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Food for Tots

Diablo's list of the 10 Best Restaurants for kids and Parents


Eating out with children? Some of us would rather take twin chimpanzees to church. But, hey, wait a minute. Don’t wimp out and head for the drive-through. Here are 10 restaurants in our area where kids and parents can relax, enjoy the food, eat healthfully, and have some fun!

1 Casa Orozco, Livermore and Dublin
Many in the Tri-Valley have grown up eating at Casa Orozco. Family owned, the restaurant is welcoming to kids of all ages. The atmosphere is ultracasual in both locations, and the lineup of Mexican standards is competently prepared. Among the beans, guacamole, tortillas, meats, and cheese, children can eat a healthy meal. Birthdays are festive here, as the whole staff comes to the table to serenade. 325 S. L St., Livermore, (925) 449-3045; 7995 Amador Valley Blvd., Dublin, (925) 828-5464; www.casaorozco.com

2 Chow, Lafayette
Parents can enjoy high-quality grown-up food and wine in an atmosphere that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Kids fit in beautifully at this somewhat noisy eatery and can enjoy the American comfort food on the regular menu: meatball sandwiches, shrimp and pork wontons, minestrone soup, and spaghetti and meatballs, to name a few child-friendly choices. There’s also a kid’s menu offering, for instance, fish of the day served with organic greens and mashed potatoes or french fries. Crayons and high chairs abound. 53 Lafayette Circle, (925) 962-2469

3 El Morocco, Pleasant Hill
El Morocco is a soft carpet–lined
restaurant dance palace. Watching the nightly belly dancing show while sitting at low tables on little leather tuffets is great fun for kids. They can dance and twirl around with scarves, and the performers often drag whole families up on stage, which is perfect for children just because it’s so mortifying for the parents. Kids eat for half price, but small children can easily make a meal from their parents’ huge plates. The food works for most families,
as long as your child will eat chicken, lamb, or beef with vegetables and couscous, a granular wheat pasta. 2203 Morello Ave., (925) 671-0132, www.elmorocco.net

4 Fenton’s, Oakland
As if it’s a problem to get your child to eat ice cream. But going to Fenton’s is an extra-special treat for them, and it offers you the chance to dig into some top-shelf burgers and fries. Fenton’s serves classic sandwiches, from grilled cheese to crab salad, and it also has garden burgers, grilled chicken breast, green salads, and fruit salad. Then it’s time for the main course: floats, sundaes, and 42 flavors of ice cream. As the steady stream of Little League teams attests, this place is kid heaven. 4226 Piedmont Ave., (510) 658-7000, www.fentonscreamery.com

5 McCovey’s, Walnut Creek
The sports theme at McCovey’s is great for tykes, especially little baseball
lovers. The food is kid friendly, too:
burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, fries or mashed potatoes, and side orders of assorted seasonal vegetables. Adults will enjoy the salads and entrées. Desserts are big fun, including a homemade ice cream drumstick with hot fudge. Kids get baseball cards and crayons, and everyone can watch the game. 1444 N. California Blvd., (925) 944-9444, www.mccoveys.com

6 Picante, Berkeley
Whether your child is a screamer, a runner, or a cheap-eats gourmand, Picante is your Berkeley hang. Order-at-the-counter service is quick, and the restaurant is bustling and noisy. A heated patio with a small fountain is an especially good place for kids to be kids. (And the well-made margaritas and pitchers of beer let adults be adults.) The Mexican fare, prepared from healthful ingredients like Niman Ranch beef and pork and homemade organic tortillas, will please all ages. 1328 Sixth St., (510) 525-3121

7 Rick & Ann’s, Berkeley
Rick & Ann’s feels like home. Soft lighting illuminates wood tables, and the kitchen is open to the dining area. At dinner, the energetic waitstaff will greet your child with crayons and a paper placemat for drawing. Next comes a humble yet refreshing amuse-bouche: celery and carrot sticks served with seedy baguette croutons. This is a place where grown-ups can savor a nice glass of Pinot Noir and tender, fresh salmon, while young ones enjoy the kid’s menu, a collection of simple entrées that nonetheless show integrity. Options include a chicken plate with fresh seasonal veggies, flavorful house-made mac and cheese, and a Niman Ranch all-beef hot dog. 2922 Domingo Ave., (510) 649-8538, www.rickandanns.com

8 Siam Orchid, Orinda
The atmosphere is beautiful, the food elegant, and owners Sompong Pepsi Phunmongkol and Lek Phunmongkol and their staff are sweet, smiling, and attentive to every child who walks through the door. If your kids haven’t eaten a lot of Thai food, you might be surprised by how much they like it. Chicken on skewers (satay) and pad thai (a somewhat sweet noodle dish, usually with shrimp) are easy winners. Really, though, kids like many of the meat and vegetable dishes, which can be ordered mild rather than spicy, and the raw carrots and bean sprouts that come with them are great nibbles. 23-F Orinda Way, (925) 253-1975

9 Sweet Tomatoes, Pleasant Hill and Pleasanton
Sweet Tomatoes is the one chain restaurant we decided to include. Your kids will love it, and with its wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, your offspring are bound to eat healthfully. And how does $1.49 for an all-you-can-eat plate for three-to-five-year-olds sound? Kids love the pick-your-own-meal arrangement. We warn you, this is not Chez Panisse, and parents will find themselves pushing a tray through a glorified salad bar. But with house-made soups, a pasta bar, frozen yogurt, and a dessert bar, the fun never stops. 40-A Crescent Dr., Pleasant Hill, (925) 676-8493; 4501 Hopyard Rd., Pleasanton, (925) 463-9285; www.sweettomatoes.com

10 Uncle Yu’s, Lafayette
The staff’s love of children makes Uncle Yu’s a very welcoming spot to bring yours. Servers have been known to teach kids a little Chinese, provide them with more than their share of drinking straws, and accommodate some less-than-endearing child behavior with a smile. The food at Uncle Yu’s is special for you and for the kids because the chef uses fresh, local veggies in traditional Chinese dishes. The wine list’s not bad either. 999 Oak Hill Rd., (925) 283-1688, www.uncleyu.com

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