Taking a bite of the Big Apple: 13 NYC restaurants kids will love

Oct 9, 2019

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You’re heading to Manhattan, the “City That Never Sleeps” — except you are traveling with children, so your trip may require some adjustments in how you enjoy a night on the town. While we can’t guarantee the kids will sleep, we can guarantee that you won’t have to pop into the nearest Times Square chain restaurant to find a kid-friendly place to eat in the city. (Please, really, don’t do that.)

Hip, trendy restaurants are a dime a dozen in this city, and there are restaurants your kids will love at every turn, including these 13 great hot spots and timeless classics:

Related: Most rewarding credit cards for eating out

Ellen’s Stardust Diner

1650 Broadway, (212) 956-5151

Hours: 7 a.m. to midnight daily

This whimsical spot may scream that it’s catering to tourists, but considering you’re a tourist with kids in tow, this is the place for you. At its Broadway location, servers — dressed in colorful bowling shirts and poodle skirts — sing show tunes and dance on the edges of the old-school red booths. A true diner, its kids menu offers smaller portions and prices, which is a nice treat when you’ve spent a bit too much seeing the latest musical. It can get crowded, so take the kids during the day.

Ellen
(Photo courtesy of Ellen’s Stardust Cafe, New York.)

Jekyll & Hyde Club

91 Seventh Ave. S., (212) 989-7701

Hours: Sunday to Thursday, noon to midnight; and until 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday

If themed restaurants like the Stardust are your cup of tea, add the Jekyll & Hyde Club to your list. Located in Greenwich Village, the restaurant offers a haunted and spooky experience meant for older kids who like a good scare with their burgers. As the restaurant staff warns, something happens every 10 minutes, and live entertainment with a full cast of characters is always a part of your meal, day or night. The menu is filled with American fare, pizza and pasta, so all ages will find something they like.

S’MAC

197 First Ave., (212) 358-7912

Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; until midnight Friday and Saturday

Kids love mac ‘n cheese, so how about an entire restaurant devoted to macaroni and cheese? S’MAC stands for Sarita’s Macaroni & Cheese, as it was Sarita Ekya who brainstormed turning a traditional side dish into full meals. You can build your own dish, select a sampler of different dishes or order off the menu with combinations such as Philly cheesesteak or the Parisienne with brie and Manchego cheese. There are gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan options to ensure every dietary need is met. Prices are quite reasonable for NYC, starting at just over $6.

S
(Photo courtesy of S’MAC, New York.)

Ninja New York

25 Hudson St., (212) 274-8500

Hours: Monday to Thursday, 5:45 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday

Craving another exciting twist on your New York dinner? Want to impress your tweens — or maybe even teens? How about descending into old Japan, where black-clad ninjas put on a show around your table? Sure, it may sound a little hokey, but the Japanese food is actually solid and the décor is actually pretty cool — you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled back in time to 16th-century Japan.

Ninja, New York
(Photo courtesy of Ninja, New York.)

You can select from multicourse meals or a la carte, with sushi, seafood and kids’ meals served by ninjas. Some of the menu items are delivered by ninjas, so be sure and pick at least some of those. Only in New York, right?

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

Bubby’s

73 Gansevoort St., (212) 219-0666

Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and until midnight Friday and Saturday

Bubby’s welcomes children with open arms. The Tribeca location is the original (temporarily closed for renovation through November 2019), but if you’re taking a stroll along the 1.5-mile elevated High Line park and get hungry, you will find a second Bubby’s within walking distance. (It’s across the street from the Whitney Museum of American Art.)

What began as a pie shop in 1990 now offers a full made-from-scratch menu that includes breakfast plates, pancakes and biscuits, along with burgers, soups, salads and options for even the finickiest tots. It has a kids menu with typical child-friendly fare: mac ‘n cheese, burgers and chicken strips. But seriously, don’t miss pies that include Jersey peach, Key lime, sour cherry, peanut butter chocolate, double-crust apple and banoffee (bananas, dulce de leche, espresso and whipped cream in a graham cracker crust).

Bubby
(Photo courtesy of Bubby’s, New York.)

The Meatball Shop

Multiple locations

Hours: Hours vary by location; check the website for details

First: Choose your ball. Next: Choose your sauce. Then: Pick a side. Voila! The meal of your — and any picky eater’s — dreams. It’s not all meatballs at this shop: You’ll find veggie balls, salmon balls, Maine lobster balls, risotto balls, crabcake balls, sandwiches and salads. Even brunch at this New York hotspot that has six locations features dishes like lobster balls eggs Benedict. Gluten-free and veggie options are available, as well.

You’ll find the Meatball Shop in the Upper East Side and Lower East Side, Chelsea, West Village, Williamsburg and Hell’s Kitchen.

The Meatball Shop, New York
Photo courtesy of The Meatball Shop, New York

The Nugget Spot

230 East 14th St., (646) 422-7346

Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday

We’re not trying to stereotype children’s palates too much, but if we’re going to put meatball and macaroni places on the list of the best NYC restaurants for kids, we probably also need a chicken nugget spot. Here, an order of nuggets starts around $6. On the menu you’ll find “the reg,” meaning regular Southern-style nuggets, plus Buffalo nuggets, General Tso-inspired nuggets and even grilled “skinny nuggets.” There are even vegan nuggets. The Cap’n Crunch-coated nuggets get exceptionally high marks from TPG staffers.

On the “not nuggets” side of the menu, you’ll find oven-roasted broccoli, known here as “stinky trees,” fries, nacho mac and biscuits.

