Dining Out with Kids

Family Dining in Marin: Moylan's in Novato

March 12, 2013

Moylans NovatoMoylan's Brewery and Restaurant has the distinction of being Novato's first (and to my knowledge only) brewpub. Operated by the same people who run Marin Brewing Company in Larkspur, Moylan's offers pub grub fare with some traditional Irish favorites thrown in, and a nice selection of good house-brewed beers to go along with it. Couple that with a reasonably priced kids' menu, and it's no wonder this is a destination for north Marin families.

Located in a distinctive building across from the Rowland Plaza Cinemas, Moylan's is an ideal place to grab a bite before or after the movies. The main dining room is a cavernous affair that can get noisy when it's busy, but that's not a big issue when you've got kids in tow, right? There's a long bar overlooking the brewing area, with several TV screens showing various sports games.

The kids were given the usual coloring menus and crayons. An added twist is that they could turn in their coloring sheets after dinner in exchange for a prize from the basket by the front entrance.

Family Dining in Marin: Iron Springs Pub and Brewery

January 2, 2013

Iron Springs PubFamilies looking for a great place to dine in Fairfax owe it to themselves to check out Iron Springs Pub and Brewery. Located in the Fair-Anselmo Plaza shopping center just outside downtown Fairfax, it's a fantastic place to grab a bite to eat and maybe even a house-brewed beer (for mom and dad, of course).

Iron Springs offers an assortment of well-conceived pub fare, like burgers (including a house-made veggie burger), sandwiches, salads, and "Big Plates" with offerings ranging from roast chicken to Mayan poc chuc. The kids' menu offers the usual suspects, most of which can be accompanied with fries, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, or sliced cucumbers and baby carrots.

On our last visit, the pub was literally crawling with families enjoying a lunch together. Kids get the usual coloring paper and crayons, and there's even a bookshelf in the corner that has a nice selection of books for both children and grownups. It's a place that encourages you to relax and hang out.

Family Dining in Marin: Best Lil' Porkhouse in San Rafael

October 8, 2012

Best Lil' PorkhouseIt's always been a challenge to find good BBQ in the Bay Area, let alone Marin County, but we're happy to see that the situation is changing. The newest contender for local BBQ top dog is Best Lil' Porkhouse, which serves up traditional BBQ favorites from its location on San Rafael's Miracle Mile.

On our recent visit, we were pleasantly surprised by how good everything was—not that we expected anything to be bad, but because the food seemed to be made with extra care and attention to detail. The restaurant itself is really small, with only three tables in the tiny dining area. It looks like they're expanding to the space next door, but until then you might want to either get there early or get your order to go, which seems to be a popular option. There's table out on the sidewalk for outdoor dining, too.

The Porkhouse is decorated in a cowboy theme, and feels like a roadhouse somewhere in the South. Each table has its own roll of paper towels and squeeze bottles with two kinds of house-made BBQ sauces, as well as a selection of hot sauces.

Order at the counter and the staff will bring out your food. The Porkhouse offers platters and sandwiches, each of which are accompanied by a variety of homemade sides. Smoked meats are the real BBQ deal here, and are served with a small amount of sauce—you can add more if you like.

Enjoy a Fun Farm Brunch for the Family at Bloomfield Farms

September 19, 2012

Bloomfield Farms U-pickAt its next u-pick event, Bloomfield Farms is offering families more than just fresh certified organic veggies. This Sunday, September 23, the farm is partnering with Hardcore Farm To Face's Chef John Lyle for a Fun Farm Brunch from 10 am to 2 pm.

This gourmet brunch buffet features a delicious menu that will appeal to everyone in the family, and of course features Bloomfield Farm's fresh produce as well as items from other farmers in the area. The Fun Farm Brunch is a "pay what you can" brunch. No reservations are necessary, just come on over to the farm and enjoy!

This Sunday's Fun Farm Brunch menu includes mini pancakes with fruit toppings, homemade Gravenstein applesauce, fresh fruit, mini grilled cheese sandwiches, heirloom tomato soup, Bloomfield Farms veggie fritters, carrot bread, blackberry bread, apple bread, vegetable quiche, fresh fruit juice, lemonade, coffee, tea, and more.

Come to the farm and eat your veggies, then go pick some veggies to bring home. Bloomfield Farms offers families the opportunity to pick their own organic vegetables, including kale, squash, celery, lettuce, green beans, Swiss chard, potatoes, and more. Fill a box for only $25. U-pick at the farm takes place Sundays through November 4 from 10 am to 3 pm. Read more about the u-pick experience at Bloomfield Farms in our article here.

Family Dining in Marin (with a View): The Mountain Home Inn

September 12, 2012

Mountain Home Inn on Mt. Tamalpais near Mill ValleyOur family loves to explore Mt. Tamalpais. Usually, we pack a picnic for lunch during our hikes, but on our last visit we decided to take the kids to the Mountain Home Inn, one of the few restaurants up on the mountain. It was a gorgeous, clear day, and we knew the views from the restaurant's deck would be amazing.

