Addie Moore Gerety giggles as she draws long, squiggly lines across the green chalk wall at Mamalú. The 2½-year-old is among the regulars at this new café-meets-playspace in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As Echo & the Bunnymen squawk from the CD player and hipster parents munch on all things organic, Addie, her 10-month-old buddy Arlo Gagnon, and other barefoot little ones settle into the back area, covered in 800 square feet of bouncy foam tile. Unlike other restaurants that have tried similar concepts and failed, this is no babysitting drop-off service. Co-owners Maria Laura Quintero and Mariella Salazar (a chef and a former teacher, both of whom gave birth on the same day three years ago) built a loftlike restaurant where the dining area borders the play zone, and parent-diners are responsible for watching their own kids. A few hobbyhorses, a small picture-book library, and a mini school bus are scattered about, but most parents bring their own toys and formula. For those who prefer to travel light, Quintero grills up arepitas—silver-dollar-size cornmeal patties from her native Venezuela—served with cheese, butter, and avocado or chicken. “The food is amazing,” says Arlo’s mom, Katrina Gagnon, a Williamsburg resident for the past four years. “But really, this is the best place to meet new parents and talk about stuff. It makes you feel normal.” And as any veteran will advise, sharing those experiences is the thing that keeps a new parent sane.
Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Mamalú, 232 N. 12th St., nr. Driggs Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-486-6312 or mamalu.us).