5 days in Manhattan with a toddler
We finally made it back to spend a few days in New York last week – and oh have I missed it. We were last here 16 months ago when Sofie was only 4 months old. Now she is 20 months old, walking, talking and able to experience the city more. We had a wonderful time seeing friends, eating amazing food and going for numerous strolls to take everything in, especially buses, which is a current favorite of Sofie’s. We even spent some time at the very fun FAO Schwartz. Did you know you can make your own muppet there? It took all my will power to not get one for myself. We managed to leave with just one purchase, an Ugly Doll for Sofie, she picked Wedgehead.
I thought I’d share the great hotel we stayed at and, as expected in NY, all the really great food we enjoyed.
A great place to stay: The Alex Hotel
For this trip we sought out a hotel suite with a kitchenette. It was important to us to have food and milk on hand for Sofie given she eats 5 times a day and especially since we often need to bring food with us when we go out to eat given her allergies to eggs and peanuts. It was more difficult that we expected to fine a hotel that met our needs and wasn’t $1000 plus a night. We almost thought we’d have to scrap the trip till a friend finally suggested The Alex Hotel. The hotel was perfect for us. It is still on the pricey side but I think well worth the money for the location and to have a nice suite, a kitchen with a fridge, dishwasher, stove top and dishes. They actually upgraded us, which I think gave us a larger office area. The staff is extremely pleasant and helpful. I have lost count of the times they held doors open for us over our stay – very handy when you have a child in a stroller or ergo. The location is also great because it is a little quieter here than other places like Times Square or anywhere closer to 6th and 7th Avenue. Yet, it is still very easy to get to anything you’d like, for instance, we had a very pleasant walk over to Central Park to meet Jeromy It is also close to Grand Central making the subway to anywhere easy. I will try to post another entry just on the hotel with photos of our room and tips on what you’ll want to bring or buy when you get here for kitchen supplies (if you are interested before I’ve posted add a comment and I’ll get back to you).
Great places to eat (or take out from)
After seeking out various dining options nearby we discovered we were even luckier than we thought to be staying at The Alex. We had only been here a few days but had already stumbled across some spectacular eating – and more importantly, eating that was good as take out! Unless we manage to have an early dinner with Sofie, typically we still have dinner after she goes to bed. So delivery or close take out is crucial to use since we are hotel bound for the evening once she goes down at 7pm. No worries in this area though!
Udon West – Great Japanese noodle and rice place. No sushi. Good for take out or table service.
150 East 46th St (between 3rd and Lexington)
I had passed by this place earlier while taking a stroll with Sofie. It caught my interest immediately but the entrance is a few steps down and I had Sofie in her stroller so I didn’t bother trying to go in to ask for a take out menu. Later that night when Jeromy and I were debating what to do for dinner I was excited to try the noodle shop. timing actually worked out since I fed Sofie her dinner at her usual time and we still had plenty of time to go out for a stroll and to pick up dinner. Once I got my hands on the menu it was hard to decide what to try. I ended up with the Katsu Don & Udon combination and it blew me away. It tasted really great, but it was extra special because it reminded me of food I used to eat as a child overseas and I don’t get that feeling very often.
Bayan Cafe – A very small, nondescript Filipino Restaurant
Not sure of their exact address, but they are on the south side of east 45th between 2nd and 3rd avenue.
This place has a small, easy to miss store front. But something about it called out to me. After walking by it a couple times I stopped in to grab a takeout menu. At that point I didn’t even know what kind of cuisine they served! There was a man taking a break on the front steps and he immediately got up to open the door for me (I had Sofie in the ergo). As soon as the door opened I was treated to a wonderful array of smells and I knew then that the food had to be good. I took a menu and the gentleman outside popped up to open the door for me again. We finally decided to try them Sunday night. I had never ordered from a Filipino restaurant and wasn’t sure what to get. So I ordered two things just in case one was a dud – BBQ pork belly and escabeche. They were both amazing, very different from what we usually eat which made them all the better. It was a real treat. It was also nice that everyone in the place seemed really nice and to really care about the food they were putting out. Gotta love it.
