Food courts, in spite of their mall-culture reputation, are enjoying a bit of a renaissance, and not just in suburbia. Right here in NYC, food halls are gaining major foodie clout with excellent vendors, artisan marketplaces, and appealing perks (and sweet treats) for families with kids. Actually a food court might just be the perfect eatery for families: there's a food option for everyone, minimal wait times, multiple bathrooms, and no one notices if your kid tantrums or drops half their meal on the floor.
Because we're always on the lookout for great kid-friendly outings, especially during the colder months, we've rounded up, and sampled, 12 outstanding food halls that offer top-notch eats, spacious seating, and lots to do in the surrounding neighborhood, including Battery Park, Chelsea, the Theater District, and Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
Check out our NYC Restaurant Guide for even more family dining options in just about every neighborhood—and every finicky palate.
Chelsea Market — Chelsea
Attracting some six million visitors annually, Chelsea Market is one of the city’s original food court destinations, tucked among trendy shops and cobblestone streets in Chelsea and just north of the meatpacking district. Bustling and fun, the block-long market features shops, restaurants, and stalls in a well-lit, industrial space that’s fun to browse for all ages. The market's special events, like the Chelsea Nights free concert series (the first Friday of every month), warrant a special trip. Also, Food Network fans might spy a star or two slipping into the elevators here as the cable channel’s studios reside in the building.
Best bets with kids: Once you’re done browsing the shops like Posman Books, Anthropologie, and the must-see Artists & Fleas market, it’s time to commit to some serious eats. There are reliable standbys like Hale & Hearty and Sarabeth’s Bakery, along with more adventurous eats such as the authentic Chelsea Thai, Rana’s for amazing ravioli, Mokbar for ramen and wings, and our favorite, the Tuck Shop, which serves up savory Australian meat pies. Save room for dessert! There are plenty of options, from Doughnuttery, L’Arte del Gelato, and Fat Witch brownies, plus decadent super-sharable slices of cake at Amy’s bread. If you can convince the kids, opt for the coconut.
Top tip: Gotta pee? Be prepared to wait. While the pint-sized ladies’ room does offer a changing table, lines are long and kids impatient—or at least that’s been the case every time we’ve stopped by.
What’s nearby: The trendy Meatpacking District offers up plenty of high-end shopping, the Whitney Museum of American Art and other galleries, Google, and, perhaps most important, the High Line, which is a must-explore in all seasons.
RELATED: Times Square with Kids: Beyond the Tourist Attractions
Donuts from Dough hit the spot in cold or warm weather. Photo by Nana Tsay
City Kitchen — Hell’s Kitchen
Tucked into the trendy Row NYC hotel on 8th Avenue, City Kitchen is a vision amidst the hustle and bustle of Times Square, where many of the kid-friendlier major chains, like Olive Garden, are astoundingly overpriced. It’s one-stop shopping for all those hot places you’ve been meaning to try forever but just can’t get to with the kids in tow. The idea is a new vision in “fast food” that boasts lots of options, and plenty of them fun, yummy, and healthy to boot.
Best bets with kids: If your kid is seafood friendly, opt for a stop at Luke’s for meaty lobster rolls. Ilili Box offers up a quick take on the Mediterranean restaurant’s Middle Eastern fare, from pita wraps to a roasted duck platter and Korean falafel. The safest bet, though, is probably Whitman’s, serving up classic burgers, fries, and cheesesteaks. Try the special PB&J burger, if you dare! Doughnuts from Dough are a must for dessert. The kids’ fave was cinnamon sugar, while the grown-ups swooned over passion fruit with cocoa nibs.
Top tip: No high chairs here, so roll up the stroller (or lap) if you have babies on board. But hooray for equal opportunity diaper-duty: there are changing tables in both the men’s and ladies’ rooms!
What’s nearby: City Kitchen sits in the heart of Times Square, so it’s an ideal pre- or post-theater stop.
Eataly — Flatiron and Financial District
The Italian food mecca now has two NYC locations. The original Flatiron marketplace is stunning, bustling and, yes, noisy. It is large enough (50,000 square- feet) that you may want to pick up a map from guest relations at the 23rd Street entrance to help you navigate. With a combination of restaurants, takeout spots, and retail counters piled high with jaw-dropping displays of produce, meat and vegetables, books and culinary trinkets, kids will find plenty to explore and taste. The new Eataly, located in the World Trade Center complex, is almost as big and has an awesome salad bar, as well as every kind of bread you can imagine.
Best bets with kids: While most of Eataly's restaurants offer a few simple, kid-friendly menu options for children under 12, like pasta with butter or tomato sauce, the most family-friendly spot is hands down La Pizza & La Pasta. With plenty of tables and high chairs, this restaurant doesn't take reservations but the line moves pretty quickly. Also, Nutella Bar serves crepes, pastries, and ice cream.
