My Little Grocery Store

KidFresh dinners, clockwise from top left: teriyaki chicken, pizza bites, chicken enchiladas, and pasta with white Cheddar; right, from top, judges Jake, 10, and Julie, 4. Photo: Spencer Heyfron

The idea for KidFresh came to entrepreneur Matt Cohen one day as he was filling his son’s lunchbox. He’d been thinking about the Next Big Thing, and in that moment, it hit him: a Whole Foods just for kids. “Cooking is over,” says Cohen. “If it’s beyond parents’ capabilities or time to cook, they go to a place like Whole Foods for themselves. Their kids deserve the same level of quality.” Cohen put together a group that included a marketing pro from Dannon, a nine-year veteran of Agata & Valentina, and pediatric nutritionists to develop KidFresh, for which he has ambitious expansion plans; he expects to open three more Manhattan stores in the next eighteen months.

Cohen says KidFresh is all about purity: no preservatives, artificial flavors, or Bloomberg-banned trans fats, and most of the ingredients are organic. The store, at 1628 Second Avenue, near 84th Street, is about the size of a small delicatessen and decorated in bright colors.

Shoppers walk directly into a sandwich-cupcake-ice-cream bar (which loses points with parents trying to steer their sweets-obsessed kids away from sugar). Kids can push shrunken shopping carts up the single aisle to browse the attractively organized refrigerated shelves. There are about 35 prepared meals, organized by age group and portion size, and dozens of à la carte items. The grocery section has organic cereals, pasta, and canned goods, and there’s a small selection of tabletop items, food toys (Food Pyramid Bingo!), and books (How Are You Peeling?). A giant window into the “Kidchen” lets kids admire chef Joe Brancaccio’s food-juggling skills. There’s no waiter service, but parents can use the microwave if kids want to eat in the store. To find out how appealing the menu is, we tested it on eight kids ranging in age from 2 to 10. Their overall assessment: Good, if a little bland. Speaking for the group, taster Jake added, “The portions would not be enough if I was really hungry.”

The Critics Speak

“Shapewiches,” sandwiches cut into shapes, all crusts removed.
“Mitten” with hummus
“This is great since I hate crust. But the hummus could use a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt to brighten it up.”—Jake, 10

Chicken-breast tenders with strawberry ketchup, mashed potatoes
“The chicken tastes like real chicken, not like chicken nuggets. I like this better. The potatoes are like water and butter mixed together.”—Florence, 6

Ice cream with toppings
Seven of the judges chose chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry. One tried the pumpkin flavor.
Unanimous thumbs-up.

Rainbow Rods, a three-inch kebab of kiwi, blueberries, strawberries, and pineapple
All eight judges consumed at least one rod and gave it a thumbs-up.
“This is a very nice way to serve fresh fruit. I have to remember this.” —Jake

“It’s like a diner. The table is funny-looking, like a giant sock.”
—Ben, 6

“It’s kind of like a supermarket or a cafeteria. Another job for the chef would be magician because he just flipped the food into the air without spilling it.”
—Matthew, 7

“I expected the food to be like Campbell’s soup, but it’s not at all. It’s pretty good, but not for a guy like me. I prefer Citarella or Dean & DeLuca. I treasure things like an aged balsamic vinegar and truffles—the mushrooms, not the chocolate.”

My Little Grocery Store