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10 Big Apple Breakfasts

The pumpkin waffle—sprinkled with raisins and pumpkin seeds, dribbled with warm honey, and crowned with a dollop of sour cream—is one of the glories of Sarabeth's in the Hotel Wales. With a glass of "four flowers juice"—orange, pineapple, banana, and pomegranate—it may be one of the most healthful meals your traveling children get. Also commendable are the omelettes and pastries, especially the fresh English muffins and berry scones. The only disappointment is the much-touted French toast, which is cakey and leaden. On the Upper East Side, it's close to all the major museums, but instead of battling the tourist hordes, dally in one of the less trafficked establishments, such as the Cooper-Hewitt, the Smithsonian's design museum located in the former Andrew Carnegie mansion (2 E. 91st St., at Fifth Ave.); or the Museum of the City of New York (1220 Fifth Ave., at 103rd St.), which has a splendid collection of antique dollhouses and fire-fighting paraphernalia. 1295 Madison Ave., at 92nd St.; 212/410-7335; breakfast for four $44. Other branches: Whitney Museum, 945 Madison Ave., at 75th St., 212/570-3670; 423 Amsterdam Ave., between 80th and 81st Sts., 212/496-6280; Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Ave., between 15th and 16th Sts., 212/989-2424.

Golden Unicorn
I've never met a kid who doesn't like dim sum. At Chinatown's Golden Unicorn, these small snacks—slippery dumplings crammed with meat or seafood; crunchy fried shrimp; doughy steamed buns concealing savory minced pork; even coconut gelatin—are served Hong Kong-style, from metal carts pushed around the dining room. You can take as many small plates as you want or ignore a cart completely (the one serving chicken feet, for example). Thirteen-year-old Tracy's favorite was cheung fun`, a pair of shrimp wrapped in a glistening rice noodle, while nine-year-old Jonathan preferred the custard tarts that are a legacy of Portuguese colonization in China. The child-size portions and dazzling number of choices encourage children to be adventurous, and prices are so reasonable, you won't mind their experimentation. Dim sum is typically eaten for breakfast or lunch, and Golden Unicorn offers it every day beginning at 9 a.m. Afterward, a tour of Manhattan's sprawling Chinatown is in order. Try a scoop of mango, litchi, green-tea, coconut, or red-bean ice cream at the excellent Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (65 Bayard St.). 18 East Broadway; 212/941-0911; dim sum for four $36.

American Festival Café
Pick a window seat and find yourself in the midst of the twirling skaters who circle the Rockefeller Plaza rink. Favored by power-breakfasting businesspeople, the American Festival Café offers a predictable range of food at prices that border on reasonable, given the spectacular setting. My gang preferred the simpler choices—oatmeal, fruit-topped granola, and eggs with bacon—over the chalky buttermilk pancakes paired with a blueberry compote that tasted like prunes. Don't miss the shredded potatoes: a loaf of oniony spuds browned on all sides and strewn with fresh chives. After breakfast, merge with the excited throng outside the street-level studio from which the Today show is broadcast live weekdays from 7 to 9 a.m.—that is, if you can lure your kids away from the skating rink. F.A.O. Schwarz, the gigantic toy store, is a few blocks north on Fifth Avenue. And Times Square is just a few blocks west. Rockefeller Plaza, 20 W. 50th St., just west of Fifth Ave.; 212/332-7620; breakfast for four $48.

If your teenagers want to see the East Village, start at Veselka, a venerable Ukrainian coffee shop that functions as an around-the-clock hub for this bohemian neighborhood. Sit below the funky mural and watch the world wake up, as artists drift in for their first espresso of the day, then furtively head off to their day jobs. The muffins, lush and large, are among the best in town (especially the whole-wheat blueberry). Also order anything made with buttermilk, such as the well-browned waffles dusted with powdered sugar and served with a chunky raspberry purée. The cheese blintzes are fab, too; other selections that reflect the community's Eastern European heritage include kielbasa and kasha—steamed buckwheat with a nutty flavor. Begin your tour of the area at Third Avenue and work your way east along St. Mark's Place, past the jewelry stalls, punk boutiques, and piercing parlors, until you reach Tompkins Square Park, where there's a great playground. 144 Second Ave., at Ninth St.; 212/228-9682; breakfast for four $20.

Barney Greengrass
The name sounds like a cartoon character, but Barney Greengrass ("The Sturgeon King") couldn't be more serious about fish. This Upper West Side landmark dispenses chub, lox, Nova, kippers, sable, whitefish, pickled herring, sardines, and sturgeon, whose faintly smoky and boneless white flesh is likely to be preferred by youngsters. Examine the showcase and proceed into the dining room—curiously, it's wallpapered with scenes of New Orleans. Here you can order thin slices of any fish, served with lettuce, olives, tomatoes, onions, pickles, and a toasted bagel. Of several fish-and-eggs combos, my favorite is scrambled eggs with caramelized onions and Nova. If the kids turn up their noses at smoked fish, let them eat cheese omelettes and toast. After breakfast, tour the nearby Children's Museum of Manhattan (212 W. 83rd St., between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave.) or, if the sun is out, go for a hike in Central Park. 541 Amsterdam Ave., at 86th St.; 212/724-4707; breakfast for four $48.

Cupcake Café
This old-fashioned bakery is justifiably famous for its orange-scented doughnuts—crunchy on the outside and moist within. Your charges will never guess they're made from whole wheat. Nearly as good are dense wedges of coffee cake, sugar-dusted crullers, and a rotating selection of outsize muffins, including lemon-poppy seed, blueberry, zucchini, and apple-walnut. Early one Saturday morning Cupcake put together a picnic breakfast for my daughter's softball team, and, as the coach lamented, the girls were more excited by the pastries than the game. Cupcake's comfy four-table room is in the middle of one of New York's greatest grocery districts (Ninth Ave. between 37th and 44th Sts.). Among the meat markets, fishmongers, greengrocers, and bakeries is a West African store that sells dried bats, and a Greek market that purveys numerous varieties of brine-soaked olives along with cakes of laundry soap in a setting that hasn't changed for a century. The excursion boats of the Circle Line, which circumnavigate Manhattan, leave from Pier 83, at the west end of 42nd Street, from March through December. 522 Ninth Ave., at 39th St.; 212/465-1530; breakfast for four $12.

ROBERT SIETSEMA, a Village Voice restaurant critic, is the author of Good & Cheap Ethnic Eats in New York City (City & Co.) and the forthcoming Secret New York (ECW Press).


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