Darbar – Indian Restaurant
154 E. 46th St (between 3rd and Lexington)
I was in the mood for japanese noodles when we went to Udon West. Jeromy wanted something else, so he went looking for options as I waited with Sofie for my order. He came back a few minutes later saying he had just ordered from the Indian place next door. We went there after I got my food to wait for his. The staff was pleasant and the ambiance was nice. It might have been a little too quiet to take Sofie there to sit down for a meal, but take out worked well. It took a good 10-15 minutes but I never have a problem with that since it means they are actually cooking you food versus dished it out of pre-made tubs. Jeromy was very pleased with his order, though it was a little on the heavy side for him. I took a bite and thought it had a great depth of flavor. I think I’ll do take out from them tonight and Jeromy will probably get noodles from Udon West which is right next door. I’ll update this entry after trying more of their food. The garlic naan is calling me! UPDATE: I did get take out from them, chicken korma. It was pretty good, not the best I’ve had but it hit the spot.
Amish Market – high end grocery store with lots of organic options and prepared foods
240 E. 45th (between 2nd and 3rd Aves)
The market is across the street and a few doors down from The Alex Hotel. We went there for the first time almost immediately after we arrived at the hotel to stock up on drinks, snacks and food for Sofie’s meals. We were wide-eyed as we tried to take in the massive array of high end food options they managed to squeeze in. We found everything we needed and much more. We had fun and could have spent a lot more time and money there if we hadn’t just come off a 4 hour drive. We’ve been back a few times already for odds and ends, always leaving with a little more than we needed.
Brooklyn Diner in Times Square – has a nice diner menu, plus a few healthier options too!
I had been to the other Brooklyn diner location and loved it. The Times Square location was only about a mile away from our hotel so we decided to go there for Sunday brunch with our friend Vinette who had come up from DC to visit with us for the weekend. While the food at both locations is good, the Times Square location has a back section that was perfect for kids since, well, it was in the back and with the way it was laid out there was more room. It can get extra stressful eating out with a toddler in cramped spaces. They also had paper on the table so it was perfect for Sofie to color on.
Sarabeth’s at Central Park – gourmet menu, super delicious food, nice atmosphere
40 Central Park South (across from Central Park, between 5th and 6th Aves)
Eating at Sarabeth’s for lunch was a real treat. We decided to go there on a whim while looking around for somewhere for lunch. Jeromy spotted it as we walked along side Central Park and we decided to try it since my friend, Ernie, had suggested it for brunch over the weekend. I’m so glad we did. In addition to the wonderfully decadent menu, the atmosphere was very calm and serene. You just felt like you were going to be pampered there. They kindly sat us in a back corner so we had a little more space for Sofie. I ordered the crab cake sandwich, which was probably one of the best crab cakes I have every had. It was seriously almost 100% crab, and really fresh delicious crab. Jeromy raved about his tuna nicoise salad. I had a bite of the tuna and it was indeed very good. They did not have a children’s menu so we ordered a bunless hamburger for Sofie, unfortunately after only a couple bits of burger she decided she would rather just eat french fries. Sigh. At least she ate some grapes while we waited for our food. A meal of fries here and there won’t kill her…and these were pretty good fries. Sarabeth’s is well-known for baked goods and jams so I couldn’t resist getting a couple jars of jam as we left, Plum Cherry and Strawberry Rhubarb. I can’t wait to try them and hope to find time to post a blog entry on them as well. Sarabeth’s is a bit farther from The Alex Hotel, but we still walked there and back. All the walking helps me feel a little less guilty about all the treats I’ve been consuming this visit.
Chelsea Market – foodie nirvana
75 9th Avenue (Between 15th and 16th Streets)
Now, it is pretty far from the hotel. We walked there, and it was a really long walk. I was glad to take a cab back to our hotel afterwards. But whether you walk, take a cab or the subway if you consider yourself any kind of foodie you need to pay Chelsea Market a visit. It was particularly crowded when we went due to a number of New York Food Festival events going on at the venue. But that just added to the experience. It is basically an indoor mall of food establishments ranging from cupcake shops and bakeries, to Thai food, to small sit down restaurants serving organic fair to gourmet groceries stores. Along the corridor of shops there are also a number of tables and benches perfect to take a break at to eat a delicious bite. Upstairs happens to be home of the Food Network, so there is the added allure of potentially seeing a celebrity chef. We didn’t see any when we were there, but that just would have been a fun add on. The market itself was enough for us.