Whoever said that dining out with kids is an impossible task probably didn’t know that there are a few spots that make the whole experience a piece of cake. We’re not talking about pizza parlors or hot dog stands (we love those, too), but wonderful restaurants and hip cafes where parents can get delectable food while kids can go a bit wild, whether enjoying a play area, a babbling brook, or old school games. It’s a win for everyone (especially for the parents) at these very family-friendly eateries.
1. Inn of the Seventh Ray
Hailed as one of the most romantic restaurants in LA, Inn of the Seventh Ray is indulgent for adults but also a woodland Shangri-La for kids. Nestled in Topanga Canyon, this farm-to-table dining landmark offers gourmet concoctions such as truffle risotto and poached salmon as well as healthy brunch items, pastas, and soups made to order for kids. It also features some natural built-in entertainment that your offspring will enjoy: a streambed they can explore. Request a table close to the creek, so you can enjoy your meal and still see your kids splashing around.
128 Old Topanga Canyon Road
Topanga, CA 90290
2. Giggles 'n' Hugs
From breakfast items, appetizers, salads, and entrees to panini, pizza, and burgers, deciding what to order at Giggles ‘n’ Hugs is a serious matter. The mile-long menu offers so many organic, locally-grown, vegan, and gluten-free options you could spend the whole day deciding. The kids’ menu is endless, too, offering classics such as fish sticks, grilled cheese, and healthy little bites like yogurt parfait and fruit plates. But “Mom’s tricky treat pastas and pizzas” take the prize: Veggie purees are blended into the pasta sauce or pizza red sauce so kids will eat their veggies without knowing it. After lunch, you can toast to that sneaky move (yes, they serve wine) and head back to the play area for group activities such as karaoke, face painting, dance parties, and zip line (part of what makes this place so fantastic for birthday parties). Admission is $13 per child.
6600 Topanga Canyon Blvd. #2008
Canoga Park, CA 91303
3222 Glendale Galleria Way
Glendale, CA 91210
If the sand isn't enough, there's a playground, too. Photo courtesy of Back on the Beach Cafe
3. Back on the Beach
Santa Monica’s Back on the Beach is the place where you can live the ultimate dream: kicking back with a glass of wine or beer while your kids have a blast running back and forth from the nearby playground. The café is located adjacent to the Annenberg Beach House’s community splash pad and pool, and Back on the Beach is the perfect dining spot to recharge between water play and laps. Local and seasonal fare is offered during breakfast and lunch (dinner is available only from May to October) and includes delicious omelets, salads, burgers, sandwiches, and fish entrées. The kids’ menu features classics such as penne pasta, chicken tenders, and kosher and veggie hot dogs. Time it right, and the sunset is included free of charge.
445 Pacific Coast Highway
Santa Monica, CA 90402
4. Ray’s Stark Bar
There’s no cooler playground than LACMA’s Urban Light installation, where kids can play hide-and-seek ad infinitum. There’s also no better outdoor café than Ray’s Stark Bar for being strategically located a few feet away, offering delicious artisanal pizzas, kale salad, tuna tartare, and pan roasted salmon. The California-inspired brunch and happy hour menus are just as tasty, and the seasonal cocktails are a nice complement to the curated wine and beer selection. Kids can choose among chicken tenders, mac and cheese, noodles, hamburger, and cheese or pepperoni pizza. They can also get free admission to LACMA by enrolling in the NexGen membership program at the museum’s box office.
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
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Photo courtesy of Au Fudge
5. Au Fudge
Indulging in organic cauliflower steak or seared local albacore while kids play nearby? Mais oui! Au Fudge has delicious Cal-French fare, a fine wine and cocktail selection, and a monitored playroom at $15 per child. Called the "Creative Space," this play area has a drawing station, books, a karaoke setup, and a winding staircase leading to a tree house. When kids are ready to refuel, they can head back to the table and feast on mini burgers, grilled cheese, broccoli tots, chicken nuggets, or noodles. Dessert options include shakes and sundaes with the popular vanilla birthday cake shake and unicorn sundae, plus specialty desserts like DIY s’mores and flights of cookies or fudge. Want to bring some cake home? Au Fudge has an on-site bakery that also makes decadent birthday cakes. The elegant West Hollywood restaurant, owned by Jessica Biel, also features a marketplace with toys and jewelry.
