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Photograph: Courtesy Kenji Lopez-Alt

The 21 best kid-friendly and theme restaurants in NYC right now

Looking for a restaurant in NYC that is sure to be fun for the entire family? Check out these spots offering delicious bites for the grown ups and a good time for the kids.

Edited by
Will Gleason
Written by
Time Out contributors
&
Victoria Marin
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If you think dining out in NYC can't be a treat for the whole family, think again. There's a bevy of restaurants throughout the city where kids are given just as much consideration as adults, and where you won't get the side-eye from childless diners out on the town. There are theme restaurants like Alice's Tea Cup and the Hard Rock Cafe, where you can dine among Lewis Carroll characters and artifacts from the gods of rock-and-roll. Then there are dessert-forward restaurants like Serendipity 3 and Kellogg's where sweet treats like frozen hot chocolates and sugary breakfast cereals are the stars of the show. And then finally there are those perennial family-friendly favorites, where the atmosphere is casual and the food appeals to all ages. And if you've got picky eaters and are in need of something a little more predictable, you can always keep it simple and hit up Roberta's or another amazing kids pizza place in NYC. No matter what you choose to do, you and your family will eat well in the Big Apple – and have a terrific time going out together

Fun restaurants in NYC

  • Restaurants
  • Ice cream parlors
  • Carroll Gardens
  • price 1 of 4

The young and young at heart alike love this update of the classic soda fountain. The kitchen turns out delicious short-order fare: like grilled cheese made with good bread and good cheese and griddled to golden perfection. But who are we kidding? The real draw is the ice cream sundaes and ice cream floats and pie with ice cream...You get the point, and if you bring the kiddos you'll be a hero. Plus, after some thoughtful parents dropped a few hints they now serve wine.

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Chinatown
  • price 1 of 4

New York's first dim sum house opened in 1920 on a rough crook of gang-riddled Doyers Street. After a near-century in business, the family-owned parlor is one of the most atmospheric rooms in Chinatown, with checkered tablecloths over Art Deco tables and vintage lamps—Nom Wah is completely unlike the chaotic banquet halls that dominate the dim sum scene. (The NoLIta location is also nice, if not as fun.) The food, too, stands apart: Try the ultra-fluffy oversize roasted-pork bun, the flaky fried crepe egg roll and the tender stuffed eggplant filled with a spiced shrimp-and-squid mixture. Chinatown (nomwah.com).

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  • Restaurants
  • Australian
  • Astoria
  • price 2 of 4

Head down unda at this Australian-inspired “experience,” that, while not designed specifically for children, will certainly appeal to them: the meaty is juicy, the potatoes are creamy, the salads are colorful, and the desserts are decadent. Bonus for parents (and their offspring with old souls): there’s live jazz every Thursday night.

  • Restaurants
  • American
  • East Village
  • price 1 of 4

Take a tasty walk down memory lane. S’Mac elevates a childhood staple to the gourmet level with a dozen varieties of mac 'n cheese to choose from. The “nosh” size is perfect for kiddie appetites. Or go in the other direction, and order the “mongo” and plan leftovers tomorrow. And the next day. Any variety, from the textbook all-American to the Spanish-accented La Mancha (Manchego cheese yum!), can be made gluten-free or reduced-lactose. East Village (www.eatsmac.com).

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • Brooklyn
  • price 1 of 4

Share a pie with the family at this Bushwick pizzeria that offers everything from the classic Margherita to more adventurous selections like the Nightmare on Moore Street, made with taleggio, marinated radicchio, pickled shallots and habanada peppers. Picky eaters can create their own pizza masterpiece with more than 20 different toppings to add to their pie.

  • Things to do
  • Birthday parties
  • Harlem

Get your kid a Pat LaFrieda burger and a Blue Marble milkshake at this popular Harlem destination that celebrates the neighborhood’s culture. The devoted local following and classic retro vibe makes it feel like the kind of neighborhood joint that has been around forever. Now so beloved, it’s this spot that comes to mind when you hear the phrase "Harlem Shake," –not the 2013 dance meme.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Lower East Side

Stop by for a delightful afternoon at this downtown “cat cafe” and you’ll earn major brownie points with the cat lovers in your brood (and if you’re particularly enamored with the feline friends onsite, you can apply to adopt one). While you and your kids play with these purrfect pals, nibble on the cafe’s funky takes on Japanese pastries like the matcha crack pie or the peanut butter miso cookie.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Barbecue
  • Gowanus
  • price 2 of 4

This Brooklyn venue is the perfect place to munch on some meaty–think: baby back ribs, the Pig Beach Burger and its delicious secret sauce, brisket–dishes in a fun picnic-style setting. Kid-friendly sides including mac n’ cheese with Goldfish and house pickles and while the grown ups may prefer the smoked jalapeno coleslaw. Added bonus? Pups are welcome in the outdoor space! Grab a table and squint and you can almost imagine the tranquil Gowanus Canal is a tributary of the San Antonio River.

