience with a baby (in a carrier only), as long as one goes at a less busy time (it seemed like a college hang-out when we went at 3 pm Sunday).
(10) Koronet Pizzeria, Morningside Heights -- fairly baby-friendly. We ate at a windowside two-top and traded off holding our baby. For parents with strollers, there was plenty of room to put a stroller alongside your table. We ate here only because we were starving after being unable to finish the terrible pizza at Sal & Carmine. The pizza slices here were, first and foremost, huge and oily, but the cheese was pretty good. The crust was way too thick and chewy for our taste, but even still, it was better than Sal & Carmine down the street.
(11) Levain Bakery, Upper West Side -- not baby-friendly at all, but it's not designed to be an eat-in joint. We picked up cookies for take-out. Amazing cookies (and uniquely shaped in a huge mound).
Anyway, thanks again for your advice. The city is actually much more baby-friendly than we had anticipated. The key is to use a baby carrier, be flexible, and build in time to go back to your hotel (or some other quiet locale) to feed the baby. We had so much fun this weekend that we will definitely be revisiting NYC with our baby in the next few months!
Not sure about the nursing, all of my friends typically don't nurse in public. But with a noisy baby, sounds like you'll want to dine at off hours at places where it's typically already pretty loud. One thing to note: don't count on space to park your stroller or car seat nearby, Manhattan restaurants are pretty cramped. Plan to be flexible and potentially have the kid in a sling.
Here's a recent trip report from some parents with a five month old: