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Choosing the best restaurants for you and your family in New York City can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be! NYC offers an incredible variety of dining options ranging from basic to elegant. These New York City favorites have successfully weathered the COVID storm by offering outdoor seating, take out and whatever options were necessary to remain open. Here are some of our favorite iconic NYC eateries that survived the pandemic and are ready to welcome you back to New York City!
As America’s largest melting pot, New York City sheds an entirely new light on diversity. Those diverse flavors shine brightest in NYC’s restaurants. If you want to eat it, chances are it’s here.
Sample a bite of NYC history or kick back with a craft beer while the kids play. These restaurants will enhance your NYC vacation.
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Favorite NYC Times Square Restaurants
We New Yorkers like to say we avoid Times Square. But we do love Broadway, so venturing into this tourist-heavy neighborhood is necessary. There are even fun free things to do in Times Square with kids.
Chances are you’ll be spending time there too and you’ll want to check out these New York spots.
2450 Broadway, New York, NY
For 30 years, Carmine’s has been serving up mouth-watering Italian food family style. Situated in the middle of the Times Square madness, this delicious spot brings the best of Italian cuisine into the spotlight. And the huge family-style portions make it even more appealing.
All the classics are here: lasagna, baked ziti, manicotti stuffed with fresh ricotta, etc. along with seafood and a decadent broiled porterhouse.
As of this writing, the Times Square location remains closed as New York awaits Broadway’s reopening in September. But, never fear, Carmine’s has an Upper West Side location that’s equally delicious. Reservations are recommended. Bring an appetite, Carmine’s is a true Italian feast.
1515 Broadway, New York, NY
An American classic, Junior’s got its start in Brooklyn, and that’s where you’ll find the original location. If you’d rather be in the center of the action, the 45th Street location in the heart of Times Square does the trick.
The menu includes old-school favorites like burgers served with onion rings and crispy fries along with deli sandwiches, barbecue and even seafood. The under-12 Junior menu has the essential grilled cheese, chicken fingers and mac & cheese along with hamburgers and linguini with marinara.
But the real star of the show comes at the end of the meal—the cheesecake. An NYC favorite, Junior’s wins the best in show award when it comes to this creamy indulgent New York staple.
TravelingMom Tip: If you choose the Times Square location, be sure to avoid the pre-theater hour unless you’re a fan of long waits.
Other NYC Theater District Kid-Friendly Favorites
Ellen’s Stardust Diner
This Times Square staple offers a kid menu with mac n’ cheese. And the waitstaff sings. Located in Times Square at 1650 Broadway. As of July 2021, Ellen’s remains temporarily closed.
Sure. It’s a chain restaurant. But sometimes you just want a reliably delicious burger, even in NYC. The Times Square outpost is located on 8th Avenue and 44th Street.
Traditional Tastes on Manhattan’s Lower East Side
Traditionally a working-class neighborhood filled with immigrants, Manhattan’s Lower East Side began to re-gentrify in the 2000s. But there are still icons from the neighborhood’s roots.
Here are our tasty favorites.
Russ & Daughters
179 E Houston Street, New York, NY
New Yorkers know that starting the day off right requires an NYC bagel. And there’s no better place to get one than Russ & Daughters.
Located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Russ & Daughters serves freshly made bagels, smoked fish and plenty of other tempting baked goods.
Founder Joel Russ came to NYC in 1907 from Strzyzow, which is now part of Poland. He got his start selling schmaltz herring out of a barrel to the Eastern European Jews on the Lower East Side. Ultimately Russ graduated to a brick-and-mortar store. Having no sons, his three daughters began working in the business as teenagers. When they went full-time, he named the business Russ & Daughters—the first business in the country to have “daughters” in its name.
If you have a full New York City itinerary, pop into the shop on Houston Street and grab a few bagels with cream cheese and smoked fish to go. Or indulge in a leisurely morning at the Russ & Daughter’s Café a few blocks away at 127 Orchard St. where outdoor seating provides excellent people watching while you feast. Either way, it’s the breakfast of champions.
