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Kid Stuff: Theater District Restaurants

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Andrea McArdle -- Broadway's original Annie -- once missed a cue and had to be dragged unceremoniously back onstage from a restaurant next door called Jilly's. Someone had come to her dressing room and told her Frank Sinatra was down there and eager to make her acquaintance. "I figured if Frank Sinatra wanted you to go somewhere, you more or less had to," she says. Now playing Belle in Beauty and the Beast, the all-grown-up McArdle says her restaurant choices are frequently dictated by her 10-year-old daughter, actress Alexis Kalehoff, and her friends from the casts of The Sound of Music and Les Misérables, among other shows. "Of course, that group can't get enough of Mars 2112 and Jekyll and Hyde because everything is so dramatic," she says. They're also partial to Kodama (301 West 45th Street; 582-8065), an unassuming Japanese restaurant that, along with more conventional fare, serves unexpected sushi combinations, like a salmon, cucumber, and cream-cheese roll called the Philadelphia, and Alexis's favorite, the Manhattan, which has shrimp tempura and cucumber with a mayo dollop. McArdle gravitates to homey spots like the Hourglass Tavern (373 West 46th Street; 265-2060), a romantic little space where each table has its own hourglass, which gets turned over when you are seated to remind you that you have a curtain to make. Perhaps a little cramped for small children, it's a nice choice for an older child, with tasty, under-$15 specials like grilled steak with mashed potatoes and broccoli and soup or salad. Another 12-year-old budding thespian, Sam Freund, likes the West Bank Cafe (407 West 42nd Street; 695-6909), a lively hub decorated with bright silk-screened prints, where kids will find a lot of dishes on the menu to their liking, including "pizzettes"; the restaurant will serve half-orders of pasta and adapt other items. Freund and his mother, Elizabeth Carpenter, collaborated on Kids Eat New York -- sort of the Zagat of eating out with kids. Among their recommendations are the new, oversize outpost of Manhattan Chili (1697 Broadway, at 54th Street; 246-6555), and Tennessee Mountain (121 West 45th Street; 869-4545), a multilevel, fast-paced version of the SoHo ribs mecca that's become a kid magnet to rival the ever-popular Virgil's Real Barbecue (152 West 44th Street; 921-9494). But we'll cast our ballot with another relative newcomer, the theater district's clone of John's Pizzeria (260 West 44th Street; 391-7560). In fancy digs across from the Majestic Theatre (where the Phantom of the Opera prowls), there's room on two levels for kids to run around. Service is fast and the food is reliably delicious -- and suitable for the most discerning of young palates.


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