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NYC Family Restaurants

Updated on May 19, 2014

The best kid friendly restaurants in NYC

With more than 20,000 restaurants to choose from, eating is one of the great pleasures of a New York City visit. But bringing the kids can make it a bit more challenging to find the perfect NYC restaurant. Luckily, New York restaurants offer something for every family, regardless of budget, taste, and kid pickiness levels. To help with your quest, I've showcased some of the best family friendly restaurants in New York right here. Some I've tried with my kids, others are still on our to-do list. Many offer a chance for parents to eat gourmet, even celeb-chef style in some cases, while the young'uns munch happily on kid-friendly food. For families, that duel eating opportunity is what sets NYC restaurants apart from the pack. Good luck choosing, and bon appetit!

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Pizza / Italian

nyc family restaurants pizza italian
nyc family restaurants pizza italian

New York restaurants families will love

Carmine's (2 locations -- West 40s & West 90s; $$$): Bustling and loud enough that a crying kid will scarcely be hard, with giant family-sized portions of red-sauced Italian fare.

John's Pizzeria (3 locations -- East 60s, West 40s, West Village; $): My sister-in-law has lived in NYC for decades, and this is her go-to pizza place, so you know it's good. The Times Square branch, in a converted church, has a gorgeous high ceiling. No slices, just whole pies at this perfect family spot.

Grimaldi's (2 locations -- Brooklyn & Queens; $): Friends living near the Brooklyn Grimaldi's grabbed a spot in line so we could be among the first seated when it opened, and was it ever worthwhile. The coal-charred pizza is nothing like what we get in Chicago, and oh so yummy. Nearby is the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, with a playground and stunning views of downtown Manhattan, the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Lombardi's (NoLita; $): Licensed in 1905, this claims to be America's first pizzeria and is well regarded among New Yorkers. Cash only, so plan accordingly.

Nick's (East 90s; $): This family-friendly spot gets high marks for its perfectly charred brick-oven pizza. Pastas, too, if you're pizza'd out.

Otto (Greenwich Village; $$$): Get your celebrity chef fix with this collaboration between Mario Batali and John Bastianich, modeled after an Italian train station. Pizzas range from classic to wildly inventive, and the wine list is miles long. Tops my wishlist for our next NYC visit.

Pulino's (NoLita; $$$) -- Keith McNally (Balthazar, Pastis, Minetta Tavern) is known for hip, atmospheric restaurants where people-watching is as delicious as the food. "Kid friendly" doesn't jump to mind, though -- except in the case of this gourmet spot for pizza & more.

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Burgers etc.

nyc family restaurants burgers
nyc family restaurants burgers

New York restaurants families will love

DBGB (East Village; $$$$): Daniel Boulud, one of France's best known chefs, opened this "lowdown downtown place" to showcase beautiful burgers and scrumptious sweets (filled crepes, souffles, decadently sauced ice cream).

Jackson Hole (7 locations -- click link for details; $): You're never too far from a branch of this reliable, affordable purveyor of quality burgers.

P.J. Clarke's (East 50s; $$$): My son, sister-in-law & I loved the juicy burgers we had here with a side of history -- the restaurant dates back to 1884.

Shake Shack (4 locations -- East 80s, West 40s, West 70s, Queens; $): It's a long way from Danny Meyer's acclaimed Union Square Cafe to his "modern roadside burger stand" concept, but good food and happy diners are the constant.

(photo: Jeffrey_Allen via photopin cc)

Asian

New York restaurants families will love

Pig Heaven (East 80s, $$$): This longstanding pig-themed New York restaurant will always have a spot in my heart, as I gorged on Shrimp in Lobster Sauce there as a 13-year-old on my first-ever visit to Manhattan. Happy to see that dish is still on the menu :)

Ruby Foo's (West 40s, $$$): Self-described as a "boisterous theme park of Pan-Asian food," this was a big hit with our kids. Dinner there started off shaky, as we pressed through an aggressive crowd toward the hostess stand. (Either Ruby Foo's overbooks itself or there's a ton of walk-in traffic from the nearby theatres.) Things improved quickly once we sat down, with fun, flashy decor and a better-than-average kids' menu that -- at $12.95 for entree, drink & dessert -- is unbeatable for this location.

Shun Lee Cafe (West 60s, $$$): The black-and-white checkered decor here and Chinese-zodiac lighting are fun for kids, as are the dim sum carts. (Daughter doesn't like her first choice? No problem -- it's small; you can gobble it and let her choose another.) A fave of my NYC sister-in-law and now, the kids and me, too.

