More than just seafood and sourdough - best eats for families visiting San Francisco
Think San Francisco is just seafood and sourdough? Well, it’s that and a whole lot more! A melting pot of cuisines, you and your family will need several repeat trips to sample all that San Francisco has to offer. Here are some of our favorites!
Photo courtesy: San Francisco Travel Association
1240 9th Ave., Golden Gate Park
For my mom and other San Francisco natives, this comfy and family-friendly restaurant is a regular lunchtime favorite. Located on the southern edge of Golden Gate Park, it’s a natural family go-to after visiting the California Academy of Sciences, the park’s beautiful gardens or nearby playgrounds. Park Chow provides an easy kids’ menu, complete with a kids’ bar of mixed juices. But with a variety of pizzas, pastas, and sustainable fish tacos on the menu, your younger diners may want to order off the grown-up menu. You can dine by the fireplace or on the heated, outdoor porch. Local beers are on tap, too. $$
1096 S. Van Ness Ave., Mission District
Score one for the parents who want to enjoy a meal without constantly wrestling their kids into their seats. At Urban Putt, the kids can tee up on an artfully-designed, indoor, miniature golf course while the parents enjoy some downtime. Creative bites and a full list of cocktails make this place fun for the whole family. Fried chicken and waffle skewers highlight the bar bites menu; sea scallops and white prawns in almond romesco sauce is a favorite on the restaurant menu. $$
KidTripster TIp: Kids under five play golf for free.
1737 Post St., Japantown
My cousin and her daughter - both salmon roll lovers - often land at this no-frills sushi bar located in the heart of San Francisco’s Japantown. My daughter and I met them there one evening and were quickly seated at the bar where sushi treats in little boats cruised by our seats, inviting over indulgence. Grab whatever you like, because there’s more coming around the bend. If the most popular pieces floating by on the conveyor belt aren’t to your liking, you can order directly from the wait staff. $$
Kidtripster Tip: If you head here for lunch or an early dinner, take a walk around the shopping mall afterward (connected to the restaurant) to grab dessert or a Japantown souvenir.
399 The Embarcadero South
In the course of an impromptu afternoon on the Embarcadero, our family cruised up to the Waterbar with no particular plans for a special lunch. However, we were delighted at the service and dining options for our party of seven that spanned three generations. You can enjoy the oysters of the day, shellfish platters or choose from other freshly-caught entrées; there’s also a kids’ menu for those youngsters who aren’t fans of fish. The restaurant is beautifully designed with an ocean-themed décor, including floor-to-ceiling aquariums and spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay. Dinner time may feel a little more formal, but there are various seating areas depending on your family’s style. $$$
KidTripster Tip: A bar menu is available every day from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Photo courtesy: Waterbar
820 Ulloa St.
I visit San Francisco several times a year and never miss a trip to the Submarine Center. As a 30+ year faithful (ouch!), I am never disappointed when I bite into these perfectly balanced sandwiches, topped with the shop’s signature sauce (get the sauce). Husband and wife owners supervise a team of diligent sandwich makers who must push hundreds out the door during the lunch hour. I grew up on the Classic Submarine but prefer a simple turkey and provolone these days. I hear the pastrami is also worth the trip. There are more than two dozen other kinds to choose from. Add the avocado for a true Californian feel. $
KidTripster Tip: Go when it opens, but still be prepared to wait in line, even if you order online. This shop is popular with the locals.
2234 Mission St., Mission District
Take the teens after sundown and be ready for spicy, non-traditional Chinese dishes served with dance music on the side. During the day, Mission Chinese looks like your average take-out spot. But at night, it lights up (or should I say, down) like a nightclub, giving visitors a memorable evening. My husband, daughter, and even my dad enjoyed the Pork Ma Fo Tofu; I preferred the Mongolian Long Beans. There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu, too. $$
KidTripster Tip: There's no exterior sign that says Mission Chinese. Instead look for the sign that reads Lung Shan and the eager diners gathered outside. Like many Mission District restaurants, there isn’t much room to wait indoors, so bring a jacket.
552 Green St., North Beach/Telegraph Hill
A walk through North Beach is a must during your San Francisco trip with beautiful streets, Washington Square Park, and authentic Italian restaurants. Historic photos line the walls of Sotto Mare, an old-school establishment known for its award-winning cioppino. Oysters, clams, fresh fish, and, of course, a seafood risotto are also on the menu. Don’t attempt to drive here; you’ll lose your mind looking for parking. Ride share and then walk off the food, wine, and pastries that you won’t be able to resist. $$
KidTripster Tip: Save room for dessert!
8/Beach Chalet & Park Chalet
1000 Great Hwy., Ocean Beach
San Francisco’s Ocean Beach is, often, a foggy proposition. But even the dreariest, drippiest day can brighten with a trip to nearby Beach Chalet and its backyard brother, Park Chalet. The Beach Chalet sits above the Golden Gate Park Visitor Center and offers views of the ocean along with a menu of tasty burgers, sandwiches, and salads. The kids’ menu includes fish-n-chips and flat iron steaks. You can even grab breakfast here (opens at 9 a.m. on weekdays, 8 a.m. on weekends) and a glimpse of the early morning surfers in their wetsuits. Walk downstairs and to the rear of the property to find Park Chalet (adjacent to Golden Gate Park) and a beer garden stocked with local favorites. The kids’ menu here is what you’d expect - chicken fingers, hot dogs, and sliders. $$
KidTripster Tip: Listen to live music at both restaurants. We’ve been fortunate to catch beloved children’s performers Charity and the Jam Band on a Sunday afternoon. Check out the Park Chalet website for a calendar of performances.
9/The Ice Cream Bar Soda Fountain
815 Cole St.
With kid-friendly sandwiches (even ice cream sandwiches made with huge delicious cookies) and some of the best ice cream in the city, topped off by a nostalgic design, The Ice Cream Bar is a favorite of our family. My go-to flavor is the vegan coconut milk almond with dark chocolate chunks. The Ice Cream Bar also offers some creative and tasty “Remedies” – fountain drinks for those 21 and older. Seating is limited to a couple of small tables and a bar area, so get your cones to go. $
2534 Mission St., Mission District
Make a reservation for the patio and bring your sophisticated eaters. Foreign Cinema has a unique set-up with a film screening (sans audio) in the semi-covered outdoor seating area. Heat lamps keep the area comfortable in the chillier months. A foodie-satisfying menu makes indoor tables attractive, too. If your kids are feeling less adventurous, both dinner and brunch menus offer a kids’ prix fixe option that includes the predictable (pasta with butter) and less predictable (Kobe steak). $$$
KidTripster Tip: Check the restaurant’s website in advance to see what movie will be playing. And know that brunch is very popular.
A native of San Francisco, journalist Jocelyn Sigue now lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and daughter. She’s always looking for an excuse to return home to that California sunshine.
This writer received some complimentary meals for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely her own.