NEW YORK CITY — Betsy Goldberg, a mother of two girls, ages 3 and 7, said she looks for a few basic qualifications in a potential brunch destination fit for the whole family. First off, she favors places that take reservations or that open early so that families can beat the mid-morning crowds on Saturdays and Sundays.
“That’s always a plus,” said Goldberg, who lives in the East 20s in Manhattan. “Especially when you have a bunch of little kids, it’s annoying to wait around.”
A tolerant staff is a must. The menu needs to have items that cater to a child’s taste buds, and it’s helpful if a restaurant has some wiggle room in between tables.
Beyond those basics, Goldberg said restaurants that offer something extra for her kids to enjoy become her family's go-to brunch destinations.
“Something interactive is nice,” Goldberg explained. “I feel like you just need a few [good brunch options] in your rotation and then you’re set.”
To help families find kid-friendly restaurants that go the extra mile, DNAinfo.com New York compiled a list of places that have earned the praise of New York City parents.
Where: 241 W. Broadway, TriBeCa, Manhattan
Open: Brunch is available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.
Good for brunching with kids because: A magician named Ragidy Supreme (a.k.a. Darryl Barnes, 38) has been entertaining children during brunch at the restaurant every weekend for the past five years. Ragidy performs throughout the day in a back room at the restaurant, which keeps kids separate from childless diners, and entertains pint-sized patrons while they wait for their food to arrive. Balloon animals are doled out for dessert.
"It gives us a chance to look at a menu, have a glass of wine," said Lucy Tupu, a TriBeCa parent whose two daughters, Charley, 3, and Skyler, 5, were engrossed in Ragidy's tricks for the better part of brunch on a recent Saturday.
"The only problem," their dad, Eric Oldfield, added, "is getting them to eat."
Best to eat: Pancakes off the kids menu for $5. Parents enjoy the Oeufs en Meurette (two poached eggs with burgundy red wine reduction and bacon) and the Oeufs à la Toulousaine (breaded and fried, softboiled egg-stuffed sausage) off the $21.50 brunch prix fixe menu.
Where: 116 E. 27th St., Flatiron District, Manhattan
Open: Brunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Good for brunching with kids because: This Danny Meyer-owned restaurant serves a children's prix fixe menu that includes a main course, a side dish, dessert and a drink for $9.50. The menu includes a range of items, from salmon to baby back ribs. And with every kids' menu purchased, Blue Smoke donates $1 to a child-centered nonprofit organization — a commitment that managing partner Mark Maynard-Parisi said amounts to roughly $1,200 in donations every month.
Staff members are happy to give kids tours around the restaurant, Maynard-Parisi continued, and the staff is trained to treat children just like any other guest.
“We’re not condescending to them," he explained. "We actually really like talking to kids.”
Parents also love the Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra, an ensemble made up entirely of kids ages 12 and up that plays every weekend during the school year. The music is free, but a $5 donation is requested. The kids sing jazz standards they've arranged themselves from 1:30 to 3 p.m., beginning Oct. 21. Only down side: The brunch menu will not be served during the performances.
Best to eat: The mac 'n' cheese is a particular favorite among the younger set. For parents, Maynard-Parisi said the restaurant recently added several new dishes to its brunch menu. One of his early favorites is the Blue Smoke Stack, which consists of "really delicious pancakes" with two eggs any style, house-cured bacon, hash browns and seasonal fruit, all served with New York State maple syrup.
Where: 600 W. 218 St., Inwood, Manhattan
Open: 7 a.m. for coffee, and brunch is served on weekends from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Good for brunching with kids because: Kids can work up an appetite visiting the brand new Indian Road Playground, the Inwood Nature Center or simply running through historic Inwood Hill Park across the street from the restaurant. Parents love the farmer's market one block away on Saturday mornings.
The restaurant is roomy, which makes it great for families. One room features a 75-year-old oak bar and four giant windows which are opened when it's warm outside. All of the tables and chairs came from the set of "The Sopranos" restaurant, Nuovo Vesuvio (co-owner Jason Minter worked on the show for 10 years).
Best to eat: Local, local, local. The eggs are organic and cage free from Feather Ridge Farms in Elizaville, N.Y., much of the produce comes from local New York farms in-season. And kids love the French toast.
Where: 347 Van Brunt St., Red Hook, Brooklyn
Open: 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekends, breakfast always available.
Good for brunching with kids because: The back dining room has a playroom for kids complete with toys, books and big pillows.
Parents longing for their hipper days love this place for its well-priced food and great atmosphere. With the kids occupied in the playspace, Mom and Dad can actually sip their Bloody Mary.
"When I first went to the Hope & Anchor, I loved the burgers and [late night] drag queen karaoke," said Seth Amgott, father to Moses, 2. "Now I think they're geniuses for having toys and room for kids to run around in. And they'd make anything for the little man that they have the ingredients for. It's perfect for kids."
Best to eat: While there's no kid's menu, Hope & Anchor is incredibly accomodating to requests, said brunch server Andrew Marotta. A half order of the special fruit pancakes? No problem. Just one pancake? That's OK, too.
Where: 551 Amsterdam Ave., Upper West Side, Manhattan
Open: Brunch is served 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.
Good for brunching with kids because: This neighborhood standard has the benefit of being really close to the Children's Museum of Manhattan and a short walk from the American Museum of Natural History and Riverside Park's Hippo Playground.
Parents love this place for its comfortable atmosphere. There are booths galore — easier to wrangle the kiddies in — and though the stuffed bears no longer hang out at every table, the original artwork on the walls makes it feel like home.
Best to eat: Fresh, hot popovers with strawberry butter — a sublime treat for parents and children.
Where: 10 Columbus Circle, third floor, Upper West Side, Manhattan
Open: 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week.
Good for brunching with kids because: The menu offers healthy options, such as fresh fruit and celery and carrot sticks with peanut butter, as well as perennial kids favorites, including tomato and mozzerella pizza, pigs in a blanket and green eggs and ham (the green effect is created with pesto, not food coloring). The restaurant also caps off every kids meal with a free serving of cotton candy fresh from the kitchen.
"It's free for the kids, but once the adults see it, we start charging them," said owner Marc Murphy, a father of two, with a laugh.
The restaurant has a stash of 40 high chairs and a staff that is adept at dealing with the specific challenges of short attention spans, Murphy said. It has therefore become a favorite for parents looking for a nice weekend meal with the whole family in tow.
"We've seen a lot of families grow up here," Murphy said. "If you're going to be a neighborhood restaurant, you have to be able to do brunch."
Best to eat: Kids love the green eggs and ham for the chance to eat à la Dr. Seuss. The pancakes, Murphy believes, are "amazingly good."
Read more New York Neighborhood brunching stories here.