Foodie parents, stop worrying. Just because now have tiny tots in tow when you go out to dinner doesn’t mean you can only eat at places that have cartoon mascots, a video game room, and an all-deep-fried kids menu. In fact, when you’re in New York City or San Francisco, you can dine at some of the finest restaurants around. Not only do they have four stars, but they’re able to accommodate four-year-olds, too. Here are six big-ticket kid-friendly fine dining restaurants for little ones in the Big Apple and the Golden City.
New York City
One of the finest and fanciest French restaurants in Manhattan is more than happy to host petits convives (little diners). Owner Georges Briguet, who has four children and seven grandchildren, loves having kids around. “I don’t even mind if they cry in the restaurant,” he says. “It’s better than music.” There is no children’s menu, so servers simply ask what dishes might work best. Favorites include the vegetable tart or lobster bisque for appetizers, while a variety of pastas, turbot filet, and the burger are the most often-ordered mains. Sometimes Briguet will serve diminutive diners snails, sweetbreads, or frogs’ legs. “I don’t tell them what they’re eating until they’re done,” he says. “It’s important they are exposed to such flavors so early.” Meals finish with a visit from the “Temptation Wagon,” a cart laden with options such as chocolate mousse, tarte tatin, and raspberry tart. Make a reservation at Le Perigord now.
The Back Room at One57
Now you can encourage your kid’s love of reading while you dine. The Feed Your Mind program pairs children’s books from Phaidon Publishing – which are “served” on a vintage library cart – with tyke-friendly fare from chef Chad Brauze. So while they dive into Doodle Cook or Harold’s Hungry Eyes, they can dig into a salmon bento box, a turkey dog dressed up with cheddar cheese, or the kale salad with honey vinaigrette. Not only are many options quite healthy, but the experience also means your child won’t be draining your iPhone battery during dinner while they watch Wild Kratts episodes. Make a reservation at the Back Room at One57 now.
This past spring, Agern kicked off its Kids Table initiative. The chic, Danish-inspired restaurant and other high-end eateries in New York City hosted shorties-only meals for diners aged 7 to 14 years old, which raised money for the Melting Pot Foundation. “The idea is that kids should be trusted to try adult food and to challenge their palates,” says general manager Katie Bell. For the course of the meal, no adults were allowed in the restaurant, except the staff. The kitchen prepared a very grown-up menu for 55 small guests, including braised lamb. “One of the girls came to me and said, ‘It’s delicious, though it might be a little overcooked.’” Says Bell. “Only in New York.” Make a reservation at Agern now.
The Instagram-worthy décor recalling 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at this breezy sea-centric eatery in Union Square is enough to make it a hit with pint-sized eaters. Jellyfish- shaped fixtures emitting an otherworldly glow hang from the ceiling, columns mimic towers of kelp, and stools take the shape of octopuses. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a “caviar staircase” covered in 50,000 iridescent indigo marbles leading up to the balcony overlooking the dining room. After your kid finishes ooh’ing and aah’ing, you can give them their first taste of caviar — or dare them to egg a sea urchin. Or you can simply order them a bowl of fettuccine – and forgo telling them it features smoked octopus (until after they finish devouring it). Make a reservation at Farallon now.
No matter if your child is the world’s pickiest eater, they will still eat their body weight in pasta if given the chance. That’s what makes this upscale Italian eatery a primo pick for parents with bambinos. Linguine with garlic, cherry tomatoes, and tomato sauce is a sure-to-please option. If your little diner has a hard time making up her mind, order the trilogia, a trio of classic Roman pastas: spaghetti carbonara, rigatoni amatriciana, and vermicelli cacio e pepe. Remind your tiny diner to save room for dessert, such as profiteroles, red velvet cake dressed up with dark chocolate ganache, and a rainbow of gelato. Make a reservation at Chiaroscuro now.
Looking to distract your children during dinner to prevent meltdowns or endless requests to go back to the hotel to watch Finding Nemo for the seven zillionth time? Ask to be seated out on the patio under a cross-stitch of twinkle lights, while movies play on the wall above you [Ed. note: They screened Goonies this past spring, perf for the kid in all of us.]. Or you can all sit inside by the indoor fireplace if you want a snuggly vibe. There’s no kids menu, but there are plenty of dishes worthy of a petite palate, such as sesame fried chicken, baked cheese with plenty of baguette to spread it on, and peach-strawberry empanadas to finish. Make a reservation at Foreign Cinema now.
What are your favorite picks for kid-friendly fine dining restaurants in New York City and San Francisco? Let us know here or over on Facebook, G+, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. And as you and yours vacation this season, use our list of the Best Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Top Summer Travel Destinations in America 2016 to help guide your dining decisions.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell.
Photo credits: Evan Sung (Agern).