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  • Restaurants
  • Park Slope

When street gear and sneaker store Kith opened up shop in Prospect Heights, it added a cereal bar to the mix. The Kith Treats Cereal Bar offers more than 20 different cereals, including classics like Fruity Pebbles and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Not only can you make custom cereal combos, but other cereal-based goodies like cereal ice cream swirls and cereal milkshakes are also on the menu.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Midtown West

This Asian-inspired chain turns teppanyaki, a Japanese griddling technique, into dinner theater: The flying shrimp is an act that never gets old. Is it corny? Yes! And it's fantastic fun that your kid will love. You might even enjoy it, too.

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  • Restaurants
  • Hamburgers
  • Flatiron
  • price 1 of 4

We'll make it easy for you: Take the kids to Shake Shack. This homegrown favorite successfully reinvented the wheel, by introducing juicy burgers (including a “shroom” burger for the non-meat eaters) and thick milkshakes for a new generation. Best of all, a kid can be a kid, and be a little bouncy and a little loud and not throw off the scene.

  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Lenox Hill
  • price 2 of 4

The menu at this whimsical restaurant is sure to delight all ages. From the signature "Frrrozen" drinks like hot chocolate, strawberry supreme and pink ice to the pies, banana splits and pies, every sweet tooth will be plenty satisfied. If “real food” is necessary precursor to the treats, kids can choose from several different burgers and a variety of sandwiches like the Ultimate BLT on challah bread.

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Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
  • Restaurants
  • Barbecue
  • Morningside Heights
  • price 2 of 4

What began in the ‘80s as a mobile concession stand has evolved into a go-to BBQ spot for families. There are plenty of pork, burgers and brisket options, but the typical staples are accompanied by selections with flair—creole deviled eggs, bronzed catfish and the smoked portobello sandwich. Littles will feast on sides such as mac & cheese and creamed corn, though parents will want their kiddos to opt for the simmered greens or broccoli chickpea salad (wishful thinking). Harlem and Gowanus, Brooklyn (dinosaurbarbque.com).

  • Restaurants
  • Midtown West

The next time you're venturing out for a family outing, make sure your kids' American Girl Dolls are in tow. Rockefeller Center's American Girl Place Cafe offers patrons a chance for little ones to dine with their dollies, whether that includes afternoon tea with scones and buns, or a satisfying chicken tender lunch (or perhaps the bow tie pasta for those with a more mature palette). Once you've finished up your meal, let your crew explore the store and find cute outfits and accessories for their BFFs.

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  • Restaurants
  • Hamburgers
  • Lower East Side

Burgers, shakes (and craft beer for the 21+ crowd) – is there anything else a tried-and-true New York foodie needs? Black Tap channels a classic American luncheonette and gives it a New York twist, meaning it has an edge. The décor is old-school hip-hop and rock & roll, and the food is anything but boring: choose from burgers made of beef, bison, lamb, turkey, chorizo, and falafel. The signature “Crazy Shakes” are well-curated to youthful interests, with names like The Cotton Candy Shake, Sour Power, Sweet ‘n Salty and The Cookie Shake.

  • Restaurants
  • Tea rooms
  • Upper West Side
  • price 3 of 4

Consider this your ticket to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. At this cute café, little ones can enjoy service tailored especially for them. Breakfast and brunch are prime time for visits—you can order delicious omelets, eggs, scones, smoked salmon benedict and a variety of pancakes and waffles. You’ll also find delicious sandwiches (think curried chicken salad, black forest ham and gruyere, tuna melts, BLT) and tasty tea service options on the menu.

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  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • West Village
  • price 2 of 4

The kid's menu at this Southwestern-influenced spot features lots of reasonably-priced dishes, including the famed Frito Pie, which little ones will enjoy eating straight out of the bag. Other old frontier-themed favorites include “corndoggies” and pulled pork sammys, served with French fries and corn on the cob. Finish off a gut-busting meal with the “#1 best dessert ever,” a sharing-sized ice cream sundae that looks like a baked potato. West Village (cowgirlnyc.com).

