Dining Out with Kids

Family Dining with a View at San Francisco's Beach Chalet

January 28, 2012

The Beach Chalet viewWhen we head into the city for some fun, one of the places we like to stop for a bite to eat is the Beach Chalet at the western end of Golden Gate Park. Housed in a historic building, decorated with amazing WPA murals from the 1930s, that's also home to the Golden Gate Park visitor center, the Beach Chalet and its downstairs sibling the Park Chalet are both well worth checking out if you're in the area visiting the park, Ocean Beach, or on your way to or from the San Francisco Zoo.

Since the weather has been so amazing, we jumped at the chance to dine upstairs at the Beach Chalet with its amazing views of Ocean Beach and the Pacific Ocean. With its exquisite view, the Park Chalet is popular with tourists and out-of-town visitors, and can get pretty busy at mealtimes, so get there early to grab a table by the windows.

Many families opt for the more laid back Park Chalet, with its unique indoor/outdoor configuration. The Park Chalet features a big fireplace and an expansive lawn where kids can run around while mom and dad sample one of the Chalet's house-made beers, each of which is named after a San Francisco landmark.

Family Dining in Marin: India Palace

January 4, 2012

Food at India Palace in Mill ValleyBoth my husband and I love Indian food, and we're slowly trying to steer our kids in that direction, too. With its spices and heat, Indian food can be a hard sell with kids, but we take them along anyhow with the hope that they'll grow to appreciate it.

India Palace is located in, of all places, the Travelodge on the Redwood Highway frontage road in Mill Valley. It's been a Marin County Indian cuisine mainstay for as long as I can remember, so they must be doing something right. We've been going here for years, both with kids and without. The interior is nicely decorated and comfortable, and it really doesn't feel like you're dining in a motel.

While it seems that a lot of Indian restaurants have opened up in Marin in the past five years or so, we still love India Palace. Service is warm and attentive, and the staff seem to really like kids. There's a large window between the dining room and the kitchen, and the kids love to watch the chefs put skewers of chicken and lamb into the blazing hot charcoal-fueled tandoor ovens.

Family Fare at Ghiringhelli's in Novato

October 12, 2011

Dancing at Family FareWe finally had a chance to check out the Family Fare series at Novato's Ghiringhelli Pizzeria Grill & Bar. Ghiringhelli's Novato restaurant is a relative newcomer on the Marin dining scene (they've had another location in Fairfax since 1985), and has created this series of Monday night events with families of young children in mind. Each Family Fare event features a local children's musician or performer, arts and crafts, and other activities, in addition to dining from Ghiringelli's menu.

On our visit we ate pizza while local kid music legend Miss Kitty performed. Family Fare takes place in the restaurant's event room, where, in addition to dining tables, a large padded "dance floor" and activity tables were set up. Activity table offerings included coloring and painting, and a Wii console was available on a nearby flat-screen TV for game playing. Tables were covered with butcher paper and cups of crayons encouraged us to draw on our tablecloths.

Taste the Tradition at Petaluma's Old Chicago Pizza

September 28, 2011

Old Chicago SignWhen we want to get a bite to eat in Petaluma, one of our go-to family friendly restaurants is Old Chicago Pizza. Located in the 1876 Lan Mart Building in downtown Petaluma, Old Chicago has been serving up distinctive Chicago-style deep dish pizza for over 30 years. Both my husband and I went there when we were growing up, and we're happy that it really hasn't changed a bit. It's a great place to relax after a day of pumpkin hunting in the fall, and we think it's even worth the special trip up from Marin.

Walk up the steps and around the corner, following the Old Chicago signs. The dining room, with its bare brick walls and big chandelier kind of makes you feel like you've gone back in time. (Rumor has it the building once housed a brothel, and Old Chicago is located in what used to be the parlor.)

The Pie's the Thing at Mom's Apple Pie in Sebastopol

September 5, 2011

Mom's Apple PieWhen we're travelling around the Bay Area, we always keep on the lookout for family-friendy (and budget-friendly) places to grab a bite to eat. We find ourselves in the west Sonoma County town of Sebastopol every fall and winter for apple picking, pumpkins, and Christmas trees, and one of our go-to places for a quick lunch or snack is Mom's Apple Pie, located on the north side of town at 4550 Gravenstein Highway North.

