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Help with Berkeley/Oakland kid-friendly choice

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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)...my 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.

            2. I think Rivoli always seem to have a wait, so probably not good for kids who gets antsy about eating soon. Cesar is a better choice if you go early and especially if you can get a seat outside at the Piedmont location. I also see a lot of families at Dopo on Piedmont, which is kind of like Pizzaiolo. I wouldn't suggest Pearl or Luka's just because it is more adult and hipster like.

              3 Replies
              1. re: singleguychef

                Luka's does have a hipster factor, but it is very kid friendly. The menu has good kid options (mac & cheese, great fries, a burger), the room is loud so the kids don't disturb other diners, and it's welcoming to all. While I've seen children of all ages at Luka's, I think it is best for kids a bit older than those of the OP, as the pinball machine in the back room is a great distraction. This doesn't make it un-great for the pre-school set, but it does make it super-great for slightly older kids.

                Totally agree that Pearl is a bit too cool for kids, though I think the high tables and bar stools are an even bigger problem. They suck for older folks as well, or at least for anyone who needs a back support to be comfortable.

                1. re: lexdevil

                  When we were at Luka's in late August the pinball machine and the PacMan were BOTH broken, though as you said the smaller kids wouldn't play anyway. It was indeed very loud, but that can be a good thing. My son liked the fries--they came in a tall cone--and the sundae. Can't remember what else he had. The booths are good for families.

                  1. re: Glencora

                    thanks everyone. fantastic help, really!

              2. Not sure exactly what you are going for but a couple of lower cost places that I'd recommend are:
                Vic - indian food. You'll see past recommendations here.
                Tacubaya in Berkeley - Mexican food, owners connected w/ Dona Thomas. Area is nice w/ outdoor seating (yes, potentially feasible this time a year). Great people & kid watching right near by.
                Ferry Plaza - realize you didn't ask for SF recs but I think this is a good place for kids. Easy walk from Embarcadero BART station.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Allfrog68

                  thanks everyone.
                  we enjoyed a cote & chez panisse very much.