Brunch

nyc family restaurants brunch
nyc family restaurants brunch

New York restaurants families will love

Brooklyn Diner (West 50s, $$): One of the first NYC restaurants I ever took the kids to. The Valrhona chocolate pancakes were what sold us.

Good Enough to Eat (West 80s, $$): Upper West Sider Kevin Bacon calls this a favorite "neighborhood joint," but its delicious home cooking has drawn families for 30 years from all over NYC.

Norma's (West 50s, $$$): If I could only eat out once on a New York visit, I might have to pick Norma's. It's the big splurge we try to budget for with the kids. The breakfast-only menu -- -- fruit-stuffed waffle with crackly brulee top, lemon griddle cakes w/devonshire cream, lobster & asparagus omelet -- is outrageous, and served 'til 3:00. Have cheap snacks for bfast and dinner and book Norma's for mid-day.

Popover Cafe (West 80s; $$): Like Good Enough to Eat, a longstanding Upper West Side favorite -- this one specializing in lovely, pillowy popovers fresh from the oven, slathered in strawberry butter.

Sarabeth's (5 locations -- Chelsea, East 90s, Garment District, West 50s, West 80s; $$): Well known for its preserves, now available by mail-order & in gourmet shops, Sarabeth's Central Park West location warmed my heart when I stopped by with young twin sons, for 3 reasons: They were still serving pancakes at 3 pm (happy boys!), they were still serving the "green and white eggs" (scrambled w/scallions & cream cheese) I remembered from years ago at the Upper West Side location, and the staff kindly watched my little guys during my only bathroom break of the day :)

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~ more NYC brunch ideas ~

NYC brunch - Times Square

NYC brunch - Upper West Side

NYC brunch - East Village / West Village

BBQ

New York restaurants families will love

Blue Smoke (2 locations -- Murray HIll in Manhattan & Queens; $$$): I love a good prix-fixe kids' menu in NYC, and Blue Smoke doesn't disappoint. Salmon & ribs are among the choices here for young'uns, who'll get a side, drink & dessert too, for $9.50. Upscale enough to convey that big-city-date feeling for mom & dad.

Brother Jimmy's BBQ (7 locations in Manhattan -- check website; $): If "noisy, greasy and fun" -- per Zagat's -- sounds like your cup of tea (or more to the point, glass of brew), stop in at a Brother Jimmy's location, where kids eat free when accompanied by meal-purchasing adults.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (Harlem, $$): Fast service compensates for potentially long waits at this purveyor of mouthwatering 'cue. Dino tattoos are a nice perk for the kiddos.

Virgil's Real Barbecue (West 40s, $$$): Tourists & locals mix at this Times Square BBQ fave, known for large portioins of delectable BBQ.

Theme places

nyc family theme restaurants
nyc family theme restaurants

New York restaurants families will love

Ellen's Stardust Diner (West 50s, $$$): Retro '50s decor, singing waitstaff ... what's not for kids to love?

Vynl (West 50s, $$) : Kids don't know what LPs are? Immerse them at this spot dedicated to the worship of old-school records. Find chicken & waffles, mini hot dogs, mac & cheese and all-day breakfast along with more eccentric globally inspired nibbles.

Ninja (TriBeCa; $$$$): This pricey spot serves (of course) Japanese fare in a faux Japanese village setting.

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nyc neighborhoods map
nyc neighborhoods map

Delis

New York restaurants families will love

Carnegie Deli (West 50s, $$): Prices as this cash-only spot may seem high, but not when you see how high the meat is piled. My sister-in-law once got 3 meals out of a takeout sandwich from Carnegie. Finish with the cheesecake.

Katz's Deli (Lower East Side, $): Meg Ryan's famous "I'll have what she's having" scene, filmed here, may not be kid-friendly, but the mouthwatering sandwiches are. More than 120 years old, this place is a deli lover's must-visit.

Stage Deli (West 50s, $$): Triple-deckers are designed by & named for celebs at this 70-year-old institution. Try the Adam Sandler (salmon, sturgeon, lettuce, tomato & onion), the Stephen Sondheim (chicken salad, bacon, lettuce & tomato), the Conan O'Brien (brisket, corned beef & swiss) or the Aretha Franklin (pastrami, turkey, roast beef & swiss).

Sweets & treats

nyc family restaurants sweets and treats
nyc family restaurants sweets and treats

New York restaurants families will love

Alice's Teacup (3 locations -- East 60s, East 80s, West 70s; $$): Uber-popular Alice in Wonderland decorated tearooms, beloved by mom-and-daughter duos.

