By Lela Nargi
Kelsey Nixon hit the big time in 2010, with her Cooking Channel show, Kelsey's Essentials, geared toward young couples setting up house (and kitchen) for the first time. She and college-sweetheart husband Robby Egan moved to New York just after graduating from Brigham Young University so she could shoot the first season—currently on hiatus while she gears up for a new show, aimed at young families—and he could pursue a career in advertising.
After a few years on the Upper East Side and a couple more in Brooklyn, Kelsey and Robby are now happily ensconced on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, less then a block away from Central Park—with son Ollie, 2-1/2. In just a few short months in their new nabe, they’ve happily discovered that it’s a total foodie Mecca! We join them here on a weekend tour of some of their favorite places.
Kelsey Nixon: We are a diner family; we love Saturday morning brunch! Ollie’s favorite food these days is pancakes and bacon. In the small town in Utah where I grew up, not only are there not all-night diners, no one is open Sunday; everything is shut down. The instant accessibility that comes with living in a big city is pretty fantastic.
Robby Egan: We sometimes go to Manhattan Diner on 94th and Broadway.
Kelsey: It was one of the first diners recommended to us by someone in our building—many people have lived here for 30 or 40 years. There’s also a new bagel shop on Amsterdam, Crafted Bagels. They’ve been open a few months and they’re fantastic.
Robby: Bagels are hard to come by in Utah, outside the plastic bag in the supermarket. I like them all but I especially like a good egg bagel.
Kelsey: Everything bagel for me, buttered. I can do lox, but I’m not a huge cream cheese person—it’s a texture thing. Give me another 5 years in the city! After brunch, we might go to the Children’s Museum on 83rd Street—we’re members there; they have a fire truck. Ollie also likes the Natural History museum—the dinosaurs, and the big whale, and the Discovery Room. We’re not too great at the Met yet—we’re still a little too rambunctious.
Kelsey: Albee Baby is the local, family-run version of Buy Buy Baby. They’re very nice to let us pop in and just roam the aisles and play with things.
Robby: For lunch, we may head back up to 100th and Broadway, to Sal & Carmine. It’s a hole-in-the-wall pizza place that’s been around forever.
Kelsey: It’s an institution! I feel like, when you move in the city, the two places you’ve got to figure out are: What’s your new pizza spot, and what’s your new bakery? For a bakery, we really like Silver Moon Bakery, which a lot of people in the neighborhood recommended. The locals line up at 7:30 in the morning to get fresh croissants and bread. That’s always a good indication that you’re on to something good. We stop there, and then ride the coin-operated rides along Broadway.
Robby: They’re a dying thing, and half of them don’t work anymore.
Kelsey: But Ollie loves them; he’ll “earn” some quarters, then he can put them in himself.
Robby: Other places we like to eat for lunch are Cascabel Taqueria—Ollie likes rice and beans and guacamole. I don’t think I had guacamole till I was 16.
Kelsey: In summer, there’s also a taco truck that parks on 97th street.
Robby: There’s a Mexican restaurant that has a couple of outposts in Spanish Harlem, and they send their truck over here—it’s called El Paso. We’ll go and get an enchilada from them when the weather is nice.
Robby: We love Zabar’s but it’s kind of far, so that’s a special trip.
Kelsey: Mmmm, the rugelach!
Robby: Their black-and-white cookies!
Kelsey: And cheese!
Robby: The Upper West Side is so great for so many reasons, but there aren’t a ton of restaurants. For dinner, we like Carmine’s, but it’s funny for a small family, because it’s a big Italian family-style place. We get a penne a la vodka and it feeds all of us, and then we have leftovers.
Kelsey: I love being the mom of a toddler in the city, especially in this neighborhood. I feel like I have yet to have an experience where people are not welcoming of children.
Robby: We moved here knowing we eventually wanted to have kids, and thinking we probably wouldn’t want to do that in big, bad New York City. Then we met people and noticed other people had families. And then we were like, not only is it doable, it’s awesome!