Holy Cow BBQ opened in September 2014 and the stampede to Santa Monica began. From the same team that created Messhall Kitchen in Los Feliz, this time out Rob Serritella and his talented chefs are all about slow-smoked goodness. They start with prime cuts of meat and then smoke the daylights out of them, resulting in pulled pork, baby-back ribs, tri-tip and brisket that simply melts in your mouth. Add on the delicious sauces (we particularly love the tangy "yellow" sauce that goes with the pulled pork) they create in house and you've got a terrific taste sensation. They'll serve up traditional sides like mac and cheese or collard greens; and if there's a vegetarian in the crowd, quinoa, kale or other crunchy good salads. Save room for the dessert and pick the Peach Crumb, a not-too-sweet version of a cobbler. It's wonderful, as is the whole easygoing, casual vibe at Holy Cow BBQ.
Recommended for Family Friendly because: Kids who love BBQ will love this place, which has a special menu designed just for them.
Jenny's expert tip: Don't wait until too late to have dinner here, for if your favorite smoked meat runs out, that's it for the day. The slow smoking takes a long time to reach perfection.
With ten outposts in the Los Angeles area, Islands is a staple of Southern California's casual dining scene. The surfer vibe is a part of all the eateries, especially in Marina del Rey, where the Islands is just a few short steps to the ocean. Families love the easy atmosphere that welcomes kids of all ages; they're known as "Gremmies," which is surfer slang for a young, inexperienced wave rider. With a reasonably priced menu that focuses on burgers, tacos and salads, Islands has something for everyone in the family; and it isn't a bad place to watch the ballgame, either, in its convivial bar. Don't miss their famous French fries!
Recommended for Family Friendly because: Burgers, tacos and a laid-back surfer vibe makes Islands a place that kids love, especially tweeners and teens. Cowabunga, dude!
Jenny's expert tip: The big booth in the back will seat your whole family – and then some.
El Segundo Fish Company is a cool little fish joint that makes it easy for the family to all find something to love. From the fried platters of fish and chips, popcorn shrimp or calamari to their justifiably famous tacos made from blackened Ahi tuna, chicken, mahi mahi, etc., this place really knows how to keep everyone coming back for more. Plus, their daily specials are a real steal, especially on Wednesdays, when one child eats for free with every adult entree purchased. And, proving that the folks at El Segundo Fish Company really want the whole family to come on in, they also offer a "Senior Special Combo for 2" every day from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., when those 60 and over can get two fish n' chips specials plus drinks for $9.95.
Recommended for Family Friendly because: Where else can you get a free dinner for your child when you buy one for yourself? That's El Segundo Fish Company's Wednesday deal.
Jenny's expert tip: Check out the daily specials for sweet deals on meals – how about Taco Tuesdays, where fish or chicken tacos are $2 each all night?
It doesn't matter what time of day or night you are hungry, Du-par's is open and ready to feed you. Since 1938, this homey diner has been satisfying just about any craving you could have, be it a hearty breakfast of fresh eggs, pancakes, French toast or one of their famous blue-plate specials. For lunch or dinner, Du-par's offers a wide range of sandwiches (BLT, Monte Cristo, French dip, Reuben, to name a few), salads, appetizers and entrees. Be sure to save room for a piece of their famous homemade pie, with more than 10 choices baked daily right at the restaurant.
Recommended for Family Friendly because: Open 24 hours a day, Du-par's has always been a family favorite, even before a baby is born. Midnight cravings are always satisfied here!
Jenny's expert tip: Buy a whole pie (we're partial to the rhubarb, but there are more than 10 choices every day) and keep the Du-par's deliciousness going at home.
There are plenty of Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles, but the three Mercado eateries are something special. The newest is in North Hollywood and it continues the traditions of the other two (in Santa Monica and on West Third Street), as Chef Jose Acevedo whips up modern Mexican food that keeps everyone coming back for more. His slow-cooked carnitas are wonderful, especially paired with Elote Callejero, grilled sweet corn mixed up with caramelized onions and chile piquin butter. Everything is served in the "small plates, large plates" style, so sharing is easy. Although it is likely you'll want to keep all the Tacos de Camaron (grilled shrimp, jicama, Mexican slaw and tangy spices) to yourself. It's not surprising that everyone from trendy hipsters to families of five are found here; there's definitely something for everyone on Mercado's innovative Mexican menu.
Recommended for Family Friendly because: Co-owners Jesse Gomez and Chef Jose Acevedo bring their families to Mercado all the time, making this the ultimate family friendly place in L.A.
Jenny's expert tip: Stop in for happy hour and grab Tacos Carnitas for $6, paired with margaritas for $6. It's a steal!
There's a reason the Dave & Buster's chain has over 60 locations, including this one in the heart of Hollywood. For where else can you take the family for a reasonably priced dinner and then spend the rest of the evening playing arcade games and even winning cool prizes like iPads, X-Boxes and more? The menu boasts everything from burgers and fries to steaks, grilled chicken and artichoke pasta, a special kids' menu and even selections that are all under 600 calories. Choose the "Eat and Play" combo starting at $16.99 and you'll score a $10 game card to use once your meal is finished. Of course, you can buy more games if you want to stay out until the wee hours; this location is open until 2:00 a.m. just about every night.
Recommended for Family Friendly because: As their logo says, at Dave & Buster's you and your family can "Eat, Drink, Play" from morning to night.
Jenny's expert tip: Go on Wednesday, when all games are half price.
If you love hamburgers, then Slater's 50/50 in Pasadena (and in six other locations in Southern California) is the place for you. Their burger patty drives meat lovers wild, with its special mix of 50 percent ground beef and 50 percent bacon. That's usually cooked up and placed on a brioche roll, but you can "Design It" yourself, too. Choose the size and kind of patty (which could also be chicken, beef only, a Portobello mushroom or turkey instead of the 50/50), the bread, cheese, toppings and sauces, making your own signature sandwich. There are endless craft beers on tap to pair with it, plenty of decadent appetizers and even a kids' menu, that brings those big burgers down to a manageable sliders size for the smaller set. And Slater's 50/50 is a sports bar, too, so if the game is on, gather up the gang and go. Open for lunch and dinner every day.
Recommended for Family Friendly because: How do you make the whole family smile? Bring them to Slater's 50/50 and let each person build the exact burger that they love.
Jenny's expert tip: Happy Hour runs from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday to Friday, and offers big discounts on drinks and appetizers. But those famous burgers aren't discounted.
Canter's Deli has been a staple of the Fairfax district since it opened way back in 1931. This classic New York Jewish delicatessen hasn't changed much in all those years (although it did move into a bigger space more than 50 years ago). They are always open, 24 hours a day, serving up deli favorites like pastrami sandwiches, Matzo ball soup, cheese blintzes, gefilte fish and much more. Breakfast is served all day and for those kids of any age with a huge appetite, Canter's Deli piles up meats so high on their signature 3-Decker Sandwiches that they are almost impossible to eat.
Recommended for Family Friendly because: It doesn't matter what your age or your religion, Canter's Deli serves up classic New York Jewish Deli treats like no one else in town.
Jenny's expert tip: Get the "Hollywood" 3-Decker Sandwich, piled high with pastrami, oven-roasted turkey, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing for a truly authentic Canter's experience.