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Gary Danko or ???

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Looking for a nice restaurant to celebrate my husband's birthday. We have 2 kids, ages 5 and 3. I wanted to take him to Gary Danko, have heard a lot about the place and wanted a special place for his birthday. But I am not sure how it will work out with the kids. Has anyone tried such restaurants with young children? If not Gary Danko, then any other suggestions? I am looking for a restaurant with similar price point/experience, SF or south bay/peninsula is fine. Don't want places which are more upscale/pricier that this. Any help would be great. Thanks.

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  1. I wouldn't recommend it, the Yelp on GD says it's not really a place for children. But it all depends on the child though, if you think your kids can handle it then by all means go for it. I recently graduated from culinary school ( and have my own catering business for families) and all we hear about Gary is that he is really hard to work with and people quit working for him all the time. I don't think he would have anything really kid friendly on the menu.

    1. SF is one of those rare places in the country where you can get tremendously inspired food from top chefs in loud and casual environs. Why would you choose one of the few places in the city that is about having a more formal adult atmosphere as much as it is about the food? If the point is to treat your husband to an impressive meal (foodwise), go elsewhere. If it's about treating your husband to good atmosphere, the presence of kids is going to ruin that anyway, whether they're behaving or not.

      1. Thank you all for your responses. as you have all said, I kind of realized that GD would not work. So as I mentioned in my original post, I am looking for alternatives in similar league. Great food, combined with a decent atmosphere (if not great), but some place that you wouldn't go to everyday.

        9 Replies
        1. re: nk123

          I would assume that other upscale restaurants that are similar to GD would not be great fits for kids either. Have you considered getting a babysitter?

          1. re: nocharge

            I did think about it, but my usual sitter is not available and my younger one still has issues with new people, so I wanted that to be the last option. Wouldn't be too much fun anyway if there is trouble and we get a call from the sitter in the middle of the meal. If my usual sitter was available, then it would have been okay.

            1. re: nk123

              You may want to try a place like Plum or Chez Panisse Cafe (both in the East Bay). Where you can make reservations, but it's louder and a little more casual.

              Maybe Slanted Door or La Mar or Gitane in SF?

              Even with these recs, you are talking about completely adult environments - they will be the only kids in the whole restaurant. If you do choose a place like that, I would get the first reservation for dinner (e.g. 5:30) and be prepared to having to either cut your dinner short, or take a walk with the kids.

              1. re: goldangl95

                I have seen children being very well treated at Chez Panisse Cafe. While not common, it certainly occurs.

                1. re: goldangl95

                  my friends take their kids to Plum all the time and they love it.

                  1. re: mariacarmen

                    aha! I had a feeling it would be a good suggestion but really had no idea since I tend to be a very late dinner eater.

                    1. re: goldangl95

                      When I went to Plum the service was so bad I couldn't help but laugh. We watched our food sit at the end of the bar for 5 minutes at room temp, while our server chatted it up with his buddy. Needless to say, it wasn't hot anymore. Not to mention they completely messed up our order, and then to "make it up to us" gave us a glass of wine, even though we weren't drinking.

                      1. re: plaidbowtie

                        Ick - that sounds awful. I, personally, haven't encountered such service issues, but I certainly wouldn't go back to Plum if I had.

                        1. re: plaidbowtie

                          I've always had pretty good service there, although there was a bit of a gap last time.

            2. a few years ago a couple with two young children were seated next to us at coi -- it all depends on the child. they did the tasting menu, but asked to be served two courses at once, so as not to try their children's patience.

              in tokyo a couple months ago, a family brought their child to a very fancy tempura restaurant i visited. his mother ate a piece of one of the things he liked, so he had a fit and had to be taken out for a while.

              you might ask gary danko if they have a private room. if it is a monday or tuesday, they might give it to a couple with children. if you like japanese food, you could also try kappa. they have a back room -- though i think it only seats 3.

              1. Great food & service in a lively atmosphere, I recommend Perbacco in SF or Evvia in Palo Alto.

                6 Replies
                1. re: ceekskat

                  Evvia was the other one that I had in mind. That may suit our situation better. Thanks for bringing it up.

                  1. re: nk123

                    Evvia is a good idea. Tamarine is another one. These places are less hushed (despite having white tableclothes) - they're not "temple of food" type places.

                    If you go when they first open for dinner on a Sat. or Sun., you'll get prompt service and can get out before they become more adult circus-like.

                    Whatever you do I actually wouldn't go to any restaurant with a bar for Friday early dinner - you will hit the inebriated Happy Hour crowd

                    Are you in the Penninsula? If so, let us know. We've been rather East Bay centric in our recs.

                    1. re: goldangl95

                      We are actually in Menlo Park, so open for options from South Bay to SF. East bay was actually not on my list, but I won't mind going there either.

                      1. re: nk123

                        Station1 may work if you got the first seating. They also have an area in the back. It's more hushed than Evvia or Tamarine, but a little more casual than Gary Danko.

