Category Archives: Family-Friendly

The Better Brunch

Many years ago, I had my penultimate Manhattan brunch. (The very last one that I remember was at Cookshop, a great Chelsea restaurant, right below The High Line.) For some crazy reason, my sister and I chose to brave the crowded Theater District and agreed on a bustling “French” bistro for our Sunday brunch. It was overhyped, touristy and not even good for a hot chocolate. Not authentically French at all! From that moment on, we both swore off Manhattan brunches and promised to remember that brunch in Brooklyn, overall, is by far the better place for the meal that can make or break a girl’s weekend. But why is brunch specifically just plain better in Brooklyn?

The short answer is Brooklyn brunches are more French—due to a higher level of food quality, more personable service and often a unique, art-loving environment. The long answer is present in my top three discoveries about Brooklyn brunching, complete with brunch restaurant suggestions.

The Greener Good

Most Brooklyn restaurateurs are focused on using local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients with vegetarian options, which has one main benefit: quality, unequivocally fresh fare. And nothing tastes better when it’s organic, freshly plucked from a nearby farm, or grown and/or hand-processed on the restaurant’s premises than eggs, milk, cheese, fruit, bacon, etc.—basically all the components you need to make a fabulous breakfast or brunch.

For a sometimes intoxicating with sweets, sometimes fresh with veggies brunch make ressies for the famous Olmsted in Prospect Heights. Classified as a “vegetable-heavy” restaurant by its chef/owner, Olmsted has a lush green wall in its garden that isn’t just for show but its greens are actually used in dishes and listed on the menu. When I finally am able to go to this restaurant of veggie dreams, my first Olmsted brunch pick will be the very French-sounding Duck Duo. But if I were in the mood for a savory, laced with greens brunch, I would order the Spanakopita Shaksouka.
Olmsted, 718-552-2610,

Sans Tourist-Traps

Although I’m convinced that Brooklyn has the best NYC sights—French restaurants, Botanic Gardens and pizza (except for a couple of tourist-trap pizza spots in Dumbo)—there are so few longstanding gimmicky restaurants that seek to drain your pockets, while giving you little or nothing and getting away with it only because they’re close to a popular site for tourists.

Brooklyn’s lack of overhyped eateries has two prime perks: stability for family-run, neighborhood staples and a good amount of space for the younger generation of spots that serve everything from classic Eggs Benedict to Asian-fusion dishes for brunch.

Popular Crown Heights diner Tom’s, for example, has been serving the same fare since 1936, according to its website, and is still receiving the praise, that some say it deserves. Try the lemon ricotta pancakes and you probably won’t be disappointed. I couldn’t wait to try mine. The line to get in was long but went by in a decent amount of time.

Tom’s, 718-636-9738,

Party of Four or More
Even with the hefty amount of unique nightlife experiences, most of Brooklyn is really for families. And where it’s meant for revelry till 4 a.m., cool “kids” create their own extended families. (An earlier post, “Family-Friendly French” lists several eateries that cater to larger groups with children.) Carroll Gardens’ own Buttermilk Channel, one of the most famous of family-friendly Brooklyn restaurants, is crowded with a serpentine line for brunch. Most say though that its kid-friendly offerings, like the walnut sticky bun and the pecan pie french toast are well worth the wait. The kids menu itself is also intriguing. This restaurant’s name says it all, “Get the pancakes.” But rave reviews for Buttermilk’s chicken and waffles abound.

Buttermilk Channel, 718-852-8490,

A walk down Smith Street in the Gowanus area, also known for family-friendly French cuisine, will bring you to the freshly opened, hubby-and-wife run French restaurant, Dumonet. Surrounded by the rustic charm of brick walls, mocha banquettes and tin ceilings, you’ll enjoy classic brunch items—Croques, brioche french toast, and poached eggs—as well as the stuff you’d only get at a French resto—cheese soufflé, tart flambée, and a very mouth-watering version French onion soup.
Dumonet, 718-625-0963,

Pint-Sized Picks 

An exploration of Brooklyn brunches often leads to an exciting encounter with a hipster-loved storefront window eatery or rather with the five-star worthy egg sandwich that it serves and proudly touts as its paramount creation.

Don’t overlook the small cafes or even the storefront window restos that remain in high demand with thick lines down the block, regardless of their short menu of only a few or sometimes two, well-executed items. They disregard the unwritten rule of creating an extensive menu that attempts to please the masses, choose to go with what they know, and are often successful because of it.

