Finding a family-friendly Times Square restaurant that doesn't belong in a mall might be even more difficult than navigating the tourist-and-costumed-character-crammed sidewalks of the 'hood with a stroller. The presence of Applebee's, Chevy's, Olive Garden, and TGI Friday's might leave you feeling like you're in the 'burbs, not the crossroads of the world.
But just as there are things to do with kids in Times Square beyond the usual tourist attractions, there are also a variety of off-the-beaten-track, family-friendly eateries serving tasty cuisine that reflects our melting pot of a city.
Next time you're in the Theater District, whether seeing a Broadway show, entertaining guests or just passing through, skip the chains and try one of these 12 kid-friendly Times Square restaurants.
614 Ninth Avenue between 43rd and 44th Streets
After decades of looking like it was caught in an '80s time warp, this stalwart underwent a major makeover in 2014. Despite the facelift, it's more or less the same old-fashioned no-frills eatery. The menu includes all-day breakfast, Greek favorites like souvlaki and moussaka, pasta and meat entrees, and the ubiquitous burgers, sandwiches, salads, and shakes. There's still no children's menu here, but the portions are big enough to share. Plus there's rarely a wait and the no-nonsense staff gets you in and out in a hurry. Its lack of pretension seems to have celebrity appeal: Reportedly, it's where Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld began brainstorming that "show about nothing" and lots of theater folk frequent the spot. I've seen Bobby Cannavale and Zach Braff here in the past.
200 West 44th Street
This family-style restaurant serves delicious Italian fare in an atmosphere meant to feel like a Sunday afternoon meal around Grandma's table. How much more family-friendly can you get? Menus include enough familiar items to serve the most finicky eaters and breaking bread together may just get Junior to try something new, too.
Dafni Greek Taverna
325 West 42 Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues
A good restaurant right on 42nd Street? It's true. Granted, Greek cuisine may be a little exotic for some young palates, but adventurous tweens will be rewarded with mouth-watering staples like saganaki (addictive baked cheese), spanakopita (spinach pie), kalamarakia (fried squid) and a variety of cold spreads. I never order main dishes here; instead I get a bunch of appetizers to share. The place gets super-crowded pre-theater and the restaurant really packs 'em in (sometimes you feel like you're right on top of the next table). But reservations are accepted and it's often empty during non-peak hours. It's definitely not good for preschoolers and I've rarely seen children here. But my grade-schooler has done just fine at Dafni so yours should, too.
Schnipper's Quality Kitchen
620 Eighth Avenue at 41st Street
For the quickest, most kid-friendly meal in the entire area, this cafeteria-style restaurant gets my vote. We raved about another of the mini-chain's locations in our post about places to eat near Madison Square Park besides Shake Shack. It's a similar situation in Times Square since another one of Danny Meyer's popular burger joints is just a few blocks away. But at Schnipper's, the wait is much shorter and the menu is much larger and includes tacos, Sloppy Joes, mac and cheese, fried fish and a wide array of salads in addition to burgers, fries, and shakes. Just order at the register, find a spot at the communal tables and your food is brought to you within minutes.
Virgil's Real BBQ
152 West 44th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue
I am not a barbecue fan and yet I love the grub at Virgil's. You'll find all the standards: ribs, pulled pork, fried shrimp or chicken, plus sides like mac 'n' cheese, baked beans, buttermilk biscuits, and mashed potatoes and gravy. The combo platters are pricey but your best bet if you're sharing. Yes it's loud. Yes it's fattening. Yes it's messy. Yes it's overrun with tourists. But it's still worth it. And kids get crayons and coloring pages.
783 Ninth Avenue at 52nd Street
This is my daughter's favorite neighborhood restaurant, hands-down. She's always begging to come here to get yellow rice and beans (which she says are better than her abuela's...don't tell!), cheesy quesadillas, horchata (a kind of spiced milk), and fried bananas topped with honey and whipped cream. This is traditional Mexican food made by natives, no fancy fusion variations, so fill up on burritos, tacos, chimichangas and other staples. The owner, Maria, is a doll and almost always on-site. There's a bar in front but it's never rowdy, and the back dining room is decorated with Frida Kahlo portraits and sombreros. This is as old-school Mexican as it gets!
151 West 46th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues
This lively Cuban spot is always crowded, but I've never had trouble booking a reservation—even the same day. The Cuban Appetizer Sampler is a must-order at every meal. There's no kids menu, but simple dishes like and chicken and rice, rice and beans and empanadas will please the little ones while you dig into a mouthwatering, generous portion of Paella, Cuban sandwiches or mofongo.
The Little Beet
135 West 50th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues
If you've got to go gluten-free, try this fast-casual spot near Rockefeller Center. The focus here is on fresh, seasonable and sustainable ingredients, so expect some change in the menu from one visit to the next. No matter the dish, though, quality is at the forefront. Adults might go for the signature "Little Beet Bowl," a concoction which includes arugula, beets, chicken, quinoa, goat cheese, and a house-made sherry shallot dressing, while tots won't argue with the P.B.B.J (peanut butter, banana, and jam) sammy.
700 8th Avenue at 44th Street
This food hall is new to the scene, but one of our favorite one-stop shops in the city. The lineup of food selections is varied from lobster rolls, to burgers and fries, Mediterranean fare and, of course, DOUGH doughnuts for your sweet tooth. If you're tight on time or can't decide on one type of fare, the selections here will please everyone in your party.
And for dessert...
362 West 45th Street at Ninth Avenue
This dessert spot serves milk and cookies...and not much else. But oh, the cookies! The 45-plus varieties range from the mundane (chocolate chip, oatmeal, etc.) to the exotic like maple bacon, peanut butter banana crunch, candied yam and pumpkin spice. There are brownies and ice cream sandwiches, too.
672 Ninth Avenue between 46th and 47th Streets
There's a lot more than bread here. The cafe menu includes scones, muffins, biscuits, doughnuts, cupcakes, cookies and even pizza and quiche. There's just one table, so take-out is really your only option but Hell's Kitchen Park is one avenue away.
1515 Broadway at West 45th Street
While there is a sit-down restaurant at this outpost of the famed Brooklyn eatery, it's perpetually overrun and reservations aren't accepted for small parties. So save the calories for the crown jewel offering and head to the bakery next door to pick up a slice of its signature cheesecake, muffins, black and white cookies, rugelach, or cake slices. There are a few outdoor seats, too, if you can snag one.
Read about other family-friendly restaurants in NYC.
Sign up for our FREE newsletters to get posts like this delivered to your inbox.
This post was originally published in December 2012.