The best fun restaurants in NYC for kids and families

The fun restaurants in NYC are extensive, so start making a list and come hungry!

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock
By Allie Early, Clare Lambe, Danielle Valente and Time Out editors |
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Fun restuarants in NYC make Gotham's culinary scene all the more exciting. We hope you're hungry...and ready for an adventure. 

If you're looking to go back in time, rock out with your favorite bands or hop down the rabbit hole with Alice, look no further! You can do all that and then some at these popular destinations.

In addition to exciting themes, you'll love digging into New York pizza or trying the latest craze, like cereal restaurant spots. Naturally, a few of our favorite ice cream shops in NYC have also landed a sweet spot on our list, so you need to take a peek.

We can't wait for you to book a reservation at our favorite fun restaurants in NYC. When you're down chowing down, make sure to tackle our grand checklist of the 101 best things to do with kids in NYC. Trust us, you'll need a full stomach before embarking on that feat.

Fun restaurants in NYC

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Harlem Shake
Photograph: Courtesy Kenji Lopez-Alt
Things to do, Birthday parties

Harlem Shake

icon-location-pin Harlem

Get your kid a Pat LaFrieda burger and a Blue Marble milkshake at this popular Harlem destination that celebrates the neighborhood’s culture. Although the chrome-plated diner only opened in 2013, its devoted local following and classic retro vibe makes it feel like the kind of local joint that has been around forever.

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Shopping, Grocery stores

Eataly

icon-location-pin Flatiron

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 the Italian culture and offers tours, classes and other events that make the experience worthwhile.

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Restaurants, American

S’Mac

icon-location-pin East Village

S’Mac elevates a childhood staple to the gourmet level. There are a dozen varieties of mac 'n cheese to choose from, like the Cheeseburger, with ground beef and burger toppings. The “nosh” size is perfect for kiddie appetites; order the “mongo” and enjoy leftovers tomorrow (and the next day). Any variety on the lengthy menu here, from the textbook all-American to the Spanish-accented La Mancha (Manchego cheese, fennel and onion), can be made gluten-free or reduced-lactose.

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Restaurants, Pizza

Roberta’s

icon-location-pin Brooklyn

Share a pie with the family at this Bushwick pizzeria that offers the classic Margherita all the way to more adventurous selections like the Nightmare on Moore Street, which has 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.

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Restaurants, Barbecue

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (Harlem)

icon-location-pin Morningside Heights

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).  

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Photograph: Filip Wolak
Restaurants, Barbecue

Pig Beach

icon-location-pin Gowanus

If you have a hankering for some BBQ, this outdoor Brooklyn venue is the perfect place to munch on some savory dishes in a fun picnic-style setting. Your mouth will water at the possibilities—baby back ribs, the Pig Beach Burger (which comes with delicious secret sauce), brisket and so much more. Sides including mac n’ cheese with Goldfish, house pickles and smoke jalapeno coleslaw. Added bonus? Pups are welcome in the outdoor space, too!

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Restaurants, American

Serendipity 3

icon-location-pin Lenox Hill

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 pie, every sweet tooth will be plenty satisfied. Kids can choose from several different burgers and a variety of sandwiches like the Ultimate BLT on challah bread. 

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Restaurants, Diners

Dizzy’s

icon-location-pin Park Slope

This neighborhood "finer diner" is perpetually lively and family-packed: Little ones love the kids' menu (for just $9, your tykes can scarf a cheeseburger, flapjacks, grilled cheese and other tasty mains, complete with a side and a drink), and parents are able to peruse the extensive menu that offers burgers, salads, breakfast sandwiches and soul-warmers like bacon-wrapped meatloaf.

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Photograph: Courtesy Yelp.com + Keysha P
Things to do, Birthday parties

Sugar Factory

icon-location-pin Upper West Side

Sure, your kid can eat a meal here, but it’s really just a rite of passage to get to the star of the show: dessert. Let your sweet-toothed youngster pick two desserts from a long list of cake and sundae options to accompany the family-style meal of two appetizers, two entrées and one side (the menu includes options like pasta, Caesar salad and miniburgers, to name a few). 

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Photograph: Courtesy Black Tap
Restaurants, Hamburgers

Black Tap Lower East Side

icon-location-pin 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: burgers made of beef, bison, lamb, turkey, chorizo, and falafel, and sides that include Teriyaki Broccoli, Crispy Brussels Sprouts and Mexican Avocado. The signature “Crazy Shakes” have been well-sought after with names like The Cotton Candy Shake, Sour Power, Sweet n Salty and The Cookie Shake.