  • Shopping
  • Grocery stores
  • Flatiron
  • price 2 of 4

 If you can’t book a flight to the Amalfi Coast, enjoy a taste of Italy right here in NYC, thanks to Eataly—the Mecca for all-things pasta, seafood, meats and, of course, gelato. Part grocery store, part restaurant and completely fabulous, Eataly serves as more than just a location to dine if you’re craving pasta—it’s a gateway to Italian culture, offering tours, classes and other events that make the experience worthwhile.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Park Slope
  • price 2 of 4

This New York institution's claim to fame is the rich, fluffy cheesecake, which comes in several varieties like red velvet and devil’s food—but we like to work our way up to the sweet slab of loveliness. Beginning with the perfectly salty-sour pickles and other crunchy bites that are served before every meal, little ones can peruse the appropriately-titled Junior Menu and choose from a selection of kiddie diner favorites like grilled cheese and chicken fingers.

  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Midtown West
  • price 2 of 4

We know, most New Yorkers avoid Times Square, but this Hard Rock Café is nirvana for little music fans raised on the Beatles and the Stones. While you wait for your table, ooh and ahh over the memorabilia filling the walls: James Brown’s golden suit, Billy Joel’s motorcycle, the doors from the Abbey Road studios and signed guitars everywhere. The music is loud and the beats are rockin’—even the most cynical New Yorkers will be air drumming and chair dancing.

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  • Shopping
  • Chocolate and candy
  • Greenwich Village
  • price 2 of 4

At this Union Square-adjacent emporium, chocolate-filled pipes weave around the ceiling and decadent confections sit atop the 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” that’s made to share. The whimsical kids' menu includes such delicacies as the Chocolate Oatmeal Trophy and the Melting Marshmallow Crepe. Sweet tooths, rejoice!

More fun for kids

OUR RATING: 5/5

HelloFresh is not only committed to delivering delicious, sustainably sourced ingredients, but the company also turns cooking into a merry activity. Through its app, social-media channels and blog, HelloFresh offers chef-led video tutorials and Facebook Live events hosted by a dietitian to help families create a variety of healthy meals. Kids love dishes like steak and potatoes, burgers and veggie stir-fry. 

PROS: High sustainability standards for ingredients; meals for vegans, vegetarians and other special diets; delivery everywhere in NYC

CONS: No lunch recipes, plus only one breakfast option per week

AVG COST PER MEAL: $8.74/meal for the family plan (feeds four, includes 2–3 meals).

OUR RATING: 5/5

Every week, sign up for a minimum of two nights and choose from 14 easy-to-make meals and two dessert options, including surefire hits like buffalo chicken pizza and peach and berry empanadas. Seasonal and organic produce, antibiotic-free poultry and sustainably sourced fish and beef with no added hormones translate into dishes that are healthy and nutritious—and with a Le Cordon Bleu–trained chef at the helm, you know the food is going to be delicious.

PROS: The company meets special dietary needs, and recipes with high customer ratings return as encore recipes available for a full month. flexible subscription and delivery throughout NYC and beyond; and tips and cooking demos via apps, Facebook Live and Morsel by Plated.

CONS: Recipes include a breakdown of ingredients and any potential allergens, but ingredients are prepared in facilities that also handle milk, fish, eggs, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and other potential allergens.

AVG COST PER MEAL: From $9.95/meal for three servings per night plan (feeds four, 2–4 meals per week).

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OUR RATING: 5/5

Those looking for paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy- free or vegetarian options will enjoy spending time in the kitchen cooking with premeasured ingredients befitting their diet. The family menu, co-created by Justine Kelly, Sun Basket’s co-founder and Executive Chef, feeds families of four and includes easy-to-follow “Kids can!” steps so little chefs can help in the kitchen. They’ll get to learn new skills as they tackle favorites like mojo-marinated carne asada fajitas. Customers must opt in for a minimum of three recipes a week, and deliveries take place Mondays or Wednesdays.

PROS: Reaches more than 98 percent of the U.S., including all of NYC; offers a weekly recipe book with step-by-step instructions, along with video tutorials on facebook featuring local and celebrity chefs

CONS: No dessert options but provides healthy dessert recipes.

AVG COST PER MEAL: $10.99/serving in family plan (feeds four, 2–4 recipes per week).