205 E Houston Street, New York, NY
Since 1888, Katz’s Deli has been serving mile-high sandwiches filled with outstanding corned beef, pastrami, brisket, and other meats. Other favorites include hot dogs and the salami. During World War II, the owners shipped salami to their sons in the Army. Even today you’ll see the tag line “Send a salami to your boy in the Army.” You’ll need to use your best New York accent to make it rhyme.
In classic New York fashion, the servers at Katz’s are crabby and curt, but it’s all part of the experience. During the holiday season, the lines stretch down the street to enter this classic NYC establishment. If you’re not up for waiting, try going mid-week or outside typical dining times for lunch and dinner. Keep in mind the portions are huge, so little ones will probably get enough to eat by sharing your sandwich.
Other Lower East Side Favorites:
Clinton Street Baking Company, 4 Clinton Street
Clinton Street Baking Company is a popular brunch destination on the Lower East Side. Go early to avoid a long wait for their famous pancakes. Recent special flavors include apple pie and Mexican chocolate.
Essex Market, 88 Essex Street
You want a kebab. Your partner craves Italian. And the kids want a taco. No problem! NYC has several food halls and the Essex Market has a history that dates back to the early 1800s when it was an open air collection of pushcart peddlers. Its new location opened in 2019.
Scarr’s Pizza, 22 Orchard Street
Scarr’s Pizza is a regular stop on NYC pizza tours. Why is it famous? You wouldn’t guess by looking at the nondescript storefront. The owner mills his own grain in the basement. The result is a crust that’s light and crisp with a satisfying chew.
Soft Swerve, 85B Allen Street
Although Soft Swerve offers Asian flavored ice cream like black sesame and purple yam, you can also find traditional, and delicious, sweet treats like frozen hot chocolate.
Asian Eats in NYC
Don’t miss this Asian favorite: a noodle spot that launched a global restaurant empire.
Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 1st Avenue, New York, NY
Housed in an unassuming spot in the East Village, David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar launched a global restaurant empire. A simple concept, Chang serves traditional Japanese noodle dishes along with miniature buns filled with shiitake mushrooms and meats like roast pork and brisket. Also on the menu, the house variety ramen comes with pork belly, pork shoulder and a poached egg. A second location at Columbus Circle takes the noodles uptown.
If your wallet is up for the ultimate splurge, order the Osetra Caviar & Fried Chicken Meal. A serving size for 2 to 4 people, this extravagant menu item includes Southern-style fried chicken with Platinum Osetra Caviar, chive crepes, creme fraiche, white BBQ sauce and potato chips for $500. Yes, $500.
Grab and Go Spots for Lunch
Excited kids and a long list of New York City highlights to visit are two good reasons for a grab and go lunch. These fast-casual spots are tasty and budget friendly.
Los Tacos No. 1
Chelsea Market, 75 9th Avenue, New York, NY
Times Square, 229 W 43rd Street, New York, NY
When three friends from Tijuana, Mexico, and Brawley, California, decided to bring the authentic Mexican taco to the east coast,Los Tacos No. 1 was born. Located in Chelsea Market, Times Square, Tribeca and Grand Central, Los Tacos No. 1 serves agua frescas and curated tacos—chicken, steak, pork and cactus.
Using family recipes, the friends created authentic Mexican street food. The chaotic nature of the taco stand adds to the experience.
TravelingMom Tip: Decide what type of taco shell and fillings you want while you’re in line to keep things moving along. We appreciate that in NYC.
2090 Broadway, New York, NY
Looking for something to grab and go on your way to Central Park? Grey’s Papaya on the Upper West Side at 72nd and Broadway serves up surprisingly good hot dogs along with frothy papaya drinks. Sauerkraut and relish are available along with mustard.
It’s no frills and no tables—just a counter where you can stand and watch the people scurrying by on Broadway. I recommend getting the hot dogs to go. You can walk the few blocks to Central Park and have a hot dog picnic. You’ll see imitations around the city, but the 72nd and Broadway location is the real deal.
The Real Little Italy
Most visitors to New York frequent Little Italy near Canal Street to find Italian restaurants, but the real Little Italy resides on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. The site for the movie and Broadway play, The Bronx Tale, this community houses local markets and restaurants often passed down through multiple generations.
