The truth is that most San Diego restaurants cater to families these days which can make narrowing down where to dine a bit difficult. Sure, we have common chains like Ruby's, TGI Fridays, Islands and others, but we've chosen some more unique options that are specific to Southern California.
If you ask a San Diegan about kid-friendly dining, it's likely that they'll mention Corvette Diner first. The throw-back diner brims with a festive vibe, hearty comfort food and even has a huge game area with retro classics like skee ball. Kids love it and most adults do, too, but it's theatrical and loud at times.
A few restaurants in town, such as CUCINA enoteca in Del Mar, allow kids the opportunity to assemble their own pizza at the table. Parents will certainly not be disappointed in the fantastic main menu, full of gourmet delights and an awesome wine selection as it's popular with locals for good reason.
However, Waypoint Public is a big win-win situation for kids and parents because in the middle of craft beer heaven is a kids' play area allowing for an afternoon of relaxation (of course, we urge you to drink responsibly).
There's no better way to unwind after a long day of sightseeing than at one of these family-friendly restaurants.
Waypoint Public is not only the new go-to spot for craft beer aficianados, it's also a place to bring the whole family. Set in San Diego's burgeoning North Park neighborhood, the restaurant features a 30-tap system focused on West Coast craft brews, over 300 different bottled beers in stock and an inventive menu created by Executive Chef Amanda Baumgarten (of Bravo's Top Chef fame who's also worked and trained in four Michelin-starred restaurants). But what's setting the restaurant apart among the young family set is its designated "kids area" complete with books, games, and a forgiving AstroTurf floor space for kiddos who don't want to sit around listening to adults. The children's menu features tasty options like hot dogs, cheeseburgers, mac n' cheese, grilled cheese, fries and more at an affordable price. ((619) 255-8778)
When you're craving a big grass-fed gourmet burger, Burger Lounge is your place. While there are locations popping up all over San Diego. The Gaslamp is the latest providing take-out convenience for those who live, work and play in downtown San Diego. Menu favorites include the quinoa burger (even loved by meat-eaters) and, of course, the traditional lounge burger. Meat is seared on a flat-top grill for a crispy exterior and the buns have just a hint of molasses. Salads and shakes are also available. Over the next few months they'll be featuring specialty burgers like ahi and even buffalo. ((619) 955-5727)
Old Town Mexican Cafe and Cantina
Old Town is one of San Diego's top attractions, and all the restaurants in the area are nearly always packed. OTMC has a bit of an edge over the competition: the "tortilla ladies" who make over 7000 tortillas every day, strolling mariachis, and an atmosphere that's unfailingly festive. Then there's the food. Most folks rave about the carnitas while other good choices are pozole, albondigas soup, menudo, Mexican style ribs or rotisserie chicken, Steak Azteca, chicken mole, or a big old burrito stuffed with chile verde, machaca, carne asada, or beans. Wash it all down with an ice cold margarita or cerveza. (619-297-4330)
As you might guess from its name, this lovely cafe specializes in omelets perfectly prepared with a wide variety of ingredients. The famous dozen-egg omelet comes topped with chili and a pile of potatoes on the side. Eat it all and you pay a fraction of the original price and win a free T-shirt! Of course, there are other options, like pancakes and waffles, and Mexican-style breakfast burritos. There are multiple locations around San Diego, however, Pacific Beach is the original. This cafe opens early at 6:00am which is perfect for families with early risers. Just be ready for a nap. (858-270-9655)
Filippi's Pizza Grotto
Family-owned and operated since 1950, Filippi's Pizza Grotto is a go-to spot for Italian food in Little Italy. This casual restaurant is famous for mouth-watering pizzas (locals rave about the cheese) and monumental meatball subs. There can be a wait, but it's one locals are willing to endure. Walk through the deli (they sell sauces, cookies and more)and into the restaurant and feel immediately transported into Italy. Beer and wine are on offer. Parking can be tricky so plan time to find a spot and definitely come with an appetite. Filippi's accepts to go orders for those who are headed out to sightsee. ((619) 232-5094)
