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Kid Friendly Non-Chains: Santa Monica/Westside?

Hi, my husband and I and our 4 year old son will be staying in Santa Monica in June for 4 days. Don't want to be relegated to only "family restaurants" or chains or only food trucks (though they are really good I know!). Would love some decent places good for a nice dinner without pushing things too much, i.e. we know we'll be there early, will eat pretty quickly, etc. We have a car, but probably don't want to drive more than 20 minutes. Any type of food is welcome. Thanks for your ideas!

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  1. Rustic Canyon is the first restaurant which comes to mind.

    4 Replies
    1. re: maudies5

      Haven't been there yet; is it actually kid-friendly? Huckleberry right across the street by the same owner is pretty kid-friendly.

      1. re: PeterCC

        Rustic Canyon is extremely kid-friendly. Get there as early as possible (I think they open at 5:30). The 4 year old will likely be ready for dinner at that time. Wonderful food, service,and variety. www.rusticcanyonwinebar.com

        1. re: maudies5

          agree as long as your there by 6:30. Great food.

          1. re: maudies5

            The roast chicken and their burger will satisfy both kids and adults...

        1. re: Servorg

          Sigh, I can't go there without being sad that City Bakery isn't there anymore. But that is a great place for both kids and adults.

          1. re: Servorg

            Bear in mind that FarmShop has a hidden child menu. The kiddie menu is great. However, it is NOT printed and will only be offered (verbally) if one asks for it. That being said, the kids menu offers pancakes, which are absolutely out of this world.There are other offerings on the "spoken/un-printed" children's menu.

          2. Off the top of my head, in town:

            Fritto Misto (good pasta)
            Spumoni (ditto)
            Benihana (technically a chain)
            Tender Greens

            Actually, Santa Monica is full of good restaurants. Based on your own guidelines (eating early, quickly, etc) you can really eat anywhere. So any other criteria or parameters (price range, cuisine, etc)?

            1 Reply
            1. re: PeterCC

              Note to OP: I don't necessarily think the above are the best restaurants in Santa Monica, just good choices for bringing a kid. Though we've taken our kids (5 and 10) to more adult-oriented places like the Dining Room at the Shangri-La hotel, and they split a steak frites while we enjoyed burrata and risotto and whatever else we had, and everyone was happy.

              My wife says Zengo's pretty good, though I haven't been. Again, as I said above, and as yogachik said below, your strategy for tackling dinner with the kid will work with nearly any restaurant, probably even at Melisse. :-)

              (Oh, you only mentioned dinner, but there's lots of good breakfast places. We've recently started going to Blue Daisy, and Bru's Wiffle serves good food, but at least as of several months ago, service was very slow. YMMV.)

            2. That describes every restaurant in Santa Monica. They're all kid friendly, especially early. R+D, Chaya, Galley, Lares, Gilberts, Rustic Canyon -- all particularly popular with kids. Country Mart is a great suggestion.

              1. My kids and I like Blue Plate Oysterette. They have a kids menu and a view of the ocean if you sit out front, and I like the seafood.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Robert Thornton

                  I also like Blue Plate Oysterette, but I would be reticent to take a 4 year old to a restaurant which did not accept reservations. I think that The Lobster might be a better choice. A view of the Pier, ocean, nice food and a very kid-friendly & after-lunch walk on the pier.

                2. Oh I forgot, for burgers, either the Counter or Umami are great restaurants for kids without being a "kid-friendly" restaurant. I'd lean toward Umami. The burgers won't overwhelm you, and the sides are much better.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: PeterCC

                    Great responses! Very good to know that as long as we're there before 6 (as we certainly would be), we should have lots of options. Agreed that we won't wait a long time w/o a res, but the early time should help with that. And breakfast! Thanks PeterCC for including those recs. We love a good breakfast out :)

                  2. I love Milo & Olive. Wonderful pizza and more. They are very tiny and don't take reservations so I recommend that you go early or at off times.

                    also from the same owners Sweet Rose Creamery for homemade ice cream.

                    and if you just want a very casual lunch (concrete benches on the patio in front) can't do better than Bay Cities Italian Deli. Great sandwiches on hot and crusty homemade italian bread and wonderful mac & cheese too. They are very very busy at lunch time and close at 7pm & closed on Mondays. Great for a beach picnic or a trip to the Hollywood Bowl.

                    1. If by kid-friendly you mean that you have fairly well behaved kids who don't make a huge mess or crazy noise and stay seated and will eat real food of of a regular menu, then almost any restaurant in LA will work. Most LA restaurants are pretty kid friendly in that sense.

                      1 Reply
                      1. There's a ton of great rec's on this thread.

                        That said, I'd advise against both the Counter and Zengo's. Not as an attack against their recommenders, it just strikes me that these two don't really fit with your parameters, as (a) they are both in fact chains, and (b) they are arguably sucky. (Or, at least, I won't go to them, as I would argue that they do, in fact, kind of suck.)

                        1. As other posters have said, you can pretty much go anywhere. Most restaurant, including high end ones, have high chairs, which says something. If you aim early, then you won't be too frazzled be delays or crowds.
                          Santa Monica:
                          True Food has delicious, healthy options for kids (one of the few places that I admire the kids' menu). Lots of families in the early evening, so it's popular. Il Forno (Italian) is great with kids. The staff is nice and helpful and the food is great. We usually our kids share off our plates or order a half portion of a pasta dish for the 2 to share. Fig is another place we like. A little pricey, but happy hour (5-6 daily) means everything is 50% off. Makes for a nice early dinner in a pleasant atmosphere.
                          I like Lemonade because there's a great selection of salads to choose from. Next door, Wabi Sabi is great for sushi. They'll do small rolls for the kids, and if you go at happy hour, it's reasonable. They even have little clips to put on the kids chopsticks so they can have fun eating, too.

                          1. in what city do you live?
                            if we know this, we may be better able to steer you to things that your town DOESN'T have in abundance.

                            1 Reply