 

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Cowgirl

519 Hudson St., (212) 633-1133

Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.; until midnight Friday and Saturday

Not all restaurants for kids have to be kitschy. Cowgirl, for example, is a funky bar and restaurant in the West Village that will serve moms and dads perfectly blended margaritas along with a Tex-Mex menu. Yet the restaurant is also a great place to bring the kiddos, with lunch and dinner children’s menus with many items around $7 or $8. Kids will find Frito pie, Granny’s grilled cheese and fiesta quesadillas, along with a hot fudge sundae that looks like a baked potato. Basically, everybody wins.

Black Tap

Three locations: Midtown, Soho, Herald Square

Hours: Hours vary, but are often 11 a.m. ro 12 a.m.

Black Tap is a big freaking deal not just for visitors but also for local families. Yes, they have bison burgers, chili-cheese burgers, vegan burgers and a crowd-pleasing all-American burger, but it’s the massive milkshakes that may make your kids’ jaws drop. You can choose from classics such as chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter or the very popular Oreo cookies and cream. But you can also migrate to the part of the menu that has cotton candy, the Brooklyn blackout or even a $17 cake shake that includes a vanilla frosted rim with rainbow sprinkles, funfetti cake slice, whipped cream, rainbow sprinkles and a cherry.

(Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage/Getty Images)
(Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage/Getty Images.)

Kellogg’s NYC

31 E. 17th St.

Hours: Hours vary every week because of private events, so check the website before heading over.

Why would you go to NYC and eat cereal and breakfast items? Well, where else will you find a space devoted to such things? Cereal lovers of all ages (admit it, you’ve been known to pour yourself a bowl for dinner) will want to pop into this cereal café created by Kellogg’s. Here you’ll find combinations such as s’mores, consisting of frosted flakes, graham crackers, milk chocolate and toasted marshmallows.

From walls of cereal to the Mix-a-Box custom cereal, and even limited-edition products and exclusive merchandise, it really is a cereal lovers’ paradise. Kids have their own space here, too: the Tropical Carnivale Game Corner, for when that sugar rush kicks in.

Note: The restaurant only takes credit cards, which shouldn’t be a problem for TPG readers.

Kellogg
(Photo courtesy of Kellogg’s Cereal Cafe, New York.)

Joe’s Pizza

7 Carmine St., (212) 366-1182

Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 a.m.; and 10 a.m. to 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday

Oh boy, pizza in NYC is a touchy subject. Every New Yorker has his or her favorite (and will tell you if you’re wrong about your own). But visiting kids are easier to please than hardened Gothamites, so you almost can’t go wrong grabbing a slice anywhere in the city. One option in Greenwich Village is Joe’s Pizza, an NYC institution dating back to 1975.

There’s nothing showy or pretentious about Joe’s — just full pies or pizza by the slice. You’ll find other locations on 14th Street, Fulton Street, Broadway and in Brooklyn.

If you find yourself needing pizza in Times Square on W. 44th, try out John’s Pizzeria, where all of the pizzas are made to order.

DŌ, Cookie Dough Confections

550 LaGuardia Pl., (646) 892-3600

Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.; closed Monday

Last, but probably not least,, is , near New York University. If you have ever eaten (or wanted to eat) raw cookie dough, this place is a must on your NYC family adventure. Imagine flavors like cake batter with white chips, chocolate chips and sprinkles, or sugar cookies topped with rainbow sugar. There are even vegan, kosher and gluten-free items.

It’s safe to eat this dough (or DŌ) raw because the bakery uses a pasteurized egg product instead of a raw egg, and a heat process that kills potential bacteria in the flour. You could cook this dough and make real cookies, but you totally don’t have to.

 

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A post shared by DŌ, Cookie Dough Confections (@cookiedonyc) on Nov 10, 2018 at 2:25 p.m. PST

Serendipity 3

225 E. 60th Street

Around since the 1950s is the famous Serendipity 3, home to frozen hot chocolate and lots of iconic moments and memories. The “frrrozen” hot chocolate, as they call it, rings in at about $13. You can pair that with anything from pot pie to country meatloaf to chili or spaghetti and meatballs, though the joint is probably known for its Tiffany lamps and sweets more than the rest of the menu.

There is an $12.50 per person minimum charge, so everyone might as well get something. Note that you will probably be a little bit cramped in the small, busy place, so plan accordingly and be ready for a fun sugar rush. Reservations are a good idea.

 

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A post shared by Serendipity 3 (@serendipity3nyc) on Oct 7, 2019 at 4:26pm PDT

Bottom line

Don’t be afraid to dine out in the New York City with young kids. Sure, there are also standbys like Chick-fil-A or Shake Shack (use that American Express® Gold Card monthly dining credit), and don’t kick yourself if your kids need a familiar meal mixed into some of the New York-only treats. There are also plenty of great grab-and-go kid-friendly options such as cookies from Levain Bakery on the Upper West Side that you can pick up on your way to the park. If you want a casual outdoor lunch with plenty of space, Pier I Cafe on the Upper West Side is a nice casual option. And if the kids are old enough to want to make their own pizzas, head down to the Lower East Side for the ever-popular Pizza School.

Pier I cafe (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Pier I cafe (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

No matter what you decide on, don’t feel like you’re relegated to fast food chains and pizza slices. Even the trendiest restaurants may welcome you with smiles and a high chair if you dine early enough.

When eating out in NYC with kids, don’t forget to use credit cards that will give you bonus points for dining out, such as the American Express® Gold Card (4x points), Citi Prestige® Card (5x points), Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (7x points at U.S. restaurants) and Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card (4% cash back).

The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Headed to NYC? Here are some other resources you may find useful:

With additional reporting by Summer Hull.

Featured image by Laura Colom/EyeEm/Getty Images.

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