Top tip: To avoid the crowds, visit Eataly during the day on Monday through Thursday; Fridays and Saturdays are Eataly's busiest (as in, so crowded your stroller won't fit through the aisles). Unless your stroller is light and folds down easily, Eataly is definitely better suited to baby carriers. Restrooms aren't spacious but they do have a changing table.
What's nearby: There's lots to do in the neighborhood, including a visit to Madison Square Park and its playground, and the 3,500-square-foot Lego Store. Read our Flatiron Neighborhood Guide for more ideas.
Luzzo's pizza is a must-try and go-to family meal at Gansevoort Market.
Gansevoort Market — Meatpacking District
This multi-eatery mecca recalls other posh and bountiful old-school markets in cities like Seattle and Boston, but brings a decidedly New York flavor to the table. Walk along the cobblestone sidewalk while you admire the wrought iron and weathered wood accents, all of which house modern options like Big Gay Ice Cream and Bangkok Bar.
Best bets with kids: Luzzo’s pizza is a must-try, serving up Neapolitan pies in traditional recipes, along with pizza fritta, which is a kid-pleaser for sure. And you can’t go wrong with Big Gay Ice Cream's delightful range of colorful frozen treats and toppings.
Top tip: The Gansevoort is complete with high chairs and changing tables in both men’s and ladies' rooms.
What’s nearby: Like Chelsea Market, Gansevoort sits amongst the cobblestones and the couture of the Meatpacking District, so lots of shopping, art, and eats abound, along with the must-see High Line.
Mighty Quinn's Barbecue is the real deal.
Hudson Eats at Brookfield Place — Battery Park
Hudson Eats, tucked away on the second floor above the Winter Garden Atrium, is airy and modern and offers plenty of space for families to spread out, park strollers, and enjoy a variety of excellent food and sweet treats. With great kid-friendly options like Mighty Quinn's Barbecue and Skinny Pizza, and for more adventurous palates, Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar, Num Pang, and Dos Toros Taqueria, Hudson Eats is a fantastic indoor dining, and chilling, option.
Best bets with kids: Umami Burger's thin fries and maple bacon fries are addictive, and the basic quesadilla at Dos Toros Taqueria got a big thumbs up from my kid.
Top tip: In the winter months, bundle up for some post-lunch skating at Brookfield's ice rink, directly in front of the Winter Garden.
What's nearby: There's space to run around outdoors behind the Winter Garden Atrium, but we love the Battery Park City Library, which is just a few blocks north. And if you're in need of serious playground action, check out the Nelson A. Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City.
Gotham West Market — Hell's Kitchen
This bustling food hall provides neighborhood families and tourists alike with a range of delicious options for family dining. With nine vendors serving everything from ramen to pizza and, of course, Ample Hills ice cream, there's something for every palate. With both indoor and outdoor seating, you can both enjoy balmy days and escape from the cold.
Best best with kids: While the popular Tokyo shio ramen at Ivan Orkin's Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop is not to be missed, the square pizza at Orkin's latest spot, Corner Slice, promises to be just as popular, possibly even more so with the younger generation of eaters.
Top tip: Impatient kiddos can browse the selection of bikes at NYC Velo while they wait.
What's nearby: Fans of planes, submarines, and space shuttles will have a blast at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, which is just down the block on the waterfront.
RELATED: Ice Cream Bucket List: 10 Must-Try NYC Shops
Kids will never say no to the homegrown Blue Marble ice cream at Industry City.
Food Hall at Industry City — Sunset Park
In what is certainly the most industrial-style and sparse food court in this roundup, Sunset Park's Food Hall at Industry City is part regular dining experience, part wholesale food production facility where visitors may look directly into vendors' kitchens via large windows. The 6-million-square-foot Industry City warehouse sits directly on the waterfront and houses a variety of businesses, from tech to home goods. The 40,000-square-foot Food Hall serves employees at Industry City businesses, and anyone who is curious about, say, how Blue Marble ice cream is made.
Best bets for kids: Blue Marble, of course. Watch employees at the company's flagship manufacturing plant create ice cream magic and then step into the shop to sample the goods. If your little ones enjoy a good taco, Taco Mix's al pastor taco is not to be missed. And a deconstructed Colson Patisserie's chicken club sandwich scored big points with my kids. Stop by One Girl Cookies on your way out for, you guessed it, yummy sweet treats.
Top tip: Food Hall is only open Monday through Friday from 9am until 6pm.
What's nearby: While we often visit Melody Lanes when we're in the neighborhood, we also like Sunset Park for its big stretches of green, its revamped playground, and its spectacular views. The Industry City complex also added a kid-friendly seasonal mini golf spot in 2017.
