As parents we might do back flips to make sure our kids eat their daily 3-square chock full of veggies, whole grains and power fruits. However, sometimes it’s very fun (and wicked delicious) to ditch squaresville, flipping those pesky food pyramids on their points, in order to chow down on some of NYC’s awesome one-food-wonders. And we’re not talking about the cupcake craze either. NYC is fairly unique in offering a huge variety of obsessively crafted single-food stands and other illustrious eateries where there’s virtually just one thing on the menu. But oh what delectable things they are!
We’ve scoped out some the most kid-ilicious single-food snacks around. (You’ll love them too.) Enjoy some of the very best single-food sensations around, all under $10:
161 West 36th Street (at 7th Avenue)
All the rage here and in Paris, brilliant-hued French Macarons are made of two light-as-air almond meringues “glued” together with a buttery ganache filling. When done “comme il faut”, they are to-die-for sure-fire kid pleasers. And luckily Macaron Café gets them right as their macarons taste as good as they look with intense flavors and melt-in-your mouth buttery-ness. These perfectly petite treats are the right single-serving size for kids (one or two is puh-lenty). My purple-loving toddler adores the Violet; all their flower essences are imported from France and the Rose is killer too. Also worth trying are Pistachio, Lemon, and the very chewy Chocolate.
Open Monday to Friday 7:00 am to 8 pm and Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm
Macarons are $1.95 each (it gets cheaper if you buy 6 or more).
Tip: The Café is quite tiny (albeit adorable) so getting these to-go is your best bet.
The Meatball Shop
84 Stanton Street
Though meatball madness has hit our town’s haute eateries, forget about fancy and roll up your sleeves for some messy-good munching at The Meatball Shop. You can choose from four varieties (including vegetarian) but we strongly recommend the mild-but ultra flavorful “classic beef” or the succulent “spicy pork” (both carefully sourced and it shows!). Of the four sauces we pick both the thick and rich “classic tomato” and the “spicy meat sauce” (not very spicy, goes great with their beef meatballs). They serve these babies a few ways but the best bites for kids are either the soft-bunned single-ball “sliders” or our fave, the easily-split-able baguette heroes (with extra crunchy crust that even comes in whole wheat!). And even though the meatballs are front and center stage here, don’t leave without trying a homemade ice cream sandwich; the chewy ginger snaps stuffed with creamy caramel ice cream is heaven.
Open 7 days, from noon to 4am Thursday thru Saturday, from noon to 2am Sunday thru Wednesday
Sliders are $3 each (one or two for most kids is plenty) or the hearty Heroes are $9 each and easily split two or three ways with kids. Ice-cream sandwiches are $4 each.
Tip: Go at an off hour like 3pm to avoid long lines as this joint gets busy beyond belief come dinner time.
236 East 9th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)
Don’t tell me to get outta town before I tell you why your kids might love the famous fried octopus balls (“Takoyaki”) at Otafuku’s tiny (but terrific) take out counter. First, they look like eyeballs (cool!) and they aren’t super fishy; they are basically chewy fried dough balls the size of donut holes with one piece of surprise octopus hidden inside. The mild fishiness approaches that of fish sticks, less if you opt out of the tasty dried bonita flakes on top. The sauce toppings are super (get ‘em!). More timid tykes can get a fish-free “cheese” version of Takoyaki or even a totally plain one. Though folks flock here for the takoyaki, the “okonomiyaki” (fried Japanese cabbage pancake) is delish.
Open 7 days from 1pm onward on weekdays, from noon on weekends.
A 6 piece order of octopus Takoyaki is $6 ($4 for the cheese variety, $3 for plain).
Tip: If the little bench outside is filled, head one block north on 2nd Ave. to the St. Mark’s Church yard where there are benches aplenty as well as comfy steps.
Rice To Riches
37 Spring Street between Mott and Mulberry Streets
Rich is the operative word here. Expect luscious rice pudding with enough cream to sink the Queen Mary. They literally make over twenty varieties each day (who would’a thunk?!) with a rotating selection of ten optional toppings like chocolate crumble, caramel vanilla sauce. Though rice pudding flavors vary daily, some recommended classics sold all the time include Cinnamon Sling with Raisins, Man Made Marscapone with Cherries, and Stubborn Banana. They always have one chocolate version as well. As a bonus, with each portion you get an adorable reusable take-home container with matching spoon.
