People come to New York City for a variety of reasons, but after having lived here for the better part of 9 years, I can attest to the fact that the food really is top-notch. There are plenty of food guides for a proper foodie trip to New York, but when traveling with toddlers there has to be a balance of unique and different from home versus requirements of the kids. Luckily for New York City tourists, we have a solid list of 16 toddler-friendly restaurants in NYC where we frequently eat and recommend.
Brittany and I avoid fast food and boring American staples like 5Guys but we still play it relatively safe for the little guys. The big recommendation engines are great for scraping the surface, but they tend to either favor the vanilla or tend to funnel everyone to the Guy Fiery or Chevy Chase tourist traps in Midtown. I may not adventure too much when I am with the kids, but I still want variety. I also don’t really trust the reviews on sites that say a restaurant is kid-friendly but then show pictures of white table cloths, a tiny interior, or only high top tables.
My criteria for toddler-friendly restaurants in NYC are below:
- Bathroom quality – a good quality and clean bathroom, bonus points they have a stool so the kids can wash their own hands, the rare perk is a changing table for the baby.
- Booth options – If I think my 3-year-old is going to crash, a booth is a nice option.
- Likely to be crowded – There’s a sweet spot with the crowd. You want enough people/noise where if your kids are being loud they won’t bother anyone, but not too crowded and loud in case you have a baby who needs a nap. I also don’t like places that have lines.
- Atmosphere – I hate tourist traps… Hate ’em!
- Food – Obviously very important. We look for food that our out of town family and friends don’t normally get at home, but is vanilla enough that the kids will devour. I also don’t buy into gimmick menus. You can find literally anything in New York so if you want to eat at a cereal bar, at a place that only serves Mac & Cheese, or if you want fried chicken in a waffle cone, we’ve got that too, but I usually avoid the gimmicks. If the food is good, they don’t need to dress it up.
- Price – this list focuses on convenience, but nothing listed is absurdly priced. Know that no matter where you eat in New York City, you will later wonder if you dropped a wad of cash somewhere.
Without further ado below are my top 16 Toddler-Friendly Restaurants in NYC. I listed nearby attractions and you can also see the google map. Bon appetit!
Level 1 toddler-friendly Restaurants in NYC
These restaurants check all the boxes for toddler-friendly restaurants in New York City.
Nearby: 9/11 Memorial, World Trade Center, Oculus, Circle Line Ferry
Most people visit the 9/11 museum, Oculus, and the World Trade Center. Right across the West Side Highway is El Vez. As you might suspect, it’s Mexican food. The food is good, it’s spacious, it has very clean bathrooms, and friendly staff. It is also a block away from a nice playground that has a good view of the Statue of Liberty and a Ferry stop.
Nearby: SoHo, Greenwich Village, Chinatown
Aunt Jake’s feels like one of those farm-to-table Italian bistros you’d find in the Midwest, yet it’s smack in the middle of Manhattan. When you’re inside, they somehow accomplished a lot of natural light with a very welcoming country style. It’s also surprisingly spacious with of course excellent food. The first time I was here was for a birthday party and was surprised by how cozy it was.
Also in SoHo is Dos Caminos. I just think that Mexican food is always such a winner with kids because all kids like quesadillas and most adults I’ve met really enjoy a good margarita.
Nearby: Washington Square Park, East Village, Union Square, NYU
If you are near Washington Square to take a photo of the arch or pick up a game of chess, take a gander over to the Smith. The menu is very safe, but with a decent variety. You can get yourself that burger, or you can get a bibimbap. The portions are big enough that the kids can share.
Nearby: Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village, NYU
Also near Washington Square is Otto. This place is a little bit upscale in the evenings, but for lunch, it’s a great stop. Very spacious, great portions, and great food. This is a very approachable Mario Batalli restaurant.
Nearby: East Village or Times Square, Broadway Shows
Depending on where you’re coming from, you may or may not have a Gyu Kaku in your home town. With locations throughout the city, Gyu Kaku is always fun for the kids. My favorite is the one at Astor place because it is the least busy, but they also have a location near all the Broadway show action so it is good for a pregame or post matinee. Our boys love taking part in cooking their own food and all locations are big enough for stroller parking. If you stop by in the evening at any location, you may want to get a reservation.
Nearby: Flat Iron, Madison Square Park
Good Ole Fashioned BBQ near the Flat Iron.
Nearby: Barclays Center
Similar to Blue Smoke, but in Brooklyn. This is a good option if you are near the Barclays center for any reason. You can easily find tables for large parties here. We actually ended up here with a table of 10 at the last minute when the original location for my visiting family fell through.
Nearby: Times Square, Broadway Shows
Authentic Peruvian Chicken. So good. If you do a Broadway show or are near Times Square and want something really good that is not in the middle of all the chaos, this is a great option. Again, if you’re feeling this later in the day, call ahead or get a reservation, but they definitely can accommodate larger parties. My son once slept on the booth seating here at my wife’s birthday party.
