First came the new , then the reopening of . Now on Cortlandt comes . Not to mention the myriad pizza joints already nearby: , , . As the per capita rate of slices around here rises, I have to wonder if some entrepreneur will dare take a chance on some family-friendly food that isn’t dough, cheese and red sauce.
Nothing beats pizza for budget cuisine, both on the business owner’s side and the consumer's. What is super-cheap to make (so much so that I recall several NYC bars used to give them out for free) also gets sold for a steal. Unless you start adding extra toppings, a family can often down a large pie and a bunch of promotional throw-ins for under $20. At Hollywood right now, for instance, you can leave with a large cheese pie, baked ziti, garlic knots, and a 2-liter bottle of soda for $19.95.
But, as a mom of young kids, whose only friends around here are moms with young kids (we can’t help but glom onto each other), I keep hearing one refrain: Can someone please open a restaurant that suits us? ’s looks promising with its “small bites” idea though it's leaning toward the late-night crowd. There’s , , and , all following the spirit of "family-friendly" but from an old-school model.
We yearn for more. We want numerous menu options for adults and kids (healthy and affordable being the main criteria) in a casual kid-friendly sort of setting that is more than just bright lights, bare walls, and red-and-white-checked tablecloths. We want high chairs, and low chairs, couches and play areas. Coffee and milk shakes. Good music and crayons.
I’m thinking of a place like Wobble Café in Ossining, which achieves a nice balance of being a great place to bring the kids while not pandering exclusively to families. Young patrons' art gets displayed on the walls and there’s a couchy play area in the back for bored kids to go to while the elders keep eating, but the menu is good for all ages. On the day we went, we were actually the only married-with-kids clan there.
As a former entrepreneur myself, the itch occasionally rises in me to embark on some such venture again. I see economic downturn and think “opportunity." A time when rents are cheap and help abundant. I still am kicking myself for missing out the under-$700/month rent that was available on Pocantico before Guard Hill Realty snapped it up. While a realty office is great for people who are moving here, it doesn’t do much for the residents.
This time, my big "idea" certainly wouldn’t be a bar but a place where the kids could come to work with me, where other moms with kids would feel welcome. I fantasize about the relative simplicity of retail (a kid’s consignment shop? But Affordables in Dobbs Ferry does that so well), or what about – stretching here – a falafel shop?
I often think that the best business models are the simplest: do one thing, very well. I love Maoz in the city, with its complimentary buffet of extensive fixin's like roasted broccoli, beets, carrots, sauces and more. Alas, I checked the franchise page on their website and you need to be a millionaire to embark on this venture. (A chicken and egg conundrum to be sure: the problem of how to be a millionaire in order to become a millionaire.)
So I put the call out to some other would-be business owner. Make a family-friendly place that’s unique, fun and affordable. Please. This needn't necessarily include food, though that would help since we moms-with-tikes are an insatiable bunch. I promise if you build it, we will come.