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Want beach, tons of family friendly fun, one of the world’s best zoos and guaranteed sunshine? Head to San Diego, a prime vacation destination in the US. You know what else you’ll find in San Diego? Great food at terrific restaurants in the city’s unique neighborhoods.
When you’re exploring the top San Diego restaurants, you’ll get to taste the best Mexican food prepared north of the border. And maybe your chicken nugget-addicted kid will try a SoCal staple…fish tacos. Or not. You can always play it safe with pasta at one of the city’s landmark restaurants in Little Italy. Are you all about dessert? We’ve noted which restaurants serve HUGE portions so you can save some room.
The weather and views in San Diego are spectacular, so take advantage of al fresco dining when available. We’ve checked out the top 30 family restaurants from La Jolla to Old Town and beyond. Join us as we dine around San Diego!
SheBuysTravel Tip: Stay in one of these great family-friendly San Diego resorts.
Downtown Kid Friendly Restaurants in San Diego
Many of these locations are either walkable to popular area destinations or near the trolley line for easy access.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Check out this a one day walking tour itinerary of San Diego.
Richard Walker’s Pancake House
Start the day off with a delicious and filling breakfast at Richard Walker’s Pancake House. If the line outside in the wee morning hours is any indication, you’re in for a great meal. Breakfast begins at 6:30. The restaurant doesn’t accept reservations, so expect to wait to be seated.
You must order one of the signature enormous baked pancakes. The apple pancake made with fresh Granny Smith apples and pure imported cinnamon glaze is heaven! There is a children’s menu but just consider ordering several full-sized entrees to share, family-style. Locations in Carlsbad, Del Mar, La Jolla and downtown San Diego.
Looking for a lively downtown hot spot for kids of all ages? The Sugar Factory in the Gaslamp Quarter is just the place! There’s no kids’ menu so expect to order family style and share. We enjoyed the rainbow sliders, fries and chicken fingers – all delicious and all kid-friendly.
While the food is both fun and surprisingly delicious, the drinks and dessert menu are the highlight at the Sugar Factory. The bubbling and smoking goblet drinks are available with or without alcohol. These candy-filled concoctions are designed by celebrities and sure to delight teen fans.
The Insane Milkshakes are big enough to share (my kids indulged in the Tie Dye milkshake). Sugar Factory locations can be found all over the world. Mostly indoor dining at the downtown San Diego location with a few outdoor patio tables. What a great place for an extra special celebration with the kids!
La Jolla Kid-Friendly Restaurants
The La Jolla Shores area of La Jolla is one of the kid-friendliest spots in San Diego, restaurants included. From casual to upscale dining, La Jolla has families covered.
The Shores Restaurant
Boasting beautiful sunset views from its open air patio, The Shores Restaurant is located at the La Jolla Shores Hotel. Situated directly on the beach, the menu offers a variety of surf and turf.
Mouth-watering Maine diver scallops will delight the adults, while kids will enjoy a menu tailored just for them. After dinner, a walk on the beach is just steps away. Or visit the local park for the kids to play as you watch the sun set. The Shores also serves breakfast, lunch and a fabulous happy hour.
The Taco Stand
A San Diego staple, The Taco Stand offers unique to the region cuisine via tacos. They also have burritos, quesadillas, fries and churros on the menu. This is a great option when you are looking for something a little quicker so you can continue exploring, but don’t want to sacrifice quality. The Taco stand also serves breakfast tacos in the morning.
Dinner and a movie? Yes, please. With comfortable recliners, an exceptional sound system and surprisingly delicious menu options, who wouldn’t love a night at THE LOT? This indoor dining location is ideal for older kids who don’t require your attention while dining (cutting food, feeding, etc).
Each chair has a swing-away tabletop, side table and cup holders. The variety of movie theater popcorn flavors are a sweet ending to the evening. Because the food is that good, there’s also outdoor dining on the patio as well. Locations include Liberty Station and La Jolla.
Old Town San Diego Dining with Kids
Mexican food is a SoCal must-do! San Diego’s Old Town is the place to enjoy authentic Mexican food without the trip across the border. Read for more Old Town touring tips with kids in this 3-day San Diego itinerary.
Casa Guadalajara is located in the Bazaar Del Mundo section of Old Town. This festive spot has shopping and dining, all with a vibrant Mexican flair. The restaurant offers both indoor and courtyard dining along with live mariachi music.
The menu at Casa Guadalajara is expansive but you can’t go wrong with the sizzling fajitas or combination platter. Meals are very big, so definitely consider sharing. Adults will be in awe of the gigantic “birdbath margaritas.”
Miguel’s Cocina is a popular lunch location for visitors and locals alike. Start your meal with the must-try freshly made tortilla chips and incredible jalapeño white sauce. Dishes are made with handmade tortillas and topped with fresh salsas.
Locations are found in Old Town, Carlsbad, Coronado, Point Loma, Portside Pier and 4S Ranch.
