Flash back to being a kid at a restaurant in the ‘70s and 80’s and the only fancy faux drink you were probably served was a Shirley Temple with a paper umbrella sticking out (the best part: crunching on that ginger ale-soaked Maraschino cherry garnish). Times sure have changed. At some restaurants, the drinks are just as fun for kids as the food is. Head out to one of these five places and you might just want to sip your kid’s mocktail instead of your own cocktail.
#1: Neely’s Barbecue Parlor
This fixture of Southern hospitality on the Upper East Side gets our biggest props for originality when it comes to their kiddie drinks. These are as big of a feature on the kids’ menu as a pulled pork sandwich. Ready? The imaginative mocktails ($3.50 each)… We’re talking World’s Fair (cotton candy that melts into soda), Apple Soda (green apple soda served with green apple slices) and the best of the best: Fish Bowl (blue raspberry soda served with a gummy fish and a straw ‘hook.’) These over-the-top drinks will keep your kids so enthralled that they’ll likely let you savor a piece of just-crispy-enough fried chicken with a side order of creamy grits with zero interruptions.
1125 First Avenue (at 62nd Street)
Where else but at an ‘Old World Jewish Deli’ would you find a Milk Shake Happy Hour? Though the atmosphere might appeal more to a slightly older demo, the milk shakes are among some of the best we’ve tasted. For just $3 (Mondays through Fridays from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm only), kids can indulge in the ultimate after-school snack. The list of creamy hand-blended options includes a Black & White (a 50/50 mix of chocolate and vanilla), Campfire Smores (marshmallow and chocolate with graham cracker on top) and the Oreo Supreme (a vanilla shake with chunks of Oreos and chocolate sauce blended in). As they sip, you can work your way through a mouth-watering corned beef on rye (it’s dinnertime somewhere, right?)
235 Columbus Avenue (between 70th and 71st Street)
#3: Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain
Skip right over to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, if you want to introduce your kids to what soda should really taste like. At this exceedingly kid-friendly old-school soda fountain (housed in a former pharmacy), the Sparkling Sodas made on the spot would make your grandma proud. These sodas are a locavore’s delight—a blend of natural syrups from Brooklyn-based P&H Soda Company and sparkling seltzers in such house flavors as cherry, lemon and lime ($3.25) and seasonal flavors like pineapple, orange and grapefruit ($3.75). Pair these with an egg-cream chaser and your kids will thank you all night.
513 Henry Street (at Sackett Street)
#4: Serendipity 3
Locals consider it a must-do to take their kids to this legendary Manhattan fave for a Frrrozen Hot Chocolate ($8.95). At this townhouse eatery, opened in 1954 and decorated with Tiffany lamps and a touch of Victorian décor, the recipe for this drink was kept a secret for 50 years before it was revealed that it contains chocolate, hot chocolate mix, sugar, milk, ice and whipped cream and chocolate shavings as a decadent garnish. If chocolate’s not in the tastebuds, there’s always the Frrrozen Pineapple Lime ($7.50), the Apricot Smush ($9.50) or the Pink Ice ($7.50).
225 East 60th Street (between Second and Third Avenue)
#5: Peanut Butter & Co.
It’s not just nutty-inspired food and drinks that are offered up at this Greenwich Village sandwich shop. Since 1998, this restaurant has served as a headquarters of sorts for peanut butter lovers so why not pair The Elvis, a grilled peanut butter sandwich stuffed with bananas and honey ($7.50; add bacon for an extra $1), with a Purple Cow ($3.60), a blend of grape soda and vanilla ice cream or a Cherry Lime Rickey ($3.20), a combo of seltzer and cherry and lime-flavored syrup. Or, if you feel compelled to finish a peanut buttery meal with a peanut buttery dessert, by all means go for the Mary Jane Shake, a blend of peanut butter, honey and a dollop of ice cream ($5.25).
240 Sullivan Street (between Bleecker and West 3rd Street)
Did we miss out on your hot spot for kiddie drinks? Share yours in the comments below!
— Lambeth Hochwald