DeKalb Market Hall — Fort Greene
Brooklyn's newest and biggest food hall opened in June 2017, bringing even more kid-friendly dining options to the picturesque Fort Greene neighborhood. Housed at City Point, the 60,000-square-foot food hall has over 40 vendors serving up a diverse range of culinary delights, from pho to pierogis, and it is also home to the first outpost of Katz's Deli.
Best bets for kids: Head to Hard Times Sundaes for staples like burgers, grilled cheese, and milkshakes, or try fried chicken on a stick at Wilma Jean. For dessert, kids can create their own personalized treats at P.O.P. Cake Shop.
Top tip: Ample seating and restrooms make for an almost-stress-free family dining experience.
What's nearby: Catch a movie at Alamo Drafthouse, which is right there in the City Point complex.
Come to Flip Bird for the fries and fried chicken.
Gotham Market at the Ashland — Fort Greene
The creators of Manhattan's Gotham West Market have brought the popular food hall to Brooklyn. The 16,000-square-foot space occupies the ground floor of new luxury apartment tower The Ashland, and houses six vendors, including one in a rotating pop-up space. Located right by BAM and just blocks from Barclays Center, Gotham Market at the Ashland makes a super-convenient and low-key pre- or post-show family dining option.
Best bets for kids: You can't go wrong with pizza, and Apizza Regionale serves up Neopolitan-style pies that both kids and adults will go wild for. Or head to Flip Bird for fried chicken and delicious hand-cut fries.
Top tip: With only a handful of high chairs to serve the entire space, you may find yourself dining with your toddler on your lap.
What's nearby: In addition to BAM and Barclays Center, The Ashland is just blocks from Fort Greene Park, where you can take your pick of two playgrounds and plenty of green space to explore.
Berg'n — Crown Heights
It may be small compared to some of the city's more expansive food halls, but Berg'n is a popular Sunday-morning-brunch-with-kids option for neighborhood families. Opened by the creators of Brooklyn Flea, Berg'n is home to four vendors as well as a coffee shop and bar. The vibe is casual and the courtyard provides an outdoor seating option for the warmer months. Berg'n sometimes hosts a Tot Tunes singalong on Sundays (check the calendar for dates), and the space has a private room that can be booked for birthday parties and other events.
Best bets for kids: Got a grilled cheese fan on your hands? Head to Landhaus for the Grilled Cheese Supreme, which also comes in a kid size. Brooklyn Pizza Crew offers pizzas for both kid and adult palates. If you're just stopping by for a quick treat, head to the coffee shop in the back for a selection of pastries sure to satisfy your (or your kid's) craving.
Top Tip: Berg'n is closed on Mondays.
What's nearby: The Brooklyn Children's Museum is just a short walk, or an even shorter bus ride, away.
RELATED: 25 Things to Do, See, and Eat in Chinatown
Try the always-in-demand Shanghai buns at Old Street Dimsum. Photo by Sydney Ng
Queens Crossing Mall — Flushing
A little mall with a hugely diverse selection of Asian comfort food, Queens Crossing offers all kinds of kid-friendly fare. The 10,000-square-foot space is located on the second floor of the mall and houses around 12 vendors, serving up everything from ramen and dim sum to bubble tea and ice cream.
Best bets for kids: What could be more kid-friendly than a pastry-covered hot dog? If you're curious, try them for yourself at Paris Baguette. Or go for fancy afternoon tea and treats at Rose House (re-opening mid-October 2017).
Top tip: Stop at the ATM on the way. Many of these spots only accept cash.
What's nearby: Check out our Flushing Kids Neighborhood Guide for more activities in this bustling neighborhood.
New World Food Court — Flushing
While it may seem overwhelming at first, the New World Food Court can't be beaten when it comes to inexpensive and authentic Asian food. Located on the lower level of the New World Shopping Center in Flushing, this food hall has over 32 vendors offering a range of kid-friendly options like dumplings, scallion pancakes, and of course, plenty of noodles.
Best bets for kids: Dumplings are usually a safe bet for kids and are on offer at many of the stalls in the food court. For something more adventurous, try the Japanese takoyaki—round pancakes filled with octopus and dripping with sweet sauce—at Mojoilla Fresh.
Top tip: Arrive before noon to get a table. It gets very crowded later.
What's nearby: Shop for Asian snacks to take home at the Jmart on the main level of the mall.
Article by Sona Charaipotra and Sarah Gonser. A version of this article first published in January 2016.
Top image: City Kitchen is a welcome addition to the Times Square area where good, affordable eats are rare. Photo by Michael Kleinberg/courtesy of the market. Unless otherwise noted, photos courtesy of the restaurants/food courts.