Timeout New York Kids

Make the most of your city

Theme restaurants in NYC

And we don't just mean animatronic kitsch (not that there's anything wrong with that...).

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Alice's Teacup

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Alice's Teacup

  • Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castell

    American Girl Place

  • Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castell

    American Girl Place

  • Photograph: Andrew Fladeboe

    Barking Dog

  • Photograph: Andrew Fladeboe

    Barking Dog

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Big Daddy's

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Big Daddy's

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Burger Garage

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Burger Garage

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Cascabel Taqueria

  • Photograph: Michael Alexander

    Cascabel Taqueria

  • Cowgirl

  • Cowgirl

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nels

    Ellen's Stardust Diner

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Ellen's Stardust Diner

  • Photograph: Courtesy of Fetch Bar and Grill

    Fetch Bar and Grill

  • Photograph: Courtesy of Fetch Bar and Grill

    Fetch Bar and Grill

  • La Lucha

  • La Lucha

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Vynl

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Vynl

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Alice's Teacup


All restaurant information is correct as of press time. However, since hours, prices and other details are subject to change, it's wise to call ahead.

Alice's Tea Cup
Average main course: $11. Average kids' meal: $8. High chairs, changing table.
If your tot has ever dreamed of taking tea with the Mad Hatter and March Hare, then this restaurant is worth a trip down the rabbit hole. Tykes under age 10 can sample Alice's special "wee tea," which includes tea, a scone, an entre and the appropriately oxymoronic "white rabbit" dark-chocolate mousse. Next thing you know, they'll be asking you if they can have their next Unbirthday party here.

American Girl Cafe
Average main course: $20--$26. High chairs, changing table. Reservations recommended.
The cafe at this doll megastore caters to smaller crowds—and by smaller, we mean 18 inches tall. Girls can bring Felicity or Josefina to a prix-fixe afternoon tea, where the dolls get their own custom-sized Treat Seats. Dishes are named after American Girl's historical characters, so kids can sample garden-party sandwiches of the sort Kit would have eaten in the 1930s (before Dad lost his business, that is), then indulge in a victory-garden chocolate-mousse flowerpot inspired by World War Two–era Molly.

Barking Dog Luncheonette
Average main course: $13. Average kids' meal: $7. High chairs.
At this canine-themed mini chain of luncheonettes, even Fido can tag along for family brunch. Although pups aren't allowed inside, they can sniff each other at the outdoor water fountains (except at the Third Ave location), munch on doggie treats and wait for a tasty morsel of human food to drop from your family's patio table. With such a hearty array of pancakes, waffles, omelettes, frittatas and wraps, there might even be enough leftovers for a doggie bag.

Big Daddy's Diner
Average main course $14. Average kids' meal: $10. High chairs, booster seats, changing table.
Millennial kids can get a taste of the '80s at the retro diner. Murals, toys and pop culture logos like Hamburger Helper, Hawaiian Punch, and the original versions of Apple and MTV icons cover the walls. Neon signs and brightly colored booths add to the nostalgic vibe. It's safe to say the giant burgers and tater tots aren't the only things making a statement here.

The Burger Garage
Average main course: $10. High chairs, booster seats.
This stylish joint opened in August 2010 and harkens back to the good ol' days of family road trips—and significantly lower fuel prices. At first, the auto-body shop and gas station theme may strike you as less than appetizing, but the onetime garage serves up an inviting atmosphere along with some pretty choice patties, not to mention a lengthy gluten-free menu.

Cascabel Taqueria
Average main course: $8.50.
High chairs, booster seats.
One of two lucha libre--themed eateries that we know of in the city (see La Lucha below), Cascabel is a taco powerhouse. Hot sauce bottles and action figures line the shelves under the walk-up counter, and old Mexican wrestling magazines sit on a cart, ready for a flip through the sport's colorful past. Don't let the photos and paintings of masked figures lining the walls distract your kids from plentiful portions of tacos stuffed with seafood, pork, steak, chicken and, for the truly brave, veal tongue.

