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Good Eats, Great Atmosphere & 2 Kids

I am looking for a restaurant for dinner. I have the following criteria:

1. Good food - Pls no recommendations for Rainforest or any other chain restaurants! I am in SF and want something that shows off regional cuisine. Seafood is good. I live in OC so have been exposed to Asian.
2. Good atmosphere - Something with a view or patio with great people watching since we are in the city - something that will keep the kids occupied too.
3. I have two young boys. They have done well with fine dining but something a bit casual probably would be better.
4. If they take reservations that would be great.
5. North beach/Embarcardo/Union Sq area is preferred

So far we have planned:
Sotto Mare
Hog Island
Golden Gate Bakery
Liguira Bakery

Thanks for your help!!

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  1. You don't actually think anyone here would recommend Rainforest or any other chain, do you?!? Good grief!! Try a board search for Fisherman's Wharf, North Beach and Union Square and you will get some ideas...Also check out the "New to this Board" post - let us know what kind of price range you are thinking of. How old are the boys? Are you saying you don't want Asian" A bit more info will get you much better and more useful responses.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dinnerout

      I seem to remember a very recent suggestion for Cheesecake Factory.

      For good food and nice atmosphere + patio, I say Foreign Cinema, but that's in the Mission. With 2 kids, you'd probably have fun in the Mission.

    2. Slanted Door, but that is modern Vietnamese.

      1. I have searched under family and actually saw someone recommending Rainforest! Also lots of recs for Boudins which I love but have 3 within 10 miles of where we live.

        I have searched under areas/locals but never really sure if the places fits my requirements esp the kids factor.

        Price doesn't matter but entrees up to $35 ok.

        2 Replies
        1. re: dhong140

          One Market is supposedly great and fits your location, price, and restaurant description exactly. I've never personally been there, though:


          I was surprised at how many families with kids were at Boulevard this past Sunday. The restaurant was very accomodating. The food is outrageously good and your kids don't need to be tooo adventerous. Location is exactly what you want as well (across the street from One Market) and there are also some good views to be had. The price is getting up there, though, main courses get up to the upper $30s.

          Your kids would probably love Scala's. The food is not quite up to the prices relative to the very best values in SF, but it is still quite nice, and great location for you and nice decor. http://www.scalasbistro.com/

        2. You realize that Liguira is a morning place. By about noon or 2 at the latest they are sold out. You might like Zuni which is nearish Union square has great people watching and shows off the regional cuisine.

          If you are here on Saturday morning you should check out the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market at the Ferry Building.

          Town's End is casual, uber-kid friendly, shows off regional cuisine has a limited view of the bay, easy access to an outdoor area, reasonable prices and local cuisine oriented. Check to see if they have re-opened after a remodel.

          Rose Pistola might be a good choice in North Beach.

          Most outdoor seating in North beach is sidewalk and usually two tops. However, here;s a list of places ... one or two with a patio

          You can change the search criteria with view and neighborhood desired ... view embarcadero

          The problem with most view places is that the food is usually only average.

          Most San Francisco restaurants are friendly to kids.

          2 Replies
          1. re: rworange

            What, you missed and opportunity to point them to Murray Circle? Which is just next to the Bay Area Discovery Museum? Seems like a perfect food/view/kid friendly kind of place.

            Murray Circle
            601 Murray Circle, Sausalito, CA 94965

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Not in the nabes mentioned. Doesn't soundl like they have a car and that bus ride over the Golden Gate Bridge would be a really unpleasant way to spend limited time.

          2. Have you tried Caffe Sport on Green Street in North Beach (just a few restaurants down from Sotto Mare?) Family style Italian with some seafood in a funky atmosphere.

            1. I'm going to disagree with many of the recommendations so far as too formal and stuffy for kids. Boulevard and One Market are great places for a business lunch or a 20th anniversary dinner. As a child who was often taken to adult places, I would have been bored by the menus and atmosphere. Foreign Cinema is precious and scene-y, good for a date, unless your boys like watching Fellini movies without any sound and nibbling on bruschetta.

              Hog Island is an oyster bar. Might be fun if they like seeing oysters shucked or you sit outside, but otherwise very adult unless you want to spend $12 for a grilled cheese sandwich.