Nearby: 16 NYC locations
If you need something quick and on the go and want to level up your Chipotle game with better ingredients, Dos Toros is a solid option and they located throughout Manhattan with recent expansion into Brooklyn, too. Unless you are from San Francisco, you won’t get these at home. Gluten-free tacos are also available! Note: they have very few seats so plan on making this one “grab and go”.
Level 2 Toddler-Friendly Restaurants in NYC.
These restaurants might fall a little short on the stroller space or the extra elbow room, but if you have agreeable kids and want to level up your culinary experience you should check these out.
Nearby: Coney Island
If you plan on going to Coney Island, just do yourself a favor and get a Nathan’s from the main stand. They’re still hot dogs so temper your expectations, but if you’ve ever heard of Kobayashi or Joey Chestnut, try not to imagine these guys wolfing down 50 of these suckers while you enjoy yours. I’m counting this as Level 2 only because it is outdoors, so there’s obviously no air conditioning, but you can always take a dip in the ocean here if you’re a little overheated!
Nearby: SoHo, Chinatown
OK, this one is a stretch, but I have to put it on here. We usually avoid things like burgers and pizza and this place often has a line, but you can’t go to New York City and not get a slice. Lombardi’s is supposedly the original brick oven pizza place and they like to remind you of that. If you are in the SoHo area, definitely eat here. You will most likely be led through the kitchen to your seat, which feels special to a young kid. The pizza is fantastic and it’s fun to say you ate at the original pizza joint. Just know that it is cash only. This is as close to a tourist trap as I will list but I eat a lot of pizza so I would be remiss not to list one of my favorites.
Nearby: Chinatown, Flushing Queens
I literally had Joe’s tonight before writing this, and I had it with work colleagues visiting from Shanghai. They claim the soup dumplings here are better than most they’ve had at home. If you have never had soup dumplings, you need to try soup dumplings. (Just Google how to eat them first so you don’t burn your mouth) I tried the jellyfish, but the kids had the Americanized General Tso’s that we asked for with “zero spicey.” This one is a bit touristy, but it’s hard to avoid the hoards of people anywhere you go in Chinatown. Special note: There’s a knockoff Joe’s in Midtown near the park that’s OK, but c’mon man, it’s a knockoff go to the original.
Nearby: Union Square, Midtown
This place looks upscale, but I brought friends from Ohio here with our kids and theirs. Noodles flew, but nobody batted an eye and the food was excellent. They have very flavorful and hearty udon, the portions are very large, and they don’t charge if you ask for extra noodles, which is great if you just want to let your kids share your bowl.
Nearby: Union Square, Midtown
If your kids like Korean food, this place really checks all the boxes except maybe a little loud. There are more authentic Korean options abound but Barn Joo has really good bulgogi and other options that you might not find in small-town USA. The bulgogi mushroom pot is really good and the portions are pretty big so the trick is to order for two and feed your kids off your plates.
Nearby: The High Line, the Vessel, Javits Center
I honestly thought the Vessel was a parking garage until people started posting pictures of it on Instagram saying how they waited in a huge line to get in… so if you are one of those people, or if you gave up on waiting in line, take a walk across the West Side Highway again and have a meal by the water. They’ve got American fare like fish and chips, but it’s a cool spot for the kids to run around while mom and dad drink a cold one on the water. I’m putting this in Level 2 because it’s outdoors and therefore a seasonal choice from late spring to late fall.
About me: I’m an adventurous eater. I’ve eaten crickets and beetles from a street vendor in Cambodia. I once had a snail that was cooked by the sun on the back of a rickshaw. Anthony Bourdain would seek out some things I enjoy like tripe and squid balls and bone marrow. I once ordered something from a restaurant in China that I was pretty sure was mushroom soup. I was basing this assumption on the menu photos though because the English translation said “pot of bacteria.” Call me a glutton for punishment, but I like to try new things and I don’t mind testing out different environments.
About the kids: They are not adventurous eaters. They have needs. The baby is interested in the texture of the food as it oozes through his hands and rubs in his hair. When my three year old finishes a meal it looks like a bloody massacre. He’s perfectly capable of using a fork and knife, but he occasionally prefers to smash his food on the table with his fists and then vacuum it up with his mouth. My oldest is five, and he’s truly getting better, but one of his favorite activities is insulting whatever meal is placed in front of him. Yesterday we made a chicken adaptation of Minimalist Baker’s Pad Thai, which he has had many times before, and he said, “Pad Thai? More like Pad Stink!!” This brought out thunderous laughter from the older two and scared the baby to tears.
On top of all of this, I’ve dealt with my kid experiencing food poisoning exactly one time from a fresh mango and strawberry smoothie at a roadside stand in Costa Rica and I can tell you the level of guilt and sadness I felt was unbearable. Hopefully my list of toddler-friendly restaurants in NYC leads to a stress-reduced stay in the big apple!