OUR RATING: 4/5

All five NYC boroughs can call upon this meal service, a collaboration between Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon, for preportioned ingredients and step-by-step instructions to create two, three or four meals a week. Marley Spoon taps into Stewart’s archives of more than 18,000 recipes, so even picky eaters will find meals to enjoy, like banh mi turkey burgers, cheesy fajita pizza and pork chops with yellow pepper puttanesca. Ingredients are locally sourced, but the majority of beans, pastas, canned tomatoes and grains come straight from Italy.

PROS: Families can select from 10 recipes every week, and flexible subscription allows for skipping weeks. Delivery Mondays through Saturdays.

CONS: No breakfast, lunch or dessert options

AVG COST PER MEAL: $8.20–$9.50/serving under 3–4 people plan (feeds four), 2–4 meals per week.

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OUR RATING: 4/5

The family plan from Blue Apron removes the stress from menu planning with four dinners, each of which can feed a family of four, delivered to your door every week. Novice cooks learn how to tackle new recipes; premeasured ingredients reduce the amount of food going bad at the end of the week. Kids will gobble up red, white and blue pizza and crispy chicken tenders, while parents kick their meals up a notch with Blue Apron Wine, a monthly subscription of six vinos that pair well with the available meals.

PROS: Nationwide delivery Tuesday through Friday as well as Monday and Saturday for some locations; an online cookbook contains a searchable database of the entire recipe collection; iPhone app, articles and social-media channels with recipes, info on seasonal ingredients and how-to videos

CONS: Limited offerings for people with dietary restrictions. Meals also come as combo packages, so less flexibility in picking the exact set of meals you want.

AVG COST PER MEAL: $$7.49–$8.99/serving under the family plan (feeds four, 2–4 recipes per week).

Nurture Life

OUR RATING: 4/5

Have kids of many ages? This plan has it all! Yummy, organic, ready-to-eat options for toddlers—mashed yams and French green peas or mac and cheese with cauliflower, and baby foods like butternut squash puree and turkey or garnet yam and Golden Delicious apple puree— add variety to their diet and have them reaching their chubby fingers for more. Plans cater to three baby stages at 6, 8 and 10 months old (choose from 8- and 14-meal plans) and toddlers aged 1 to 3 years old. You’ll also find plans for kids ages 4 to 8, 9 to 13, and 14 and older (5- and 10-meal plans): think mac and cheese with cauliflower and teriyaki salmon over brown rice.

PROS: Delivery everywhere in nyc; lunch and dinner choices for toddlers and breakfast, lunch and dinner for babies; facility is free of peanuts, tree-nuts and shellfish.
CONS: No meals are specifically for grown-ups, but try a lunch option from the 14-and-older plan.
COST PER MEAL: Various pricing; depends on age group.

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Green Chef (now owned by HelloFresh)

OUR RATING: 4/5

HelloFresh acquired Green Chef, a meal-kit delivery service that offers certified organic meals, in 2018.

PROS: Green Chef offers a Family Plan that includes two four-person meals per week. There's an Omnivore plan (for those who enjoy meat, seafood and vegetarian dinners) and Carnivore plan (geared more towards those who want meat with every meal). When you sign up, you'll get two meals free for your first week.

CONS: This meal-kit service is well-suited to families with adventurous eaters. While there are some new takes on flatbreads and meatballs on offer, most of the menu items incorporate food that will likely please the adult audience more (read: loudly incorporates veggies)—unless your kid's older or a food explorer, that is. It's also very pricey, so there's more at risk.

AVG COST PER MEAL: $11/meal under family plan; $94/box including shipping (two meals that serve four people each per week).

OUR RATING: 3/5

Those looking to transition their family diet to 100 percent plant-based meals will receive farm-fresh produce and collect an arsenal of healthy recipes when they sign up for Purple Carrot. Offerings like potato and rosemary flatbread with broccoli and butternut mac and cheese with Swiss chard and garlicky bread crumbs will quickly become go-tos for homemade dinners. This service is great for vegans, vegetarians and those with lactose-intolerance or for folks who’d like to have a more eco-conscious diet, and there’s even a gluten-free meal plan available that’s low in soy and refined sugars. Meal kits are shipped every Monday and delivered within one to two days.

PROS: Meals come with recipe cards; the company’s Facebook page is full of how-to videos.

CONS: Meals are preselected by an in-house chef.

AVG COST PER MEAL: $12–$13/meal (feeds three or four, 2 meals per week).

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