Max Brenner (Greenwich Village; $$): The kids will love you for stopping at this temple of chocolate. My eye is on the 6-treat chocolate "Sharing" for two.

Peanut Butter & Co. (Greenwich Village; $): This kid-friendly shop offfers PB spreads with white or dark chocolate, maple, raisins & cinnamon, and more, starring in creative sandwiches, plus desserts like chocolate PB pie. Or take a jar to go!

Serendipity 3 (East 60s; $$): Tourist throngs wait patiently for the famous "frozen hot chocolate" and sinful sundaes.

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Shoestring budget?

If there's one thing New York ain't, it's cheap. Affordable family activities in NYC can be hard to come by, including eating. If you're picking from the list above, go with the 7 places I've marked with just one $, which are the cheapest, and by all means avoid the $$$ and $$$$ spots. Consider eating just two meals out -- brunch & dinner -- rather than 3. Budget still tight? Stick to options like these...

Food carts: One of my sons could live on the crepes sold from stands around Central Park. NYC food carts are everywhere in the city & also sell juicy New York hot dogs, falafel sandwiches, and (for more adventurous kiddos) a range of ethnic foods from Jamaican to Indian.

Pizza by the slice: Everyone claims to be the "original Ray's," but when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter a whole lot. What you'll find at almost all these pizza-by-the-slice places is thin, greasy, tasty pizza for not much moolah. Grab a plate-filling slice, fold in half lengthwise, and munch.

Bagels: This is one food with which NYC delivers a much higher quality-per-dollar ratio than other cities. Go to Tal Bagels for a taste of chewy, bready heaven. Bagel sandwiches run $2-$8, depending on which filling you fancy -- which by NYC standards is practically free. Ess-a-Bagel, H&H, and Murray's are other top spots for bagels.

Picnics: Weather permitting, Central Park is one of the world's best picnic spots for families. Kids can work up an appetite climbing the rocks, racing model boats, riding the vintage carousel, storming the park's playgrounds, or just walking around and soaking up Frederick Law Olmsted's masterpiece. Pick up sandwiches from one of the zillion NYC delis you'll see on your visit, or brave the lines at a grocery like Whole Foods.

Freebies: Believe it or not there are at least a few spots in NYC where kids eat free. An especially great deal if you've got a high kid-to-adult ratio.

Need more ideas? See NY Mag's Cheap List for tons of NYC budget dining ideas.

Fodor's Around New York City with Kids (Travel Guide)
Fodor's Around New York City with Kids (Travel Guide)

Our secret weapon! I picked up an early version of this book when my kids were younger and found it super useful. Terrific resource for families visiting New York City.

 
2014 New York City Restaurants (Zagat Survey New York City Restaurants)
2014 New York City Restaurants (Zagat Survey New York City Restaurants)

The bible of NYC eating, this compact guide makes great fantasy material for any foodie -- and offers plenty of kid-friendly dining recommendations in all NYC neighborhoods. I read it every year like a novel :)

 

Do you have family friendly restaurants to recommend in New York City? Please share!

Your NYC restaurant tips... - Family friendly, kid friendly, budget friendly, just plain friendly?

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    • verymary profile image
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      Mary 5 years ago from Chicago area

      @therentalnavigator: that cart tour sounds awesome! my kids might not be adventurous enough for it, but the hub & I sure would. what a cool idea -- thx for the tip!

    • profile image

      therentalnavigator 5 years ago

      Great suggestions- my family loves the Popover Cafe, especially. On a different note, there are companies that offer tours of street cart venders in different areas of the city, where you are able to sample eats from 5 or 6 carts, as well as learn some historical and architectural facts about your surroundings from your guide. My family loved it!

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      Blessed!

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      Such a great help again!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      good lookin pizza indeed!

    • profile image

      medster 6 years ago

      thanks! Great suggestions. For recommendations on French restaurants in NYC, you can also try http://www.allfrenchnyc.com/

    • verymary profile image
      Author

      Mary 6 years ago from Chicago area

      @erica38: good suggestion -- thx! have also heard good things about Dinosaur BBQ in Harlem. wish my kids ate bbq, as my husband is fanatical about it!

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      erica38 6 years ago

      B-B-Que's (2 locations) Bronx and Manhattan. The one in Manhattan has been there for years before the Bronx restaurant opened back in the early 90's. Charlie's in Brooklyn is kid-friendly also.