I recently posted some of my favorite spots for adulting in Manhattan. This got me thinking about the daunting task of finding good spots to eat WITH your kids in Manhattan.
It’s sad but true that Manhattan dining is not particularly kid friendly. Go to Austin, TX or Portland, OR or even Brooklyn, NY, and you’ll find lots of really good spots where your kids can tag along and you’ll still get a great meal. Not true in Manhattan. Roughly 98% of the best food in that borough is below 14th Street and well, Downtown Manhattan isn’t exactly swarming with strollers.
I’ve thought long and hard and I’ve come up with a few really solid spots where your kids are welcome in Manhattan. I’ve excluded take out joints and zero ambiance counter service spots from the list - each of which can be kid friendly and very tasty, but aren’t really “dining”. Let me know what you think!
Breakfast is Always Kid Friendly
I’m not much of a breakfast person, but as a parent, breakfast is a good way to get some quality eats with your kids in tow. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest visiting just ANY restaurant at breakfast time because I don’t think that eating eggs or pancakes is the best way to see what a restaurant is all about. But the below spots specialize in breakfast, do it really well and are rather kid-friendly.
The Major Food Group crew is all over Manhattan these days. And though their spots are generally too glam and chic chic for the minions, Sadelle’s is an exception. Open at 8:30am daily, Sadelle’s breakfast is some of the best in Manhattan. I always order their heavenly House Salmon Tower with an Everything Bagel (if you like fennel, try their Everything 2.0 Bagel). My husband swears by their French Toast. Our girls are happy with a plain bagel and some offerings from Sadelle’s huge bakery section. Sadelle’s can get crowded, so either arrive early (the average Manhattanite sleeps a lot later than your kids do) or reserve ahead.
Community Food and Juice
The pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Co. are some of the best in the city. But why not avoid Clinton Street’s long waits and hipper crowds and hit their larger, far more family oriented sister spot up by Columbia? Yes, Community Food and Juice serves up the same incredible pancakes, plus many other delicious breakfast foods, all within a space that’s usually filled with screaming kids (don’t worry, the acoustics drown out all that noise).
Besides the unbelievable Pancakes with Warm Maple Butter, The B.E.L.T. (heritage hickory bacon, free range egg, lettuce, tomato, mayo and sourdough toast), Huevos Rancheros and Biscuit Sandwich (scrambled eggs, chicken-apple-rosemary sausage, Cabot cheddar on a whole wheat biscuit with tomato jam) are all to die for. The B.E.L.T. and Biscuit both come with delicious Carrot Hash Browns - and if your entree doesn’t, I recommend getting those as a separate side. As the name suggests, CF&J also has a great juice menu for the family.
Afternoon and Early Evening Eats
If you dine before 6pm, many Manhattan spots are doable with kids (save for the ones that are so damn hip and hot that even the cool adults are relegated to the early dining slots). And if you dine on weekdays or Sundays, restaurants are also more welcoming to kids. With these general tips in mind, here are some spots that I think are really tasty and quite doable with kiddies.
I am in love with Scarr’s. I think the place has gotten pretty hot in the past year but, to pat myself on the back, we stumbled upon it in the early days. Scarr’s is a 750 square foot pizza joint on the LES that kinda looks old fashioned but is actually only 2 years old. They serve beer and they only play hip hop. At night it’s a scene but during the daylight hours, it’s a great place to sit back and relax and share a meal with your kids.
Oh and it serves the best pepperoni pan pie in the city. Bon Appetit recently lauded Scarr’s with the best slice in NYC, but we think their personal pan pie is the order to get. It takes a bit longer to cook than just grabbing a slice, but it’s so worth it and there’s plenty of good beer to drink while you wait.
Studio at Freehand
Studio is the all day cafe and restaurant located on the mezzanine level of the hip but still somehow incredibly calm and relaxed (and fairly new) Freehand Hotel. Sharing the same hotel space as the uber popular Broken Shaker bar and more swanky Simon and the Whale restaurant, Studio may not get as much hype as its sister spots, but it is still rather fantastic.
The restaurant’s North African cuisine is delicious and not something you see all the time, even in New York. Our girls love the Jerusalem Bagels and you cannot go wrong with any of Head Baker, Zoe Kanan’s baked goods. To me, the real magic at Studio lies in its many dips and sauces and condiments, rich with Middle Eastern flavors.
The relaxed ambiance of the hotel is carried over into the Studio space, which is filled with lush plants and serene wood furnishings. And if the kids start to get restless, just take them to the Freehand’s adorable vintage game room down the hall from Studio.
I’m guessing/hoping most of you have heard of Katz’s and have been before. But have you taken the little ones? It’s hectic and crowded but it’s a NYC Institution like no other and even the smallest of patrons deserve to experience it.
Our girls love matzoh ball soup and can handle a turkey sandwich. I’m a pastrami and square knish gal myself and those two things are the best of the best at Katz’s. Go early to beat the crowds and consider sitting in the waiter section if ordering from the counter and snagging a seat with kids in tow seems too stressful. And don’t miss a stop at next door’s iconic Russ and Daughters for some take home treats of anything from lox and whitefish to raspberry jelly rings.
Emily (or is it Pizza Loves Emily?) burst onto the scene a few years back in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn with thin crust pizza and later, at Emily Squared, Detroit style pizza, both of which were all the rage in NYC - even Emily’s burger got incessant press. About a year ago, the team opened a West Village spin off and, well, if you’ve been to any children’s party, you know that pizza is kid friendly.
The Emily West Village location’s pizza menu contains far more than plain cheese cut in quarters - there are a few thin crust options and then a whole bunch of Detroit style pies (a square pie with thick, but not quite as thick as a Sicilian pie, crust) categorized as the Reds, the Pinks, the Whites and the Greens. You can’t go wrong with any pie but don’t skip a Detroit style pie. Also, fellow CT residents will appreciate Emily’s nod to Stamford’s Colony Grill with their appropriately named, “Colony” pie of pepperoni, pickled chili, honey in a red sauce.
Burgers are everywhere from fast food to fine dining these days. One of my favorite burgers on earth can be found at the classic and very kid friendly joint, J.G. Mellon. With a long existing location on the Upper East Side, there’s now a second J.G. Mellon downtown on MacDougal Street. The ambiance is casual and old school, kid menus are offered and the burger and coin shaped fries are still fantastic.
Maialino is a delicious Danny Meyer Italian spot in the gorgeous Gramercy Park Hotel. While the ambiance at Maialino is somewhat formal and upscale, the crowd leans older than many downtown restaurants (Read: a great spot to dine with your parents) and the service at Maialino, like all of Meyer’s restaurants, is so good that the staff makes kids feel comfortable. When we took our older daughter here for lunch, she had the best buttered pasta I’ve ever tasted - albeit probably also the priciest buttered pasta, too, as Maialino is not inexpensive.
Hope these suggestions were helpful! I promise I will keep adding to the list - finding solid kid friendly dining spots is my life’s mission!!