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Jun 19, 2011 07:03 PM

Santa Barbara with kids?

Any advice for kid friendly dining in SB? Thanks.

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  1. I'm replying to bump this up, as I have the same question. I'm just looking for one kid-friendly dinner on a Sunday night. We are staying on State near Carrillo, so I know we are close to Paseo Nuevo but I don't really want carry-out food. Maybe American or Italian? Thanks.

    17 Replies
    1. re: WestsideLisa

      Passcucis at 729 State Street might be a good place. It is young and lively and has its own brand of Italian and American specials. Aldos is also in the neighborhood for italian and American and has a nice out door patio where you can people watch too.

      Carrillo and State is the 900-1000 block so this is close by, heading down towards the ocean from where you will be staying. If you want casual, Mac's Fish and Chips is great a few blocks more down the street and your kids will probably like the deep-fat friend candy bars (?!?). There is also Somethings Fishy (Japanese Benihana type restaurants) down that way too which is good table side showtime fun for kids.

      We like Sakura in the food court places in Paseo Nuevo Mall, for well-priced sushi-teriyaki combo dinners that do get served to you after you order them at the counter so they are kind of sit-down places if the weather is nice enough to be outdoors.

      1. re: glbtrtr

        Thank you! I remember going to Aldo's in the mid-80's when I was at UCSB. It's still there, huh? That must mean something! I am going to check out all of your suggestions. Thanks!

        1. re: WestsideLisa

          Aldo's is still there. It was also one of our favorites in the '80's because of the setting on State and the food was wonderful. We started hearing so many mixed reviews, and the place just didn't seem busy anymore, we stopped going a long time ago.
          Perhaps glbtrtr, who is a highly credible expert here on SB findings, knows something I don't know?

          1. re: latindancer

            We don't go to Aldo's for the food, but it is always busy and often has some nice street music next to the patio. Seems like a good family friendly place and has their take on "Italian" and American standards. However, my memories go back to when this was the Copper Coffee Pot and had an actual cafeteria line and was the literary and writers hangout spot, before the later chain coffee houses took over in this town.

            Help me out with what "kid-friendly" means to those coming to this town - I think of a place that has a lively buzz so any noise kids might make is easily absorbed, enough variety on the menu for big and little appetites, kind of casual and close to the parade of street life which allows for passing entertainment. The inherent quality of the food is not the primary ingredient in these recommendations; but certainly is not a drawback either.

            One other possibility is the Art Museum Cafe because it is right next to the Children's Art and Craft Center inside the Museum where they can play and create their own objects of art. They have a nicely adventuresome menu but not necessarily "Italian" but more tapas and that can be fun for kids to explore the small plates of different foods.

            I also overlooked Palazzio, also on State Street - they even serve some of their dishes family style so each can take what they want of their brand of "Italian" American offerings. Again, a nice lively and casual buzz for State Street, also a place where families would be welcomed. Chase is another worthy option in this same category and even more magical at night with all their twinkle-lights.

            I hope others who have more immediate experience with kid-friendly add their insights because I am really out of my ken here for downtown State Street. I think families out in the Goleta area have their favorites but I don't see a lot of family dining on State Street itself.

            Olio et Limone often has tables of family diners for dinner and would certainly meet the Italian part of the request very nicely, and they do also have their more casual pizzeria now too.

            "Family- friendly" itself conjures up images of ChuckeeCheese and I don't think one can find this on State Street, so then what else would make the grade? This is a very good question and I think it is great parents want to seek out special dining spots so kids can share the new places and foods along with the parents when they are on vacation.

            1. re: glbtrtr

              Good question as to what "kid friendly" might mean. I can only answer for myself, the mom of a 4 year old. For us, it absolutely does NOT mean Chuck E Cheese! If we wanted to go there (but we don't...unless we are forced to for a birthday party), we wouldn't post on Chowhound to find it. Likewise, if we wanted a family friendly chain restaurant (Chili's, CPK, Outback), we could find that on our own.

              So when I ask for kid-friendly on Chow, I am looking for a non-chain, causal restaurant that has a children's menu. That is the ideal. Having a children's menu is one sure fire way to know that a restaurant is kid friendly. But it's not necessarily a deal breaker if they don't have one, as sometimes you can just share a meal. This is especially true with restaurants serving family style...I've never seen a kid's menu at a Chinese restaurant, as it's not necessary. If there's something for the child to look at (people walking down the street, someone playing music, etc.), that's a plus, but for us, it's more important to have a kid-friendly menu. A place with a really happening/loud bar scene is not kid-friendly. A lively buzz, as you put it, would be fine...but our one 4 year old really doesn't make a lot of noise believe it or not!

              So, in summary, kid friendly for us means casual, non-chain, not a "night club" or big bar scene, and a children's menu if at all possible.

              1. re: WestsideLisa

                Not sure I see too many children's menus, but most restaurants are good about sharing and don't even necessarily add split-plate charges when it is for kids. I'll keep my eyes open more for children's menus now. Most have appetizers on the menu which can be sufficient for children or first courses as well which can be a soup salad or pasta option in a smaller portion. I hear you about the chains and the obvious kid-friendly places that are really anything but. Most (all?) of the restaurants on State Street are individually owned places and are eager to please. Most likely they will work with you to get something that can work for your family needs.

