Fun Family Restaurants in NYC

One of the challenges of travelling with kids is the the struggle of having to balance the adults’ desires to find new and interesting places to eat with the kids’ wish for something boring and familiar. The last thing I want to do when I’m on a trip is to eat at a restaurant I could find at home. I don’t always eat at the most exotic locations, but even if I only want fast food I’d rather have it from a local chain than one that looks exactly like the restaurant I drive by every day on the way to work.

My kids, on the other hand, don’t feel this way at all. They don’t want new or exotic. They don’t want slightly interesting. They don’t even like it when the fish crackers in a new city are a slightly different colour than the ones at home. I’ve come home from trips wondering how it’s even possible for children to live for days at a time on nothing but apple juice, chocolate milk and the occasional handful of cheerios. There’s nothing more frustrating than having children reject 90 percent of a meal you paid way to much for because it’s slightly unfamiliar, then almost immediately start whining that they are hungry.

So anytime that I can find a place to eat that is interesting for the adults and familiar to the kids, it’s a win. Fortunately, New York is great for places like this. One trend I really noticed when I started researching New York restaurant was “one dish” or “super specialty” restaurants. These places have taken one ingredient, or one dish and built a whole restaurant around it. I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to go to any of them, but I took note of a few locations and we were able to visit a couple of fun places when we were in the vicinity.

The Burger Joint

Okay, so burgers aren’t really any sort of a specialty, but this place is pretty focused on them. The menu is written on a piece of cardboard near the till and consists of burgers, cheeseburgers, fries and shakes (chocolate or vanilla). That’s it. The location is also kind of fun. It’s off the lobby of the swank Parker Meridian hotel with no signs, just a line of people coming out a doorway behind a thick curtain. Once you get in the door it looks like a greasy spoon transplanted from a truck stop. One thing I have to say is that while my family enjoyed it, it’s not kid friendly in the highchairs and colouring pages kind of way. There is no kids menu and it’s incredibly crowded; we had to fold the stroller to squeeze into a booth. But if you’re going to have a burger in New York it sure beats the golden arches!



This place does only one thing; macaroni and cheese. It sounded like the perfect place for us since it’s our kids’ favourite food and one of the adult’s favourites as well. You can get about a dozen different cheese combinations as well as customizing your own dish. We went for the sampler, with eight different types of macaroni and cheese including Alpine, French and Cajun variations. We also got a small order of the classic version for the kids. It was my husband’s favourite meal of the entire trip. For once the kids actually ate as well.


So those were two of the places we managed to get to in our short visit to New York. There are still quite a few other fun places I’d like to try if we go again. There’s Melt, a restaurant specializing in grilled cheese, The Meatball Shop, Peanut Butter and Co. , and even Rice to Riches, for the family that really really likes rice pudding. A lot of these places have locations scattered around the city, so it’s worthwhile to check out the websites and see if there’s something along your route.

Now if only there was a place in New York that specializes in fish crackers and chocolate milk! My son would never want to eat anywhere else.


One response to “Fun Family Restaurants in NYC

  1. Oh, I hear you on the familiar food front! And the thing is, my kids are great eaters at home – but tend to clamp down on holiday as if unfamiliar food is just one straw too many! To make matters worse, even the “familiar” fast food chains are often localised these days (actually, I don’t think that’s worse I think that’s better but they’re not me) as we’ve found out the hard way.

    Nice to have a few spots serving good old comfort foods. Might make it a bit easier to keep everyone fed and happy!

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