Point Loma Kid-Friendly Restaurants
The peninsula of Point Loma comprises several San Diego neighborhoods including Shelter Island, Ocean Beach and Liberty Station all conveniently located near San Diego International Airport.
Point Loma is also home to Cabrillo National Monument, where families will find the best tide pool location.
Vessel Restaurant at Kona Kai Resort
Vessel Restaurant combines beautiful views of the Shelter Island Marina and beach from the outdoor patio with delicious American food. The restaurant serves breakfast, brunch and dinner all day. The kids’ menu offers favorites, including grilled cheese, fish taco and hot dog.
SheBuysTravel Tip: For a lower cost experience, go for happy hour, available Monday-Thursday. The happy hour lobster quesadillas are bursting with lobster. Or, for a more luxurious experience, order the prix fixe menu.
Nico’s in Ocean Beach
For Mexican food on a budget, families can’t go wrong at Nico’s Mexican food in Ocean Beach. Just a few blocks from the sand, the large combination plates and burritos satisfy a hungry appetite. All indoor dining but it’s a great place to grab & go take-out for your meal.
SheBuysTravel Tip: The portions are huge, so you may want to share.
Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle
Fathom Bistro is located on the pier at Shelter Island with spectacular views of the San Diego skyline. Plenty to watch with boats coming in and out, as well as extra friendly seagulls and pelicans. Fathom Bistro is known for its homemade sausages and craft beer selection.
The kids’ menu includes a creative variety of hot dog selections.
Liberty Station Dining with Kids
This shopping and dining hot spot in Point Loma is a family delight. Plenty of activities for all ages including art exhibits, spa, walking paths, fountains, a rose garden and live music.
Corvette Diner at Liberty Station
Corvette Diner, a fun 1950s-themed diner, is a favorite with the kids. It’s hard to go wrong with burgers, onion rings, custom sodas and hand-made milk shakes. Kids will get a kick out of the retro waitresses and neon-lit dining rooms. There’s also a “gamers garage” to keep kids entertained.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Visit Corvette Diner Monday-Thursday and save with a Dine & Play Package. This bundle includes a meal and gamers card at a discounted cost.
Officine Buona Forchetta
My kids reminisce that the meal we had at Officine Buona Forchetta was the best Italian they’ve ever eaten. Every dish is lovingly made and highly authentic. But if it’s simply pizza your kids are after, they have that too. The Neapolitan-style pizzas are made in a high-heat brick oven, which creates the amazing crust.
This Liberty Station restaurant offers indoor dining and both front and back patios.
There’s a small grassy area and swing set in the back. Additional Buona Forchetta locations can be found in Encinitas, Coronado and South Park (each location offers a unique menu).
Family-Friendly Breweries in San Diego
San Diego is considered the “Capital of Craft Beer.” Enjoy the combination of beautiful outdoor dining with local craft beers on tap for a unique but still kid-friendly experience that’s distinctly San Diego.
The two San Diego brewery locations feature both traditional (burgers) and creative (duck nachos) menu options with IPA craft beers.
Located in Miramar, this brewery restaurant has indoor/outdoor dining with patio fire pit and family games. The downtown San Diego Little Italy location features indoor and outdoor seating, with private cabanas for a relaxing afternoon.
Stone Brewing World Bistro and Garden
The popular Stone Brewing brand features two San Diego bistro and garden locations, one in Escondido and another in Liberty Station. The North County Escondido brewery offers expansive indoor dining, a one-acre beer garden and outdoor patio. The Liberty Station location includes outdoor family games and entertainment.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Try the family style meals that serve up menu items like ribs and baked beans.
This San Diego-based brewery has been crafting beer since before the term “craft beer” was coined. There are six San Diego locations including tasting rooms with full family-friendly menus.
SheBuysTravel Tip: The Parmesan and garlic double truffle fries are a must-try.
Little Italy Family Restaurants in San Diego
Located in the downtown area, San Diego’s Little Italy is the place for the best Italian dining. After your meal, take a walk down from Little Italy towards the harbor.
The Waterfront Park is one of the best free summer activities in San Diego. Kids can splash and play in the fountains or on the playground.
The menu at Civico 1845 focuses on locally grown and seasonal ingredients. And it shows – the dishes here are delightful. Adults will appreciate the broad Italian wine offerings. Kids will love the delicious pastas. This sumptuous dining experience will have you appreciating each and every bite.
Indoor and outdoor patio dining available. A second Civico location featuring Calabrian pizza is near Balboa Park.
Filippi’s Pizza Grotto Little Italy
For a classic real cheese pizza, Filippi’s Pizza Grotto Little Italy is the BEST. A family favorite, my kids love Filippi’s and its ultra-casual dining environment. This indoor dining location has been serving Little Italy guests for over 70 years.
Additional Filippi’s Pizza Grotto locations can be found in Pacific Beach, Escondido, Imperial Beach and more.
North Park, South Park and Golden Hill Family Restaurants
Just a short drive from Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo, these communities offer breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert options that are ideal for families outside the bustle of the city.
The Big Kitchen
Known for its expansive breakfast menu, The Big Kitchen is the place to fuel up for a day of adventure in San Diego.
