Hey out there, neighborhood. My name is Van Sias and I’m a five-year resident of the Clinton Hill/Fort Greene area. Over the past year, I’ve experienced a couple of life-changing events. In October 2008, my fiancée and I welcomed our first child, Matilda Rose Gannon-Sias, as wonderful a kid as you can hope for. (What can I say but that? I’m her dad!)
The other change that kind of shook up life as I’ve lived it is that I lost my job in January at a magazine I was with for nearly 10 years. That thrust me into a new role I wasn’t expecting to enter: stay-at-home dad. Did I mention Tillie is my first kid? And that I had no idea what to do with her on a daily basis? It’s been a constant learning experience: figuring her out and myself as well. But I think we’re getting the hang of it. We’ve met plenty of other parents in this great neighborhood of ours, and there’s a wide variety of things to do, one of them being the most basic of necessities: eating!
For my money, the Clinton Hill/Fort Greene area has the best restaurants in the borough as a wide variety of choices can be found just around the corner. The missus and I used to take full advantage of that pre-Tillie and still try to get out while we can, with or without her. But I figured, “You know, I have to eat during the day, too, and sometimes after a long morning of diaper-changing and toy pick-upping, I just don’t feel like cooking. So I’m going to go out and grab something to eat. And you know what? I’ll take Tillie with me, too.”
And that’s how Lunchtime With Tillie has come about!
Tillie and I will scout out some of the food spots for good eats, a good deal (I am jobless after all!) and good accommodations for a dad, an 8-month-old and a stroller, keeping in mind Tillie’s tolerance for being in the same place for a while and naptime.
First up in the LWT series is Castro’s on Myrtle Avenue. Everyone knows Castro’s, I’m assuming. It’s established itself as a go-to place for authentic Mexican food. I’ve eaten take-out there many a time, and Tillie and I recently started going there for breakfast. (But this is “Lunchtime” With Tillie, not breakfast, so let’s move on!)
One thing about Castro’s beside the excellent food is all the space in there for seating, whether at a table in the well-shaded deck out back or in a fold-up stroller like Tillie has.
We chose to sit inside this time since it was cloudy out and within seconds of taking my seat, a serving of chips and salsa was already greeting me. I was set, but what about Tillie? First thought: Get her something to entertain herself while I eat. Her normal toys and stuffed animals never do the trick when we’re out, so I asked the waitress for one of the baskets the restaurant uses to serve tortillas in. While I was waiting for that, another patron gave us hers and Tillie soon had double the entertainment. (And I had double the trouble of picking up baskets after she repeatedly dropped them!)
In between our basket play, I did manage to place my order: a Castro Especial burrito with chicken. I don’t know if it was the relative emptiness of the place at the time or the ease of the dish to prepare, but I don’t think I had ever gotten something served to me so quickly in my life! This was a good thing because my timing was off on Tillie’s napping and she was about to crash any minute, so I had to eat fast. This was going to be hard because if you’ve been to Castro’s, you know its burritos fit into the “big-as-your-head” category! With fresh pico de gallo and guacamole to eat with the burrito, it’s a hearty meal indeed. I got down to where there was too little to bother with taking the rest home, got my check and was ready to start home with Tillie mere moments away from melting down! So the trip was definitely a success, and the price was nice, too, as my bill came up to 9 bucks, not including the tip.
I think Tillie had a good time, too, with the waitresses making her laugh and constantly dropping baskets for dad, the sucker, to pick up!
So parents out there, if you’re looking for a nice Mexican meal at a place that’s stroller-friendly, you can’t get much better than Castro’s. And here’s an added bonus: Bring your laptop because you can pick up a wi-fi connection in there.
There’s plenty of other spots in the ‘hood and Tillie and I will do our best to check them out for you!