It was a cold Saturday afternoon in Soho and we walked past this amazing beer hall. Against our better judgment, we ventured in. Not only was it a March Madness weekend, it was a cold Saturday and what better way to spend it than chugging down steins of beer. And that is what all the childless people in that establishment were doing. So we knew walking in that we were potentially going into enemy territory, but we were hungry and we rationalized that a beer HALL would be a place Jenson could at least roam free. The game was a few hours away from starting so the hall was not rammed when we entered. In fact, we were patting ourselves on the back for "discovering" such an amazing, kid-friendly place. Well, as it turns out...not so much. As quickly as we came, we went. And it was one of those moments where we watched the people around us order beer after beer, knowing they were subscribing to the "lets just see where this day takes us" mantra. It's a mantra Olly and I have not regularly said to ourselves in a long time. Without further ado....here is the review:
How disruptive will my kids be?
Not at all in the grand scheme of things. I dare the most disruptive toddler to compete with a bunch of primal college students day drinking on a Saturday afternoon. That is the good news. The bad news: you will feel like you should not be there. Even when the tipsy college girl is cooing over your child and the college bro is asking your toddler for a hi-five. In fact, when those scenarios occur, you will REALLY feel like you shouldn't be there. It's as if you are tainting their innocence by throwing parenthood in their faces.
Can I bring a stroller into the restaurant?
Yes! But you will want to fold it down...immediately. We literally found the most kid-friendly area in the whole of the hall. Yes, we were sat by all the untapped kegs, but we sort of had our own private area where we did keep his stroller open. And bless the friendly waitstaff, they didn't tell us to fold it down even when the place was starting to fill up quickly. The place fills up fast and as the day went on, it got increasingly more crowded. We had been there for only 15 minutes when a group of students negotiated with us to change spots with them because an entire sorority was joining them and we had apparently landed Beer Hall Table Gold. We happily obliged and moved, but the move was made all the easier because we didn't have to maneuver our open stroller around the hall. I legit didn't see any strollers in the whole of the place. I think if this hall was in Brooklyn, it might be a different scene. But Soho, Manhattan says keep your over priced kid chariots off my streets. #respect
Does the restaurant cater to kids in any way?
No. Do not let the overly kid-friendly menu fool you. I mean, they feature Milk Truck grilled cheese sandwiches and soft pretzals for crying out loud. It's like the Holy Grail of kid food. Do not be fooled. There are no changing stations in this place and zero kid accommodations. That being said...if you arrive there as it opens (noon every day) and there is no big sporting event, I think this place would be great for rowdy toddlers. Because they really can run around and no one cares and as long as you beat the hungover childless crowd, you could probably rule the hall for a period of time. But just know you should leave not too soon after you've arrived. We went there on a Saturday afternoon. Maybe the weekday is different?
How early does the restaurant start serving dinner?
They open at noon and food is served all day until the wee hours of the morning. Menu is massively kid-friendly.
Are there food options for allergic kids?
Houston Hall makes a point of saying on their menu that they take food allergies very seriously and to please inquire if there is an issue. This is a good sign.
Why? It's a bit obvious, but this place is a beer hall. Beer. Hall. Think back to the days where you spent too many hours in one of these places...did you see a bunch of strollers and kids running around? Probably not. On its face, it might seem like a great place for kids. It has SPACE...a commodity in NY, grilled cheese galore on the menu and it's loud. Which is why this spot is not zero bites. But the moment your kid starts to cry, it's amazing how exposed you will feel. If your life allows, I bet a weekday lunch visit to this spot would be pretty great. But for the weekend, this spot is best left to the people who don't have to ask if there are changing stations in the bathrooms...
***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.