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Family Friendly Restaurant? - Santa Monica/Playa/Marina Del Rey

Looking for suggestions: We need a family friendly restaurant to meet our mother in law and three of her friends anywhere in Santa Monica/Playa/Marina Del Rey. My husband and I have our one-year old and four-year old daughters in tow and we're coming from the South Bay so preferably around Marina/Playa so we can all meet halfway, but Santa Monica is doable.

(Please no Carrows, Denny's or the like...)

Mother in-law suggested iCugini. Haven't been. Good with kids for an early dinner (5:30pm)?

Thanks for the help.

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  1. 26 Beach Cafe or Piknic are possibilities.

    26 Beach
    3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

    13020 Pacific Ste 1, Promenade Playa Vista, CA

    1. 17th St. Cafe on Montana just barely west of 17th. Very family friendly. Lots of healthy choices and other items as well, such as an excellent tortilla soup (and big portions).

      17th St Cafe
      1610 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403

      1. 26 Beach would be perfect. just make a reservation for the the garden area. Lots of good options. www.26beach.com

        1. I'm a big fan of 17th Street Cafe -- one of the best soups I've ever tasted -- but 26 Beach beats it for the location the OP wanted and would be more kid-friendly. It is on the north side of Washington, a bit west (towards the coast) of Lincoln.

          1. iCugini is a pretty fine seafood place owned by the same folks who have the Water Grill and Ocean Ave Seafood. They have a website icugini.com and are open from 11:30 thru 10:30. Might be a good idea to take your mother-in-law's suggestion. You can have a dinner as early as you want. In the Marina itself is the Cafe del Rey, another good choice. They have a website as well. Good luck and hope that the little angels are in a good mood. : )

            11 Replies
            1. re: Baron

              I love Cafe Del Rey, and think it is by far the nicest restaurant in the Marina. But not good for the kids, except at weekend brunch. Not only is it expensive at dinner, but its current menu featuring sushi and Asian-inflected seafood is not child-friendly. I Cugini would be better for kids, and I certainly appreciate Baron's point about following your m-i-l's recommendation. But still, in atmosphere, price, and selection, as well as proximity, 26 Beach seems the better choice.

              1. re: nosh

                I count six adults and a 4yr old and an infant. So, who has priority here, the adults or the kids? If the idea is to keep the kids happy, then go to Chuck-E-Cheese. The adults need to decide whether its an iCugini experience or a 26 Beach experience. Both are good for what they are. The kids will adjust. Any restaurant worth anything will put together a kids plate for the 4 year old and the mom will take care of the one year old wherever they go. Sounds like an interesting evening.

                1. re: Baron

                  how long has it been since you have taken a normal 4 year old and an infant together to a fine dining establishment?

                  do you care at all about how the other diners feel with the inevitable noise that two normal kids make? (unless they are 'special' kids or drugged for the occasion).

                  if the infant gets gassy or the 4 yr old gets started on an ear infection, the noise level will be even louder.

                  not to mention the joy of changing an infant's diaper in an upscale ladies room that correctly doesn't provide a surface for diaper-changing. nothing like getting on all fours on the floor for this. . . .

                  1. re: westsidegal

                    Hi W.G.
                    No question that fussy kids can ruin a dining experience. I’ve asked to have my table moved for that reason. We don't know these particular kids. The poster doesn’t want a Denny’s or a Carow’s and the mom-in-law (who is bringing three friends) suggests iCugini knowing that the kids are coming. Where would you suggest? Maybe they should find a place that is so loud that no one would hear the kids even if they did start screaming. There’s the Cheesecake Factory in the Marina. But, CAUTION. Ignore mom-in-law’s “suggestion” at your own risk.

                    1. re: Baron

                      actually, i cugini is actually a pretty good idea because the restaurant is so large that a party with children could easily be seated some distance from the rest of the crowd, allowing for a measure of privacy.

                      (as i recall the the north part of the dining room, which seats around 75 people, is raised and somewhat separate from the rest of the dining room.)

                      this sort of separation is not at all possible at cafe del rey or any of the other nice restaurants as far as i can recall.