Bon Appetit has christened this quirky bistro “One of The 10 Best Breakfasts in the Country.” Lots of boutique shops within walking distance if you need to stroll after your huge meal. Families can enjoy live music outside on the patio every Saturday and Sunday. Please note The Big Kitchen is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Station Tavern offers affordable burgers, cocktails and craft beer. This casual restaurant has both indoor seating and outdoor picnic tables. Pet-friendly with an outdoor play area that features a miniature trolley.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Order the crispy house-seasoned tater tots. They’re a Station Tavern specialty.
Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream
Here’s the scoop – Hammond’s offers 300 flavors including super premium ice cream, Hawaiian ice cream and sorbet.
Can’t decide? Bring the gang and try the Flight of 32 Flavors so you can indulge in Peanut Butter Guava Jelly, White Chocolate Macadamia Nut and Lime Toasted Coconut Cheesecake at the same time! Two locations, including North Park and Point Loma.
Kid-Friendly Dining in San Diego – Julian
Located within the Cuyamaca Mountains, the historical town of Julian is a particularly popular destination come fall. That’s apple season in Julian and locals flock to the area for apple picking and pie.
Here’s where to dine in Julian:
Julian Beer Company
Head for the hills to this casual dining destination. Generous picnic table seating indoors and out, with live music and family games. Slow cooked meats are the specialty here. Beer drinkers will appreciate the craft brews made in the historic Julian home of the town’s founder.
Mom’s Pie House
When it’s time for dessert, it’s all about the pastries at this popular bakery, namely the delicious apple pies! Expect a line out the door to get a slice of this treat. There’s a small dining space inside or take a whole pie to-go. There are two Julian locations including on Main Street.
La Mesa Restaurants for Families
This unassuming East County city houses a number of excellent dining destinations for kid-friendly dining in San Diego. The trolley stops near the Old La Mesa area for easy access to boutique shopping and dining on La Mesa Blvd.
Farmer’s Table La Mesa
Farmer’s Table serves three meals a day, with a well-recognized brunch menu and Bloody Mary cocktails. Kids won’t be able to resist the French toast with strawberries ‘n cream. In fact, that’s my go-to when I eat here! True to their name, Farmer’s Table offers specialties such as organic eggs and local seasonal vegetables. Sit inside or outside on the patio. Additional locations in Clairemont, Little Italy and Chula Vista.
For one of the best authentic New York deli experiences, look no further than D.Z. Akin’s. An enormous menu and equally huge portions, this busy indoor restaurant specializes in Jewish delicatessen meals. Kids will enjoy the fried chicken while adults nosh on a corned beef sandwich.
Best Dining with Kids in Carlsbad
Carlsbad, home to LEGOLAND California, is also a foodie delight. Tons of walkable restaurants, both upscale and casual, and very close to the beach.
This popular local chain is known for its pizza and craft-brewed beers. Try a Pizza Port original including an “Anti-Wimpy” pizza like the Meet Extreme Meat on their signature wholegrain beer crust. Or just go basic pepperoni and cheese – it’s all good.
The Carlsbad location includes a multi-level seating area both indoor and out. Pizza Port locations include Solana Beach, Carlsbad, San Clemente, Ocean Beach and Bressi Ranch.
This multi-level complex features indoor and outdoor seating, with nooks and picnic tables downstairs for large groups. Those with younger kids will appreciate the play areas and games. Barbecued meats are on the menu as well as California coastal cuisine like shrimp tacos.
Eat all three meals at Señor Grubby’s and be treated to 3 different experiences. Breakfast options include American classics and Mexican favorites, like house-made chilaquiles. Enjoy one of the over-sized burritos for lunch and a torta for dinner (my personal favorite).
Indoor and outdoor patio dining at this quick service restaurant. Two San Diego locations, in Carlsbad and Oceanside.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Have DoorDash bring food to your hotel or vacation rental.
More San Diego Chain Restaurants
For delicious bites all over the county, seek out these trustworthy San Diego chain restaurant locations. A few locations were already shared earlier in this article but here are a few more to spot around town.
Featuring gourmet burgers, hand cut fries and tropical drinks, Islands has been a popular full-service restaurant chain in San Diego for over 25 years. Seven locations include Carlsbad, Mission Valley and Vista.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Save money at Islands Restaurant by dining in the bar during happy hour, weekdays from 3-6:30 pm.
Craving burgers and fries? Expect to see a line down the street at this kid-friendly San Diego restaurant hot spot. Order one of the over-sized burgers with “frings” (combo basket of fries and onion rings). Three locations include Ocean Beach, downtown San Diego and inside the baseball stadium, Petco Park.
Rubio’s Coastal Grill
San Diego visitors looking to get their fix of traditional fish tacos will find Rubio’s locations all over the county. Sustainable seafood, scratch-made beans, stone ground corn tortillas and freshly-made guacamole and salsa fresca are the rule at Rubio’s. This is Mexican fast food dining that’s also extremely fresh, healthier and delicious.
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