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For delicious food and entertaining eateries, lick your lips as you read my picks for the best San Diego restaurants for families. As a travel writer, former longtime San Diego resident, and self-proclaimed foodie — I am often asked for restaurant recommendations in America’s Finest City. These 15 San Diego restaurants for kids will please palates of all ages.
1. Corvette Diner – Retro American Fun
The best kid-friendly restaurants offer not only tasty food but also entertainment. If dancing servers doling out thick milkshakes and tempting diner fare sounds like your family’s jam, then you’ll love Corvette Diner at Liberty Station near downtown San Diego.
This restaurant features themed dining areas representing the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. You’ll often spot birthday parties here with kids dolled up in poodle skirts and other retro garb.
Delicious burgers and other American classics are the specialties here. When you’re feeling adventurous, go for the Rory Burger, topped with peanut butter, bacon, lettuce, and mayo. Wash it down with shake flavors like Butter “Hop” Scotch and Peppermint Twist.
As though that weren’t enough, kids will go gaga for the Gamer’s Garage. That’s where they can play video games and arcade games galore for a chance to win prizes.
2. The Fish Market – Seafood for Families
Of course, you’ll want to eat fresh seafood during your San Diego vacation. The Fish Market is the perfect choice for fish-loving families. Dine at The Fish Market along the waterfront near the Maritime Museum or choose the Del Mar/Solana Beach location.
The whole family will enjoy watching chefs cooking entrees on a flaming grill from behind a wall of glass. (Look, don’t touch!)
An interactive kids’ menu will keep the kiddies entertained with mazes, puzzles, and coloring pages. Kids can order charbroiled fish and rice, panko-crusted fish, fried shrimp with fries, or land-based choices. Picky eaters will be pleased with pasta or pizza offerings, too.
3. Urban Plates – Healthy Dining with Kids
It can be difficult to find delicious AND healthy food when traveling. Not so at Urban Plates! This chain has expanded beyond San Diego, but it all started here. Choose from three San Diego County locations: Del Mar, Carlsbad, and La Jolla.
Every member of the family will find something to enjoy at this fresh-made cafeteria-style cafe. The diverse menu includes salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and plates. You’ll flip for their sides like roasted Brussels sprouts with turkey bacon or gourmet mac n’ cheese.
Save room for desserts, too. Their pretty mango tart and rich chocolate flourless cake are favorites.
4. Richard Walker’s Pancake House – Best Pancakes in Town
Besides my mama’s pancakes, Richard Walker’s Pancake House in San Diego’s Gaslamp District makes the best flapjacks I’ve ever had. And let me tell you, my mama makes one heckuva pancake! Beware: on weekends there is always a wait. San Diegans know this is THE place to go for pancakes.
If you’re looking for thick, garbage can lid-sized cakes — go somewhere else. These cakes are thin and light with ever-so-slight golden crispiness.
For a carb-laden delight, get the massive Apple Pancake with Granny Smith apples and cinnamon glaze. The omelets, waffles, and crepes are also quite good.
5. Pizza Port – Pizza by the Beach
Who doesn’t love pizza? Especially when that pizza is scrumptious and served with a selection of tempting brews for parents and video games for kids!
Stand in line at Pizza Port to order your pie. Then pull up a stool and make friends with your neighbors.
Located a block from the beach in North County’s Solana Beach, you can order your pizza to go for a delicious oceanfront picnic.
6. Burger Lounge – Burger Bonanza
Burger lovers rejoice, for San Diego is home to eight Burger Lounge locations! Their signature sandwich is made from organic, grass-fed, never-frozen beef. Burgers are topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, homemade Thousand Island dressing, grilled or raw onions, and then served between two buttery buns. Sensitive eaters can opt for a gluten-free bun.
At this casual restaurant, you can also choose a turkey burger, salmon burger, crispy chicken sandwich, Alaskan cod sandwich, or a surprisingly delicious quinoa veggie burger. Kids menus are available, too.
Wash it all down with something tasty like a house-made lemonade, batch craft soda, local craft beers, premium wine, or creamy milkshake.
7. Ghirardelli’s Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop – Sweet Treats
Ghirardelli’s old-fashioned soda fountain in the Gaslamp offers shakes, malts, cones, and sundaes galore. My go-to is the salty yet sweet Butterscotch Hot Fudge Sundae. Dark chocolate lovers, however, will revel in three sundaes: Midnight Reverie, Mint Bliss, and Espresso Escape.
For a fun, messy treat for a group, dive into The Earthquake. It boasts eight scoops of ice cream, eight toppings, bananas, whipped cream, chopped almonds, chocolate chips, and cherries.
Peruse the Ghirardelli chocolate shop afterward to purchase a sweet souvenir of your visit to San Diego.
8. Maryjane’s Diner – Breakfast Indulgence
Sometimes mom and dad want a bloody Mary or mimosa with breakfast. While on vacation, indulge in a calorie-laden breakfast with a cocktail at Maryjane’s Diner in the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego. There’s a full bar available to slake parents’ thirsts.
