Eating out doesn't have to be an average experience—fun restaurants in NYC are easy to find (especially when they are theme restaurants)! Prepare yourselves for all the kitchy goodness you can handle, and you won't need to listen to a bit of whining while you wait—little ones will be plenty distracted by actors, funky decor and animatronic weirdne...er, awesomeness.
Fun restaurants in NYC for kids
Come for the food and stay for the tunes at this kitschy midtown diner. Singing waitstaff—many of them Broadway actors—will keep the kids entertained while they wait for their pancakes or burgers. The performing servers even take requests—just think how much your little ones will adore hearing a live rendition of “Let It Go” during their meal. There are also nightly scheduled performances.
Decked out to look like an apothecary of yore, Brookyn Farmacy invites kids to pull up a stool at the counter and make friends with the modern-day soda jerks who whip up root beer floats and chocolate egg creams using artisanal sodas and syrups. Even at 25 cents apiece, the inflated "penny candy" can't quite break the 1950s spell.
Consider this your ticket to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. At this cute café (the largest and first of three locations), 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. On their all-day menu, you’ll find delicious sandwiches (think curried chicken salad, black forest ham and gruyere, tuna melts, BLT) and tasty tea service options.
Got a star-struck kid? The funky chain of celeb-worshipping restaurants offers American food (including kid faves like cheese pizza and spaghetti) in a tourist-saturated setting. Little ones will love checking out the restaurant's iconic Hollywood memorabilia from famous films—flicks like Planet of the Apes, Titanic, Terminator and Wayne’s World. Be prepared: Entrees can get a little pricey (some around $35). But you probably knew this before coming to Times Square.
At this canine-themed mini-chain of luncheonettes, even Fido can tag along for family brunch. There’s really something for everyone: a Philly cheese steak wrap, op boy sandwiches, burgers, hearty salads, fried chicken and special desserts like the Barking Dog Banana Split, Barking Dog Sundae and Chocolate Brownie Sundae. Although pups aren't allowed inside, they can munch on doggie treats and wait for a tasty morsel of human food to drop from your family's patio table (and they’ll have access to water bowls). With such a hearty array of pancakes, waffles, omelets, frittatas and wraps, there might even be enough leftovers for a doggie bag…see what we did there? Be on the lookout for Barking Dog’s other location at 77th St and York Ave as well.
From the ambiance to the portions, everything is larger than life at this amped-up diner! Kids eight and under can order from their very own menu, which includes hot dogs and chocolate chunk mini pancakes, then check out the pop culture memorabilia that lines the walls while they wait for their food (there are also Trivial Pursuit cards at many tables to keep the wait feeling short). Most adult entrees are between $15 and $20! Bring your whole clan for one of the monthly family trivia nights, or throw your child’s next birthday bash in the restaurant’s party room (they’ll even provide balloons).
An enchantingly girly day at this megastore isn’t complete without a meal at the cafe. Dolls are invited too, of course—they even get their own custom-sized “Treat Seats.” No doll in tow? The American Girl Café will actually let your child borrow one while you’re eating. Just as each doll has a place in history, many menu items have historical significance (like 1930s-inspired garden sandwiches and a WWII-era “victory garden chocolate mousse flowerpot”…there’s also pizza)—plus there are beer and wine options for of-age chaperones. All meals have fixed pricing and set seating times, so call ahead for reservations.
The kids’ menu at this Southwestern spot features lots of reasonably-priced dishes, including the famed Frito Pie ($6–$7), which little ones will enjoy eating straight out of the bag. Other old frontier-themed favorites include “corndoggies” ($6) and pulled pork sammys ($6), 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 ($7.95) that looks like a baked potato.
While Senor Frogs is also a great place to celebrate happy hour, you can’t forget its appeal to the younger set. Here, you can pretend it’s spring break forever! Order delicious finger food like mozzarella sticks, nachos and sliders to start, then grab an entrée like fish & chips, a turkey club or some world-famous BBQ ribs. There’s also a kids’ menu and fun activities to keep ‘em busy while they wait for their food (puzzles, mazes and more).
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. At $7.50 including drinks, the Roxtars kids menu is great value and, even better, meals are served on cool guitar-shaped platters and come with an activity book to keep ‘em busy while they’re waiting for their burgers, chicken tenders, hot dog or pizzas to arrive (healthier options such as grilled chicken, salads and light pasta are available, too). The music is loud and the beats are rockin’—even the most cynical New Yorkers will be air drumming and chair dancing like a two-year-old.
Keep a tight hold of your little warrior’s hand as you follow the way of the Ninja over wooden bridges and through castle-like halls to find your table at this lantern-lit theme spot. Yes, it’s hokey, and yes, it’s a splurge, but action-loving kids will love having the beejeebers scared out of them by the restaurant’s black-masked martial-artists who leap out and yell, Ninja! The kids menu items, however—an 8oz burger with fries and chicken tempura, or the Ninja Castle, a stack of small sushi, mac and cheese, tempura chicken and other kid-pleasers at $25 and $28 respectively—are more likely to scare you. (Oh, and soda costs $4.50 a pop. Just saying.) No matter, you’ll soon forget all about it when the Ninja magician performs tricks at your table after the meal.
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.
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!
Take your little fiends to the Jekyll and Hyde and socialize with the cast of ghoulish characters—such as a sinister butler, bloodthirsty vampires and groaning mummies—who make the place a fun-filled horror show. The wait can be long, but once inside you’ll find a creepy club packed with gargoyles, haunted pictures and eerie wax figures that come to life and chat to the guests. Young Explorers and Mad Scientists can chow down on Jekyll burgers, spaghetti, mac 'n cheese, cheese pizza and chicken fingers, then finish it all off with a killer dessert like Death by Chocolate cake or classic cookies and milk.
Order at the counter of this taqueria, grab a seat and enjoy piquant Mexican dishes like braised Hudson Valley duck tamales with roasted poblano chiles or, for brunch, chilaquiles with sunny-side-up free-range eggs strewn with Amish chicken and cotija cheese. Tots may enjoy the queso fresco and epazote-leaf quesadilla almost as much as the colorful lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) decorations.
Want to watch people duel as you dine? Here at Medieval Times in New Jersey, you can. Admission is around $62.95 for adults and $36.95 for kids 12 and under, and you’ll get to experience live entertainment plus a meal of roasted chicken, corn, tomato bisque, garlic bread and more (there are veggie meals available as well upon request).
More fun for kids
There are plenty of outdoor activities for kids in New York City—many you'll even love doing as a family! When you're not busy cuddled up with our favorite family movies on Netflix and our list of the best kids movies (come on—it's time to head outside!), you'll love exploring the coolest family attractions and the other amazing outdoor activities this amazing city has to offer.