HILL COUNTRY BARBECUE MARKET: 345 Adams Street, Brooklyn NY
If a group of toddlers joined forces to devise the perfect place to eat brunch on a Sunday....Hill Country Barbecue is probably what they would concoct. It's like we stumbled upon Frontierland in Downtown Brooklyn. The day started innocently enough. In fact, the day started with zero thought on finding a brunch place that tailored to my child. March Madness was still in full effect and we had friends meeting us from Manhattan so we picked this place because it was by a lot of subways, we knew it had TVs, good food and an open area that I figured Jenson could roam around in. Little did I know what I was about to get myself into...
How disruptive will my kids be?
How disruptive CAN they be? If it's high then you have found your spot. I have to say, Hill Country has nailed it. Every Sunday there is a Fam Jam from 12-4 and it is God's gift to kids who are begrudgingly dragged out to watch basketball. Fam Jam is the Garden of Eden for preschoolers. Hill Country transforms its entire upstairs into one ethereal playroom that features a live band, free food, facepainting, cowboy hats, legos. I could go on and on. And the band is not some lame kiddie band with grown men dressed up in creepy costumes playing the tambourine to your terrified child. The band we saw was awesome. A mix of bluegrass, rock and country. There was nothing kiddie about this band other than the fact that they swallowed their pride and jammed out with abandoned to a bunch of 3-foot humans. But really, the parents were jamming out too and it made the whole chaotic scene really palpable. The only thing Hill Country needs is a babysitting service upstairs and I swear to God, there would be a line wrapped outside the door each weekend. My husband and I took turns taking Jenson upstairs and another bonus, they get wiped out....leading me to the next question.
Can I bring a stroller into the restaurant?
Yes. Not only do they have a stroller parking lot in the front of the restaurant, I saw no less than eight open strollers pulled up to tables the day we were there. Go wear out your kiddies and then throw them in the stroller for nap time. It's perfect.
Does the restaurant cater to kids in any way?
Yes. And yes. And yes. If you're still reading this post, you know they do in fact cater to kids. Now, now every night is Fam Jam, but the vibe of the restaurant is causal and the space is huge...two great qualities when looking to take your kids out to eat. Everything on the menu is a la carte so while there isn't a specific kid menu, you can order as much or as little of any item as you want. The style of dining is not for everyone. You have to go up and get your food from different stations. From a parent perspective, I think it's great as it involves the kids, they can point at the food, get mini samples of the meat. It's an interactive experience. But if you're looking to kick back and be served, this spot might not be for you. They have crayons, coloring books, usually some sort of live music going on upstairs and tons of photos and lighted signs on the walls. Distraction levels are off-the-chart. Boosters and highchairs are available. Changing stations in the bathrooms.
How early does the restaurant start serving dinner?
As early as you'd like to eat. Food is served continuously through the day and the place opens at 11:30AM each day.
Are there food options for allergic kids?
Not officially. But this place is so accommodating to families that you only need to ask and the server would happily guide you through the options.
Why? This place nails it. In another life, I would steer clear of this place on a Sunday, but that was another life. In this life, I am itching to go back for Sunday brunch because it was so joyful to watch my son get his bluegrass groove on in a cowboy hat. Oh, and not having to pay for his food...awesome. I'd happily take my son back during the week as well as this is just a lively, family-friendly spot that also has massive appeal for the adults.
***If cooking Christmas dinner is making you cringe like my hubby was when I asked him to take this photo then you should read this post
Tis' the season to start amassing even more credit card debt, regret behavior at work parties and spend a dizzying amount of time feeling inadequate about your potentially tacky-looking mantle and pathetic-looking reindeer cookies (Die. Pinterest. Die.) So I thought I'd bring some Brooklynites some holiday cheer that comes in the form of a list of restaurants that are open on Christmas or Christmas Eve...and some are open on both days. Stop feeling guilty about what you're not making or beating yourself up because your table setting would make Martha's hate list. Let someone else (IE) a restaurant do all the dirty work for you...
Little Goat gets high marks for being open super early on the weekends (7 AM!), which is helpful if you have little creatures at home who arise with the sun. They also offer valet parking, which seems like an unnecessary extravagance early on a Saturday morning, until your hanger overtakes you and you scream at your husband because there are no. goddamn. parking. spots.