The Mountain Home Inn has been a fixture on Mt. Tam for a century, and it's a great place to stop for breakfast, lunch, or dinner before or after your Mt. Tam adventure. Of course we opted to sit outside on the deck, taking in the spectacular views of Marin County and relaxing in the shade of the patio umbrellas. Our friendly and attentive server brought us a bottle of water infused with mint as we perused the menu.

The Mountain home inn offers a variety of dishes, from bratwurst on a bun with house-made potato chips (a nod to the inn's beginnings as a Swiss/German roadhouse) and burgers to fresh pastas and a vegetable frittata. There's also a children's menu, which is offered up with crayons for coloring, that includes favorites like chicken fingers and fries, kids' pasta with butter and parmesan, french toast, and more.

"Dive-in" Dinner and Movie at the Rolling Hills Club

August 21, 2012

Dive In Dinner and a Movie at Rolling Hills ClubJust because school begins this week for many in Marin doesn't mean there aren't plenty of fun summer activities to still enjoy. This Saturday, August 25 from 6 to 9:30 pm, take in an outdoor screening of Pixar's classic Finding Nemo and a family dinner at Novato's Rolling Hills Club at their first ever "Dive In" Dinner and Movie.

Participate in fun pool games and enjoy a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, salad, and garlic bread before you settle down to watch the movie on a giant, inflatable, 25-foot screen. The "Dive In" costs just $30 per family for club members and $35 per non-members family, so it's an inexpensive night out, as well as a great way to come see what the club is all about. The price also includes lemonade, and beer or wine for those 21 and over.

Bring your swimsuits, towels, and pool toys (you can even bring floaties and watch the movie from the pool!) as well as sleeping bags, blankets and pillows so you can get comfy on the pool deck. The movie starts at around 7:15 pm, but get there early to get a good spot, enjoy dinner, and participate in the activities.

An Old Fashioned Ice Cream Experience at Lala's Creamery in Petaluma

June 5, 2012

Lala's Creamery in PetalumaSometimes it seems like the days of the old fashioned ice cream parlor are a thing of the past, but then you run across a place like Petaluma's Lala's Creamery. Located right downtown on Petaluma Boulevard North (across from Starbucks Coffee), Lala's is a retro temple to all things ice cream, and it's definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. Heck, it's probably worth a trip up to Petaluma just to go there!

Step through Lala's Victorian façade and into their cool and clean ice cream parlor. In keeping with the exterior architecture, the indside of Lala's makes you feel like you've stepped back into the 1890s, with crisp white paintwork, marble tables, exposed brick walls, swiveling stools at the counter, and a black-and-white checked tile floor.

Step up to the counter and order your treats. Your choices, including a selection of seasonal ice cream flavors and a variety of soda fountain creations, are written on chalkboards. Lala's makes their ice cream in small batches on-site from local ingredients, and uses it in old school indulgences that you and your family probably have never had before (but your parents and grandparents might recognize some of them).

Stop by the Station House Café for Family Dining in Point Reyes Station

April 11, 2012

Inside the Station House CafeOne of our favorite West Marin dining spots is the Station House Café in Point Reyes Station. We don't always get to dine there, though, because it's a busy place—you usually have to wait for a table on weekends. We recently got a chance to swing by during the week for lunch, and it was a real treat.

The Station House Cafe is located on Point Reyes Station's main street, so you can't miss it. It serves up comfort food classics made from fresh, local, and organic ingredients for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It's a great place to stop off for a hearty breakfast before you hit the hiking trails or the beach, or to unwind over lunch or dinner after a day at Point Reyes National Seashore. Their pretty comprehensive kids' menu offers selections like fish and chips ($6.50), noodles with butter ($5), grilled cheese ($5.50), a Niman Ranch frank and fries ($6.95), and a kid's cobb salad ($6.95).

Child-Friendly Cafe du Cirque Opens in Downtown San Rafael

February 27, 2012

Kerstin Fleischer and Cafe du CirqueOne of our wonderful readers told me about the new Cafe du Cirque, a child-friendly coffee house in downtown San Rafael that opened last week, so I had to go check it out. Cafe du Cirque was opened by Marin mom Kerstin Fleischer and her husband Tom Coleman, and features food made from fresh local organic ingredients, locally roasted coffee, and a play area for little ones near the back of the cafe. Relax with a cup of coffee or tea and a salad or sandwich while your kids play safely.

Kerstin is the mom of a three-year-old, and added the play room to the cafe because she was more than aware of the need to have a space like this in Marin. The cafe itself is clean and modern and occupies a long narrow space with lots of natural light.

My children both enjoyed Cafe du Cirque's kids' hot chocolate and fresh muffins, and my daughter liked the play area. Designed for younger children, the small carpeted play area includes toys like a play kitchen, a kids' table and chairs, a chalkboard, and a soft crawling area for babies. You can sip your coffee or eat lunch or breakfast and watch the kids while they play under the play room's festive red-and-white-striped awning.

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