Families who venture out to Ocean Beach should stop and have a meal, a drink, or at least a look around at the decor of the Beach Chalet, located where Golden Gate Park meets the Pacific. The menu, consisting of well-prepared salads, burgers, fish-n-chips, seafood and steaks, as well a long list of locally made beers, is kid-friendly. The restaurant itself sits on the second floor of the Golden Gate Park Visitors Center and is designed in a way that every seat has a view of the ocean. Downstairs, you'll appreciate the 1930s-era frescoes of California scenery.
Boudin at the Wharf
•San Francisco, CA •415-928-1849
Boudin Bakeries are located across San Francisco, but its most popular bakery is on Fisherman's Wharf. Kids can watch baking demonstrations and tour the bakery and the museum, displaying Boudin's history, before visiting the bakery and enjoying some of its famous sourdough bread. The adjoining Bistro Boudin features an oyster bar and provides indoor or outdoor patio seating with views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Don't miss the signature chowder in a sourdough bread bowl!
•San Francisco, CA •415-824-4652
This raw, organic, gluten free, vegan restaurant is a place you won't find in most tour books. But I consider it a place not to be missed, not only for its hippy-dippy-only-in-San Francisco atmosphere, but for its completely fabulous food. Never mind if you are a carnivore of the highest order, your taste buds will be thrilled with the meals here, which include sushi (without the fish), enchiladas (without the meat), pizza (without the cheese or the traditional crust) plus all sorts of rich desserts from chocolate mousse to coconut cream pie that you can hardly believe are sugar free. Every time I dine here, I come away thinking that if only I could prepare such food at home, I'd be happy to be a vegan. And if all this talk of no sugar and such sounds like no fun for kids, think again. Cafe Gratitude has a fun and festive atmosphere and it's staff goes all out for birthdays.
Fog City Diner
•San Francisco, CA •415-982-2000
Traditional diner decor meets a menu that's definitely not your usual diner fair at the Fog City Diner, located on a leafy street midway between Fisherman's Wharf and downtown. While tourists come to eat at a San Francisco legend, locals return frequently for the find food, such as red curry mussel stew, ahi tuna tartar, and mu shu pork burritos. Be prepared to pay a little more than you do at your hometown diner, but don't worry about dressing up. This restaurant is comfortable, friendly and welcoming to adults and kids alike.
•San Francisco, CA •415-951-4900
For a unique dining spot, visit Forbes Island, which is actually a floating restaurant with a 40-foot lighthouse you can climb, an underwater dining room, white sand patios and palm trees. (The restaurant is actually on a barge, not its own island.) Popular for its views, especially of fireworks over the bay during 4th of July or special occasions, Forbes Island serves up American dishes with a Cajun/Creole touch. The restaurant is open daily for dinner at 5 p.m.
•San Francisco, CA •415-648-7600
One of the most unique restaurants you will find in San Francisco, Foreign Cinema has appeared in movies and press for its cool concept. A covered courtyard provides outdoor seating and a large movie screen displaying independent and foreign movies. Indoor seating is available for those who just want to enjoy the food and skip the film and ambience. Sunday brunch at the restaurant are very popular, and dinners consist of an oyster and shellfish bar, Urban Picnic items. Premieres and Features. The menu often consists of local, sustainable foods, and the fare is better suited for the more adventurous palates. (Meaning: This is a better spot for teens than little ones.)
Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop
•San Francisco, CA •415-474-3938
Ghirardelli Square, near Fisherman's Wharf, is home to the original Ghirardelli Chocolate factory, which opened here in 1852. At this Original Ghirardelli Chocolate Manufactory, sample the chocolates, as well as enjoy treats from the old-fashioned ice cream fountain. The ice cream fountain is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday. A number of sundaes, shakes, chocolate drinks and scoops of ice cream are available.
•San Francisco, CA •415-989-4917
San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood features an overwhelming selection of Italian restaurants, but I recommend taking the family to Mona Lisa every time. Mona Lisa offers just about everything you could ask for after a busy day of sightseeing, including oversized portions, jovial service, a laid-back yet artistic ambiance, and a central location in the middle of San Francisco's famed Columbus Avenue. Its book-like menu features every sort of pasta and pizza you can imagine as well as a lot of seafood and meat dishes.
•San Francisco, CA •415-665-9912
Just steps from Golden Gate Bridge Park, visit Park Chow for a casual meal consisting of comfort food favorites. The restaurant uses organic, sustainable and local ingredients, and provides breakfast, lunch and dinner. A kids' menu features special drinks, as well as meals with vegetables and sides. Various outdoor seating is available. Breakfast is offered from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. during weekdays, and a brunch is offered on weekends from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Lunch is offered daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dinner is offered from 5 p.m., closing at 9:30 p.m. on weeknights, and 10:30 on weekends.
•San Francisco, CA •415-284-9922
Some of the finest and freshest seafood in San Francisco can be found right along the water at the Waterbar. Situated on the Embarcadero, diners will love the oyster bar, as well as weekend brunch and lunches and dinners filled calamari, mussels, sea scallops, sole, bass, tuna and more. The restaurant's setting also affords great views of the bay, Bay Bridge and San Francisco skyline. Lunch is offered 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays, with a limited bar menu from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Dinner is offered Tuesday through Saturday, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Weekend brunch is offered from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with a limited bar menu from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. The restaurant is not open for dinner on Sunday or Monday nights.
•San Francisco, CA •415-654-5322
This local favorite offers casual French fare for lunch and dinner, as well as weekend brunches that people line up for. Zazie, is also near Golden Gate Park and just up the hill from Haight Ashbury, in one of my favorite San Francisco residential neighborhoods, Cole Valley. Dinner might feature chicken liver pate, poached salmon or flank steak with mashed potatoes and every dish is prepared in that impeccable way the French are known for. As for the brunch of eggs benedict prepared in about eight different ways, with a large glass or fresh squeezed orange juice and an oversized bowl of cafe latte, it is sublime.