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        Have you been to iCugini lately? I'm getting an urge for their dover sole.

                        1. re: Baron

                          sorry, i cugini isn't on my regular rotation.
                          for seafood, i'm practically paying rent these days at mariscos chente.

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            What do you reccomend at Mariscos Chent?

                            1. re: Burger Boy

                              the camarones a la diabla
                              the camarones checo
                              the mojarra (sp?) frita
                              the shrimp and octopus coctail
                              the shrimp soup

                              if you order any of the ceviches, be aware that unless you specifically ask them to boil the shrimp, the shrimp will be raw.

                              i've never had a bad dish at this place.

                              be aware, that the main chef takes tuesdays off and that if they are empty at night they will close early.

                              i LOVE this place the way that you love 26 beach.

                              here is the link to exilekiss's blog about this restaurant with pics:


                    2. re: westsidegal

                      funny! btw, 26 Beach has a small ladies room with nowhere to change diapers except the floor.

                      1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                        fwiw, if it were me, i'd probably try to go to shamshiri grill, in part because they have a counter in the ladies room big enough to use as a changing table and because they are not an quiet, 'fine dining' restaurant.

              2. I would suggest Panini Coffee and Cafe in the Marina. They are a great cafe for family gatherings. It is partial counter service, but they bring everything to you. Service is always friendly and the food is always good. They have a great steak dinner for $20 bucks. Think the owner is a previous European chef. Great place. I go there at least once a week when I have meetings in the area. It's in the same shopping center as the Pavilions off of Glencoe.

                1. I haven't really had great experiences at Beach 26 with kids. The trouble is, for us on a few occasions at least, that the service was so sloooow. IME it's pretty important with kids to just move that meal along lickety split. Or at least have something fun on the table to take up the slack. How about C&O with its fantastic butter-slathered dough twists, which is in the same general location as Beach 26. At least the inland one -- and BTW, the beach location of Beach 26 can be really lugubrious in the early evening, IME -- cold and rattley. It just didn't work for us at least with the kids.

                  I don't know iCugini and it sounds as if it's pretty upscale. But a possible lower-scale version is the Westchester (white table cloth) version of Alejo's. Like C&O that bread on the table before-hand is really handy. For that matter and in the bread-on-the-table department, there's il Fornaio in SM -- another place that's done well by us with kids...although come to think of it, their service was kinda pokey too. With kids we've on many, many occasions enjoyed Ocean Ave Seafood -- the fish tanks in there are very kid-friendly, as is the wall-fountain outdoors. On the downside the bathroom is out the front door. And their kids' menu simply sucks. What on earth can you say about a fish restaurant that has *fish sticks* on the menu for kids? It's actually pretty darn offensive, IMO. Not that I've let it keep us from the place; my kids just split an adult plate and they've always been very nice about that (actually, we've never run into problems with this anywhere). I've actually meant to call and complain about the lousy kids' menu at Ocean Ave Seafood basically every time I come back from there. Somehow I always forget though. Still, if you're not offended or limited by the kids' menu, I'd probably recommend this as best fitting with the OP's requirements: nice for mil, kid-distraction and kid-friendly. You can ask for a table out on the porch if you'd rather not be disturbed by TVs at the bar, or there is a seat in the bar section but around the corner from the TV that's right next to the fish tanks if you don't want the 4 yo to wander off where you can't see him/er. If you enjoy them, they have a really fun oyster sampler here! My mother loves to sit on the porch and watch the ocean-street scene, such as it is.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: aliris

                    i believe the 'beach' location of 26 beach restaurant has been closed for some time now.

                      1. re: Burger Boy

                        oops. My how time flies when you're having children.

                  2. Recs for 26 Beach and 17th St cafe are good, except 17th is small and a bit loud (possibly good to drown out kid)...

                    C&O was another good suggestion, though possibly too casual.

                    in Santa Monica, there's also Fritto Misto as well as Border Grill.

                    In Culver City, you might also consider Brunello Trattoria.