Our NYC vacations are fast-paced and involve more “food on the go” and casual, kid-friendly choices instead of a fancy, gastronomical foodie tour of some of the more well-known restaurants. And with our crew of kids, this approach makes sense. We tend to grab a lot of food on the go and either take short breaks eating in a park unless it is one of our casual sit-down faves that are always worth a repeat visit. Repeat visit meaning any time we go to NYC.
Most NY Pizza is decent enough, and our kids will grab a slice any time day or night and be perfectly happy. They don't care if it's from one of those "99 cents a slice" store fronts or any number of the dozens of pizza places throughout midtown. However, if you want to taste some really good pizza, head down to Bleeker Street pizza in Greenwich Village. The seating and space is tight as real estate is premium, but the pizza is “to die for” good. A slice of cheese (pizza) is always the standard because it has the greatest turnover at any pizza place so its always the freshest (many times minutes old), whereas more specialty flavors like pepperoni or Sicilian may have been sitting out for a while and just doesn't taste quite as good. But if you want to try something different, go with a slice of their house pizza - the “Nonna Maria”. It's one of the best pizzas I've ever had.
If you want to blow your kids minds, take them to Black Tap. There are several locations in Manhattan and the lines are long for a reason. (If you want to save time at key attractions and ditch waiting in lines, read my article about the budding business of line-sitters and how they can help you create more time to have more fun on your trip.) While the food at Black Tap is good, it's the shakes to really come for. Black Tap's shakes are a drink and a candy shop visit all wrapped in one. They're loaded with candy and, depending on which flavor you order, they might include huge lollipops, pixie sticks, gummy worms, or Reese's peanut butter cups sticking out of and stuck onto the glass all the way down to the base. I'm not kidding - they will blow your kids' minds.
If you're looking for a sure-thing in the Theatre District before a show, our best bets are Carmine's and Junior's. For Carmine's it's best to reserve in advance unless you want to eat after 10pm, which we have been known to do! Carmine's Italian food is served family style so only a few dishes are needed to feed our family of 6 (we'll pick one protein like Chicken Marsala and one pasta to round it out) and a single desert will do the trick. Carmine's Tiramisu is our staple (even if we don't eat there on a given night we may find ourselves getting an order of Tiramisu as takeout, because it's size and flavor is mammoth). At Junior's, nothing is "junior" and everything is ginormous. The food is good (great wings and sandwiches) but the cheesecake is award-winning. Don't mess around, make sure you get at least one order of the "number 1". You won't be disappointed.
If after a show, or anytime for that matter, you need a late night bite there are a few midtown spots we highly recommend. Shake Shack is open late and serves up delicious burgers, fries, and shakes. The crowds are well managed by the entrance staff (like Black Tap, lines so long they have bouncers outside) but it moves quickly since it is more of a casual “order at the counter” fast-food joint versus Black Tap being more of a sit-down and order from a waiter kind of experience. Shake Shack is light years in quality and taste compared to traditional fast food fare.
Food from one of the seemingly thousands of street carts can all be good enough for a kid (or the kid in you). We tend to stay away from the typical hot dog cart, but the warm, salted pretzels make a nice snack on the go. Our favorite street food is a plate of Halal from Adel's on the corner by Radio City on 50th and 6th and they're open very late (we've gone there many times in the wee hours of the morning and they're still churning out fresh Halal). Our usual is the chicken with yellow rice, no salad (meaning don't take up precious space in the container with some chunky salad greens), and plenty of "white sauce" (Tzatziki). Mix it around and all our kids will dive in with their forks and gobble it down. At 6 bucks a platter, you get heaping amounts of food, and in our family 2-3 people can usually share a platter. It's that much food – and good!
For a sweet ending, or a midday pick-me-up, there are endless options. If you'll looking a quick healthy option, check out the growing number of juice and smoothie carts. The drinks are prepared fresh on the spot and are loaded with whatever fruit and vegetables you choose to put in. We're talking whole oranges, bananas, and buckets full of strawberries. The sizes are generous and easily enough to share. For those with a sweet tooth a popular option is to hit the lines at Magnolia Bakery for their famous cupcakes. However, our favorites in the Theatre District include cookies from Schmackary's or Buttercup Bake Shop, a small cupcake shop on 7th and 53rd that turns out creative and delicious cupcakes.
If you're looking for something a little more refined or to sit-down, Ferrara's in Little Italy takes the cake. While this Italian Bakery has many tempting treats, their cannoli are what keep us coming back time after time and is worth the trip down to Mulberry Street.