Seeing the Rockefeller Center tree and the nearby Radio City Christmas Spectacular are two of the must-see highlights of the holiday season for New Yorkers and visitors alike. But finding a kid-friendly place to eat in this skyscraper-packed corner of midtown is not always easy. We've put together a list of family-friendly restaurants near the Rockefeller Center tree, from barbecue joints to rinkside eateries, because we know you've got way more important things to do this time of year. Happy holidays!
If you've got girls in tow, seek out American Girl's delightful café for lunch, brunch or tea. Little ones can borrow a doll to dine with, and with such entrée options as pizza, chicken tenders, pumpkin ravioli and grilled mahi-mahi, the food is sure to be a hit with kids and grownups alike.
This family-run business, started in 1943, knows its burgers. And the burgers are pretty close to heaven: plump, juicy patties on fat kaiser rolls, served in a squeaky-clean room full of midtown worker bees. Fries are long and wide, with crisp golden outsides and almost fluffy middles. Don’t expect the salads to be anything more than adequate. But the milk shakes are paradisaical, served—as they should be—in old-fashioned metal canisters.
Kitsch hits the high notes at this '50s-themed diner with a singing waitstaff. According to manager Kevin Svetlich, 11 performers are usually working at once, and many of them are Broadway actors picking up shifts between gigs. In addition to nightly shows, they take requests, most of which are current Broadway hits or Elvis Presley tunes.
At this spacious midtown spot, custom-made pies are big enough for little pizza lovers to share (or take home for tomorrow's lunch). With a menu full of Italian staples, John's makes it easy for tykes to delve into generous servings of baked ziti or eggplant parmigiana, both dripping with melted mozzarella. A slice of traditional New York cheesecake (a cliché, of course, but this is Times Square) is the perfect pretheater sweet-tooth fix. Remember your server—she just might be the next player you see on Broadway.
Seek out Pulse if you're in midtown on a weekday (it's closed Saturday and Sunday). Its warmly lit room, in pumpkin tones and blond wood, extra-attentive service and view overlooking the ice rink make it a winner. Health-conscious, carefully prepared fare like salads, sandwiches and small plates will sate even the pickiest of appetites (and if you'd rather, you can also get your meal to go for a significantly lower price). Desserts are foolproof—crème brûlées, enlivened with raspberry-ginger or jasmine tea, are served in Chinese soup spoons.
In wintertime, this restaurant looks out on one of the city’s most busy spots, the skating rink at Rockefeller Center. Given the setting, the food (Italian-inflected American) is better than it needs to be (think an inspired baked crab cake, made with saffron risotto), and a down-to-earth children's menu means everyone will savor their meal.
Among Japan's least lauded cuisine is soba, buckwheat noodles the color of cardboard that are often served cold. But in truth, the noodles are delicious hot or cold, and its variations are many. Little ones will love zaru soba in summer, seaweed-topped cold noodles one dips in a soy-based sauce, and in winter paired with the likes of shrimp tempura, breaded pork or, yummiest of all, tororo (grated Japanese mountain yam)—you have to try it to understand why.
This 165-seat spot, twice the size of the (now-closed) original spot on the UES, has the same roadhouse grub as at the original, including Tennessee-style beef ribs, hickory-flavored pork ribs and buttermilk-marinated fried chicken. Kids will love the mac and cheese, corn dogs and tater tots.
As befits its Times Square location, perennially crowded Virgil’s is the Epcot Center of barbecue: Paper placemats present a map of the country’s barbecue-producing regions and their specialties, from Texas beef brisket to Memphis pork ribs to vinegary Carolina pulled pork—all of which are on the menu, along with oddities like Oklahoma State Fair corndogs, served with a jalapeño “mustard.” The dessert selection is a schizophrenic sugar rush, with peanut butter pie sharing a dessert sampler plate with key lime pie and fluffy banana pudding, among others.
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.