Need an excuse to venture across the bridge and into scenic Coronado? Blue Bridge Hospitality's Village Pizzeria located on the gorgeous Bayside offers unparalleled views of the San Diego skyline in a relaxed setting that caters to children and adults alike. Every Wednesday, kids eat free from 4 p.m. to close, as the Village Pizzeria family offers a Build-Your-Own Pizza night where children receive their own pre-rolled dough, marina, cheese and 3 toppings of their choice to create their own specialty, custom pie. Adults can kick back and relax with 11 craft beers on tap while the kids play in the neighboring grassy area. It's located just a block from the ocean but the indoor dining room is complete with three plasma TV's for those who want to take in the game over a cold one. (6195220449)
CUCINA enoteca Del Mar
CUCINA enoteca Del Mar, set to open in July 2013, is likely to be one of Del Mar's most popular restaurants shortly after opening. Hospitality veteran Tracey Borkum's latest project involves a 7000 sq foot restaurant and wine shop just east of the I-5 in Flowerhill mall. The wine selection will consist of a carefully curated selection of familiar names and more rare and esoteric small-batch gems for both the novice and seasoned oenophile. The restaurant menu is set to combine the flavors of Italy with the organic freshness of California including an ambitious in-house cheese program, house made charcuterie and sausage, hand crafted confections, and a selection of artisanal breads and pastas prepared from scratch. ((949) 861-2222)
Duke's La Jolla
Duke's La Jolla is owned and operated by San Diego and Maui-based TS Restaurants and features a menu much like its sister restaurants in Hawaii. This Duke's also boasts spectacular ocean views from a prime La Jolla location on Prospect Street and is one of the area's most family-friendly sit-down restaurants. The food draws on both Hawaiian and Californian influences using seasonal, all-natural and locally-sourced ingredients. Signature dishes include Tahitian octopus cooked on a wood frill with smoked papaya, cucumber, lime and coconut milk, Lilikoi Ceviche with coriander stem, tomato, avocado, Fresno chili, and 24 Hour Kalbi Short Rib served with house made kimchee, smoked potato salad and Kewpie yogurt. A not-to-be-missed dessert is the famous Hula Pie, a masterpiece with macadamia nut ice cream, a chocolate cookie crust, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. ((858) 454-5888)
Sammy's Woodfired Pizza - Del Mar
Sammy's creates California-style pizzas; thin-crusted beauties topped with ingredients like arugula, duck sausage, goat cheese, toasted pine nuts, grilled eggplant, and truffle oil. Large selection of tapas, sandwiches, pastas and salads, too, plus a kids menu and many vegetarian options. The gluten-free menu was launched last year with the chefs specially training staff regarding cross-contamination. Pizza crust can also be made gluten-free but perhaps most importantly, the messy sundae fits the bill, too. There are multiple Sammy's locations across San Diego so it doesn't hurt to verify each restaurant's gluten-free offerings by calling in advance. Ingredients are organic and locally-sourced when possible. This is a family favorite. (858-259-6600)
Corvette Diner is a San Diego institution now located in the Point Loma area of Liberty Station. It's a 50s diner the serves up shakes, burgers, fries and other comfort food by sassy wait staff dressed in poodle skirts. Kids love it not only for the retro decor, casual vibe and food, but there's a killer arcade called Gamer's Garage in the back with 50 games and opportunities to win prizes. Think skee ball, pinball, Guitar Hero and more. It's a popular place for birthday parties, too. Parents, there is a full bar as well as dedicated parking. All ages really do love it. ((619) 542-1476)
About Katie Dillon
Katie Dillon originally moved to the seaside community of La Jolla to attend UC San Diego. When the opportunity presented itself, she and her husband set off for a 7 year stint overseas as expats in London and Hong Kong. After traveling the world, they returned to the La Jolla sunshine, with a young daughter in tow.
Katie now writes a lifestyle site called La Jolla Mom and is the author of a book called, “Flying With Kids.” Her work can be seen on NBC San Diego, Red Tricycle, Yahoo! Shine and Have Family Will Travel, a Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts blog.
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