Chicken fingers or spaghetti and meatballs? Mikey, your little one, might love them, but they aren’t your first choices, especially when dining out in New York City. Restaurants here are pretty savvy, and they know you enjoy eating with your kids. Some of the very buzziest even offer dedicated kids’ menus that are truly inventive.
Don Antonio fires up a Neapolitan pizza that’s distinctively fluffy and filling. Quickly cooked, pies come out of the dome-shaped, wood-fired oven at lightning speed—a real kid-pleaser. For really small tykes, the restaurant’s signature Montanara Starita pizza is served as a fried dough puff called a Montanarine, perfect for picking up by little hands. For dessert, the Nutella and lightly fried dough strips are pure kid heaven. 309 W. 50th St., 646.719.1043
Atlantic Grill knows that kids can be fussy eaters when it comes to seafood. The kid-oriented twists on sushi rolls (peanut butter and jelly, and avocado cucumber) banish any fish resistance by creating dishes that are somewhat familiar and fun. Older kids can sip a mocktail and tuck into another finger favorite, grilled shrimp skewers. For cultured children attending a performance at Lincoln Center, the restaurant’s second outpost is equally welcoming. 1341 Third Ave., 212.988.9200
It’s easy to introduce kids to the flavors of South America when they get their own chopsticks and a menu with foods that are as fun to look at as they are to eat. The baby bento box comes with grilled chicken, steak or salmon; purple potato mash; a veggie roll; and fruit. The sweetish coco leite, made with coconut milk, pineapple and mango juice, is a fave. And no kid can resist the squishy Japanese mochi dessert: ice-cream bonbons sprinkled with candy confetti. 87 Seventh Ave., 212.691.7885
TBar offers a kid-centric menu of favorites—like mac ‘n’ cheese, mini-French toast, and pizza margherita—in addition to shareable portions of its steak and chicken dishes. Bringing the kids up on a good porterhouse or sirloin is an easy graduation from the usual hamburger, especially when cut into bite-size pieces by the attentive staff. 1278 Third Ave., 212.772.0404
The Midtown restaurant’s make-your-own chicken or steak tacos will thrill budding master chefs while also encouraging them to “play” with their food. Adding a welcome dose of vegetables (broccoli and plum tomatoes) to a crispy flour tortilla covered with melted cheese, the pizza Mexicano is a delight for parents as well. In the warmer months, the SoHo location sets up an ice-pop and Mexican ice-cream stand outdoors. 825 Third Ave., 212.336.5400
Flatiron’s Blue Smoke covers the BBQ bases for kids, teaching them that barbecue doesn’t just mean hot dogs and burgers. In restaurant parlance, BBQ is a type of preparation, using smoky and tangy sauces or rubs to create a distinctive flavor. Since kids love eating with their hands, a plate of messy baby back ribs is an instant hit. The kids-only menu offers other finger-friendly ‘cue as well, like smoked chicken breasts, and sweet treats including double chocolate brownies. The $11 kids’ deal comes with a main course, a side, dessert and a beverage. We recommend wearing dark clothing or even a bib—that goes for adults, too! 116 E. 27th St., 212.447.7733
It may require a bit of coercion to move your kids past the candy and ice cream shop at the entrance to Sugar and Plumm, but the special kids’ dinner menu is just as enticing at this Upper West Side boutique bistro. While miniature portions of adult entrées can always be ordered, it’s the younger-oriented specialties that are the true winners. Try the mini-corn dogs and Angus beef Plumm sliders, just the right size for kids and served with string- cut fries and a pickle. A kids’ “combo” meal adds a beverage and a scoop of ice cream. After a well-behaved evening among grown-ups, a reward from the candy counter is justly deserved. 377 Amsterdam Ave., 212.787.8778