Dining Out with Kids

Fast Food Gets Healthy at Amy's Drive Thru in Rohnert Park

March 7, 2016

Amy's Drive Thru Rohnert Park

The terms "fast food" and "health food" have never really been synonymous—until Amy's Drive Thru opened last summer in the Sonoma County town of Rohnert Park! Created by the same people who run the Amy's Kitchen, famous for its vegetarian and vegan frozen pizzas, mac-and-cheese, burritos, and other prepared foods, Amy's Drive Thru is like a traditional fast food restaurant with, as the name implies, a drive through, but everything is either vegetarian or vegan, as well as made from sustainable, local, and organic ingredients. We've stopped by Amy's for lunch a few times when up in the area, and really enjoyed their unique healthy take on traditional fast food treats.

Sunday Fundays Return to Hard Rock Café at PIER 39: Kids Eat Free!

February 12, 2016

Hard Rock Cafe FamilyMarin Mommies presents a sponsored shout-out from the Hard Rock Café at PIER 39 in San Francisco.

Back by popular demand… SUNDAY FUNDAY: Kids Eat Free with family friendly entertainment at Hard Rock Café, PIER 39! Mom and Dad get to rock out, drink, and eat while the kids enjoy a free meal with every adult entree purchased, 1:1. Mention that you saw it on Marin Mommies and get a free souvenir for the kids. Make your reservations here.

Enjoy face painting, pirates and fairies … it changes every SUNDAY FUNDAY. Count on Hard Rock Cafe for healthy meal options, great ambience, and rock star service! Join us please for the best deal on the pier and say "hi" to the sea lions while you are down here.

Offer is valid noon to 2 pm and is not combinable with other offers. Free validated parking with purchase at PIER 39 garage. This week come please see Bri Crabtree, San Francisco circus artist specializing in juggling and variety entertainment. 

Family Dining in Marin: Taki Japanese Restaurant

January 12, 2016

Taki Japanese restaurant in NovatoOur go-to place for Japanese food in Marin has always been Taki restaurant in Novato's Pacheco Plaza. We've been dining there for years (even before we had kids), and it's consistently provided good food, friendly service, huge portions, and a pleasant atmosphere. It's a great family dining experience.

Taki has a rustic Japanese country inn atmosphere, with lots of woodwork and Japanese art and decor. While most of the seating is at regular tables, there's a Japanese-style tatami area for larger groups in back, where you sit on the floor, courtesy of cutouts for your legs in the raised platform. There's even an outdoor dining area in front of the restaurant, in case you happen to be there on a nice day.

The a koi pond and fountain near the entrance contribute to the serene atmosphere, and the owner sometimes lets the kids feed the brightly colored fish, who swim over to them in anticipation of a meal. The kids also enjoy watching the sushi chefs at work at the wooden sushi bar, and looking at all the Japanese decor items around the restaurant, including traditional geisha dolls, lucky cats, and darumas.

Panchito's Serves Up Family Friendly Mexican Fare in Terra Linda

July 12, 2014

Panchito's Terra LindaVisiting Terra Linda in northern San Rafael is a bit like stepping back in time, with plenty of mid-century Eichler ranch houses and a small shopping center that's home to some classic Marin restaurants that haven't changed for as long as I can remember. One of these that my family and I keep going back to is Panchito's, a family-run Mexican restaurant that's been serving up classic combo platters and more for over three decades.

I started going here for lunch with co-workers back when I worked in the area, and I've been coming back ever since. Panchito's opened in Terra Linda in 1979. It was taken over by current owners Leo and Jeff in 1999, who've been running it ever since. I've never been there when both of them are not there overseeing the dining rooms and making sure everything runs smoothly. They seem to know many of the customers on a first-name basis, too.

The food at Panchito's is classic Mexican-American fare, with all the usual suspects like enchiladas, burritos, tacos, fajitas, tamales, and chile rellenos. We love their extensive kids' menu (starting at $4.95), which features a variety of offerings to appeal to picky eaters and adventurous kids alike. Kids's meals all come with a small milk, juice, or soda.

Family Dining in Marin: Best Lil' Porkhouse Corte Madera-CLOSED

December 30, 2013

Best Lil' Porkhouse Corte MaderaIt's always been a challenge to find good BBQ in the Bay Area, and we became fans of San Rafael's Best Lil' Porkhouse at first bite. We saw that they recently took over the restaurant space in Corte Madera that once housed Max's (and, if you're a Marin old-timer, the Peppermill), and decided to give this bigger and easier-to-get-to new location a try.