                We seem to inherently reject the chains here too, though the IHOP on State Street downtown is pretty special because the the restaurant was originally built around a huge fig tree that is still standing surrounded by glass walls in the middle of the restaurant and IHOP is kid-friendly as we all know. There are always families there and they have indoor and outdoor seating and I will go out of my own way for their Swedish Pancakes so when in doubt, you know what you get at IHOP except in Santa Batbara we do even IHOP with a special flourish.

                1. re: glbtrtr

                  Is it possible places have children's menus, but you just don't know about it because you don't visit with kids? We went to Enterprise Fish Co last time we were in town, and they had a children's menu. We didn't really enjoy our meal, but they did have a menu ;-)

                  Chains serve their purpose, but since we only have one dinner in town, I wanted to try something unique to SB.

                  Thanks for your help!

                  1. re: WestsideLisa

                    Add me to this list that avoids Fish Enterprise too. Which is about the only restaurant I have found with no redeeming features in our town, other than it does have a loyal fan base, mainly for its drinks and happy hour. They have a niche and let it not be me to write them off totally for whatever that niche is. Many restaurants come, fail and go an Enterprise has been one of the stalwart survivors for some reason.

                    Yes, I have not have noticed children's menus. Nor does our local restaurant guide have a separate heading for such. However, this has been a question asked before on Chowhound so a good search here can turn up other suggestions that do not come to mind for me because it has not what I have needed to look for in this area. But good grief, there are lots of families in this area so there must be some good reliable choices -- I just don't think they are right downtown.

                    One other spot could be El Paseo also off State Street if your kids like Mexican - great setting, new owners and finally getting better reviews than in the past. I think the owners would really go the extra mile for kids. Cielito in La Aarcada could work too because they have outdoor tables, an ala carte menu with small items and turtles that swim in the center court fountain. It is more classic regional Mexican than El Paseo which is traditional American take on Mexican, but still fun if this is what might work for you.

                    Try the search here on chow hound for children friendly Santa Barbara and will be looking forward for your report once you get back - I would love to be able to share some good finds because this question comes up from time to time. Along with "dog-friendly" too, but that is another whole story.

              2. re: glbtrtr

                "We don't go to Aldo's for the food but it is always busy..."

                I, honestly, don't know how I'd feel if I came into town and saw Aldo's missing from the landscape. It is a true S

                1. re: latindancer


                  Santa Barbara landmark, for me at least, and I think it may be a good time to revisit it again :).
                  It may just be what the OP is looking for based on his/her history with college and the sheer memories....this time with children in tow.

        2. re: WestsideLisa

          Here we go at least with a menu for a small little spot close by in downtown, just one street away from Paseo Nuevo Mall on Chapala Street. I have never been myself, but has its fans: Silvergreens - they try very hard to be as fresh and organic as possible and do have a kid's menu:

          Some local reviews for Silvergreens along with their food philosophy:

          1. re: WestsideLisa

            More luck: Pascucci's has a "bambini" menu so you get it all: close by, Italian and kids:

            1. re: glbtrtr

              Thank you so much for your help! Pascucci's looks like a great choice, especially if the food is a step up from Aldo's (?) Silvergreens looks like a great concept, but might be a tiny bit too casual for our one SB dinner this trip. Thanks again!

              One other note...I know down here in Los Angeles, a lot of restaurants have children's menus but don't post them on their websites. They are usually printed on paper rather than as part of the "real" menu, and I guess they just don't bother to scan and post the paper ones.

              1. re: WestsideLisa

                Most of the downtown places have kids menus- anything near Paseo Nuevo for sure...lots to check out there and in La Arcada Court for kids- art you can touch and sit on. Best of all- in Paseo Nuevo, there is a great cupcake place- Whodilicious- no child should miss out on that deliciousness<3

                1. re: WestsideLisa

                  I'd still take a look at Olio e Limone too if you want more of a special "Italian" dining evening, because they were advertising a special children's gourmet menu for Valentines Day last year, and the owners are great supporters of children's activities in town. So sounds like they would want to meet you half way on a children's menu, but I also saw a review where there was a split plate charge too.

              2. re: WestsideLisa

                We went to Pascucci tonight. They were friendly and kid-friendly (kids menu, booster seat, etc.) The view was great. We sat at a patio table, and could hear someone playing his guitar on State St.

                I wasn't super hungry, so I ordered the blackened ahi salad. The fish was a bit over cooked for my taste, as I had asked for it seared rare. It was more like medium than rare. My husband had a risotto, which was a bit salty. But he enjoyed it.

                Overall, we really enjoyed the atmosphere and friendly service. It was a really short walk from our hotel, so that was great.. The food was just okay, though. Really, it was fine for what we were looking for. Thanks for the recommendation!

                1. re: WestsideLisa

                  Thanks WSLisa for the feedback. I will keep my eyes open now for specific children's menus downtown. Pascucci's has had "too much flavor" for me in the past too -- more impact than finesse. Glad you enjoyed your time and thanks for putting "child-friendly" into measurable terms.