The best fun restaurants in NYC

Love fun restaurants in NYC? Check out these theme restaurants with the littles
Photograph: Shutterstock
By Allie Early and Clare Lambe |
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These fun restaurants in NYC are perfect for families with kids! Sure, New York is one of the world's most famous food capitals, but it's also known for its fantastic entertainment; the picks on our list have kid-pleasing menu options like chicken fingers, burgers and macaroni and cheese, as well as themed decor and fun activities. Some even offer live entertainment! Expect to find '50s and '80s themed diners as well as an old-school malt shop on our list—plus even quirkier finds like Jekyll & Hyde Club and Ninja.

If you'd prefer to save the kitsch for your visiting guests, consider dining at our favorite family restaurants, spots for ramen in NYC, kid-friendly bars and even these quirky cereal restaurants instead.

 

Fun restaurants in NYC for kids

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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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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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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 (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.

 

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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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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, 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? 

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Restaurants, American

Big Daddy’s Diner Birthday Parties, Flatiron

icon-location-pin Gramercy

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). 

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Restaurants

American Girl Cafe

icon-location-pin Midtown West

When the new American Girl Place opens its doors at Rockefeller Center, a reservation at its cafe for your kid and their dolls will be a memorable treat. Go in for a traditional afternoon tea with cinnamon buns, scones, or cucumber sandwiches alongside hot tea, cocoa or pink lemonade ($21). If you’re looking for something heartier, the brunch, lunch and dinner menus offer sweet and savory entrées. The Truly Me kids’ menu includes Best-Ever Chicken Tenders, American Girl Cheeseburger, Perfect Pizza and Fancy Bow-Tie Pasta ($20).

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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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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 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.

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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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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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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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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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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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Honorable out-of-state mention: Medieval Times

Want to watch people duel as you dine? Here at Medieval Times in New Jersey, you can. 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).

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