12 Family-Friendly NYC Restaurants
Hit up these fun, food-forward spots for good eats for the entire family.
Visiting New York City with your family in tow can be a challenge. Especially when you’re trying to keep an eye on your wallet. There’s no denying, Manhattan restaurants are pricier than the ones in Atlanta or Des Moines. Luckily there are enough food options at multiple price points to allow you to enjoy some cheap eats along with some fun splurges. Because, after all, what’s the point of visiting the Big Apple if you can’t experience the incredible array of food that makes this a world class city? Following are some of our favorite options for family-friendly eats.
A Manhattan Mexican food staple, this always buzzing spot offers generous margaritas and delicious California-style burritos on charm-filled Greenwich Avenue in the West Village. The waiters are friendly, the prices are reasonable and the portions are large. Oh, and you might just spot a celebrity passing by on this scenic strip of NYC. A strolling Andy Cohen waved hello last time we stopped in at Benny’s.
This build-your-own-meal restaurant with seven locations in New York City is the perfect choice for picky-eaters and teens who will love this meatball-spot’s irreverent approach (wall art is crafted from meat grinders and the menu verbiage has a naughty streak). You choose your style of meatball—classic, chicken, spicy pork, vegetarian (not their best option, BTW)—and add a favorite sauce (pesto and a creamy mushroom sauce are just a few of the options) and accompaniment, anything from pasta to mashed potatoes. This is serious flavor-packed comfort food that will leave everyone groaningly full. Just watch those add ons: the more you pile on to your meatball creation, the pricier it gets.
Just one in superstar chef David Chang’s Momofuku empire, Nishi (which translates to “west” since this location in the Momofuku family is on the west side of Manhattan) is a wonderful lunch option with an accommodating, enthusiastic staff who really know the menu and long communal tables perfect for families and eavesdropping on jaded New Yorkers’ conversations. The diverse menu is heavy on Asian comfort food including a veggie-loaded cold noodle option nice for a steaming summer day and a noteworthy vegetable muchim featuring savory rice cakes you’ll think about long after the meal is over. The Impossible Burger—offered in limited supplies—is as close to the Real McCoy as you can get for a vegan burger but it’s the innovative spin on a Caesar—a romaine salad with caramelized onions—that is return-worthy eating. I know one fan who orders two of these in one sitting.
Another fast casual gem to hit up when a case of family hangriness strikes, Num Pang is housed in the bustling (read: lunch and dinner time are crazed) Chelsea Market food hall (with multiple locations throughout the city). This source for Southeast Asia-inspired sandwiches, rice bowls and inventive sides is a great takeaway spot; grab a perch or a bench at the Market, or tote your street food to a nearby park or the close-by High Line. The flavor-packed Num Pang (Cambodian for sandwich) Khmer Sausage and Asian slaw and coconut tiger shrimp sandwiches don’t disappoint.
An old-school Brooklyn classic, this diner-with-a-twist recently opened an outpost at 49th street in the heart of Times Square and you can’t beat the location or the food for its thrill-factor. With enormous floor-to-ceiling windows, vaulted ceilings, tons of neon and outsized portions, this is belly-of-the-beast Times Square overload with a touch of retro Pulp Fiction attitude. Kids will love the center-of-the-action feel and the rock solid food: hamburgers come with French fries and onion rings (I love the chopped liver offering as a classic New York side) and there’s also an under-12 Junior menu with can’t-go-wrong chicken fingers and grilled cheese for children who can’t diverge from the standards. There are New York-themed craft cocktails for grown-ups and house wine from the Red Hook Winery for some local color. Start with the delicious cultural mash-up of Reuben eggrolls and by all means finish with an enormous slice of Junior’s famous cheesecake. One slice could easily feed a family of three.
The conceptual sweets created by award-winning chef Christina Tosi (who started the dessert program at Momofuku) for the many Milk Bar locations will delight every family member with its litany of Willy Wonka-worthy imaginative sweet delights. A great place to grab an ice cream and hang on a park bench, there is a Milk Bar Bakery on the same Chelsea block as Momofuku Nishi so you can make a double bill of lunch or dinner. Show your kids you haven’t forgotten the sweet things in life with Milk Bar’s loaded-with flavor compost cookies, soft-serve cereal milk ice cream flavored to taste like breakfast cereal and topped with a sprinkle of cereal crunch and a crack pie—like a chess pie with an oat cookie crust—which is so loaded with salty, sugary goodness, I’d recommend leaving it to the adults.
