New York City restaurants can be intimidating, both with and without kids. We’re thankful Laura Siciliano-Rosen of Eat Your World, is sharing the best kid friendly restaurants in NYC. Laura has recently released new one day NYC food itineraries on her site, including an itinerary for visiting NYC with kids. Here are some of her favorite places to eat with kids in New York City that everyone will love.
Where to Eat in New York City with Kids
New York City with kids can be super rewarding … or super stressful. It’s certainly overwhelming, but the good news is that a little planning ahead will arm you with all the information you need for a successful visit. A huge draw is, of course, the food, and take it from someone who’s lived (and eaten) here for two decades, the sheer variety is mind-blowing! Planning meals ahead with kids is especially key, as it’s very easy to end up settling for something subpar when you’re suddenly faced with starving children (it happens!).
Thing is, you don’t have to stick to the tried-and-true kid favorites, the touristy theme restaurants, or the familiar national chains where kids like to eat. The ones paying for the meal ought to enjoy it too, right? And also: You’re in New York, baby! There are fabulous opportunities for everyone to explore via cuisine, to really get to know the city better and have a great time in the process. To that end, here are my 10 favorite spots in Manhattan that are fun for both the children and the adults.
Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop
I love this New York gem of a luncheonette; it has old-school creds (established in 1929) and the classic sandwiches to match. And kids love sitting at the vintage, no-frills counter. Try the beloved tuna melt, the BLT, or a Reuben, and pair it with the most NYC drink of them all, the egg cream—a soda-fountain concoction made of cold milk, pressurized seltzer (not poured from a bottle), and chocolate syrup (to clarify: there is no egg or cream in it). You or your kids can also try another locally beloved blast from the past here: the malted milkshake. And there’s plenty to explore in this part of town, a block from the elegant Flatiron building: pretty Madison Square Park (with a playground), Eataly, the LEGO store, the National Museum of Mathematics, and more. 174 5th Ave., nr. 22nd St.
The Meatball Shop
Here’s a fun place for parents and their kids with easy-to-love food starring … meatballs! There’s a dedicated kids’ menu (along with a coloring sheet to “draw your own meatball hero”), ice cream sandwiches, handcrafted cocktails—and six locations in the city, so you’re bound to be near one of them. Allow extra time for navigating the choice-filled menu, from type of ball (including veggie!) to sauce, side, and add-ins. I always love a classic meatball with tomato sauce over polenta with a “family jewel” (fried egg). Multiple locations including 84 Stanton St., nr. Allen St.
BBQ restaurants are usually a good bet for kids, what with all the meat and fun Southern sides to choose from. Blue Smoke is a great one to go with: consistently tasty food, friendly service, a full bar, big booths that are perfect for families. There’s a kids’ menu, although the big portions may mean you can share your ribs and beans with your littles and avoid it altogether. (Vegetarians will find good options on the appetizer and sides menus; at lunch there’s a smoked jackfruit sandwich!) 116 E. 27th St., betw. Park & Lexington Aves.
My kids routinely ask me for Shake Shack, and I’m totally cool with that. The classic “ShackBurgers” are delicious, and not too big for little hands to manage. Plus there are crispy fries, frozen custard, shakes, floats, “concretes,” and local beer. It’s a quick lunch/dinner spot that will make the whole family happy! This particular outdoor branch, in leafy Madison Square Park, is a fun one (and also the original location), but be prepared for a line. If you can split up, take the kids to the park’s playground to kill some time. Or, of course, you can opt for any of the city’s other Shake Shacks for the same food experience indoors. Madison Square Park
Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles
For many kids, any dish involving noodles is a giant thumbs-up. Don’t limit yourself to the Italian variety! The city’s various Chinatowns are wonderlands of delicious food and culture, and neighborhoods deserving deep exploration. This restaurant, in Manhattan’s Chinatown, is a particularly winning bet because it’s all about those noodles, and they’re hand-pulled, the best kind for taste and texture (and also entertaining for any curious kids who peek into the kitchen). There is no kids’ menu, but there’s so much to choose from. My boys usually go for steamed or pan-fried pork dumplings and a chicken or lamb noodle soup, or pan-fried noodles with shrimp. And nearly everything is under $10! Just keep in mind this bare-bones place is small and popular, so you may have a short wait during peak hours. 1 Doyers St.
