People come to New York City for a variety of reasons, but after having lived in the city for nearly a decade, we 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.
We 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. So while we may not adventure too much when we are with the kids, we still want variety. We 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.
Our criteria for toddler-friendly restaurants in NYC are below:
- Bathroom quality – 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 we think our 3-year-old is going might crash after a big day, 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. We also don’t like places that have lines, rarely is the line worth the actual food on the other side.
- Atmosphere – We 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 mild enough that the kids will devour. We 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 we 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 our top 16 Toddler-Friendly Restaurants in NYC. We 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. They also have locations in Greenwich Village and the Upper East Side, we like the Little Spot best (on Mulberry Street).
Also in SoHo is Dos Caminos. We just think that Mexican food is always such a winner with kids because most kids love quesadillas and most adults we’ve met 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. Breaking our white table-cloth rule on this one.
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. The restaurant is one of the most accommodating for kids bringing all sorts of toys to the table and offering decorate your own cookies after each meal.
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, we love a good booth!
Nearby: 16 NYC locations
If you need something quick and on the go with better ingredients than say a Chipotle, Dos Toros is a solid option. 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”. Don’t ask Brittany how often she ate Dos Toros while pregnant with the boys, its a shocking amount.
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, do yourself a favor and get a Nathan’s from the main stand. It’s still a hot dog, so temper your expectations. If you have heard of Kobayashi or Joey Chestnut, try not to imagine thse guys wolfing down 50 of these suckers while you enjoy yours. Counting this as Level 2 only because it is outdoors, so there’s obviously no air conditioning. If get too hot, you can always take a dip in the ocean.
Nearby: SoHo, Chinatown
OK, this one is a stretch, but we have to put it on here. We usually avoid burgers and pizza on recommendation lists and this place often has a line, but you can’t go to NYC and not get a great slice. Lombardi’s is supposedly the original brick oven pizza place and they like to remind you of that, often. 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 we will list but we eat a lot of pizza and gotta share the favorites!
Nearby: Chinatown, Flushing Queens
Mike’s favorite lunch spot, his work colleagues from Shanghai said they were better than most they have 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). We like the jellyfish, but the kids love the Americanized General Tso’s, ask for “zero spicey.” This one is a bit touristy, but it’s hard to avoid crowds of people anywhere 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 thought the Vessel was a parking garage until people started posting pictures of it on Instagram. I saw 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 pub-inspired dishes including fish and chips, and 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. Once I ordered something from a restaurant in China that I was pretty sure was mushroom soup. The English translation said “pot of bacteria”, I didn’t die. Call me a glutton for punishment, but I like to try new things. I don’t mind testing out different environments.
About the kids: They are not always adventurous eaters. Just like all kids they ebb and flow with what they are willing to try. But they got their start in NYC and have traveled the world, they are by most American standards adventerous eaters. All three are unique eaters but these truths abide…. they will crush a bowl of Annie’s mac and cheese as fast as a bowl of fish amok over rice. They love chicken with a spicy peanut sauce but won’t touch chicken fingers and don’t really like french fries. Our oldest doesn’t eat milk chocolate but will dive into a dark chocolate bar all day. And cheap ice cream truck ice cream is as good to them as Jeni’s (this is the only one that bothers me- and how I know they were born NY kids).
Hopefully, our list of toddler-friendly restaurants in NYC leads to a stress-reduced stay in the big apple! Enjoy and tag us @fivepax enjoying your favorite meals!