Considered by many to be the best taco spot in the city, this frenzied stand in Chelsea Market offers agua frescas and curated tacos—chicken, steak, pork, cactus—that feel like street food straight out of Mexico City. There is often a line, so prepare yourself, and keep things moving along by telling the taco-chefs the taco shell you prefer (I recommend corn), toppings you want and whether they are to stay or to go. It’s chaotic, fun, inexpensive and will delight every member of your family from the foodies to the kiddies.
8: By Chloe
This stylish fast-casual eatery has multiple locations but the charm-filled West Village By Chloe is ground zero for some of the city’s best vegan cuisine including avocado toast that will possibly ruin you for every other avocado toast. Comfort food like mac and cheese and veggie burgers and reasonable prices make this an easy lunch or dinner option. The space is tiny but festive and jam packed with posh NYU students and families; just scene-y enough to keep the family engaged but not too-cool-for-school to intimidate. Order at the counter before taking your meal to a staked-out spot (a job to keep the kids occupied). This is the perfect place to fool your children into eating something healthy in a spot so winsome and funky (think succulents and hanging rattan chairs), they won’t realize they’ve just eaten more than their daily veg.
Located on the lower dining concourse of Grand Central Station, Prova is a great choice for harried travelers or Midtown-area tourists in search of some moderately-priced Neapolitan-inspired square pizza where mom and dad can get a decent glass of wine and chill. Opt for the table service and indulge in the incredible garlic knots to start. The classic meatball pizza made from owner Donatella Arpaia’s heralded recipe is sure to satisfy everyone at the table. If you’ve got a train to catch they’ll even set you up with a slice and an adult sippy cup of wine to go. Talk about taking the edge off of a commute.
10: Sweets By Chloe
Part of an exploding healthy vegan empire including By Chloe restaurant (the avocado toast is worth the trip), and the plant-based ice cream shop Chill by Chloe, Sweets By Chloe is a vegan dessert shrine with the same stylish black and white awnings and beautifully presented sweets that show a love of cute, feminine design-forward details as memorable as the food. The decadent, chocolaty matcha babka, chocolate chip cookies, killer spin on a classic cream-filled Hostess cupcake and mini-pies are not just serviceable renditions of vegan desserts, but crave-worthy treats all on their own that will turn this into a favorite NYC destination. Pack up a pretty takeaway box for more treats back at the hotel.
While Tavern on the Green is not exactly wallet-friendly, it is very welcoming to families, with lots of menu items for kids and a charming umbrella-shaded outdoor eating area where small children will have a little more space to roam and enjoy nature and you won’t feel so bad in the al fresco surroundings when they get loud or fussy. The Tavern staff is very patient and accommodating and the food is much better than you would expect from such an old-world, tourist-clogged location so parents can enjoy delicious fare in a historic location. Brunch is an especially good choice for families. The savory-sweet complexity of a fig and goat cheese salad, eggs Benedict Florentine and organic salmon bathed in a chive beurre blanc with lentils won’t disappoint. If anyone gets too squirmy, the Central Park setting means an instant opportunity to let off steam before or after lunch. If everyone is good, order the decadent birthday cake: a multi-layer, rich pound cake with cream cheese icing and tons of sprinkles and a side of vanilla ice cream to make anyone feel like a kid again.
Founded in 1954, this Upper East Side institution is home to an incredible array of ice cream treats and a whimsical décor that make this a must-visit full of culinary and quirky visual delights. Sundaes and other treats like giant hamburgers at this New York institution are not cheap, but they lend themselves to sharing and this is the kind of one-of-a-kind experience you have to enjoy while you are in NYC. The Frrrozen Hot Chocolate is an enormous goldfish bowl of slushy, icy hot chocolate, not-too-sweet but my money is on the “Can’t Say No” sundae, a peanut butter and chocolate extravaganza with an entire slice of pie heaped onto more ice cream, banana and hot sauce than you ever thought possible. A $1,000 Golden Opulence sundae—listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most expensive dessert— is also on the menu for big spenders, though a reservation is required. A kiddie paradise with its over-the-top décor and old-fashioned ice cream parlor ambiance, just be aware that you will need to warn children there is most likely a wait at this perennially popular spot.