Two weeks ago Joanne and I took three of our grandkids (ages 9, 11 and 14) to New York.
It was the first visit for all three – and a short one, from Thursday to Sunday. I had wondered if it would be enough time, but two-and-a-half days turned out to be just fine – in fact, it was just right for a first visit.
We started off with a walk up Fifth Avenue from our hotel on 43rd Street, stopping first at Rockefeller Center, where to my surprise the ice rink was already open. The kids marveled at the scale of 30 Rock, and I made a mental note to bring them back on a future visit in the morning when the Today Show airs live.
Next it was off to Central Park. All three kids are musical, and the stroll took on a John Lennon theme with a look at the Dakota and a photo op at Strawberry Fields.
As you can imagine (get my Lennon reference?), our first dinner in New York had to be significant. So I booked MICHAEL JORDAN’S STEAKHOUSE. Why? Aren’t there better steakhouses in New York? Perhaps, but for kids making their first trip to the Big Apple, you can’t do better than dining in the immense rotunda of Grand Central Station.
And you know what? Michael Jordan’s is a damn good restaurant. Only in New York would it be an afterthought for steakhouse fans. But if you take it on its own terms, you’ll come to the same conclusion I did: This place is firing on all eight cylinders. Plus, it’s kid-friendly, with starters like their signature garlic bread and sopping sauce. Another hit was Deep Fried Rock Shrimp with Chipotle Dip. Two of the kids had the children’s Steak Frites with sweet potato fries, and the other kid had one helluva burger. Dessert was Baked Alaska and a 23 Layer Chocolate Cake. They slept well that night.
Another “must visit” is Norma’s, which I wrote about previously. This is the king of breakfast spots – the ne plus ultra, located in Le Parker Meridian Hotel. Kids love the place.
My daughter had planned ahead for the trip and rented the film, Sleepless in Seattle. The movie culminates with an encounter between Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, so we made sure to include that on our itinerary.
Friday evening, we took a culinary chance and went to TAMARIND, arguably the best Indian restaurant in New York. Joanne and I have been there on several occasions, so we knew the risks….kids and tandoori? Kids and chutney? Kids and cardamom?
But the deciding factor for me was the theater inherent in Tamarind’s dining experience, including its exhibition kitchen and the chefs’ dazzling the kids and other patrons with 3-foot-long skewers going in and out of the “white hot” tandoori ovens, all the while hand-slapping naan bread to sear on the interior walls of the blistering infernos.
Well, BINGO: We guessed right. The kids loved the place, devouring four orders of naan that they dipped into all manner of sauces ranging from raita to chutneys (and not the Major Grey kind). Spicy Tandoori Chicken Tikka from the tandoori ovens was also a huge hit (Tikka refers to chunks of meat cooked on a skewer, usually in a tandoori oven). The mystery-flavored rice earned thumbs up, too.
Dessert? Well, they ordered Kulfi, an icy hot weather treat made from evaporated milk, powdered sugar and cardamom. It was sweet – very, very sweet, with an odd texture that reminded me of something Calvin Trillin said: “All Indian desserts have the texture of face cream.”
One cautionary note: Tamarind does not allow kids under age 8 to eat there. Really.
Saturday morning included a walking tour of Chinatown (I liked how the kids recoiled at the site of barbequed ducks hanging in the windows), followed by lunch in Little Italy.
And then….BROADWAY! We saw a matinee performance of “Matilda” PERFECT! A wonderful show for kids, all about youngsters in a boarding school run by a villainous head mistress named Miss Trunchbull (played by a man in leather-adorned drag – and with a name like Trunchbull, why not?)
If Broadway is on your mind with kids, plan on matinees, which are offered every Wednesday and Saturday.
It was on our last day in New York at dinner that the kids were asked, “What’s your favorite building in New York?” One of my granddaughters said, “Grand Central Station.” The other said, “The Empire State Building.” My grandson piped in, “Shake Shack.”
A kid after my own heart.
And where did we eat our final dinner? Keith McNally’s excellent French bistro, CHERCHE MIDI…..(see my posting of November 3rd) for the complete rundown.) Why this restaurant? I wish I could say I felt it was an outstanding choice for the kids, but I have to be honest: I was really in the mood for their roast chicken.