Enjoying James Beard Award Winners With Your Kids

Current and past James Beard winners, and how to navigate them with your young child

Now can there be anything more apropos than JuneBaby winning the James Beard 2018 best new restaurant award as we offer our guide to navigating current and past winners with your pipsqueak in tow? 2018 winners that we have enjoyed with our young children are Lilia in Brooklyn (Best Chef New York City, Missy Robbins), The Dabney in Washington DC (Best Chef Mid-Atlantic, Jeremiah Langhorne), Zuni Cafe in San Francisco (Outstanding Service) and AOC in Los Angeles (Outstanding Restaurateur, The Lucques Group).

We’re so glad to see so many female chefs we admire honored this year: Missy Robbins, Gabrielle Hamilton, Caroline Styne, Camille CogswellKaren Akunowicz, Nina Compton, Dolester Miles, Paula Wolfert, and of course (mother of two) Dominique Crenn.

The full list of 2018 James Beard winners here. As well, below you will find some our favorite past-winning restaurants and chefs that we highly recommend visiting.

2018 winners

Lilia — Brooklyn

Obviously everyone knows Brooklyn is a culinary destination, but Lilia has taken the borough, and Italian food, to a whole new level. It deserves all the critical acclaim it has received with incredible pastas and delicious small dishes of antipasti and fish. Although be warned, once you or your child tries the ruffled mafaldini pasta with pink peppercorn and Parmigiano cheese, you’ll dismissively throw any other pasta on the floor and demand to eat only Lilia’s.

photo: Evan Sung Photography 

Pipsqueak tip If you go early, or reserve in advance, try to snag the dining alcove to the left of the entrance to reduce the chance of disturbing other diners. Or better yet, when it’s nice out, eat al fresco and move around and squeak until bedtime approaches!

The Dabney – Washington DC

We have a thing for restaurants with a warm friendly farmhouse vibe, and The Dabney gets it just right — from the big wood-burning hearth inside to the sunny courtyard outdoors.

Source: The Dabney

What to eat? Of course, the best items on the menu are cooked on that big hearth, especially, although it might not seem obvious, the vegetables. The rustic cooking method is often offset by super-colorful flourishes with flowers and herbs.The brussels sprouts and chicken and dumplings are faves, and the dessert lovers among us won’t stop raving about their chocolate and butterscotch pies.

Pipsqueak tip Get a seat by the open kitchen for warmth and entertainment, or head outside if the kids need room to wiggle.

Zuni Cafe – San Francisco

Walking into Zuni feels like stumbling upon a hidden gem, no matter how renowned it is or many times you’ve been. This bi-level bistro is classic romantic San Francisco. The food is classic and thoughtful, not trendy, and that’s exactly why people love it. Globally, the cuisine is California with heavy French and Italian influences.

Zuni Cafe

Source: Zuni Cafe

What to order? This place is famous for its chicken – and it is definitely well-worth the wait. Pair with ceasar salad and shoestring fries and you have a delicious, SF classic meal.

Pipsqueak tip We suggest making a reservation to avoid any lines. And while they don’t have a kids menu, the food (with pastas, pizzas and burger options) is accessible for most children.

AOC – Los Angeles

Tasty Tapas that are the perfect meal for you, and great for picking at for young, fussy eaters. And, of course, outdoor seating is available for enjoying the LA weather.

Source: AOC

Past James Beard Winning Restaurants and Chefs

Le Coucou – New York

Why go? It’s still hard to get a prime time table at this Paris-via-New York-via-Paris stunner, but luckily for many families, you might just be interested in some not-so-prime time seating times.  It is often possible to grab a walk-in table at breakfast, and at lunch it’s such a buzzy scene that no one will bat an eyelash at the toddler on the banquette..

What to eat? Lunch is prix fixe, but they will almost certainly be offering the Quenelle de brochet, sauce américaine — which is a must-order, and could also work for those diners who don’t have a full set of teeth yet.  Breakfast is a la carte, featuring one of the finest omelette fines herbs this side of the Atlantic.

Pipsqueak tip It is relatively easy to be unobtrusive here, but best to book ahead and  mention baby so there are no surprises for the staff.

Marea – New York

Why go? It’s time to introduce your progeny to Italian-style seafood, so you might as well start with a restaurant that won top honors from Bon Appetit, Esquire and the James Beard Award, the year it opened. We promise it’s as good as ever and worth every penny.

Source: https://www.instagram.com/mareanyc/

What to order? The fusilli with octopus and the branzino. P.S. there is steak and chicken available for those not feeling in the mood for fish.

Pipsqueak tip We have it on good authority that every so often, a well-behaved kid gets a chance to explore the kitchen and meet the chef.

Frontera Grill – Chicago

Mexican food is always popular in Chi-town, but if you want to roll out for some high end Mexican, Chef Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill is your place to go.

What to eat? Simple yet complex flavors is the theme here with guacamole, ceviche trio, en frigolados, fried sweet plantains, flan, or anything that has mole sauce in their dish.

Pipsqueak tip The big space and lots of different seating areas makes it fairly easy to safely dine out and not worry about disturbing others.

ABC Kitchen – New York

The afterglow from winning the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in 2011 hasn’t left this farm-to-table spot. This was the first restaurant opened by star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten in the ABC Carpet & Home building and while they promote the locale’s casual elegance, it’s definitely the fanciest of his eateries there.

Source: https://www.instagram.com/abckitchen/

What to order  With pizza, pasta and a splendid selection of veggies, every member of the family can find something they’re craving.

Pipsqueak tip We particularly love going for brunch or lunch, when it’s easier to navigate the room with a stroller.

Southern Art – Atlanta

he food at James Beard Award winning chef Art Smith’s Southern Art and Bourbon Bar is perfection in every way.

What to eat? We thought we knew shrimp and grits until we tasted chef Smith’s edamame, corn, and chorizo laden version with the creamiest, fluffiest grits and spicy shrimp topped with okra. This could be one of our favorite dishes of all time. The fried chicken is outstanding — it’s a feeling of pure “yum” as you take your first bite. The fried green tomatoes were coated in crunchy cornmeal crust and topped with a dollop of goat cheese. Divine! 

Pipsqueak tip No kids menu, but lots of kids favorites that they can share with you and enjoy.

Southern Art

Source: Somer McBride

Gabriel Kreuther – New York

Why go?  Dining decadence for you or tarte flambée for the picky eater, Gabriel Kreuther offers both a rich tasting menu in a luxurious dining room, or merely refined elegance on the bar menu served up front. Chef Kreuther shows off his Alsatian roots and classic French training with superb and imaginative dishes, and love for foie gras that cannot be missed. If dining with the toddler (or impatient partner), the bar area seating and menu is the way to go, but if you have a sitter and looking for that very, very special date night, then take the time to enjoy the Gabriel Kreuther experience.

Pipsqueak tip  The bar menu, including its section of Alsatian Classics, offers dishes that could be arguably the nicest kids menu in the world with squid ink orecchiette for the pasta-obsessed, country sausage for the hot dog eaters, and of course tarte flambée for the pizza lovers.