April 25, 2014

Kid-Friendly Eats: Nick’s Cafe

Nick’s Cafe is an old-school diner straight out of a Raymond Chandler novel—owned by two former LAPD detectives and a favorite of former LAPD chief William Bratton, it’s located in an industrial area just east of Chinatown and directly across the street from Los Angeles State Historic Park. Even though it’s a hipster hangout, there is nothing fancy or upscale about this place. Forget organic, forget arugula: this is where you go to throw down an old school ham-and-eggs breakfast (their specialty), ginormous burgers and chili fries.

If you eat inside, be prepared to sit elbow-to-elbow with your fellow diners at the horseshoe-shaped counter (no tables inside). You can also enjoy the old LA memorabilia that covers the walls. But if you come here with kids, the outdoor seating is where it’s at, an umbrella-shaded patio with views of the Gold Line Chinatown station and the Metro train yards. No one will be put out if your darling throws a tantrum or jumps up and down in between bites.

Like every other breakfast spot in DTLA, this place gets packed on the weekends, so get there early to avoid an hour-long wait. Oh, and bring cash—they don’t take no stinkin’ credit cards.

Nick’s Cafe
1300 N Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(323) 222-1450, www.nickscafela.com
Hours: Mon-Fri 5:30 am-3 pm, Sat-Sun 6:30 am-4 pm
Kid-Friendly? Extremely.
Prices: Most menu items are under $10.

Best DTLA Birthday Cakes

Gourmet L.A. Bakery is one of the old-school Broadway businesses that I really, really, REALLY hope survives downtown gentrification. Located on Broadway next to Famima near 6th Street, this place is mobbed every morning with commuters buying cinnamon coffee, Mexican pastries and huge torta sandwiches (at $3.50 each, a super bargain).

But if you’re a DTLA parent, the real attraction here is the cakes, which seem to jump straight from some toddler’s sugar-fueled dreams. No matter what your kid’s current obsession may be—Disney princesses, Angry Birds, Thomas the Tank Engine, the Avengers—they can create a cake to feed it.

And the prices are insane: $40 for a custom decorated cake that will feed 10 kids. Flavors include chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and, our favorite, tres leches (aka three milks, a traditional Latino dessert). Did I mention they’re delicious too?
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Kid-Friendly Eats: The Nickel

Want to know how long we’ve been downtown? We moved in a few months before The Nickel Diner opened on Main Street in 2008. I remember owner Monica May’s reaction when my then-two-year-old son and I walked into the Nickel for the first time: “There are kids downtown?” They didn’t even have high chairs on hand since it never occurred to them that families would be part of their customer mix.

Today the Nickel is stuffed with families every weekend, and yes, they have high chairs. You’re pretty much guaranteed to find something on the menu that your kid will want to eat, from dutch babies for breakfast to mac and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, and burgers for lunch and dinner. The restaurant’s decor is authentic retro with painted menus on the walls dating back to the 1950s and red leather banquettes.
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