Open 11 am to 11pm daily (to 1am on Fridays and Saturdays)
One “Solo” 8oz serving is $6.75 and though they market it as a single serving this is definitely a hefty dessert portion big enough for 2-3 kids to share. The next size up (the Epic) is 14 ounces and costs $8.50. Each topping is a buck extra.
Tip: If the cute seating is all filled up you can head to the park benches directly across the street.
345 East 12th Street (
also at “Pinch & S’MAC” 474 Columbus Ave. CLOSED)
What kid doesn’t love macaroni and cheese? (And how many of us can’t cop to opening up a box of Annie’s or Kraft in a pinch?) Enter S’Mac which offers twelve varieties of this gooey, kid-pleasing dish plus the option to “build your own” from various cheeses and a tempting list of “mix-ins.” You can even get gluten free or whole grain noodles and skip the breadcrumbs. We like the Alpine (gruyere and slab bacon) but you can even get plain jane “All American” which is still way better than anything out of a box. Carry-out, eat-in (very kid friendly), or try the nifty “take and bake” option—all ready to pop in your oven.
Open from 11 am to 11pm daily for dine-in and delivery. Friday and Saturday take out until 1am.
All servings are available in 4 sizes but the smallest, the “nosh” makes a perfect snack for 2 kids and is (easily) a full-meal portion for most adults. “Nosh” sizes start at $4.75 for All American and go up to $7.25 for the more gourmet variations. The next size up, the “Major Munch” starts at $7.75.
29 Avenue B, Manhattan
Your kids will never want a spongy bland street pretzel again once they chomp on a warm, chewy, organic (yay!) and quintessentially pretzel-y pretzel from this haimish little shop. Me and my little fressers favored the plain salted variety—which is truly done to perfection and tastes like a proper pretzel should, but there are many other fab flavors to choose from each day like the super-cheesy . Each comes with a free topping for dipping but they truly stand on their own.
Open noon to 8pm daily, closed Mondays. Their giant-sized plain salted pretzels start at $3.00 each, flavored ones are $3.50. Seating on premises.
333 Lafayette Street and 227 Mott Street, both in Manhattan
If your tykes dig tacos but reject anything “too picey” (as my toddler says), this is the place to go. Their toothsome soft tacos are totally authentic and fresh (Pinche touts organic and all-natural never-canned ingredients) plus everything is served mild; hot sauce always comes on the side. They do schmear on some very tasty guacamole though! Famous for fish tacos, my monkeys prefer the beef, pork (al pastor), and chicken—all super flavorful. Vegetarians can opt for beans n’ cheese. The LafayetteSt. location is cute—petite and shaped like a wedge of cheese with teeny kid-sized tables. 1 or 2 tacos make a very nice snack, service is fast.
Lafayette Street location is open from 10:30 am to 4am Friday and Saturday, from 10:30 am to Midnight Tuesday thru Thursday, and Sunday and Monday from 10am to 11pm. Mott Street is open daily from 10:30 am to 11pm. $2.95 for all tacos except fish and shrimp which are $3.95
3 Manhattan locations including:
“Hallo Berlin Garden Restaurant” 626 10th Ave. at 44th Street (a casual eat-in restaurant)
“Hallo Berlin Express” 744 9th Ave at 50th Street (a mini-eatery with some seating) and
“Juicy Food Stand,” their original street cart on 54th and 5th (reopening Fall ’10)
Forget frankfurters and stop by the Vendy Award-winning self proclaimed “wurst restaurant” in NYC for super-juicy, golden-grilled German sausage sandwiches served up in their signature style which means the sausage of your choice stuffed in a crusty bun and topped with two kinds of sauerkraut (both delish) and grilled onions (addictive!). Do hold the spicy mustard on kid orders and opt for one of the milder wursts. Your tykes will also be amused that each of the 10 varieties of sausage are named after automobiles, and customers can order by car. We dig the Mercedes which is the best bratwurst ever.