Even their omelets seem imbued with some sort of magic potion. (Cream, I suspect.) Whatever you do, get one of their fluffy buttery biscuits. And the hash browns. Oh…the hash browns!
9. Chocolat Cremerie – Ice Cream Lover’s Dream
Chocolat Cremerie feels like a truly Italian gelateria in the heart of the San Diego Gaslamp Quarter. Choose from flavors like Basil Lemon, Chocolate Pear, and Gianduia Chocolate (with hazelnut and almond paste).
Wear your stretchy pants. There are also tarts, crepes, and brulées to be had!
10. Filippi’s Pizza Grotto – Little Italy Winner
No list of the best family-friendly restaurants would be complete without Filippi’s Pizza Grotto. When the kids are craving Italian food, you can’t go wrong with a meal at this restaurant run by an Italian family from New York.
This is a great spot for simple pasta dishes or Italian sandwiches like meatball or capicola. But their delectable pizzas are the real reason the entire family will love Filippi’s.
There are several locations throughout San Diego County. Be sure to peruse Filippi’s Cash & Carry Italian Foods mini grocer attached to the original restaurant in Little Italy. You’ll find all sorts of Italian goodies like dried pastas, sauces, candies, cookies, and giant hanging cheeses.
San Diego borders Mexico. Therefore, this destination serves some of the best authentic Mexican food in the U.S. With so many incredible Mexican dining options in San Diego, I couldn’t pick just one. Your tummies will be happy at any of the following San Diego restaurants for families.
11. Cafe Coyote – Old Town Favorite
Mexican restaurants abound in San Diego’s Old Town, but my family’s favorite is Cafe Coyote. Children enjoy watching señoras in traditional dress making flour tortillas by hand on the restaurant’s patio. The outdoor seating is great for people-watching, too.
Bonus: diners can park for free in their own underground parking garage, a rarity in Old Town.
12. Roberto’s Very Mexican Food – Greasy but Good
Go to Roberto’s Very Mexican Food for greasy but delicious Mexican grub. Head here after a day at the nearby Torrey Pines Natural State Reserve in Del Mar. Chow down at one of their picnic tables on the outdoor patio.
13. Jose’s Courtroom – Fabulous Fajitas
For San Diego’s best fajitas, head to Jose’s Courtroom in La Jolla Cove. This place has an upscale dive bar feel. You just have to eat there to see what I mean.
14. Rubio’s – San Diego Classic
If you’re looking for a quick and reliable bite to eat, then stop into one of the many Rubio’s locations. Yes, it’s a chain. But Rubio’s originated in San Diego and some locations even offer fish tanks to entertain the kids.
Rubio’s is famous for its yummy beer-battered fish tacos served with cabbage, white sauce, and salsa. The kid’s menu features items sure to please young diners like a cheese quesadilla or chicken nuggets.
15. The Prado – Best Outdoor Dining
Treat your family to upscale outdoor dining in Balboa Park at The Prado. Splurge on dinner options like Pan Roasted Sea Bass or Mustard Crusted Pork Chop.
For a more affordable option, come for a lunch salad or sandwich. My favorite is the Prado Pressed Salad with strawberries, figs, candied walnuts, asiago cheese, and sherry-shallot vinaigrette. A kids menu is available for both lunch and dinner.
Listen to live music in The Prado Lounge Tuesday through Saturday evenings. Parents will appreciate craft cocktails like a Guava Ginger Martini or Balboa Park Sangria. Meanwhile, kids will love a sparkling lemonade flavored with strawberry, passion fruit, pink guava, or raspberry.
Traveling with your pet? Bring Fido along to dine on their dog-friendly patio.
Save Money on Your San Diego Vacation
Want to save money on your San Diego vacation? Of course, you do! Use discount code TravelMamas to get $10 off any two-night or longer Southern California package (hotel and two ticket minimum) when you book through Get Away Today. Also, find San Diego deals including attraction ticket discounts!
Those considering a fall visit are in luck! October is Kids Free San Diego Month, with over 100 deals just for kids. Take a look at which attractions, hotels, and restaurants are offering freebies to families.
It’s well worth investing in a Southern California CityPass. Save a bunch when you bundle your attractions with a CityPass.
It makes good sense to check Groupon for discounts on activities and restaurants in your destination. San Diego is no exception. Take a look at Groupon San Diego deals now.
Explore San Diego with Kids
Take a look at the 35 best things to do in San Diego with kids.
Find the right place to stay with this list of the best hotels in San Diego for families.
Want to visit San Diego’s famous zoo? Read my San Diego Zoo tips and itinerary.
Connect with nature at the San Diego Botanic Garden with kids.
Keep These Kid-Friendly San Diego Restaurants
For future reference, keep this list of the best restaurants for families in San Diego. Simply save the image above to Pinterest. I hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!
Do you have any additional kid-friendly San Diego restaurants to recommend or questions about where to eat in this SoCal city? Let us know in the comments below!
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