TravelingMom Tip: The nearby New York Botanical Gardens and the Bronx Zoo give you more reasons to visit the Bronx.
2370 Belmont Avenue, Bronx, NY
Co-owned by lifelong friends, Anthony and Joe, Antonio’s Trattoria embodies the spirit of the Bronx. Authentic Italian dishes are “Nonna” approved. Popular menu items include short ribs and veal saltimbocca. An extensive kids’ menu showcases pizza, mozzarella sticks, chicken parmesan with ziti, spaghetti & meatballs and more. Half-orders on many of the pasta dishes are also available for the kids.
If you happen to have a birthday kid in tow, be sure you go to Antonio’s. You don’t want to miss Joe the bartender singing a happy birthday song accompanied by a disco light! And keep your eyes open, celebrities often frequent Antonio’s with their kids.
Full Moon Pizza
600 E 187th St, Bronx, NY
When a pizza shop’s origins connect to Nocera Inferiore, a provincial town in Salerno Italy, you’ve found a winner. This family-owned restaurant draws from its rich Italian history to deliver incredibly delicious pizzas and a myriad of other Italian delights.
Whether you’re up for a decadent slice of pie or something more substantial, don’t miss this place. Entrees on the menu include eggplant parmigiana, hot heroes, wraps and more alongside those yummy pizzas. You can’t go wrong here, seriously!
2344 Arthur Avenue, Bronx, NY
An Italian deli belongs on every solid restaurant list for New York City and Mike’s Deli ranks among the best. In tune with the Arthur Avenue theme of generational businesses, Mike’s reputation is built on hard work and commitment.
If you’re lucky, you’ll see mozzarella being stretched and shaped into twists or rounds hanging from dowels to dry. Or, if you’re really lucky, Mike could break into an area in his strong voice reminiscent of a Puccini aficionado. If that’s not enough to lure you, check out the menu. Beyond the usual deli delights, a full menu of traditional Italian dishes awaits.
Harlem Dining Highlights
It’s a neighborhood filled with history, architecture, colorful characters and good eats. Venture uptown to Harlem to check out these delicious eateries.
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que – Harlem
700 W 125th Street, New York, NY
Situated underneath the Riverside Drive Viaduct at 125th Street in West Harlem, Dinosaur’s Bar-B-Que occupies a two-story brick building. In warmer months, outdoor seating is available. Dogs are welcomed here with water bowls and Dinosaur’s bandanas.
A variety of sauces satisfy whatever type of American BBQ you prefer. The smoked ribs are to die for, and the sides are equally delicious. The kids’ menu—Dino Kids—for ages 12 and under includes mini BBQ sandwiches from pulled pork or beef brisket along with plenty of yummy sides to choose from. Priced at a budget friendly $6.75, all items include two sides. Walk-ins are welcome, but Dinosaur’s also takes reservations for groups up to 20.
328 Malcolm X Blvd, New York, NY
A Harlem staple, Sylvia’s knows how to put the soul in soul food. Entrees like fried chicken with all the fixin’s, collard greens, baked ham and chicken and waffles grace the menu.
A full bar offers cocktails, beer and wine. Don’t miss Sylvia’s Signature Bloody Mary made with Sylvia’s Triple Strength Hot Sauce.
For kids under 10, smaller versions of menu favorites like fried or smothered chicken leg and fried whiting are served with two sides. The legendary Sunday Gospel Brunch provides more than good food, it’s a foot-stomping, hand-clapping good time for everyone in the family. Make reservations in advance.
100 W 124th Street, New York, NY
A Harlem original, Harlem Shake serves up a mouthwatering menu filled with things like burgers made with custom blend Pat LaFrieda patties, all-beef hot dogs and chicken sandwiches. Need a little heat? Try the Hot Honey Chick–crispy dark meat, Mike’s hot honey, jalapeno pickles and honey!
On the kids menu, the “Fly Child” delivers buttermilk fried chicken tenders with BBQ or honey mustard dipping sauce.
No matter which entree you choose, don’t miss the award-winning milkshakes.
And for a little local flavor, check out the “Wall of Fame” where you’ll discover 200 autographed headshots of celebrities including Maya Angelou and P. Diddy. The “Wall of Fro” showing off the iconic afro hairstyle will no doubt intrigue the kiddos!
