I’ve never been a big fan of going out for dinner on Valentine’s Day in New York City. Reservations are hard to get and restaurants that are known to be great on a normal day, suddenly become overly saccharine, overpriced versions of themselves. The menus are limited, totally cliche and nothing tastes as good.
Instead, I like to skip the dinner portion of the evening and go out for a special Valentine’s Day dessert. Go early enough and you can beat the crowds, while they’re stuck at their seven course subpar dinners.
I don’t even need to bring Mike. When you have kids, Valentine’s Day is really more about them.
10 Places to get Your Kids a Sweet Treat on V-Day (or Any Day):
Black Tap Burger
177 Ludlow Street
Black Tap Burger might have the word “burger” in the name but really, they are all about dessert. Specifically, their crazy ass shakes which spill out over the glass with gumballs, lollipops and cookies. There is no way in hell anybody can finish one, but they taste delicious and you are guaranteed an awesome look of awe from your kid when her shake arrives at the table.
There are four locations— the Meatpacking District, SoHo, Midtown and the Lower East Side. The original Soho location is small and can get pretty crowded, so for Valentine’s Day specifically, I recommend trying the other three.
185 Bleecker Street
By Chloe is a simple but trendy spot, serving vegan food and desserts. They’ve got lots of gluten free options as well. Harlow’s favorite dessert is the chocolate cupcakes that are basically the vegan version of Hostess cupcakes. I also love the two swings in the front entrance.
We took Harlow and Luke there recently and they spent a decent amount of time swinging while Seri and I ate fries at another table. Parenting win! There are five By Chloe locations in Manhattan, but I recommend the West Village location which has a perfectly pink-striped bakery attached.
177 Lafayette Street
Our experience at Flour Shop is deserving of an entire post and I promise it is coming soon. But the important things to note is that a) it’s a adorable with a huge rainbow design that stretches across the floor and up the walls. b) It sells two signature desserts that your kids will love— rainbow cake push pops…
…and mini cakes that surprise you with a treasure trove of sprinkles in the center.
401 Bleecker Street
Magnolia Bakery is a staple that’s been around forever. It’s now a chain that you can find in other places around the world, but the original West Village location is still my favorite. And despite newer trendier cupcake places opening up since Magnolia made a name for itself, I STILL say that their cupcakes are the best.
The other thing their famous for? Their banana pudding. TRUST ME. It’s insane.
433 East 9th Street
Zucker’s is a sweet little find in the East Village that specializes in chocolate babka, alfajores and something they call “Party Balls,” which are doughnut holes completely covered in rainbow sprinkles.
We took Luke and Harlow there a few years ago and they still talk about pairing their “party balls” with hot chocolate.
Rose and Basil
104 East 7th Street
Rose and Basil is a tiny East Village hole in the wall with bizarre lighting and fake flowers decorating the ceiling, but they do make these perfectly instagrammable mini cakes, each in a different pastel shade with a real rose stuck on top.
You can get the signature Rose and Basil flavor or something more kid-friendly like the S’mores cake.
ChikaLicious Dessert Club
203 East 10th Street
ChikaLicious Dessert Bar has been touted by New York Magazine to have the best vanilla soft serve in Manhattan. They also serve made-to-order molten chocolate cakes, apple crumb cakes, banana custards and creme brules all in little paper cups. Their most famous dessert is newly invented ConeChurro, which is kind of like using a Cronut as an ice cream cone. (They serve their own version of Cronuts which are called DoughSants. Presumably for legal reasons.)
If the ConeChurro seems too overwhelming (I had to hold Harlow’s so it wouldn’t topple over), they make absolutely delicious and totally manageable mini cupcakes. My personal favorite, although not for kids because it’s kind of messy, is not on the menu. Ask for vanilla soft serve in an eclair. It’s fantastic, but you have to eat it pretty fast before the whole thing backfires on you.
Sharing is not even possible.
398 West Broadway
Laduree is a Parisian bakery most well known for their macarons, which come in pretty much every flavor and more colors than shades in the rainbow. They have a pretty large seating area in their Soho location with an enclosed garden room and the most beautiful outdoor space in all of Manhattan (in my humble opinion) during the spring and summer.
In fact, the back garden has numerous cherry blossom trees, so if you go at exactly the right time in spring, the whole space will be covered with pink petals.
Woops! Bake Shop
93 Worth Street
If Lauderee seems a little schmancy for your kids, I suggest the much more low key Woops! Bake Shop in Tribeca. Their macarons are just as colorful and tasty (some even come chocolate dipped!), the space is way smaller and casual and the pastry display has a window perfect for toddler height.
In addition to the Tribeca location, they also have shops on the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
440 Amsterdam Avenue
Orwashers has two locations on the Upper West Side and Upper East Side and no, most people don’t get to actually bake in the Bread Lab. We got lucky. They serve deliciously home baked breads, chocolate croissants, chocolate chip challah, jelly doughnuts and a New York favorite— black and white cookies.
Leading up to Valentine’s Day, they also serve heart shaped challah.
Third Rail Coffee
159 2nd Avenue
Now. Most people do not go to Third Rail for dessert. They come there for coffee, which truthfully, I don’t even like. And their service is only good when a certain person, whose name rhymes with Mevin, isn’t working there. But Third Rail is Harlow’s favorite. We used to go there for muffin dates every morning before preschool and if you ask Harlow today where she would most want a mommy-daughter Valentine’s Day date, she would still say “our muffin shop” which is Third Rail.
The funny things is— she doesn’t even GET muffins there. Pumpkin bread for the win every time.
For more NYC recommendations, check out the entire “Mommy Shorts Guide to Manhattan” series. New posts go up every Thursday!