John’s of Bleecker Street
We love squeezing into a cozy graffiti-carved booth at this old-school pizzeria and digging into this local treasure. John’s has thin-crust New York pizza, slightly charred and smoky from its brief time in a super hot coal-fired brick oven (the number of which are very limited in New York, due to environmental regulations). It’s pies only, so they are perfect for sharing (there are some good salads and pastas on offer too). A pitcher of beer is optional but recommended! 278 Bleecker St, betw. 6th & 7th Aves.
This red-checkered-tablecloth West Village institution is beloved for its “Texas-friendly” cuisine. Think chile con queso, Frito pie, fajitas, Southern sides, killer margaritas, and a festive, welcoming atmosphere. There’s plenty for the kids to like on the regular menu, but the “kidtown menu” is great, offering more options than usual: burgers and grilled cheese, but also a pulled pork sandwich and a quesadilla with carrot sticks and cucumbers. A good grownup snack? “Rattlesnake bites,” roasted jalapenos stuffed with grilled shrimp and wrapped in bacon. 519 Hudson St., at W. 10th St.
Sarabeth’s is pricey, but its posh location across from Central Park—the southern end, so it’s close to the wonderful Heckscher playground—is thankfully not all you are paying for. It feels like an upscale meal—I recommend it for breakfast or brunch, and arrive early (or reserve) to avoid a wait—yet is very accommodating to families (and there is a kids’ menu). Get a beautiful Benedict or a stack of buttermilk pancakes, and spend the morning exploring NYC’s giant outdoor play space. 40 Central Park South; 59th St. betw. 5th & 6th Aves.
This fun corner eatery in the heart of the hip East Village specializes in … mac and cheese! Specifically, build-your-own hot-skillet mac and cheese, and is there any better kind? There’s plenty of interesting takes for adventurous eaters—masala mac and cheese, anyone?—but also good old-fashioned “all-American” mac-and-cheese, which is probably the one your kid wants. I suggest you pair all that cheese with a side salad—and a glass of wine. 197 First Ave., at E. 12th St., map
NYC Food Halls
OK, this last one isn’t a restaurant but a whole collection of eateries crammed into casual bustling spaces that are quite forgiving of loudmouth kids: food halls! The food-hall phenomenon has taken NYC by storm in recent years, with lots of new ones joining the old. These are great for the whole family, particularly the ones who want to eat vastly different things for their meal.
Eataly is, of course, all about the Italian food: cheeses and focaccia, pizza and pasta, gelato and wine. Chelsea Market is a classic that keeps improving with age, with some of the best tacos (Tacos No. 1, and Los Mariscos for fish tacos) around, plus lobster rolls, Aussie-style meat pies, more hand-pulled Chinese noodles, ice cream, ramen, and more. In Hell’s Kitchen, try Gotham West Market for more tacos, ramen, burgers and cocktails, pizza, and ice cream. And in Koreatown, very near the Empire State Building, Food Gallery 32 is a one-stop shop for Asian eats, with lots of Korean, Japanese, and Chinese food on offer (think noodles and rice dishes, bubble tea and ice cream).
* All photos are courtesy of Laura Siciliano-Rosen with the exception of the lead NYC street scene image.
About the author: Laura Siciliano-Rosen is the co-founder of Eat Your World, a global guide to local food. A longtime New Yorker, she gives food tours of her diverse Queens neighborhood and has recently begun producing NYC food itineraries. Her two little boys are obsessed with seafood, soup, and noodles of any kind.