This week, Eater NY staffers are writing about restaurants we love — ones that might not be hot and might not be cool but have special places in our hearts for one reason or another. They’re love letters of sorts, odes to the places that give us faith in restaurants, and New York, too. Today we turn to critic Robert Sietsema, who writes about dining out with his grandchild for the very first time.
My daughter and I got into the habit of lunching once a month or so when she returned from the Bay Area a few years ago. Tuesday was the day we usually picked, visiting restaurants in Chelsea or Greenwich Village. But when she announced she was expecting a baby in the summer of 2017, we decided to regularize the habit. Late lunch on Tuesdays, when the restaurants were uncrowded, became our regular day. We took advantage of this interlude, knowing that our lives would be very different when the baby arrived.
One of our favorite places was Rosemary’s, at the corner of 10th Street and Greenwich Avenue just across the street from the historic Jefferson Market Library, which had once been a courthouse with a women’s prison attached.
If you don’t know it, Rosemary’s is in a large corner space with lots of picture windows, a high ceiling, diverse seating arrangements, and a long stairway the leads to a garden on the roof. Though it was only one of the places we visited, we came to love the menu, which included octopus salami, minestrone soup finished at the table, and small vegetable dishes such as caponata and beets with hazelnuts.
Well, the baby arrived in December, and there was a hiatus of a few months before we decided we were ready to lunch again, not as a pair but as a threesome. Good memories of the food at Rosemary’s, our feeling that it was relatively healthy by our standards, and the relaxing nature of the space led us to return one sunny day just as spring was arriving. We deemed some of our earlier haunts as too greasy and too crowded.
People in the restaurant industry used to often actively discourage people from bringing their offspring out to eat — enacting stroller bans, for example, or not providing booster seats and changing tables. Some simply banned children entirely.
It’s not something I wanted to abide by; a few years ago, I advocated for parents to bring young ones to New York’s restaurants. So my daughter and I met in front of Rosemary’s, my new granddaughter in a carrier asleep. But would the nap last? We were testing the waters of dining out in a scene frequently unwelcoming to little ones.
When we went inside, we were delighted to see a few strollers scattered around the room. Some babies slept; others were held in their mothers’ arms and fed. We were led to a table by a cheerful server and began to look over the menu when the baby abruptly woke up.
We were slightly self-conscious about the crying, even though the ambient noise was high enough that it masked sounds of that volume. What we needed to do was bounce her up and down to reestablish the nap, and that was hard to do while sitting at a table. But nor did we want to take the baby outside and walk around the block a few times.
Then my daughter spotted the standing tables over by the bar and realized she could stand and bounce the baby while eating. Meanwhile, I could sit on a stool. It was the perfect solution. When we made our request, the server understood immediately, and several employees descended on our table to affect the change with not a bit of fuss. Once bounced, the baby fell asleep again, and we enjoyed our meal.
So, thanks, Rosemary’s, for being so baby friendly and making every customer, no matter how small, feel welcome.