To be honest, the lunch part is just an excuse to go to Mom's and chow down on what she's famous for—homemade apple pies. As you might have figured out by its name, Mom's is all about the pie. Fresh baked, handmade apple pie takes center stage here. I think it's probably the best I've ever had, anywhere, and if you visit Mom's at the right time of year (August through November only) you can get apple pie that's made with Sebastopol's own Gravenstein apples. To make things even better, the Gravenstein apples come from the trees growing right behind the shop. The rest of the year the pies are made with Granny Smiths—but the Gravenstein pies are a special treat.

Family Dining in Marin: Roadside BBQ in San Rafael

July 18, 2011

Roadside BBQ in San RafaelFinding decent barbecue in the Bay Area and especially Marin County can be a challenge. That's why we were really happy when San Francisco's Roadside BBQ opened up a branch last year in the recently remodeled Northgate Mall in San Rafael. It's a great place for family dining and delicious Southern-style comfort food.

The first thing you notice when you walk up to the restaurant is the smell of wood smoke in the air—a good sign. The rustic interior is decorated from floor to ceiling with old advertising signs for agricultural supplies, tobacco, beer, and other rural staples, and wagon wheel light fixtures overhead add to the ambience. Tables are all set with giant rolls of paper towels; a good thing, since barbeque isn't a cuisine noted for its neatness.

Family Fare this July at Ghiringhelli's in Novato

July 16, 2011

Ghiringhelli Novato Family FareNorthern Marin's newest dining hot spot, Ghiringhelli’s Pizza, Grill and Bar in Novato, presents fun for the whole family with Family Fare every Monday evening in July from 5:30–7:30 pm. Families can enjoy a great dinner along with terrific children's entertainment.

Kids can sing along, dance the Hokey Pokey, take part in arts and crafts activities, play games, and watch movies. Performers include Richard J. Rogers the Music Man, Marin kids' favorite Miss Kitty, and even a magic show, who will alternate on different Mondays.

Family Fare admission is $5, and Ghiringhelli's entire menu plusa a kids' menu will be available. Ghiringhelli's menu features pizza, pasta, salads, burgers, steaks, and more. Reservations are advised, but walk-ins are welcome, too.

Family Dining in Marin: Cafe Reyes in Point Reyes Station

July 11, 2011

Cafe Reyes in Point Reyes StationOver the past few years the little West Marin town of Point Reyes Station has become a hot spot for tourists and Bay Area day-trippers. With its bucolic rural setting, charming downtown, nearby Point Reyes National Seashore, and emphasis on local sustainable foods and agriculture, it's no wonder why it's become such a popular place. For visiting families, however, Point Reyes Station can pose something of a challenge, especially when you're hungry and need something to eat. Offerings in town tend to be either expensive or extremely busy, especially on weekends and holidays. That's why we love Cafe Reyes.

Located on Highway One just around the corner from downtown Point Reyes Station, this rustic and charming restaurant is inexpensive, usually uncrowded (it's more of a hangout for locals rather than a tourist destination), and offers up some of the best and most authentic Neapolitan style pizza we've found anywhere. Cafe Reyes has been around for years, serving up Mexican-inspired fare for many years until they decided to switch gears a few years ago and install a massive wood-fired pizza oven, which you can see—or feel, owing to the amount of heat it gives off—when you walk in the front door.

Family Dining in Marin: Las Guitarras in Novato

June 29, 2011

Las Guitarras NovatoWhenever we're at an event in downtown Novato and we end up feeling hungry around lunchtime, we seem to find ourselves at Las Guitarras, especially if it's a nice day. This venerable restaurant, located on Reichart Avenue just off Novato's main drag, has been serving hearty portions of Mexican-American classics to Marin families for since 1978.

Situated in an old Victorian house, Las Guitarras also boasts an extensive patio that's our go-to spot whenever we dine there. It's shady and open, with a big old burbling fountain and plenty of space for families to spread out. and relax. And there are usually plenty of families with young kids there, so you probably won't be alone amongst a sea of childless diners.

Las Guitarras's fare isn't exactly exciting, but it's fresh, predictable, and familiar—perfect comfort food. Whatever they're doing, it must be something right, since they've been on the Novato dining scene for over 30 years. Maybe part of the attraction is their margaritas, for which they're something of a local legend?

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