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Jan 15, 2010 09:52 AM

dining with a toddler - suggestions?

hi everyone. my husband, toddler and myself have started a new routine this year - go out to dinner every friday night. we are looking for places to go out to eat with our 2 year old, and NOT places like pasta pomodoro. we have taken him out quite a bit (and he loves going out to eat!), but i am looking for new places to go!

we are looking at it as an opportunity to get out and try new places, and expose our son to more food. while he is very well behaved (and a great eater), he is an active boy and will only sit still for so long. so places with leisurely service are not the best idea. i am open to suggestions! we want to try all kinds of food. we live in bernal - but are open to places anywhere in the city.

any suggestions welcome! thanks!

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  1. Sticking with low-key ethnic might be the best option - they will always have something kid-friendly on the menu, often service is speedy and the atmosphere is casual.

    Sang Tung on Irving

    Taiwan Restaurant on Clement

    La Cumbre on Valencia

    Turtle Tower (though sometimes there can be a wait)

    are a few of my favorites

    1 Reply
    1. re: PorktoPurslane

      Our daughter, who will be 2 in April, is a regular at Turtle Tower. They are awesome with kids. They always bring an extra bowl. One of the first times we went there one of the waiters even brought us a small pair of scissors to cut up the noodles when he saw me struggling to get them short enough for her. I now keep a pair in my purse. Great idea!

      Turtle Tower Restaurant
      631 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    2. There are a lot of great options (and some other families) on Clement Street:
      - Burma Superstar (or it's cousin B-Star which often has no wait), has quick and exciting Burmese food.
      - The Taiwan, just up the street, has very inexpensive and quick chinese food and dumplings (plus kids love watching the chefs make dumplings in the window out front).
      - Pho Clement has great, inexpensive, and casual Vietnamese.
      - King of Thai Noodle 2 (and original, further down clement) also has...well...lots of Thai noodles!
      - Casual Mediterranean/Turkish at Troya.
      - Also tons and tons of take-out Dim Sum all up and down the street if you want to do a strolling dinner.

      All of these places are quick and tasty, with a diverse range of options, and bustling enough that if for some reason your toddler gets noisier, it won't be disrupting the entire restaurant.

      1. When I lived in Bernal, Lotus Garden was on my regular Friday night list. Very child friendly. Poc Chuc is another good option.

        1 Reply
        1. re: susancinsf

          Second the Lotus Garden Recc. I often bring my kids there and they love it. Plusses are, there is hardly ever anyone in the dining room (unfortunate for L.G.), Lots of kid friendly food (our favorites are the 5-spiced bbq chicken and garlic noodles), they have all plastic stuff for the kids to eat and drink with and often the owners own kids are hanging around playing or doing their homework. Oh yeah, and the food is delicious (if not a tad overpriced).

        2. In my experience (my two kids are now teenages) the things you want to look for are:

          Prompt service. Long waits are killer. Bonus for wait staff that notice the child and speed up service and provide distractions. This is something that the Pomodoro in Noe Valley gets right. Pauline's Pizza also also gets it. Crayons and butcher block can be a lifesaver.

          Fairly loud, boisterous ambiance. Your child will have more to take in, and when they inevitably make some noise it will blend in. Also, dark, quiet places are deadly. The child will get bored, will act out, will end badly. Puerto Allegre, Limon Rotisserie, Ton Kiang, Alice's are all good this way.

          Enough room to move around. Small, tightly packed places are a pain when the child needs to get up and move around -- which will happen. Pomelo would be a good counter example.

          We used to travel with a "hook-on high chair" that worked out much better than relying on restaurant highchairs. Our daughter was more engaged with our meal, sharing our table, than when she was in a separated high chair. It is also more compact and will work for tables where high chairs are not an option -- which can speed up getting seated.

          1. If you ever consider dining on another day of the week, Chenery Park has a special kids night on Tuesday.

            I believe Valentina on Cortland has a kid's night

            Not in your nabe, but Townsend Restaurant on the Embarcadero is very kid-friendly. I lived in the nabe for many years. It is California cuisine on the cheap. Three courses for $22.95 where you can pick any dish on the menu. It might be a nice break from the ethnic thing.

            It is not busy usually at dinner and all tables are easy to get to the door if the toddler needs some run around time. There's a large plaza in front. They have high chairs and they have always been wonderful with children.