                        1. re: goldangl95

                          So many wonderful choices. More reviews to be read now. Will surely check it out.

                        2. re: nk123

                          The Village Pub in Woodside might be a good choice. It is a Michelin-starred restaurant with excellent food that would be great for a special occasion, and it seems from the yelp reviews that they are very accommodating about children, even going as far as serving them kid-friendly items like grilled cheese and burgers/fries.

                          Their bar area is a little more casual than the restaurant proper as well, but you can get anything from the regular restaurant menu at the bar. You may want to call them to see what would be the best option for you and your family.

                  2. I haven't been to Manresa since the renovation but I remember families dining with kids (seemed like 10 y.o.s.). It was casual for what it is but I don't know about now. The food is a level above GD. I'd consider it, find out if it's now too formal for kids, just don't get the tasting menu due to time. Also going earlier will help kids. If you get to the point of a reservation, asking about kids seems like a good idea.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: ML8000

                      I checked out Manresa as well (all thanks to chowhound :-), but it seems to be much more pricier. So dropped the idea.

                      1. re: nk123

                        how about commis?

                        if i remember correctly, one of their tables near the back is a little bit set away from the rest of the restaurant. might be worth a call to see if they can accomodate.

                        i think their food style is similar to manresa, at about half the price.

                        1. re: Dustin_E

                          Thanks for the info. I will check it out.

                        2. re: nk123

                          I was curious so I looked, prix fixe/5-course at Manresa is $125, 5-course at GD is $105.

                          Any way, good luck.

                          1. re: ML8000

                            Oh, I thought I saw $175 for the fixed menu. Maybe I read it wrong. But I remember the wine pairings were pretty expensive as well. Nevertheless I will check one more time.

                      2. i think gary danko would be do-able with kids if you went on a monday or tuesday at around 5:30pm right when the opened and sat at the bar. i did this about a month ago and had the bar to myself for the whole meal. an advantage of doing this would be you don't have to order 3-5 courses, so if the kids got bored, you could leave after a couple courses. the bar tends to be much less stuffy than the rest of the place (but still beautiful with tons of fresh flowers), and they seem to happily accomodate tourists in sweatshirts wandering in from fisherman's wharf -- so i assume they would also welcome children.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Dustin_E

                          I was sitting at the bar at a very family-friendly place the other day when a family with kids tried to sit down. The bartender politely told them that kids at the bar would violate state law and suggested that they get a table. I believe he was referring to Section 25665 of the California Alcoholic Beverage Control.

                            1. re: nocharge

                              Section 25665 is about bars where no person under 21 is allowed (type 48 license). There's no law against patrons under 21 sitting at the bar in a bona-fide eating place (type 47 license).

                              The bar could have been licensed separately as type 48. That might even be smart marketing.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Regardless of whether they are interpreting the law correctly, I have yet to see a bartender allow kids at the bar. And it's the bartender that makes that call.

                                1. re: nocharge

                                  I've sat next to kids at restaurant bars.

                            2. re: Dustin_E

                              can you order a la carte at the bar?

                              1. re: vulber

                                yes. the small size of any dish is ~$20. the large size is ~$35.

                                a normal 3-course prix fixe menu is 2 small-sized dishes and one large-sized dish.

                                two small sized dishes was about right for me for a nice, not too heavy dinner.

                            3. perbacco, chez panisse cafe, la mar, slanted door are really not on the same level as gary danko.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Dustin_E

                                No, agreed, I think actually that was the point. Or at least, my point. That I think for a 3 and 5 yr old, a louder more vibrant experience would be more fun. Also, it sounds like Gary Danko may be at the upper most end of the budget.

                              2. since you don't want to leave the kids at home and you want a Gary Danko level meal, why not hire a private chef to come to your home for about the same price?

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: tjinsf

                                  aren't private chefs _way_ more expensive for the same level of food?

                                  1. re: Dustin_E

                                    it really depends. they are far less than many people think. I've gotten them for dinner parties ranging from 40-150 a head. Costs you don't have to worry about are the wine markup. Actually they can be cheaper than some white linen places as you aren't paying for all the restaurant head. Also you can find that many chefs that are doing underground supper clubs and pop-ups are also available for private dinners and events.

                                    1. re: tjinsf

                                      >> the wine markup

                                      very good point. this could pay for itself on certain occasions.

                                      1. re: tjinsf

                                        We recently hosted a private, 8-course dinner party for eight at our home and hired a personal chef featured on Kitchit.com. Pricing on the site ranged from 40-$175/person, depending on the type of food served and included the chef + a server, all dishes and flatware, and cleanup. The chef customized the menu with us ahead of time via email according to our taste and recommended a selection of wine pairings, which we either substituted with wine we already had or bought from the links he sent us on K&L.com. Wonderful experience overall.

                                  2. While I do think the post could have been more diplomatic, I think the sentiments behind them are found in many Bay Area restaurant patrons of formal, white tablecloth type establishments.

