6 spots where bringing the kids and loving your meal aren’t mutually exclusive

By Christina Mueller

Date night comes but once a week, so great dinner spots that also extend a generous welcome to families are always a boon for parents. The kids might not need much, but the right menu—and a few helpful touches—can make all the difference, granting you some precious extra moments to enjoy the meal.

Please the parents and the niños at Nopalito
With plenty of room for wiggling on the covered, heated patio, this Mexican offshoot of Nopa is a haven for families. Staff appear promptly tableside to woo kids with crayons and coloring sheets designed by local artists; booster seats arrive with extra linens. The seasonal aguas frescas (think ginger limeade) are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth, and the handmade tortillas have been known to leave parents in a swoon. While dad digs into a lip-tingling, chile-dipped torta pambazo, the kids can work through a simple repast of beans and cheese quesadilla, or something from the regular menu. For dessert, complimentary almond-butter cookies keep fuss to a minimum.

Float through dinner with the kids gracefully at butterfly
Floor-to-ceiling windows with views across the Bay to Alcatraz are a huge draw for this Pier 33 restaurant, but the “Asian within Asian” food of Rising Star chef Robert Lam is the real attraction here, for both kids and their keepers. Start with some bao from the to-go window, stuffed Hawaiian-style with kalua pork and gochjang, or scoop up lemongrass-scented clams and mussels with rice puffs. Kids who are feeling less adventurous have plenty of choices, too, such as beef with broccoli or garlic noodles and butter veggies.

Roam Artisan Burgers has patties to please any picky eater
The customizable menu of burgers and salads will have everyone clearing their plates; grass-fed beef, bison, turkey, elk, or veggie options offer clean and delicious flavors for any palate. Lightly sweetened with agave, the house-made artisan sodas—Meyer lemon is a perennial favorite—are a hit with kids, while grown-ups rave about the on-tap kombucha and locally sourced wine and beer. Best of all, the acid-washed concrete floor practically encourages messy eating—servers barely bat an eye at spills.

On the off chance that your kids feel like pizza: Tony’s Pizza Napoletana
Is it possible to write about kid-friendly restaurants without including a pizza joint? Of all the options in San Francisco, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana is perhaps the best for families. Slide into a wide booth and a server immediately appears with a masterstroke of preemptive appeasement: a complimentary kid-sized plate topped with a wedge of orange, a cup of Cheerios, and a half-banana in its skin. Tony’s team of pizzaiolos will then bring your pizza dream to life. Longing for a classic Neapolitan, Sicilian, Roman, gluten-free, or even Saint Louis or New York style pizza? No problem! Mini-pizzas are available for the kids, sliding right into place atop a coloring placemat. Signature cocktails, Fernet on tap, and an extensive Italian-American wine list help blur the line between cocktail hour and dinnertime.

Loló—this Mission-inspired restaurant is a family’s best friend
Designed by chef/owner Jorge Martinez's wife, Lorena, who he affectionately calls Loló, this family-owned and operated restaurant boasts tons of dog figurines and a color scheme so riotous that your kids will never tire of staring at the walls—or the furniture, for that matter. But it’s the attentive service towards los hijos amados—not to mention the Jaliscan-Californian food—that make this Mission restaurant a stand-out. Huevos rancheros reels ‘em in at brunch, while at dinner fish tacos and fried Brussels sprouts are devoured in seconds by picky eaters and gourmands alike. The depth of the agave and mescal bar seals the deal.

Nothing says “eat your greens” like frozen yogurt for dessert at Souvla
Like a breath of fresh Mediterranean air, Souvla swooped into Hayes Valley and added their finely wrought Greek roadside food to the fast-casual neighborhood scene. Spit-fired meats—wrapped in soft pita or styled as salads—anchor the menu, but it’s the frozen Greek yogurt (topped with baklava crumbles or olive oil and sea salt) that satisfies families of all varieties. Zero-proof Greek lemon soda for the kids and carafes and bottles of Greek wine keep the giggles going.

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