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Oct 8, 2007 09:13 PM

Help with Berkeley/Oakland kid-friendly choice

My wife and I are bringing our 2 girls to California in 3 weeks. We wanted to try something lovely the day after Oliveto's and wonder if people have opinions between:

Zax Tavern
Pearl Oyster Bar

we're visiting from NYC and the girls (3 and 4) are pretty solid in restaurants, so long as the first nosh comes quickly. It's all about the food, so amazing wine selections don't matter at this meal.

thanks in advance...

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  1. well, what are you looking for? Would help to have more sense of why you picked these, since I am not sure any would be at top of my list with two kids...

    Zax is closed, Rivoli can be crowded in a way that might make it difficult for the kids (close together tables etc) and the food isn't amazing, imo. Cesar is good, but to me it is about drinking and eating together, again, not really an amazing food place...I go there when I want to drink AND eat...Pearl Oyster Bar isn't bad, but is far from amazing, and is sort of a hipster vibe that I don't think you'd find comfortable with children...

    personally, I'd go to Chez Panisse Cafe (upstairs) with your girls. Very kid friendly. Make your reservations yesterday for three weeks from now....

    1. In another thread someone suggested Luka's Taproom, which is a great place for kids. The food is very good, and it has a real "Oakland vibe" with people of all ages, races and classes.

      1. We run across this situation all the time with our nieces and nephews who are your daughters' ages. Here are our humble opinions:

        Pizzaiolo (Temescal in Oakland)...great food (TONS of reviews on this board if you want to check them out), loud enough for kids, pizza and fried chicken. What more could you want?

        T-Rex (West Berkeley)...upscale barbecue, with amazing mac n cheese and plenty of room to run around (think Ikea cafeteria decor but with excellent barbecue and fantastic bourbons)

        Cesar (Piedmont Ave. in Oakland)...if you go, definitely go to the one on Piedmont. The one in Berkeley is smaller and snootier, and somehow the food's not quite as good. If you go, get the tuna and egg bocadillo.

        Soi 4 (Rockridge)...upscale Thai, roomy restaurant, good food, and they know how to pair wine well with food (if you believe in such a thing).

        A Cote (Rockridge) favorite restaurant in the East Bay. Small plates, fantastic arancini (if they're still on the menu, great for kids)...the only time we've taken kids there we've sat outside in the back patio (they have heat lamps). If you can get seats outside I would consider it. Otherwise, the vibe inside isn't exactly kid-friendly, although I doubt they would be opposed as we've always had great, friendly service there.

        Good luck!

        1 Reply
        1. re: FireSheep

          I agree on all of these recommendations, especially Pizzaiolo. Luka's is also a good recommendation, but the menu there never really excites me.

        2. Chez Panisse upstairs is great for kids. They're very obliging and committed to kids eating good food. My son has been a big fan for years.

          If you call Rivoli and ask for a table at the back window at dusk, this can be great for kids. Each night they feed an assortment of local wildlife (skunks, raccoons, neighborhhod cats, etc.). My son used to love to watch this parade when he was that age. The hot fudge sundae is especially good.

          I would not do Pearl. Beyond the recent lackluster reports, most of the tables are bar height with stools. No good for the younger set.

          You might also consider Dona Tomas, which will do a cheap kids quesadilla plate that does not appear on the menu.

          Luka's is, as I've written, very kid friendly for a bar/restaurant/club with a very Oakland flavor. Your kids are, however, probably too young to appreciate the pinball option.

          If Cesar, I think you'll find the more spacious Piedmont Ave. location better for kids.

          BTW--Are you taking the kids to Oliveto? My son has always enjoyed it (had his first solid food there at 6 mos. on New Year's Eve 1994). The kitchen is good about putting together plain veg and buttered pasta if needed to please kids who require something familiar.

          1. I'd add Dopo and Dona Tomas to the list. Dopo is similiar to Piazzola and Dona Tomas has upscale Mexican. Sea Salt can also be good. All are fine with kids who are used to eating in restaurants.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Cheesy Oysters

              You're right about Dopo. If the weather is decent, my son always enjoyed the outside tables. Pizzaiolo and Sea Salt are good choices as well.