For brunch on a quaint scale, indulge yourself in The Little Sweet Cafe in Boerum Hill. With fluffy crepes, a popular dirty chai and an indecisive half Anthropologie and half Paris vibe, I wanted to stay here all afternoon, despite it being a wifi/computer free zone. Definitely meant for francophiles that savor a quiet, minimalist ambience with touches of rich, artsy culture everywhere.

The Little Sweet Cafe, 718-858-8998,

Photo by John Baker on Unsplash

Family-Friendly French

For my son’s birthday, guess what we did? No. Not a crazy party with five-year-olds, a bouncy house, lots of sugary cupcakes and the most tired, worked over version of me. (We’re doing all that and then some next year!) All of us sat at a comfortable booth table at the most upscale, kid-friendly French restaurant in Manhattan. (I’ve been taking him there since he turned one, so it’s a tradition or else I’d have chosen a Brooklyn resto.)

My family had a marvelous time despite our differences in priorities. Being an active toddler/ladies’ man/social butterfly, my son’s favorite restaurant sport is running under tables, all the while melting every heart in the room. My mom is a veteran retiree who deserves an Oscar for her role as a food critic and restaurant inspector each and every time our family eats out. My sister, embarrassed by us all, couldn’t pick a better time to be engaged with or to her phone. And, I can’t wait to get my appetizer, usually something French, served in a wine glass.

Not unlike any other family-friendly French restaurant that we’ve patronized, they served us with ready plates. Great service, good food and they have cotton candy! I’ve noticed that this inclusive behavior is typical of French eateries. I’m sure that France’s family-first policies have some significance in the general way that the French consider the importance of family life.

Most Brooklyn French restaurants that we’ve tried have been so accommodating for a family with a young child, and also cater to the needs of a family with an aging parent. Life is so good when you can swap a horrible, fast food chain location for a lovely, safe restaurant where you can watch your son play, and catch up with your mom and sister while enjoying a nice cocktail, even if only three times a year.

Hopefully with the tremendous amount of five-star family-friendly French restaurants in Brooklyn, I will continue to be be able to afford and enjoy many meals out with my family. extended family, and family-like friends and their kids too.

Here’s a short list of restaurants that I’d like to try. ’Tis the season to be jolly with your loved ones.

Cafe Paulette
The Place: Lots of dramatic sunlight by day with sweeping windows and a view of Fort Greene park across the street. Spacious, somewhat plain, minimalist with an expensive air or maybe that’s the delicious smell from the kitchen that fills the room.

Other notes: No kids’ menu, but we noticed a few other families noshing on the Poulet Roti and the burger. Closed for one and a half hour before dinner.

The Place: Cute, quaint, and comfy cafe-type interior with a mural of black and white photos of French antagonists. A secluded table for one mid-sized family—it’s in a cozy corner. A handsome lush garden will woo you.

Other notes: No kids’ menu but they have several kid-friendly options. The Michelin-star-worthy food is so finely, crafted that you’ll want your future foodie (hopefully), to try it. My son liked the cheese soufflé, not the sorbet that comes with it. I liked everything.

La Cigogne
The Place: True Parisian aesthetic vibe on Union Street. Green walls and a bit of greenery for tables that counter each other. A fireplace that if you’re lucky enough to get a seat by, is perfect for this kind of weather.

Other notes: Opens early at 4 p.m. for dinner. The kids’ menu is fantastically different. It doesn’t list chicken fingers that they won’t eat anyway. The Shirley Temple though would make my son smile.

Le Paddock
The Place: French rustic appeal that is primed for a brick-oven pizza dinner. From the branches chandelier to the distressed wooden bar to the real wooden tables to the barn-like floor, this place takes its name seriously.

Other notes: Order the pizza and you’re an automatic hero to your kids. Order one of their cool cocktails and you’re wind-in-hair ready to face the world. Very close to Prospect Park. My son felt at home here after a trip to the park, and ravaged his salmon entree.

Le Petit Paris Bistro
The Place: Brick walls, lots of accent lighting makes it cozy. The space is OK, but the view of the food is the reason you come this little Parisian bistro.
Other notes: Boasts an extensive menu with traditional French entrees. Picky eaters welcome. Lots of choices for everyone. Proudly doesn’t offer WiFi, but rather encourages actual face-to-face conversation.