 

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Restaurants, Hamburgers

Shake Shack

icon-location-pin Flatiron

The super tasty burgers at this joint are perfectly sized for little hands. Not only can families choose from offerings flavored with special “ShackSauce” or crisp-fried portobello burgers, but also chicken sandwiches and hot dogs for those picky eaters. A side of crinkle-cut fries is a must along with any of the rotating shakes and frozen custard concrete flavors. All food is dished out to go, so grab a park table and enjoy your outdoor dining.

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Ellen's Stardust Diner
Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nels
Restaurants, Diners

Ellen's Stardust Diner

icon-location-pin Midtown West

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.

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Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain
Photograph: Clotilde Testa
Restaurants, Ice cream parlors

Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain

icon-location-pin Carroll Gardens

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. 

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Alice's Teacup
Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson
Restaurants, Tea rooms

Alice's Tea Cup Chapter I

icon-location-pin Upper West Side

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. On the menu, you’ll find delicious sandwiches (think curried chicken salad, black forest ham and gruyere, tuna melts, BLT) and tasty tea service options.

 

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Photograph: Koen Schepers
Restaurants, American

Planet Hollywood

icon-location-pin Midtown West

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 pricey, but you probably knew this before coming to Times Square.

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Photograph: Andrew Fladeboe
Restaurants, American

Barking Dog Luncheonette

icon-location-pin Upper East Side

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, po 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 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?) 

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Photograph: Virginia Rollison
Restaurants, American

Big Daddy’s Diner

icon-location-pin Gramercy

From the ambiance to the portions, everything is larger than life at this amped-up diner! Kids can enjoy hot dogs and chocolate chunk mini pancakes, then check out the pop culture memorabilia that lines the walls while they wait for their food. 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.

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Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Soul and southern American

Cowgirl

icon-location-pin West Village

The kids’ menu at this Southwestern 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.

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Hard Rock Cafe New York
Photograph: Courtesy of Hard Rock Cafe
Restaurants, American

Hard Rock Cafe

icon-location-pin Midtown West

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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Ninja New York
Photograph: Filip Wolak
Restaurants, Japanese

Ninja

icon-location-pin Tribeca

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! 

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Photograph: Virginia Rollison
Restaurants, Hamburgers

The Burger Garage

icon-location-pin Long Island City

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.

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maxbrenner01
Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castell
Shopping, Chocolate and candy

Max Brenner

icon-location-pin Greenwich Village

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!

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Jekyll & Hyde
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Peggy P.
Restaurants

Jekyll and Hyde Club

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.

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Photograph: Michael Kirby Smith
Restaurants, Mexican

Cascabel Taqueria

icon-location-pin Upper East Side

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.

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Photograph: Courtesy Kellogg's NYC
Restaurants

Kellogg’s NYC

icon-location-pin Midtown West

Cereal is a Saturday-morning staple for all kids that oftentimes includes a Kellogg's product. But make no mistake, this Union Square hotspot is no ordinary breakfast outpost. Expect a unique twist on classic flavors you know and love, such as Life in Color (which is a combination of Fruit Loops, lime zest, marshmallows and passion fruit jam). Did you know that Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi created the menu selection, so you know you're in for something special. But for those with a creative mind (and appetite), use your visit to the restaurant as an opportunity to create your own wonky morning meal. Sure it's a cereal restaurant, but by the time you're through, expect a sugar rush. (But no complaints here!)

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Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock/Dimitra Merziemekidou
Restaurants

American Girl Cafe

icon-location-pin Midtown West

The next time you're venturing on 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 (perhaps 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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Photograph: Courtesy Kith Treats
Restaurants

Kith Treats

icon-location-pin Park Slope

When street gear and sneaker store Kith opened up shop Prospect Heights, it added a cereal bar to the mix. Kith Treats Cereal Bar offers 23 different cereals, including classics like Fruity Pebbles and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, 22 toppings and four milk options. 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. The Brooklyn shop features a menu of special mixes created by celebs and friends of the brand while their newest location, Nike x Kith Shop in Lower Manhattan, is a partnership that combines the sneaker brand’s iconic elements with Kith’s rise in cereal expertise.

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Junior's
Photograph: Courtesy Junior's
Restaurants, American

Junior’s Restaurant

icon-location-pin Park Slope

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.

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Restaurants, Seafood

Bubba Gump Shrimp Company

icon-location-pin Midtown West

Whether or not you've seen Forest Gump, chances are you've made a pitstop at this Times Square seafood spot with an affinity for shrimp. The famous Tom Hanks flick inspired the menu with items such as Run Forrest Run (a fruit smoothie) and Bubba’s After the Storm Bucket of Boat Trash (shrimp, lobster, mahimahi, coleslaw and fries). Let's not forget the fish boat décor, which makes it a prime-time summer go-to. Though it's in the heart of a tourist-populated neighborhood, we won't judge you for making reservations at this kitchy restaurant.

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