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Dec 15, 2009 12:39 PM

Really good child friendly restaurants in Marin County.....prefer Novato or San Rafael

I'm looking for a list of GOOD child friendly restaurants in Marin County. I would prefer Novato or San Rafael, but would love to hear of any at all. I'm not really interested in places like Denny's or Applebees (sp). Best case would be somewhere that parents would enjoy alone OR with a toddler. I'm open to most price ranges, but would prefer something that isn't terribly expensive and that has a fair amount of menu items to choose from. Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.

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  1. Here's two: Toast in Novato's Hamilton Marketplace and Easy Street Cafe in San Anselmo's Redhill Shop Ctr.

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. Thanks so much Librarian. I'll check these out. If others have anything specific in mind I'd still love to hear about them. Guess I could narrow it down a bit by saying that I'm looking for somewhere more causal than formal. It doesn't have to be "fancy". It could just be a really good place for pizza, or pasta, or a place with lots of options.......just not Denny's or some other place that is, in my opinion, depressing and sub standard where food is concerned

        1. Before we had our daughter, who is now almost 5, I never really thought about what it would be like to dine with a child at our usual haunts. I remember going to Cesar in Oakland on her 2nd birthday. They really didn’t want to seat us, and thought that having no high chairs would be enough of a deterrent. We had eaten there before, and I didn’t appreciate the assumption that a child automatically meant an unpleasant disruption. We decided to stay for lunch, which was completely uneventful (except for the terrible service). Anyway, for the most part, dining with a child has been really easy, and we have not had to resort to chain restaurants or fast food. Here are my picks in San Rafael, which is where we eat most often:

          We really like Om on 4th St. in downtown San Rafael, and it turned out to be a great place for kids as well. When our daughter was a baby, the waiters used to carry her into the kitchen and tell her they were going to India. My husband and I would eat in peace, and the cook would carry her back a few minutes later. They have a lunch buffet, and don’t charge for little kids, so it’s easy for them to taste some of the more exotic dishes in addition to the rice and fresh fruit. They sometimes bring a plain cone-shaped dosa to the table as well.

          Calgang, which used to be Jhan Tong at Northgate Mall, is ok. It’s a sit-down restaurant with the option of ordering out of steamer trays at the back of the restaurant for faster service. A few storefronts away is the Sonoma taco Shop, which has healthier but not very exciting Mexican fare, though kids eat free with adults. I actually like their torta and tacos. If you like carved roast beef or turkey, check out the Roast Haus a few doors down.

          Il Davide and Fabrizio, both Italian, are a little nicer, but definitely do-able with a well-behaved toddler. Either of the Joe’s restaurants is also fine. I think the one in downtown has a kid’s menu, not sure about the other. Both can have some pretty decent specials, but the menu itself can be hit and miss.

          I have mixed feelings about Eduardo’s off Redwood. The food is usually just ok, there is often a line, and I always feel overcharged for what I get. That said, it can be an easy, fairly relaxing stop for soup, salad and sandwiches.

          Chalet Basque is a fun place for kids, and is a little off the beaten path. It’s more of a commitment for dinner, when the prices go up sharply, but for lunch it is an interesting place to sit and look around. There are 2 different dining rooms and a bar with booths, plus an open patio in good weather. They make a good hamburger and French onion soup, and regional Basque fare, which can be unpredictable (though often quite good).

          We also like Mauna Loa Hawaiian BBQ. The BBQ chicken and Kailua pork are good, and they will usually substitute steamed broccoli for the potato salad.

          Pasta Pomodoro is a chain, but it’s usually fine for something simple like chicken marsala, and the kids meals are a deal.

          Pier 15 is pretty great for little kids. It’s overlooking San Rafael’s canal, and serves a variety of old-timey American food (with a few twists) in semi dive-y setting. The baked goods are above average. There is also a full bar and patio seating.

          Sol Food can be a good choice unless it’s peak hours, in which case I would recommend against – it’s too hard to get seating. Otherwise, it’s lively and bright, with good food in an informal setting.

          We’ve been enjoying Taqueria el Farolito lately, especially in good weather, when we sit on the back patio.

          Thai Smile is reliably good, and is a pleasant place to sit with little kids.

          Good luck! By the way, I posted a query back in ’07 looking for suggestions – if you click on my name, you can find the link.

          1 Reply
          1. re: TerriL

            This may be the thread. Most of the places were in the East Bay and quite a few of the links don't work with the digest function probably due to the new improved software.

          2. Not necessarily in Novato or San Rafael, but for good food we take our 2.5 year old to:

            Fish (Sausalito)
            Pizzeria Picco (Larkspur)
            Table Cafe (Larkspur)
            Punjabi Burrito (Mill Valley)

            In Novato, we struggle to find good food, but my son likes Finnegans and Taqueria Mi Pueblo, which both have decent, but unremarkable food. La Boulange and Sonoma Latina Grill aren't bad either.

            We often bring a sandwich for the kid to eat and then just go wherever we are hankering for. Nobody's ever given us a hard time about it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: foodtroy

              I agree with all these suggestions as well. I would just point out that seating is extremely limited at Picco and Punjabi Burrito. Avatar's in Sausalito is a sit-down restaurant owned by the same folks as Punjabi Burrito, though with a different menu. Extremely child-friendly, however.