Eat and Play in Brooklyn
One of New York’s most popular boroughs, Brooklyn’s dining options are abundant. From trendy spots in Williamsburg to Nathan’s original hot dog stand on Coney Island, you’ll find just about everything here.
These two spots offer fun and games along with tasty meals.
24 Reed Street, Brooklyn, NY
Overlooking the New York Harbor, Brooklyn Crab brings the crab shack vibe to the city. Offering entrees made from fresh sustainable seafood, it’s almost like being at the beach.
While crab’s the focus, there are plenty of other options including shrimp and mussels. Fried Gulf shrimp and fish & chips elevate the kids’ menu for the same old chicken nuggets.
In warmer months, the outdoor beer garden also known as Reed Park has mini golf and corn hole to go along with all that delicious seafood and craft beer.
555 7th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
This South Oajr Skioe beer garden in a former gas station boasts 13,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor space. A seasonal menu offers items ranging from tater tots to mushroom risotto balls. But, the main attraction for parents remains the 60 beers on tap and specialty cocktails.
A daytime place for families, there’s a strict 21 and older rule enacted at 7pm. In pre-COVID days, kids could run free playing bocce or cornhole. For now, the indoor/outdoor WiFi and abundant TVs help with entertainment.
Date Night Splurge in New York
Among the best restaurants in NYC, there are plenty suitable for a special occasion date night. If you manage to squeeze in a little time for a kid-free dinner, here are some delicious options.
155 W 51st Street, New York, NY
Chef Eric Ripert’s elegant French restaurant features refined seafood in a luxe atmosphere. Le Bernardin earned three Michelin stars in 2005 and has a list of accolades far too long to list. Menu favorites include octopus and scallops.
The expertly curated tasting menu pairs chef choices with selections from the restaurant’s excellent wine list.
72 W 36th Street, New York, NY
In NYC, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to steakhouses. Located in Herald Square, Keens offers a taste of history as well as legendary steaks. The only survivor of the Herald Square Theatre District, Keens was once the place to go for playwrights, producers and actors.
Open since 1885, Keens displays the largest collection of churchwarden pipes in the world. What should you order? The mutton chops are legendary, but you’ll also find a variety of top cuts on the extensive menu.
Omakase Room by Tatsu
14 Christopher Street (Ground Floor), New York, NY
Located in the West Village, Omakase Room by Tatsu brings sushi lovers a dining adventure. Priced at $145 for 18 pieces of nigiri, an attentive staff stands by to ensure you’ll fully savor the Omakase experience.
New York City Sweet Stuff
These NYC restaurants add a little sweetness to the dining out experience.
Max Brenner’s Chocolate Restaurant
841 Broadway, New York, NY
Who doesn’t love chocolate? Max Brenner’s Chocolate Restaurant near Union Square offers it in abundance. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, you’ll find a wide selection of non-chocolate main courses to begin your meal.
But for dessert, chocolate rules. Try a chocolate pizza or make s’mores at your table. An enchanting children’s menu titled “Max & the Secret Chocolate Menu” offers choices like “Two Little Mouth Cheeseburgers in a Ceramic Spaceship.” That comes with a side of spaceship fries, of course.
Breakfast entrees like “Waffle Trampoline Nets with bouncing strawberries, clouds of cream and raindrops of chocolate” guarantee a magical start to the day.
225 E 60th Street, New York, NY
Over the years, this Upper East Side favorite drew the allegiance of celebrities including Marilyn Monroe and Andy Warhol. Comfort food at its best, the menu offers Bacon Mac & Cheese and Grandma Holt’s Fried Chicken Sandwich.
But the desserts…oh my. Decadent delights include Southern Pecan Pie, Celestial Carrot Cake, Lemon Ice Box Pie and Crème DeLa Crème Cream Cheese Cake. Legendary “drug store sundaes” tempt you further with names like “Can’t Say No Sundae Humble Pie” a diet-destroying blend of ice cream, banana, hot fudge and whipped cream.
Fortunately, Serendipity 3 stands just a few blocks from Central Park allowing you to walk off the calories while the kids burn off the sugar high!