TIPS: The full restaurant location (on 10th Ave) has kid-pleasing picnic tables inside (snag the back table with the umbrella and colored lights) and in the garden. Skip the expanded menu here and stick to the sandwiches. Good sides are a hearty potato salad and a cool cucumber salad. Boffo beer too (parents take note).
Hours vary at each location (call) but most open at 11:30 am and all but the lunch cart serve dinner too. These wursts with the works cost $4 to $6.50 each.
379 Grand Street, Manhattan
Using top notch all-natural ingredients and offering novel flavors like vanilla bean, peanut butter-and-homemade jelly (this one’s the bomb!), Valrhona chocolate, pumpkin, and coconut coconut-cream, you’ll probably find these marvelous glazed goodies hole-y addictive. They change the menu each month which is a good (or terrible) excuse to return and see what’s new. No seating (just a wee coffee bar) but you’ll be done with your treat before you’re halfway down the block anyway.
Open daily (except Mondays) from 6:30 am until all the doughnuts are sold out! (between 5 and 7pm-ish)
Donuts range from $2 to $3.50. One is plenty big for kids (adults are another story entirely).
137 Rivington Street, Manhattan
Punny name aside, Baohaus delivers when it comes to the juiciest little Taiwanese pork (or beef or organic tofu) sandwiches that burst with flavor and come in squooshy gummy steamed buns. They use well sourced Niman Ranch meat anointed with a mild but tasty peanutty sauce. My kids never fail to tuck into these babies. Although tiny, Baohaus is very kid-friendly and the bao are conveniently kid-sized too. One makes a decent snack, two a meal. There’s barstool seating too.
Open Sunday – Thursday, noon to 11 pm, Friday and Saturday until 2 am (really!). Our porky fave, the Chairman Bao (yes, more puns) will set you back $4.00, the Haus Bao (with skirtsteak) is $4.50, and it’s just $3.50 for the Uncle Jesse (tofu bao).
Honorable Mention “Roll Call”:
Peanut Butter & Co. – 240 Sullivan Street, Manhattan Technically not a one-food-wonder but having a nutty “star” single ingredient in a variety of dishes is still totally noteworthy. A must-visit for all half-pints passionate about peanut butter!
Pommes Frites – 123 2nd Avenue, Manhattan These extra crispy Belgian fries served in a cone with fun flavored mayos aren't quite as good as they used to be but most kids won't notice.
Maoz Vegetarian – 5 Manhattan locations, see website for details. Their novel toppings bar makes Maoz’ crunchy falafels extra fun. Eat-in and have the kids pay a few trips to the “bar” to dress up their sandwiches as they munch.
Fried Dumpling – 106 Mosco Street, Manhattan Five hot, chewy, delicious, fried pork-and-scallion dumplings for only a buck. Take plenty of napkins and find a bench to much’em at Columbus Park across the street. (Way better than Vanessas.)
Kati Roll Company–99 MacDougal Street and 49 West 39th Street, Manhattan Worthy and wonderful meat or meatless Indian wrap sandwiches. (Some, like our favorite Paneer Roll, come a little spicy but cooks gladly can reduce the heat upon request, leaving out sauce or onions. Timid tasters can also ask for egg or potato rolls totally plain.
Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich – 369 Broome Street, Manhattan Our top Bahn Mi spot fills the crunchiest baguettes with your choice of pork, chicken or even tofu, all topped with marinated carrots, radish, cucumber, fresh cilantro, homemade mayo, and a spread of paté (in all but veggie versions). These happenin’ hoagies are indeed kid-friendly if you simply hold the jalapenos and the hot sauce. They’ll kindly cut them into quarters if you ask (do!).
Yonah Shimmel Knishery– 137 East Houston Street, Manhattan. Still the biggest and best knishes in town, a real NYC tradition. Best noshes are traditional potato, kasha, sweet potato and mushroom. Eat in at least once to enjoy the funky nostalgic setting.