There's no shortage of family-friendly restaurants in NYC. Sometimes, though, it takes more than just a kid-friendly menu to get through a night out with your sanity intact. Food halls are one option, as are play cafes. But we've also rounded up 12 kid-friendly restaurants with entertainment in NYC. At these local restaurants, you can enjoy everything from video games to kitty cats alongside kid-friendly eats.
Read on for our picks for family-friendly restaurants in NYC with entertainment for kids, and find all our top options for dining out in our NYC Kids' Guide to Restaurants.
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1. Action Burger – Williamsburg, Brooklyn
This nondescript corner joint looks like just another neighborhood burger spot, but get closer, and you'll catch a glimpse of old-school arcade games guarding the entrance. Inside, posters and newspaper clippings celebrate comic characters and gaming culture. A walk-up counter lets you order "hero" (healthy) or "villain" (greasy, diner goodness) foods. While you wait for your order, your family can play their fill of classic board games or action-packed video games.
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Grab your chef's hat at Benihana, and watch your meal being prepared right at your table. Photo by Sara Marentette
2. Benihana – Midtown West
Yes, it's a chain, but these pioneers of American hibachi know a thing or two about cooking as live entertainment. My 5-year-old was thrilled to pieces by the flaming onion volcano and when our chef flipped a piece of zucchini at him, we thought his laughter might never stop. With a substantial kids' menu, Benihana is worth a visit if you're in Midtown and looking to refuel.
One of our favorite spots to enjoy high tea in NYC, this cozy café is an enchanting place to bring kids. With three NYC locations, including the Brooklyn-based Alice’s To Go, this magical spot serves treats from its "Menu for the Small" featuring items like peanut butter and jelly, cookies and milk, or sliced apples with peanut butter or Nutella. The "Wee Tea" includes a pot of tea or other beverage, one scone, a choice of any children's menu item, and a dark chocolate mousse. Kids love the butterfly wings decorating the restaurant; you can even borrow a pair during your visit or buy a set in the gift shop. Each outpost is small, so expect a bit of a wait.
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You feel like you're at the beach when dining at Brooklyn Crab.
Brooklyn Crab offers that Maryland crab-shack vibe with delicious dishes. The highlight, of course, is the namesake crustacean but you'll also find delicious salads and sandwiches, plus beer and cocktails. It's always one of our top picks for kid-friendly dining outside when the weather warms. There are massive outdoor seating areas spanning three levels with awesome views of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty, but the best part is the seasonal backyard, featuring an eight-hole miniature golf course, bean bag toss, and a sandbox.
If big, fun, and noisy is your thing, you'll love Ellen's singing waitstaff. The servers, all clad in retro duds like poodle skirts and bowling shirts, leap onto the tables at this family-friendly diner to belt out Broadway show tunes, new and old. As you can imagine, this Theater District diner gets pretty crowded with tourists starting around 5pm, so make it an early bird dinner or be prepared to wait. No reservations are accepted. There's a kids' menu with the usual fare like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, mac and cheese, and fries.
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Good Day Play Cafe offers a perfect combination of snacks and a play space. Photo by Louise Trappaso
While Good Day Play Cafe is better suited to a quick snack or an afternoon cuppa joe than a full sit-down meal, this play space is tucked into a quiet corner of the action-packed family-friendly Park Slope neighborhood and manages to balance good food, an inviting ambiance, and strong coffee with a kid-friendly play area to create a place adults and children can genuinely enjoy. You'll pay a la carte for food, and be forewarned, time in the spacious (clean!) play area comes at a premium, charged by the hour.
This boisterous spot brings non-stop fun with cabaret performances, a restaurant, and a piano bar—all in one space. With on-the-rise professional singers and musicians working as waitstaff, you'll feel like you've been to the theater without ever having bought a ticket. If you're visiting with kids, staff recommends making it an early night—and making your exit before 9pm, when the scene shifts to adult fare.
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Pop into the cat cafe for a little family playtime. Photo by David Williams for Koneko
8. Koneko – Lower East Side
One of the many cat cafes in the city, Koneko offers entertainment that's hard to beat: cuddle time with a furry feline. You can have light nosh in the adjacent cafe, or purchase your snacks and bring them into the multilevel cattery to dine while you play. Reservations for the cattery are required and cost $25-$30 per hour per person. Children ages 14 and younger must be accompanied by an adult; those under 8 must attend the special kids' hours on Thursdays.
This restaurant offers a lively and entertaining ambiance with aspiring Broadway performers serving and serenading guests with show tunes. Located at Friedmans inside the Edison Hotel, the design is simultaneously comfy and elegant, with soft lighting and cozy seating arrangements. The spot is well-known for its delicious shakes; it also serves up diner classics, including burgers and Reuben sandwiches.
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Have a special meal at American Girl Café. Photo by author
This Rockefeller Center spot is an American Girl fan's dream come true. The 38,000-square-foot store features a popular cafe serving brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner, but the real draw here is the chance for little ones to include their dolls in the fun. The restaurant even provides a clip-on highchair and complete place setting for each accompanying doll. There are also extra dolls on hand for anyone who doesn't have one.
It's Halloween every day at this spooky East Village mainstay. Older kids and teens who like a fright (it's recommended for ages 10 and up), will love the movie memorabilia decor inspired by films such as Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. The menu includes themed options like Edward Burger Hands, Cheshire Mac & Cheese, and Dread Pudding. As you dine, you'll see Beetle Juice himself wandering around. Note: The restaurant is very small, and reservations are highly recommended, though walk-ins are accepted if space allows.
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Video games and shakes make a perfect combo at 8-Bit Bites! Photo by Rosalind Muggeridge
12. 8-Bit Bites – Multiple Locations
If you're looking for a quick-and-easy meal with some retro video games on the side, this NYC mini-chain fits the bill. All the usual kid-friendly choices are offered, including smashburgers, loaded fries, and signature hand-spun shakes. Each table has its own large-screen TV, controllers, and consoles loaded with hundreds of retro video games from the '80s and '90s.
Unless noted, photos courtesy of the restaurants
A version of this article was first published in 2012.