Cowgirl
Average main course: $15. Average kids' meal: $6. High chairs, booster seats, changing table.
The southwestern-style hangout lassos in youngsters with its deer antler chandeliers, homey checkered tablecloths and collectibles-packed general store. Encourage little cowpokes to pull up a seat, gaze at the memorabilia-covered pink and red walls, and chow down on corn dogs and Frito pie.

Ellen's Stardust Diner
1650 Broadway at 51st St (212-956-5151, ellensstardustdiner.com). Subway: B, D, E to Seventh Ave; 1 to 50th St. Average main course: $16. Average kids' meal: $9.50. High chairs, booster seats, changing table.
Welcome to the 1950s, when Elvis dominated the airwaves and Marilyn Monroe graced the silver screen. The singing waitstaff still wear poodle skirts and bowling shirts, and the walls are decked out with records and neon lights. Kids can bask in a bygone era as they nosh on comfort foods like mac-'n-cheese, sip malted milk shakes and listen to a show-stopping rendition of "Mamma Mia."

Fetch
Average main course: $14. Average kids' meal: $8. High chairs, booster seats, changing table.
Pay tribute to man's best friend at this eatery, whose extensive menu includes burgers, fajitas, salads, pasta and fish. Thousands of pup-tastic photos line the walls, begging guests to take a gander. Just be prepared for the "Can we get him?" requests after the kids get a look at the restaurant's adoption wall.

La Lucha
Average main course: $7.
One bite of a chili-and-cheese taco and your kids will forget Taco Bell even exists. The wrestling-themed decor—masks, action figures, posters, even movies projected onto the wall—pays homage to the Mexican tradition of Lucha Libre (fans often chow down on tacos before heading to the arena on fight night). Each menu item is named after a famous wrestler, but your tykes don't have to know who El Santo or El Espanto is to savor their namesake dishes.

Max Brenner
Average main course $14. Average kids' meal: $8. High chairs, booster seats, changing table.
At the Union Square emporium, chocolate-filled pipes weave around the ceiling and decadent confections sit atop tightly packed tables. With a menu that instructs guests to "Get addicted, be happy," this isn't a place for self-control. Expect chocolate to show up in some unexpected places, like waffle fries dusted with chili and cocoa powder and a dessert pizza made to share. The whimsical kids' menu includes such delicacies as the Chocolate Oatmeal Trophy and the Melting Marshmallow Crepe (with gummy bears, vanilla ice cream and, of course, more chocolate). Sweet tooths, rejoice!

Ninja
25 Hudson St between Duane and Reade Sts (212-274-8500, ninjanewyork.com). Subway: 1, 2, 3 to Chambers St. Average main course: $30. Average kids' meal: $25. Kids' menu, high chairs.
This Japanese restaurant features expected items like sushi and sashimi, but with a twist—food is served by ninjas in a replica of a feudal-era castle. The prix fixe kids' meal includes teriyaki chicken, creamy shrimp, fried potato, mixed greens, a California roll and dessert. The menu states that sweets are served only after tots have eaten their veggies—a rule the ninjas have no problem enforcing.

Planet Hollywood
Average main course: $17. Average kids' meal: $8. High chairs, booster seats, changing table.
Got a star-struck kid? The kitschy chain of celeb-worshipping restaurants offers American food in a tourist-saturated setting.

Trailer Park Lounge
271 W 23rd St between Seventh and Eighth Aves (212-463-8000, trailerparklounge.com). Subway: C, E, 1 to 23rd St. Average main course: $10.
Diner by day, dive bar by night: This may just be NYC's most gleefully tacky restaurant. The menu is tiny, but specialties like double-wide burgers and grilled fat dogs are served in portions as big as the Texas sky—and suit hungry kids just fine. One caveat: The decor is seriously un-P.C., so be prepared to field questions from observant older kids ("why is that pregnant mannequin smoking?").

Vynl
Average main course: $14. High chairs.
Show your tots a world before iPods, when LPs and 45s ruled. The thoroughly modern menu offers breakfast all day, diner classics like fried chicken and meatloaf, and Asian fusion fare. Peruse the record-sleeve menu, then gaze around at decor that evokes decades past (disco balls, Elvis figurines). Be sure to stop by the unisex dressing rooms (er, restrooms) and make your choice based on the celeb name plate that appeals most.


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