A spilled glass of chocolate milk, spitballs shot out of straws, a tumble out of a chair followed by a blood-curdling scream. These are the hazards of eating out with kids. It’s a tricky proposition. Where can Mom and Dad take the family without worrying about the banging of forks, the crying, the creation of a scene? Parents crave a welcoming spot to go out for a sit-down meal with kids, where the adults can enjoy menu choices that both mom and dad and the kids look forward to. Here are four South Bay restaurants where everyone in the family can relax, eat well and have fun.
Big Wok Mongolian BBQ, Manhattan Beach
The big attraction for kids here is selecting their own ingredients at a buffet-style meat and vegetable bar, sliding their plate along a counter that surrounds two large, round grills, and watching the chefs cook their dinner on those big Mongolian grills. Just be sure to watch the plate-sliding part of the process – my child and countless other kids have accidentally let those plates slide to the floor. With all of the meats, vegetables and sauces to choose from, Big Wok is a great place to encourage your child to try something new each time you dine here. Beyond the beef, chicken and pork, mix-in choices include tofu, broccoli, pineapple, miniature corn, spinach, bamboo shoots and much more. Just don’t let the kids fill up on too much of the rice and delicious sesame bread that come with the meal. Special kids pricing applies, since little ones are bound to help themselves to much smaller servings than the all-you-can-eat that Big Wok offers. The waitresses are extremely friendly and seem to genuinely like kids. Big Wok is open for lunch and dinner. 310-798-1155.
Good Stuff, El Segundo and Redondo Beach
Crayons and a colorable kids menu, fresh, healthy food and a laid-back atmosphere make Good Stuff a great breakfast, lunch or dinner spot for families. The large kids menu offers choices like chicken tenders, spaghetti, turkey, grilled cheese, a chicken corn dog, chicken taco and cheese quesadilla with fruit or fries. For the adults, there are changing specials plus a huge selection that includes salads, burgers, sandwiches, Mexican entrees, healthy fish and chicken entrees, steak and even comfort food like meatloaf. A casual, beach feel and the number of families with young children who frequent Good Stuff make everyone feel relaxed about any crying or crashing of plates. Both Good Stuff locations are popular breakfast spot on weekends because of an extensive breakfast menu that includes the owner’s egg-topped “breakfast salad”. www.eatgoodstuff.com
Alejo’s Presto Trattoria, Westchester
Homemade Italian food and a casual, “mama’s dining room” kind of atmosphere make Alejo’s a place where you can enjoy a glass of wine and great food and know that your kids will be welcomed. Kids can choose from pasta dishes or individual pizzas and calzones. Servings are huge, so order for the children accordingly and know that you’ll be taking home leftovers. The Alejo chopped salad is a great appetizer to share among the family. The crusty bread with garlic and olive oil dipping sauce that is brought to your table before each meal is divine. www.alejosrestaurant.com
Ocean Diner, Hermosa Beach
Homemade macaroni and cheese, pot roast (roasted to perfection all day), chicken pot pie and mom’s meatloaf make this diner as delicious and comfortable as mom’s kitchen. Sit at the counter or tables and dream about which homemade dessert on display you’ll choose. Healthy, familiar choices makes this a perfect place for kids, who’ll also like the diner vibe. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served all day, so the kids can have banana pancakes or vanilla French toast for dinner, if mom gives the o.k. All desserts and pastries are made in-house from scratch, including Boston cream pie, coffee cakes and peach cobbler. This is a popular breakfast spot with a big breakfast menu that draws a line of beach-bound customers. www.oceandiner.com