                                    Bay Area high-end restaurant patrons are not the most children accommodating. Indeed, frankly, a significant percentage are going to recoil, or be taken aback, as soon as they see a 3 yr old.

                                    If it's a child who enjoys acting completely like an adult, it's not a problem. But that's the key, in many of these types of settings, it doesn't matter that she is a well-behaved three year old - she needs to be an adult three year old with adult manners, an adult attention span etc.

                                    I think for some, these attitudes do not matter (go hang what other people think or if the other patrons are uncomfortable) but it is a good dynamic to be aware of.

                                    Some of the other suggestions such as Plum etc. the mannerisms less quiet and less formal, and so I think it would be easier (but def. not easy) for a 3 yr old to match the ambiance. I would reiterate going as early as possible to make sure things run smoothly.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: goldangl95

                                      Thank you goldangl95. I totally understand your sentiments and am happy I asked on chowhound before just making a reservation at GD or another high end place. My intention definitely would not be to spoil someone else's evening, but as you said a little diplomacy was all that was required in the previous response to drive home the point. I will for sure look at the other kid friendly options mentioned here and will leave GD for another occasion when kids can be taken care of at home/elsewhere.

                                      1. re: goldangl95

                                        Plum has the maximum disparity between the sophistication of the cooking and the informality of the space I can think of. I don't remember seeing kids there (I usually go late), but one night there was a young woman in a bikini.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Word. As I just noted up thread, I am an extremely late eater so Chez Panisse Cafe and Plum seemed to be good recs, but I couldn't confirm because I eat so late.

                                      2. GD is definitely NOT a place for small kids (read that as " any kids under the age of 16"). This is a restaurant that produces extremely sophisticated food, at a high price (but well worth it). The clientele are the well-heeled locals or tourists, or executive-level businessperson who savor top-drawer food, wine and service. A 5 year old and a 3 year old would not like the majority of GD's food -- they prefer Mac 'n Cheese, burgers, hot dogs, etc.

                                        Chez Panisse Cafe is an excellent option (located in Berkeley). The food is excellent, the environment is casual, and children are politely accepted and treated well by the waitstaff.

                                        Opt for an early seating (5:30pm or 6:00pm). That way the children won't be too tired and you and your husband and kids can enjoy a wonderful dinner -- and not be disruptive to other diners.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: Ricardian Equivalence

                                          Thanks for your response. Will definitely check it out.

                                          1. re: nk123

                                            As everyone has said. It really depends on your children. Because we don't have family here and sitters are expensive and cost as much as dinner, we've always taken our 3 boys everywhere with us and they eat what we eat and they know how to behave. We've been to Chez Spencer when the oldest was 8 and the youngest 3 (several times) and gotten compliments from the staff and the couples at neighboring tables. We've gone to Perbacco several times and it's my youngest's favorite restaurant. I was in Chicago for a wedding and my 4 year old and I dined at Tru. You have to know your child's limitations. When they were little, we prepped the boys ahead of time to know what to expect, made sure they were well rested and had a snack before we went.

                                            I take offense that kids don't have a sophisticated palate. My friend took her 13 year old daughter to GD and she loved the food. My boys just asked me to make porchetta. As long as kids are exposed to different kinds of food every day, I think they'll enjoy food. We're Chinese and I cook mostly Chinese at home, but I also make Mexican, Malaysian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Italian, Korean and American. I think if kids are only exposed to hamburgers, hot dogs and cheese pizza, then that's what they will expect. Sorry to go off on a tangent.

                                            I don't think that Chez Spencer is on par with GD and we've haven't been a while, but they have a patio seating area that has a little garden and a sandpit for kids.

                                            1. re: jzc

                                              I think kids can have sophisticated palates (at least as much as some well-heeled tourists or businessmen on expense accounts!). My experience with kids, though, is that they don't have the attention span to sit quietly at dinner for more than two hours. I think you're just not likely to enjoy your experience (and thus, not get your money's worth) if you're worrying about keeping the kids quiet and entertained, about having to leave early, etc. It would be a shame to go to a place like GD, and spend that kind of money, on a meal when you won't feel comfortable taking your time, relaxing with a glass of wine, etc.

                                              Here's an off-the-wall suggestion: Jai Yun. It's certainly food you wouldn't have every day, but the atmosphere is ultra casual and being Chinese, they would probably be more welcoming of your children. If you called in advance you could probably arrange a special menu for the kids.

                                              1. re: jzc

                                                I totally agree with most of what you are saying. My kids even though quite young, are very used to varied cuisines and most of the times actually enjoy eating what we eat, rather than the kids' menu. So I wasn't quite worried if they would find something to eat. But as Ruth pointed out, their attention span may not be more than 2 hours, and may not work out for fine dining, so I guess I will skip GD for now and save it for later occasions. Thanks for your response though. You did echo my sentiments.