9010 Melrose Ave.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
6. Lemon Tree Kids Cafe
An admission ticket ($9 per child) to Koreatown’s Lemon Tree Kids Café includes two hour of playtime in a 2,000-square-foot space featuring a carousel, a mini train, a jungle gym, a ball pit, face painting, and balloon twisting. Most importantly, it grants access to the on-site restaurant featuring an eclectic fusion of Italian and Korean classics. Pastas, risotto, ravioli, and hand-tossed pizza (some made with sweet potato crust) dominate the menu, but the bulgogi, kimchi fried rice, and sweet and spicy fried chicken are the real stars. The kids’ menu offers simpler options, including mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, cheese pizza, and mini cheeseburgers. There’s no alcohol served here for Mom and Dad, but there are freshly squeezed juices, smoothies, slushies, and traditional patbingsu, a shaved ice dessert with red beans.
621 S. Western Ave. #111
Los Angeles, CA 90005
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Clifton's is full or corners and caves to explore.
7. Clifton's Cafeteria
In the heart of downtown LA there’s a special place that inspired Walt Disney to create the happiest place on earth. Clifton’s Cafeteria is truly fairy tale material: a forest featuring stone terraces, caverns with taxidermied critters of all sizes, and a four-story tree. The buffet-style food comprises hearty soups, savory salads, fresh breads, and roasted turkey, ham, brisket, and chicken entrees (also, wine is available and artisanal libations are crafted in the bars upstairs). Kids can order The Treasure Tray with a choice of one entrée, two sides, and a dessert. With this combo meal, they get a token that allows them to access Clifton's Treasure Chest and get a toy. This enchanting diner (and LA institution) might actually be the happiest place on earth.
648 S. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Remember playing pinball while Mom and Dad ate? Photo courtesy of Button Mash
8. Button Mash
If arcades were your passion growing up, Button Mash will make your heart sing. The Echo Park arcade/restaurant offers a large collection of classic arcade games and pinball machines that will reawaken your inner child (Pac Man and Mario Bros, anyone?). Introduce this throwback pastime to your offspring (admission is always free) — just make sure to bring them in the afternoon hours, since age restrictions are enforced in the evening when the on-site restaurant becomes more of a bar. But even if you’re going in the afternoon, you can still order a glass of wine or beer to go with Button Mash’s delicious Vietnamese fusion plates. Try the crispy tofu balls, ginger chicken wings, and dan dan noodles. The Kids’ Burger, mac and cheese, rainbow carrots, and orange bang cauliflower are among the kids’ favorites.
1391 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
9. Spoke Bicycle Café
With the recent revitalization of the Los Angeles River and the improvement of the walkable path along the way, Frogtown has become a recreational destination for jogging, biking, and skating. If headed there, start off the workout (or finish it up) at Spoke Bicycle Café, a must-go pit stop. This funky, outdoor café hits the spot with organic sweet and savory breakfast items, bowls, sandwiches, salads, juices, and local coffee and beer. The patio is big enough for endless running around and there’s a kids’ area with games and books. The on-site bicycle rental and repair shop is also a great attraction if your children are two-wheelers aficionados.
3050 N. Coolidge Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
10. Golden Road Brewing
It can’t get much better than this: beer tasting with the kids in tow. Saying that Golden Road Brewing is family-friendly is an understatement — it’s a haven for parents who appreciate local brews and a fun place for kids to run around. There’s plenty of indoor and outdoor seating and games to keep everyone happy. With small plates to share, including fried avocado tacos and Brussels sprouts and entrées like portobello burger, the brewery’s food options are more gourmet than pub-style. The kids’ menu consists of three items (burger, grilled cheese, and penne pasta), which can all be made vegan upon request.
5410 W. San Fernando Road
Los Angeles, CA 90039