Home > Recommendations, Reviews, Top Ten > Top Ten: Restaurants We’ve Gone Back To In NYC – Special Needs, Diaper Changes, Temper Tantrums And All

Top Ten: Restaurants We’ve Gone Back To In NYC – Special Needs, Diaper Changes, Temper Tantrums And All

I could live here for 100 years and not visit all of the restaurants in NYC so I won’t pretend to know which are the best. What I do know is that if a place works for us with a special needs child and two toddlers, we go back to it.

The reasons I like each restaurant on this list are as different as the places themselves. They are located all over Manhattan, the food ranges from $1-$60 a plate, and some venues are loud, large and crowded while others don’t offer seating and are roughly the size of my foyer. So what are the common denominators? Reasonable wait times, clean bathrooms (many are wheelchair accessible), good food and service, and a general friendliness toward my children.

Because it’s like comparing apples and oranges, the restaurants on this Top Ten are in no particular order – we generally go to whatever is close by at the time.

1. Dallas BBQ, Times Square location. Solid BBQ food at a decent price (especially when compared to other Times Square eateries). Large and crowded without being overly noisy, service has been pleasant every time and the bathrooms are clean and accessible. There are two floors of seating with escalators (and I believe elevators as well). This restaurant recommendation is location specific though – we didn’t have nearly as good of an experience at their UWS location with regards to service, bathrooms or child-friendliness.

2. La Pergola, Midtown West. We have only been here during lunch hours – because this is a restaurant frequented by theater-goers it is usually empty during the day (except before the Wednesday matinee). This is probably our most visited restaurant since moving to the city. Though small and a little more upscale than we would usually bring the kids to, the restaurant owner, Christian, has been incredibly charming, personal, and accommodating to us during the slower daytime hours. He treats return customers well and has a soft spot for James in particular. He is probably also grateful that we have the sense not to come with our brood during the pre-show rushes, when I am sure things would be too tight to squeeze us all in without making a scene at one point or another. The food (French) is always fresh and has been fantastic every time, and the lunch special prices (that include a glass of wine) are phenomenal – around $15 or under. The bathroom is a single room but is always clean.

3. Kouzan, UWS. If this were James’s list Kouzan would be the easy #1 choice. As a sushi fanatic, we have taken him here for nearly every birthday since moving to the city. He also goes here for lunch with his grandmother 4-5 times per year, so I don’t think it is exaggerating to say that James is on a first name basis with many of the staff. When we come with all of our children, the hostess is gracious and seats us toward the back of the restaurant to help keep us from becoming the dinnertime “show.” There are great specials offered during lunch hours and reservations are usually available for dinner on short notice. The sushi is always fantastic and the other food we’ve tried has been delicious too. When they came out the first year to surprise James with their own birthday treat and song, James was terrified (remember, birthday song phobia). As he put his head down to cry, the staff looked horrified and dropped out of the song one by one. My husband and I were so touched by their gesture, and felt so bad for them that we jumped in and finished the song (sorry James)!

4. Johnny Rockets, Union Square location. I’m not a fan of every location, but the food has been decent and the service very pleasant at the Union Square location. Waitresses go above and beyond to talk to my children and did not act impatient (like I did) when James took 5 minutes to place his order. They go the extra mile for the kids and put ketchup and mustard smiley faces on their burgers and plates. The kids’ meal prices are very reasonable, around $5-7. Bathrooms were clean and accessible.

5. Whole Foods, 97th and Columbus Ave. I love this grocery store/ cafeteria (though I would never do my regular shopping here – too $$$). A huge variety of fresh foods (hot and cold) in a self serve venue with lots of seating, highchairs, accessible bathrooms and pleasant employees. If you have been scared off by the seating “issues” in Columbus Circle or Union Square, I wholeheartedly recommend trying this newest location in Manhattan. My kids all love the pizzas, except for James, who naturally prefers their sushi.

6. Brother Jimmy’s, UWS. We have come back here half a dozen times despite the tiny bathrooms and occasional balloons because of how easy it is to have a drink, take in a sports game and not worry if your kids are being kind of loud. We call ahead to make sure the game we want is on but never have trouble getting a table, and there is always a good food and drink special on the weekend. We really love their wings and fried green tomatoes, and the best part – kids under 12 eat free. Seriously, that puts a big dent in the bill when you have as many kids as we do! It even makes James looking over his shoulder for possible balloons every 5 minutes bearable.

7. Plataforma Churrascaria Rodizio (Brazilian BBQ, Midtown). So to be upfront, I’ve only been here a couple of times and not with all of the kids. And, it’s a little pricey – $60 prix fixe for the adult buffet and $4-17 for kids depending on their ages. But the buffet is no joke – “gourmet” does not do it justice. And with a buffet there is no wait to get your kids fed (worth more or less $$ depending on your kids). Each customer gets a disc, red on one side and green on the other. Flip it to green and waiters come by with delicious assorted roasts to your table. Flip it to red and they leave you alone. Fun for kids to play with? I think so (adults too, trust me). The ambience is large, loud and on the dark side, perfect for hiding those imperfections (like crying children), but the atmosphere is also perfect for having a special celebration or fancy night out with the family.

8. D’aiuto Bakery, Chelsea (31st and 8th Ave) I’m not even a doughnut fan but come here weekly for a plain glazed ring of heaven. Everyone has looked at me like I’m crazy or pregnant and therefore biased about this place, until they come with me and rave all the way home about how amazing their pastry is. I can only vouch for the glazed and boston cream-filled doughnuts, the apple fritters and the giant meringue cookies, but I hear that cheesecake is their specialty so I can’t even imagine how good it must be. Prices are right (I have yet to pay more than $1 for something) and service has been very pleasant, but there are no bathrooms or seating. Exceptions to my initial guidelines had to be made to accommodate the sheer tastiness of it all.

9. Five Guys, 110th and Bway. For all of you Shake Shack fans, I challenge you to try Five Guys. Unless you have peanut allergies (there are peanuts in barrels for a tasty snack while you wait) this is a fast food place you have to visit at least once. When Five Guys moved to Manhattan, my husband looked at me and said, “I just gained 10 pounds.” Fast food is almost a mean way to categorize their food – it certainly is fast but the burgers range from “better than McDonalds” to “gourmet meal in disguise” depending on what you put on your burger (I like mine All The Way). Even the grilled cheese can get dolled up. And the fries are the best (and plentiful – they always add extra to the bag). There are usually large single room bathrooms at these places, and unlike some of my other reviews, we have yet to enter a “bad” Five Guys.

10. Carmine’s, UWS. Another good place for special occasions or just a nice night out with the family, this “family style” Italian restaurant is large, dim and loud. Almost too loud sometimes, but hey, you’ll never have to worry about your kid being the kid everyone is glaring at (unless they are really, really bad). Each dish is made to feed a group, so though the prices can seem a bit steep, 2-3 dishes feed our family of 5 just fine, with leftovers. Service is always very pleasant, if sometimes a bit slow during the weekend rush. The eggplant parmesan looks like a layer cake but tastes much better (and I highly recommend it). Bathrooms are good enough, though not very large.

Did I miss something and you just can’t believe it? You’re welcome to leave your own favorites below – I’m certainly not going to get to all of the restaurants in NYC on my own!

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