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Lunching with a 2 Year-Old in the East Bay and Marin

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Sorry to start a new thread on a much-visited subject, but the new Search engine isn't as helpful as the old version. Anyway! My husband and I are looking to branch out with our 2 year-old daughter, and are mostly out and about at lunchtime, rather than in the evening. We live in San Rafael, but spend a lot of time in Berkeley, Oakland and nearby. Our daughter is a well-behaved, adventurous eater, so we're not necessarily looking for kids' menus, just a high chair and the possibility of some flexibility. We don't expect to be able trash the place or subject fellow diners to tantrums.

Just fyi, yesterday was her 2nd birthday, so we hit the Oakland Cesar on Piedmont along with my sister and her 1 year-old. The kids did great sitting on the bench with us, but they did struggle to get close enough to the table. It would have been an absolute breeze with a high chair.

If it helps, here are some of the restaurants we go to fairly often together: Sol Food, Om, Caffe Oggi, Marin Joe's, Boca, Mambo's, Avatar's, Vik's, Daimo, and, in pinch, Pasta Pomodoro (suprisingly good!).

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

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  1. -900 Grayson in West Berkeley, classic diner food with spot-on execution and quality ingredients. Excellent eggs, bacon, corned beef hash, fried chicken and waffles, and a turkey pot pie that will make you swoon. Closed Sundays. No reservations. www.900grayson.com

    -Dopo in Piedmont, excellent Italian food. Lunch menu has a nice selection of salads, panini and pizza. Lunch only on weekdays. No reservations.

    -Cafe at Chez Panisse - For your next big splurge. Lunch is pretty expensive, but the food is delicious, and children are most welcome. Reservations required in advance.

    All three have high chairs.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Morton the Mousse

      Haven't been there for years, but Fat Apples is kid-friendly as I recall. There's one in North Berkeley on Martin Luther King Way.
      Updated version of American diner classics -- good burgers, etc.

      Most traditional Asian restaurants are pretty kid-friendly as they are used to family dining -- maybe more so for Chinese restaurants.

    2. When our son was that age we found that Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants were extremely kid friendly. Taking multiple generations for a meal seems the norm, rather than the exception. The sadly departed Vi's in Oakland Chinatown was our standby, but you'd be hard pressed to find a restaurant in the area where kids wouldn't be welcome.

      We also found that eating sushi at a sushi bar worked well. Lots of action to keep the little one entertained. Our son is still a sushi addict a decade later. While we generally prefer Uzen, my memory is that Tachibana used to have colorful plastic plates for kids, which was nice.

      1. You might want to try Hidden City Cafe just over the Richmond Bridge in Point Richmond. There is a back room and they said lots of people with children like that room.

        El Rey Pakel in the TJ shopping Center has Yucatan food that might be a good choice. Check the board on what to order. There are hits and misses.
        http://www.chow.com/digest/1960

        Pier 15 is owned by someone from Mama's in SF and has great breakfast and is on the water.
        http://www.chow.com/digest/1788

        Mezzo Mezzo is quiet at lunch and there were kids there on my visit
        http://www.chow.com/digest/2062

        There's a cute Persian restaurant if you want something different ... Apadama.
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/368050

        You might like Le Croissant too
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/355699

        I like FatApples a lot for good American diner food and that great bakery. If you take the Central Avenue exit and then hook onto San Pablo that a left just before the El Cerrito Plaza and drive to the end of the street.

        Sea Salt and T-Rex (and I still can't belive I'm now recommending T-Rex) are quiet at lunch and have high chairs. Sea Salt has a nice outdoor patio which would allow for your child to move around a little. In that group I hear Fonda is now open for lunch, but I don't know how child frienly they would be. I don't think I've ever seen a kid in there at night. Lunch might be a different story.

        Lots of places on Solano starting with Montaros. Then there's 6 Degrees on Solano (great cookies). You might try Pri Pri which is a sandwich and Spanish Tapas place. The think is that the whole back room is devoted to a play area for toddlers.

        Speaking of which, I love Kensington Bistro which is off Solano and also has a play level on the lower level
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/46255

        The Kensington Circus Pub across the street is also know for being child-friendly with a play area, but I don't think it is open for lunch.

        Hope you will post back from time to time on how these places work out if you try them. It would be a help to others in your situation.

        1. When our daughter was little, we liked Picante on Gilman near 6th in Berkeley. There's usually someone making tortillas to watch, it's very casual and noisy (hides any crying noises) and there's all kinds of kid-friendly Mexican food to choose from. We still like it, and last week it was our first stop after picking her up from the Oakland Airport for her college spring break!
          She also used to be extremely partial to the pickles and potato pancakes at Saul's in Berkeley.

          1. I don't know how much your 2 year old weighs, but the Chicco table chair is absolutely the best piece of baby gear we ever bought. It has made eating out possible for us. I do think this is germane to note because it is made expressly for dining.
            http://littlefolks.stores.yahoo.net/c...

            1. Thanks for all your great suggestions - it looks like we are all going to many of the same places! I hadn't thought of Dopo, so will put that on the list, along with El Rey Pakal. We used to go to Bamyan pretty often and miss having a regular restaurant there. Our experience at Mezzo Mezzo was just OK food-wise, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt, since it was not too long after they had first opened. The Chicco clip-on is also a really good idea -- we have one but never thought to toss it in the car. In fact, my sister and her husband go to one restaurant for breakfast so frequently that they bought one just to leave there.

              I think today we'll try Gold Medal or similar in Oakland Chinatown. Wish Vi's were still there.

              rworange: Thanks so much for your earlier, detailed post on T-Rex -- we are looking forward to going there soon.