Eating out with Kids in Berkeley

Archived Q&A and Reviews

July 2001

Do people have suggestions for moderately nice restaurants in Berkeley that are ok to take a four year old to? My parents really want to take us and her out to dinner, but I am kind of stumped as to what kind of restaurant they would like that would still be okay for my daughter. She's reasonably well behaved, but....

Rick and Ann's near the Claremont Hotel always has kids and babies in there and the menu includes things for both kids (burgers, shakes, mac and cheese) as well as adults (a special entree every night, nice salads, wine). Prices are moderate, atmosphere is nice-casual. There are plenty of highchairs and crayons, and a low-cost little-kid's menu (like $3 for a quesedilla.) Their breakfast is really great too - check out the cornmeal pancakes and the omelettes. Go early for dinner (before 6:30) or prepare to wait for a table. Breakfast hours are way crowded, especially weekends. They only take reservations for large parties (6 or more) Ginger
We took our children's kindergarten teachers to Chez Panisse Caf\xe9 (upstairs) and were so happy with how the staff reacted to our kids. They brought white paper and crayons, made special pasta dishes, even brought them glasses of apple juice wine. It's still my kids' favorite restaurant although we don't get to eat there often. More casual suggestions:
Skates: great view, kid friendly Ann
When my kids were younger (3-5 yrs), we had good results with Giovanni's on Shattuck They have booster seats, the pictures on the wall provide some entertainment and the atmosphere is pretty tolerant to kids making tours of the other tables. Also, surprisingly, Skate's if you can reserve a table by the window --the staff is kid friendly and they have placemats with crayons, but unless the kids can look outside easily, they will find their urge to wander around until they can look out the window hard to resist. (Try eating lunch there.) The relatively new Mazzini's on Telegraph was a big hit with my slightly older kids --at ages 9/10, they loved being able to order from a kids menu, but were old enough to read to themselves by then. For the 'less nice' but still night out, try Bette's (we could never stand in line with our two, but I hear its nice when you get in!), or Mel's on Shattuck. Or the Tai San, our family Chinese place (or probably any other Chinese place in Berkeley) --order ahead and get a whole steamed fish! Chris

Mel's Diner (2240 Shattuck, downtown; milkshakes and french fries!)
Picante Cocina Mexicana (1328 Sixth St., near Gilman; Kid's menu)
Manga Manga Japanese Bistro (2399 Shattuck; comics decor)
Red Tractor Cafe (5634 College Ave., Oakland, near Rockridge BART)
Venezia (1799 University Ave.; moderately fancy, VERY kid friendly; Italian)
Check out the suggestions at the Beyond Burger King web page at the Neighborhood Parents website:

Our standard kid and grandparent pleasers are Skates on the Bay or Venezia, both of which can accommodate kids, feed out of town grandparents recognizable food (i.e. Italianesque, no weird ingredients or strange spices for them, no sir.) Venezia has kid menu and brings an antipasto of carrots and olives in a happy face arrangement; Skates has the grandparent pleasing view. If you go for an early dinner (5:30 or 6:00) you might be able to pull it off at a place with better food such as Santa Fe Bistro, Centro Via, Downtown (all of which are in downtown Berkeley) or Nizza La Bella on San Pablo, or Mazzini on Telegraph. However, none of these are really geared for kids (though Chez Panisse Cafe does have a prix fixe kids menu) and most of them may be too noisy except C.P., Mazzini. But hey, there's always Spengers. Natasha

Here are some ideas. Definitely go as soon as the restaurant opens if possible as it is usually less crowded and the staff are less harried. Bring a bendy straw or a sippy cup if your 4 year old tends to knock over their drink glass.

Depending on what you like to eat and how much your host and hostess would feel comfortable spending you could check out:
- Lalime's (on Gilman near BART tracks, great food and great staff and good parking);
- Christophers (on Solano);
- Venezia (Cafe or Ristorante ?) on University next to the AAA (crayons maybe, kids veggie sticks and a fountain, a few tables with view of kitchen)
- Nan Yang (Burmese, on College near Claremont, ; great garlic noodles);
- Rick and Anne's (off Tunnel Road below the Claremont, American food, crayons);
- Zza's trattoria (near lake Merritt, crayons, noisy and fun, crowded).
Have fun and good luck! i will be interested to see what others recommend! Suzanne


Our favorite places for eating out with 2 screaming children under the age of 5 is Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley and The Cantina on Park Blvd in Oakland. The noise is so loud in both these places that you can't hear the kids (it also helps to order a nice cold pale ale or a top shelf margarita). Both restaurants provide crayons and a good children's menu.

Suggestions for cheap take-outs:

1) Magnani Poultry on Hopkins (also on College): spit-roasted whole or half chickens (barbequed, teriyaki, or rosemary-lemon); spit-roasted potatoes
2) Spenger's Market on 4th St.: the fish and chips dinner to go is large enough to serve two moderate eaters
3) LaVal's on Euclid (also on Durant): I've o.d.'d on the pizza after years of kids clamoring for it, but still enjoy the ravioli (they also have spaghetti, eggplant parmigiana, salads, etc.)


My kids love the Boston clam chowder and shrimp salad you can get at the To Go counter at Spenger's in Berkeley. We get a quart of chowder, salad and some of their sour dough rolls and have a quick inexpensive meal (less than $9). Dianne
Some places my kids like that I like too (mine are 10 and 13):

Fat Apple's - hamburgers (N. Berkeley on MLK and Rose, also El Cerrito)

Rockridge Cafe - hamburgers (College Ave. in Rockridge)

Kirala - (Japanese) fried pork, fried shrimp, sushi (Shattuck next to Berkeley Bowl)

Sushi Afloat - grab sushi as it floats by on boats (Shattuck near University Ave)

Isubune - more floating sushi (College in Rockridge)

Hickory Pit - ribs (near PayLess on 51st St)

King Yen - lemon chicken, peking chicken (College near Ashby)

Just about any burrito place -- we like Gordo's (College near Ashby) -- Ginger

We really like Juan's Place. -- Laurie
Two of our favorites have been mentioned by several others: Sizzler's and Chevy's are very kid-friendly places. I'd also like to recommend Hai Loon King, located next to the Elmwood Theater on College near Ashby. The service is friendly, the prices reasonable, and the food plentiful and delicious (try the General Tzo's Chicken, for instance). Greg
Smart Alec's on Telegraph and Durant has so-called healthy french fries, and my son loves them. Barney's Hamburgers on Solano Ave. in Albany and the one on College have 1/2 huge orders of big fat soft french fries for $1.70. And Andronicos also has good roasted chickens to go as well as cold cuts, and cheap stuffed huge baked potatos. Wendy