Unlike the San Rafael location, the Corte Madera Porkhouse is an actual sit-down affair, with no ordering at the counter required. We were shown to a comfy booth in one of the restaurant's dining rooms, which also housed the bar and a couple of big screen TVs showing the 49ers game.

The place is decorated in an eclectic Western theme, with farming implements, old advertising signs and ephemera, and cowboy movie posters on the walls. Each table has its own roll of paper towels and squeeze bottles with four(!) kinds of house-made BBQ sauces.

Family Fun in San Francisco's Japantown

November 16, 2013

San Francisco JapantownWhen we're in San Francisco, one of our favorite spots for an afternoon of shopping and dining is Japantown. A trip to Japantown, which is located in the city's Western Addition neighborhood, is a great way to take in Japanese culture, and it's certainly less effort than taking the family on a trip to Japan! San Francisco's Japantown is the largest and oldest Japanese neighborhood in the United States.

Japantown, or Nihonmachi, was established in its present location following the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, and flourished in the early years of the 20th century. After suffering a downtown during World War II and the internment of Japanese Americans, the area was rejuvenated in the 1950s and '60s. The centerpiece of this six-square-block enclave is the Japan Center Mall. It and the surrounding area are home to numerous Japanese restaurants, shops, and grocery stores.

The Japan Center Mall is a fun place for a family outing, especially if the weather is cold or rainy (not a rarity in San Francisco). The mall is anchored by the large concrete Peace Pagoda in an outdoor plaza, where it also hosts popular local events like the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, held over two weekends in April, and the Nihonmachi Street Fair, which takes place in August.

Hot Diggity! Marin's Healthy Mom-Run Dog Cart

September 21, 2013

Hot Diggity at Mill Valley Middle SchoolIf you've been around southern Marin during soccer season, there's a good chance you've seen the Hot Diggity hot dog cart. If not, you should seek it out and give it a try!

Hot Diggity was created by Mill Valley mom Joan Miller in 2010 as an alternative to not-so-healthy fast food dining options, and sells nitrate-free sausages from Niman Ranch and Aidells with a variety of condiments, most of them organic. Hot Diggety also offers healthy drinks like organic juices, teas, and sodas.

The menu includes an uncured Niman Ranch Kids' Dog ($4), chicken and apple sausage ($5), and the signature Dig It Dog ($6), a nitrate-free pork sausage on a sesame seed roll with sauerkraut and dill pickle spears. The Kids' Dog is available as part of a daily special Kids' Meal ($5.50), which also includes organic carrots and an Honest Kids organic juice pouch.

Family Dining in Marin: Lo Coco's Authentic Italian Pizzeria

July 17, 2013

Lo Coco's PizzaLo Coco's Authentic Italian Pizzeria has been a favorite of Marin County families for generations, and has been dishing up pizza and other Italian treats in its Terra Linda location for over 40 years. I've been dining here since I was a kid, and now I take my kids here to experience Lo Coco's fantastic pizza.

Tucked into a strip mall off Del Ganado Road next to Scotty's Market, Lo Coco's looks like it hasn't changed since 1971, but in a good way. It's got that classic pizza parlor atmosphere that you remember from back when you were young. Pizzas here are old-school—no wood burning ovens or eggs or arugula or anything trendy like that here, just good pizza.

That's not to say that there aren't some creative pies on the menu, like the Sant'Elia with fresh zucchini and garlic or the Nina's Special with pesto, artichoke hearts, and fresh tomatoes. Of course there's also the Terra Linda Pizza (one of my childhood favorites), topped with ground beef and green onions.

Family Dining in Marin: Smashburger (CLOSED)

May 21, 2013

SmashburgerMarin families now have yet another place to get their burger fix: Smashburger in Novato. The Novato location is the Denver-based chain's first Bay Area location, and it serves up a variety of innovative burgers, chicken sandwiches, and salads using fresh ingredients.

I had the opportunity to attend a media preview of the Novato Smashburger last week, where I tried a selection of their food. Smashburger offers an array of specialty burgers, including the Bay Burger (with arugula, mushrooms, Swiss cheese, and truffle mayo); BBQ, bacon and cheddar; and spicy Baja.

Each burger is also available as a grilled chicken sandwich—my favorite of Smashburger's offerings was the chicken avocado club, with avocado, applewood-smoked bacon, and ranch dressing. You can also create your own burger or sandwich from the variety of toppings, sauces, and add-ons ranging from grilled onions and "Smash sauce" to guacamole and a fried egg.

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