Zach Brooks’ beat is perfectly suited to family mealtime — at least on the weekends and during holidays. The man behind Midtown Lunch‘s schedule largely revolves around what he eats while the sun is shining and moods are cheerful. Brooks brought his zeal for finding high quality, well-priced lunches with him to L.A. two years ago when he moved here from New York and established the L.A. branch of his baby, Midtown Lunch. (By then he also had a “real” baby in the traditional sense.) Both office workers and folks with kids looking for a midday perk alike are wise to take his sharp, no-nonsense advice. Zach recently did a service even for us native Angelenos by highlighting his top 21 picks of where he loves to take visitors for lunch in L.A. So where does he go when he’s schlepping his two kids — Lucy, 3 months, and Harry, 3 — out to lunch? Keep reading to find out.
What are your favorite places in L.A. to eat out with your family — lunch or otherwise?
For lunch on the weekends we don’t feel too hindered by having kids. Ramen Yamadaya in Culver City is walking distance from the house and there is a big communal table in the back where they usually stick all the families with kids. We just had a new baby girl, and her first restaurant meal was lunch at Sotto. I wouldn’t take a kid there for dinner necessarily, but during lunch it isn’t as packed. We also had a great meal at Sunny Spot with two toddlers and an infant. The inside is not set up very well for families, but they have a big outdoor patio where you won’t feel weird at all sitting with kids, and they have high chairs.
What are your son’s favorite foods and restaurants?
Harry will eat pretty much anything, which we credit to never telling him that he won’t like something. Even spicy food. We encourage him to try everything, and act like there’s no reason he shouldn’t like any of the food we eat. He particularly loves rice and noodles, so we spend a lot of time in Koreatown, and try to make it to the SGV and South Bay as much as we can. We find that ethnic restaurants are totally used to serving families, and far more accommodating than American restaurants. We never feel out of place eating in an Asian restaurant in Los Angeles.
Does he ever come along with you when you’re doing Midtown Lunch L.A. recon?
When we lived in NYC he used to come with me on my lunch adventures, but now he’s in a Montessori school, so I lunch solo.
Any recs in particular for combining a great meal with a fun activity?
One of our favorite kid friendly meals is Sanuki No Sato, after a visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. We’ve done dinner there the past two New Year’s Eves in a row, and I think it will probably end up being an annual tradition. The place is packed with families on New Year’s, and they have high chairs. The only downside is, you might have to wait for a table. On a regular weekend we like going to the giant playground in Playa Vista, followed by lunch at Mendocino Farms in Mar Vista. And after a trip to the Griffith Park train and pony rides, you might find us at Ricky’s Fish Tacos or Thai Town.
To address the inevitable L.A. vs. NYC debates — what do you like best about raising a family in L.A. compared to NYC?
Well, there’s no question that throwing two kids into the car and driving wherever you want is a luxury. Not sure how we would have navigated the subways with our gigantic two kid stroller. I also think that because there is more real estate, restaurants can be more accommodating to kids and families, with high chairs and such.
Do you think it’s harder to eat out with kids in NYC (Manhattan or elsewhere) than in L.A.?
In general, yes. Although I miss the days when I could throw Harry into the stroller and walk into Midtown for a couple hours to explore and eat lunch. I wish I could do that here in L.A. with our newborn, but it’s a lot harder to have a four month old crying in the backseat while you’re trying to drive cross town for lunch.