              Places I would take boys: dim sum with carts, where the food comes by and you can point and eat with your fingers and drum on the table with chopsticks. Yank Sing is pricey and upscale, but you can sit inside Rincon Center by the waterfall, and the food is very good. There's a recent discussion on dim sum in Chinatown that I think went badly.

              Lots of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants that specialize in seafood have huge tanks with scary creatures. My cousins were thrilled to watch giant crabs. Great Eastern might be worth a visit; I haven't been in a year, but we had a fine dinner last time I went.

              Restaurants with open kitchens. We were at il Borgo last night, and enjoyed watching the pizza oven, and the sweet but frenetic pace around us. L'Osteria del Forno on Columbus has a similar vibe and delicious food.

              A 9 year old I know could have spent all day at Papa Beard (across from the Jewish Museum and Moscone center, off Market & 3rd), watching them squirt cream into the eclairs.

              If you like baseball, you might also take them to AT&T park for a game, recently voted by the NY Times as having the best ballpark food in the country (although admittedly, the winner was I think a fried softshell crab).

              You'll have more fun if you focus on snacking than big sitdown affairs, at least judging by the kids I go out to dinner with.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Windy

                I agree with Windy's assessment of One Market and Boulevard...but as a long-suffering Giants fan and frequent ATT Park visitor, I have to say that if indeed it is the best ball park food in the country, that isn't saying much...However, I did recently have a nice lunch at Acme Chophouse at the park, (which has an outdoor patio with great people watching before games, if you can get there early enough or make a reservation. very crowded. Inside is less crowded but wouldn't be as much fun for the kids). Not necessarily regional in cuisine focus although there is an emphasis on sustainable and local ingredients...

                at that age, my kids probably would have liked Slanted Door, especially if we let them order a fancy drink without the alcohol....

                Slanted Door
                Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                Yank Sing Banquet & Catering
                101 Spear St, San Francisco, CA 94105

                L'Osteria del Forno
                519 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                Boulevard Restaurant
                1 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94105

                Il Borgo
                500 Fell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                Hog Island Oyster Bar
                Ferry Building,, San Francisco, CA 94111

                Great Eastern Restaurant
                649 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                One Market Restaurant
                1 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

                Acme Chop House
                24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107

                Foreign Cinema
                2534 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110

                1. re: susancinsf

                  As I said, there were lots of families with kids at Boulevard when I went there last week (kids = 6+, not less) but I agree the Slanted Door is the way to go.

                  1. re: whiner

                    My point was there's a difference between restaurants that tolerate or even graciously serve kids and restaurants that are fun for kids to go to. I don't think it's necessary to pander with macaroni and cheese and dumbed down choices, but it is nice if there's more for boys to do than sit quietly with their hands folded.

              2. Thank you everyone for your recommendations. I have them listed and ready for our trip this weekend.

                It's funny that I would call my 2 boys (4&6) foodies but they don't eat much other than all things white (chicken, fries & bread). But they love to watch Top Chef, Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmerman & Alton Brown. Also they enjoy to going to the farmer's market and cook with me. I hoping their taste for food will develop in time.

                Keep the feedback coming!

                1 Reply
                1. re: dhong140

                  If they like chicken then they would really like Zuni ... you can tell the to hold the greens. A recent visitor from Canada had some great pictures of Zuni in a report

                  That big oven is cool and given the right seats the kids could watch the kitchen. Given what you just said abou them liking cooking shows, maybe Boulevard isn't off the wall. There are counter seats where you can watch the staff at work.

                  The Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers Market has a cooking demo as part of the activities. This week Joyce Goldstein will be doing the demo ... and it is the Tomato Festival at the market this week. Here's the schedule.

                  I was also of the opinion that Hog Island was a bad idea, but sitting at the counter they can watch oysters being shucked and peek in the kitching watching the cooks.

                  In North Beach you might want to check out XOX chcolates. The owner is often there up to his elbows in chocolate making the little truffles. It just down the street from Liguira. Rose Pistola also has counter seats where you can watch the food being prepared.

                  In Fisherman's Wharf, Boudin Bakery has a tour of their bakery. If you miss the bakery you can still peer in and see the operation. If you are down that way don't miss the sea lions near Pier 39 or the ships at that Maritime Museum where the kids can board old ferries and boats.

                  If I think of any other open kitchen places in areas you have interest, I'll post. Hope you report back about where you chose. .