Finding a kid-friendly restaurant isn't always easy when traveling or just hanging out in an unfamiliar neighborhood, but Queens' Rockaway dishes up plenty of options. You'll find the typical beach fare of hot dogs and burgers aplenty, but the area is also gaining a reputation with foodies for its more adventurous eats.
We continue our month-long spotlight on Rockaway with a roundup of the 10 best places to eat in the neighborhood with kids, all taste tested by my children. So pack an appetite along with that bathing suit!
The beach-themed Playland Grill is located in the old-school Playland Motel.
97-20 Rockaway Beach Boulevard at Beach 98th Street
Nestled in the Playland Motel, this casual, beach-themed restaurant is a neighborhood classic. After a long day of sand and sun, its nachos and Ping-Pong really hit the spot. Regulars rave about its chicken and waffles and inventive cocktails for grown-ups. Although the website says children aren't permitted to stay at the motel, they're welcome at the restaurant during daytime hours. I took mine!
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Uma's outpost at the 97th Street Concession on the boardwalk.
92-07 Rockaway Beach Boulevard between Beach 92nd and 94th Streets
Uzbekistan cuisine, anyone? Don't worry, it's not too exotic for kids. They get a kick out of eating at a real ma-and-pa establishment, and there are lots of tasty kid-pleasers like butternut squash dumplings and borscht. It's cozy inside and families are always warmly welcomed. Don't want to go inland to the eatery? Uma's also offers take-out at the 97th Street Concession on the boardwalk.
375 Beach 92nd Street at Beach Channel Drive
My kids love coming to this waterfront Thai joint for its awesome children's menu that offers an Asian twist on basics like chicken nuggets and burgers. The crispy spring rolls and Pad Mee noodles are our favorites. Whatever you order, sit outside on the deck overlooking Jamaica Bay, which is particularly gorgeous as the sun sets. You might want to avoid staying past dark with the kiddos, though. Thai Rock hosts live music most nights and becomes quite the bar party scene.
Concessions on the Boardwalk
Beach 17th, 86th, 97th and 106th Streets
Open seasonally, each of the four concession stands along Rockaway Beach has a different vibe and offers fresh fare.The crowds on weekends are intense, but after your inevitably long wait is over, you'll find most folks are happy to share the shaded picnic tables. Note: Many vendors only accept cash.
Beach 17th Street: This small concession is home to DredSurfer Grill, which specializes in jerk chicken and the ubiquitous burgers and hot dogs.
Beach 86th Street: More burgers and fries at Rippers, but it's beloved by locals for its fresh ingredients.
Beach 97th Street: The largest concession on the boardwalk, this spot offers a tasty variety of choices from American South barbecue to South American specialitites. My family's favorites are Breezy's BBQ, the smoothies and sandwiches at LaFruiteria and CitySticks ice cream for dessert.
Beach 106th Street: It's comparatively quiet at this cozy concession, which serves delicious Venezuelan arepas (corn pancakes stuffed with yummy fillings) from Caracas Rockaway.
Caracas Rockaway's arepas and empanadas are perfect for little hands.
419 Beach 129th Street between Cronston and Newport Avenues
Somehow simultaneously cozy and spacious, this Mexican spot has a menu featuring all the staples but with unique tweaks like guacamole with crab meat. Evenings get crowded, so we usually go for lunch only. I highly recommend ending your meal by devouring the bread pudding.
Bungalow Bar & Restaurant
377 Beach 92nd Street at Beach Channel Drive
The go-to neighborhood spot for seafood, Bungalow serves up great fried calamari and fish tacos. But for us the main attraction is its view of Jamaica Bay. Parking can be a challenge, so if you drive, look for space a few blocks inland and walk.
Cuisine By Claudette
143 Beach 116th Street at Rockaway Beach Boulevard
Although you can get a terrific cup of java at Claudette's, don't dismiss it as a coffee shop. The menu ranges from eggplant Parmigiana to a variety of quinoa and lentil salads, as well as traditional sandwiches, all made with fresh ingredients and served in a cozy, family-friendly environment.
Boardwalk Pizzeria & Restaurant
68-20 Rockaway Beach Boulevard between 68th and 69th Streets
Grab an authentic New York slice from this popular pizzeria and you'll be reminded you're in the Big Apple after all. The pies are fresh and delicious—our favorite is the pizza rustica—but the menu also includes traditional pasta dishes and sandwiches.
DiCosmo's Homemade Italian Ice
5-19 Rockaway Beach Boulevard between Beach 96th Street and Cross Bay Parkway
Founded in 1915 in New Jersey, this family-run business specializes in small-batch Italian ices that are sure to cool everyone down after a hot summer's day at the beach. My daughter loves the fruit flavors while my son is obsessed with coconut. Options change seasonally, so follow DiCosmo's Twitter feed and you may be lucky enough to know when avocado ice is on the menu, my personal favorite.
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Uncle Louie G's
92-10 Rockaway Beach Boulevard between Beach 92nd and 94th Streets
This frozen treat purveyor might be a national chain, but the Rockaway location is independently owned and its Italian ices and ice cream are always hit with my family. The staff is helpful and patiently offers samples of the many flavors. It's a sweet and refreshing final stop before you head home.
Read all of our posts about exploring Rockaway, Queens with kids.