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LA’s restaurant scene is unrivaled — and that goes for family dining, too. Thanks to its year-round blue skies, Southern California has numerous open-air patios, which are perfect for young kids. The vibe may be casual and family-friendly at these types of eateries, but the quality of the food does not have to be sacrificed. No matter what your family is craving, your palate is sure to be pleased at these family-friendly spots; just make sure your kids leave room for dessert (kidding).
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Back on the Beach Café
With its breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, nearby playground and easy access to the beach, Back on the Beach Café at the Annenberg Beach House may very well be the ideal family-friendly dining destination. But the secret is out already about this Santa Monica beachfront find, and the lines can get long, especially on a hot summer day; it is recommended to make reservations well in advance.
There are often long lines for good reason: Our family loves to grab an umbrella-shaded table overlooking the ocean, sink our toes into the sand and enjoy Sunday brunch, while our two daughters run around the nearby play structure as they wait for their orders to arrive. Children will take to the French toast and buttermilk pancakes on the menu, while adults can enjoy the likes of a breakfast cheese quesadilla and huevos rancheros. Breakfast is served until three, but there are also salads, sandwiches and burgers available for lunch and/or a late afternoon bite.
Du-par’s Restaurant and Bakery
Open since 1938, Du-par’s has the recipe down pat for a classic family diner. The buttermilk pancakes are rumored to be the best in town, and the orange juice is squeezed to order.
The location at the Farmer’s Market on 3rd and Fairfax is an ideal spot to walk off your meal and browse the local food offerings, or head over to the adjacent Grove for some serious shopping and people-watching. The “dancing” water fountains at the Grove can keep our daughters entertained for a good chunk of time.
Plane sightings abound at The Cloverfield, which is located right by the Santa Monica Airport. As if that were not enough to keep children entertained, the eatery also has a nearby playground for children to burn off energy. Further, there’s a large grassy field right next to the restaurant that makes a great play area for kids as they wait for their food. The large outdoor patio and laidback atmosphere makes it one of our family’s favorite restaurants.
Children can dine on staples like chicken fingers and mac ‘n’ cheese from the kids menu, while adults can choose from an extensive selection ranging from small plates like wild shrimp ceviche to the signature burger or bucatini. Cocktails, beer and wine are also available for adults to imbibe in.
Grand Central Market
A Downtown LA staple since 1917, Grand Central Market has options for the whole family. The marketplace boasts 13 international vendors, with everything from pasta and pupusas to burgers and bento boxes.
Children will appreciate the Neapolitan-style pizza place, Olio Wood Fired Pizza, and PBJ.LA, which is dedicated to “elevating” peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Grownups will not want to miss Broad Street Oyster Co. and Eggslut.
For dessert, our family favorite is McConnell’s Ice Cream, but you can’t go wrong with the donuts or candy shop either.
If anyone in your family has food allergies or restrictions, you’ll want to check out Kitchen Mouse. Located in the hip Highland Park area, just south of Eagle Rock and Pasadena, this local gem serves up vegan, vegetarian, sugar-free and gluten-free dishes.
The dishes may be super healthy but they are also high on flavor; favorites include the chilaquiles and the avocado TLT. Grilled cheese, mac ‘n’ cheese and a silver dollar special are offered on the kids menu. Best of all, there is an indoor play area and changing tables available, so families with toddlers and young children will feel right at home.
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Malibu Farm Café
The drive to Malibu is worth it for the ocean views alone at the Malibu Farm Café. Located on the Malibu Pier, Malibu Farm houses two restaurants: there’s the more upscale Malibu Farm and the fast-casual Malibu Farm Café. For those with young children, we recommend the Malibu Farm Café, located at the end of the pier; the more refined Malibu Farm restaurant is at the beginning of the pier. The only downside of the café is that there may be a long line as reservations are not accepted.
The brunch menu offers farm-fresh fare for adults and children alike; on a recent visit, our children loved the Swedish mini pancakes. Adults can choose from the likes of “surfers rancheros,” a fried egg sandwich, and other breakfast staples. A kid’s menu is available with standard lunch and dinner items such as grilled cheese and hot dogs. For those arriving later in the day, there is an ample selection of sandwiches, burgers, salads, and other yummy things.
Reservations are not accepted, so we suggest getting there on the earlier side – or be prepared to wait. On-site parking is available at the paid lot.
Petit Trois, Sherman Oaks
Want something a little fancier? If you’re celebrating a special occasion, you’ll want to pay a visit to Petit Trois in Sherman Oaks. This location, which boasts a Michelin star, is bound to satisfy the entire family. Helmed by chefs Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, the French bistro-inspired menu dishes up classics like mussels and skirt steak frites for adults. Children can order from an “enfant” menu featuring an omelet, cheeseburger and pasta; they are provided with coloring sets as they wait.
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What child doesn’t adore pizza? With its seven SoCal locations, Pitfire Pizza is a crowd-pleaser for every family member and a good alternative to California Pizza Kitchen. Kids love this local pizzeria’s great food and its non-fussy, fast-casual atmosphere; the restaurant even provides clay for kids waiting for their food. Adults will appreciate more elevated options from the main menu, like the Brussel Sprouts and Bacon pizza, as well as the stellar wine and beer selection. Our family likes to end the meal with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
For families who dine early like we do, we’ve found the happy hour to be a great deal (check your local location for hours).
The Proud Bird
Complete with outdoor seating, a playground and display fighter planes, The Proud Bird near LAX has everything your child could possibly want for a good time. Add in the cocktails and gourmet fare, and you’ve got the perfect place for family gatherings.
Rather than a standard restaurant, The Proud Bird offers up a food hall-type dining experience, with options including Bludso’s BBQ, Chicken & Waffles, Tasty Burgers & Handhelds and more. Children can choose from dishes such as chicken nuggets, a fried rice bowl, cheese pizza and more.
The Pub at Golden Road Brewing
A list of LA’s best family-friendly eateries wouldn’t be complete without a shoutout to the Pub at Golden Road Brewing in Atwater Village. Don’t let the fact that it’s at a brewery fool you; the outdoor patio at Golden Road makes it a great place for families, with corn hole and giant-sized versions of Connect Four.
Adults can nosh on standard pub fare such as nachos, burgers and wings; options for children include grilled cheese and mini corn dogs. Vegan fare is also available.
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