Swan Dive turns into the most organic playgroup you've even seen. Kids can roam free, draw with chalk, play corn hole (or just stand inappropriately on the base) and parents can drink cocktails and not worry about disrupting the neighbors (you are)...but it doesn't matter. The food is mostly meat and lets just hope your kids aren't nude shy...
OK, so this is an ice cream shop. I get it...of course it's kid-friendly. BUT, not all ice cream shops are cut from the same kid-friendly cloth. And being that 76 percent of my diet in the summer months is ice cream, it seemed my/our civic duty to review this place for the First Bites community. First off, if you live in Brooklyn (and Manhattan for that matter) you KNOW Ample Hills. Bold statements are made from people that this really is "the best ice cream in America." And being that this ice cream shop is headquartered in the artisanal capital of the universe, rest be assured Ample Hills makes from start to finish all of their ice cream flavors. But don't get too attached to a flavor because the menu is constantly changing. They keep us on our toes...and validating deep internal monologues of why we MUST go back the next day....and the day after that.
08/09/14 - For Sunday Features. Lines. Ample Hills Creamery is located at Union Street in Brooklyn. NYC August 9 2014 (photo by Christian Johnston)
They opened their first place in Queens, NY six years ago....and now they are opening up locations in Tokyo and Frankfurt. Bareburger moves fast. If I'm being totally honest, it's the sort of place I normally don't like eating at. Why? It's just all a bit too perfect. Sort of that "you're in Disneyworld" feel and the founders have spent a lot of money on consumer psychology research. But like Disneyworld, you somehow find yourself BACK in Harry Potter land and swearing to yourself that you are going to go for New Year's Eve EVERY.SINGLE. YEAR because it is THE BEST PLACE ON EARTH.
So you don't have a Shake Shack in your city? No problem! I recreated the Shake Shack burger in my kitchen and it legit tastes JUST like the real thing. Thank you @Smittenkitchen for this amazing recipe. Just because you don't live in New York, doesn't mean you can't eat like a New Yorker. And seriously....this TASTES JUST LIKE THE REAL THING!! Chalk this up to one of my life's greatest accomplishment. Sorry husband and child......
This is basically NY's version of In-N-Out except it is not. Shake Shack is a bit more urban and it stands apart in the burger arena by using a proprietary burger that’s vegetarian fed and humanely raised. Cooked-to-order burgers are topped with fresh ingredients and served on a non-GMO roll. They also make their own custard ice cream that is full of REAL sugar and the most important part of this chain....they serve ALCOHOL. Uh huh. So go ahead and order your kid cocaine that comes in the form of a brownie, custard concrete...it doesn't matter, because you will be sipping wine and all will be right in the world.
It was a day of lunching sophistication. Not even an American (me) could damper that. We headed over to Hotel du Vin, Cannizaro House. Hotel du Vin is a chain of luxury boutique hotels scattered throughout London. Olly's family lives in Wimbledon so we walked over to Cannizaro Park, a massive park that is amazing for kids to run around in (did I mention it is GRASS and NOT concrete?!), feed the ducks, look at flowers and see a mini aviary of birds. On these grounds sits the large mansion-hotel that has a windowed bistro that sits on the park grounds. Before we had lunch, we walked around, fed the ducks and tried in vain to tire out Jenson. Once we walked into the restaurant, I noticed something immediately. There were no kids except for Jenson and my 7-year-old-niece...
So this place is in the heart of Brooklyn and is a vegetarian-only, vegan, gluten-free optional restaurant. You can only wear hemp and showers are not encouraged (KIDDING.) But I do command you to stop your eye roll and Free Yo Mind! Even the most loyal of meat eaters would have a hard time saying anything bad about the food here. It is that good. If you think you could never have mac and cheese without the cheese...I dare you to try their cashew-based mac and "cheese." You won't even miss the cheese. Their gluten-free, veggie burgers are something to write home about and they start the meal with complimentary gluten-free pumpkin muffins...which are also blow-your-mind good. Oh, and portabella steaks are a thing. Did I mention that they are MASSIVELY kid-friendly?!
Calexico is a venue that started out selling their burritos and tacos out of a food truck and now have locations all over New York...but they still sell out of carts. Armed with Jenson, we popped in for some lunch at their new*ish Red Hook location before hitting the Brooklyn waterfront.