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Whenever friends and family members with children ask where to eat in New York, I always ask several questions: How old are the little ones? How much of the family vacation budget do mom and dad want to dole out on three squares a day, plus snacks? And most importantly, just how important is good, authentic Big Apple food to parents and children alike?
Some folks after all, are more than happy to quaff breadsticks at the Olive Garden in Times Square or silence their children’s whines with a Sbarro calzone. Hey, when money’s tight and you’re in a crunch, why not?
Well, here’s why not. With a little resourcefulness and prior research, you can do something different than big box restaurants and fast food chains when you hit the town in New York. Your city probably has twelve Olive Gardens anyway.
In this spirit, I’ll suggest an alternative to satisfy every type of parent, from the ones who love to supersize to the ones who want to take Junior on a foodie tour of Brooklyn. Two words: street food.
Street vendors are clearly the way to go in Gotham. Well, if not the way, then at least a way and especially with children in tow. Some of the most innovative and fresh cuisine in Manhattan comes from carts, in the Lower East Side, Spanish Harlem, or in Alphabet City. Street vendors consistently introduce New Yorkers to niche culinary traditions that may not have made it onto restaurant menus.
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You may think “street food” is only dirty water hot dogs and “Nuts 4 Nuts.” Thankfully for parents on shoestring travel budgets, New York’s street food scene is much more diverse. So forget the franks and think Korean BBQ, gourmet organic ice cream, Jamaican jerk, South Indian dosas or Uruguayan empanadas. The sky’s the limit and best of all, it’s insanely affordable.
Plan a bit in advance, especially if you don’t want to trudge up and down Manhattan blindly with the kids. Family friendly hotels in NYC all offer WiFi these days, so there’s no excuse. A killer Big Apple food itinerary is a few iPhone swipes away. Good sources for street food info include the annual Vendy Awards (the Oscars of street food), New York Magazine’s annual “Best Of” lists and food blogs and websites like Street Grub, New York Street Food, Gourmet.com and New York Post.
What (and where) your favorite street food vendors?