Beyond burgers: 6 kid-friendly East Bay dining spots

The author's son at Juhu Beach Club. Photo: Adrienne Schell
The author’s son, Alex Schell, at Juhu Beach Club. Photo: Adrienne Schell

By Adrienne Schell

One of the things many parents may tell you is that they often miss the luxury of a mellow evening out to enjoy good food at any one of the amazing restaurants the East Bay has to offer. While eating out with kids may take the “mellow” out of the equation, it doesn’t mean that good food can’t be enjoyed with little ones in tow. In fact, a shift to family-friendly dining culture in the Bay has taken hold — there are so many delicious, and sometimes unexpected, spots where kids are welcome and accommodated. If you are tired of the regular ‘ole hot dog and burger joints, here are some refreshing options with an ethnic twist for your kids’ developing palates. If you think they may not take the bait, throw a grilled cheese in your bag and enjoy your own taste of these East Bay gems.

Burma Superstar

Coconut rice at Burma Superstar. Photo: Josh Lowensohn/Flickr
Coconut rice is a good kid-friendly option at Burma Superstar. Photo: Josh Lowensohn/Flickr

Burma Superstar began sharing the warmth and aromas of Burmese homestyle cooking with the people of San Francisco in 1992. Now, more than 20 years later, with two East Bay locations in Oakland and Alameda, folks continue to come out in droves to devour their famed tea-leaf salad. With high chairs at the ready, and coconut rice in abundance, your kids may choose to sample a samusa, a bite of mango chicken, or some of the sweet and tangy sesame beef.  I caution that the popularity of this superstar spot causes long waits. Reservations are not available, so I recommend going early if you have kids in tow; dinner service begins at 5 p.m. at both East Bay locations. Burma Superstar is at 4721 Telegraph Ave. (between 47th and 48th streets), Oakland and 1345 Park St. (at Alameda Avenue), Alameda. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.

Juhu Beach Club

The author's daughter at Juhu Beach Club. Photo: Adrienne Schell
The author’s daughter, Molly Schell, at Juhu Beach Club. Photo: Adrienne Schell

Preeti Mistry’s love for Indian street food has not gone unnoticed for the past three years. I was a latecomer to this now well-known foodie favorite, finally making it to Juhu Beach Club in 2016. My curiosity to discover what is being done in this little spot in Temescal began when Anthony Bourdain paid a visit last year. Beyond the food, what has caused me to give a deep bow of thanks to the chef is the amazing accommodations made for children. From kids’ menus and crayons to the special meal delivery in the form of a brightly colored tiffin carrier, I was in awe, as were my kids. With great cocktails and amazing flavors in pav and curry form, not to mention a Manchurian cauliflower dish to die for, parents have a special treat in store. I consider it a brave and special move for an innovative restaurant to carve out a special niche for the shortest of patrons. Juhu Beach Club is at 5179 Telegraph Ave., Oakland (at 51st Street). (It is tucked into a shopping center on the corner of 51st and Telegraph; keep an eye out for the big pink sign.) Connect with the restaurant on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Cosecha

The author's son at Cosecha. Photo: Adrienne Schell
Alex Schell at Cosecha. Photo: Adrienne Schell

Tucked into the thriving food market space of the historic Swan’s Marketplace building, Cosecha has seen amazing success in this Old Oakland hotspot. At the helm is one of Chez Panisse’s many alumni, Dominica Rice-Cisneros. Named for the Spanish word for harvest, Cosecha celebrates ingredients that are fresh, seasonal, handmade, vibrant and flavorful. Bringing these definitions to children’s plates is doable, especially since Cosecha has a kids’ menu. On a recent visit, we went for the house-made chips and guacamole, a kids’ quesadilla, and a pork belly taco for this momma. Yum! Seating is available at any number of dedicated tables in the open food court. Keep in mind that, unless your little one is very little, he or she will need to be OK on a stool. (There are high chairs available for babies and toddlers.) Swan’s Marketplace has a center courtyard with tables and a fountain, which is great for exploring and a bit of fresh air after your bite to eat. Older kids might like a visit to Endgame, an expansive game store at the other end of the Swan’s Marketplace building. Cosecha is at 907 Washington St. (at Ninth Street), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Instagram and Twitter.

Tacubaya

Tacubaya, Berkeley. Photo: savory-odyssey
A variety of dishes, both kid- and adult-friendly, from Tacubaya. Photo: savory-odyssey/Flickr

Another option for amazing Mexican food is Tacubaya, a casual eatery in Berkeley’s Fourth Street shopping district, which honors traditional dishes often found on Mexican street corners and inside family kitchens. Tucked in the back of a large outdoor patio right next to The Pasta Shop, Tacubaya offers space for kids to romp while waiting for the next train to screech by. While a dedicated kids’ menu isn’t available, your adventurous eaters may try their hand at a chicken or fish taco. House-made chips are always a hit with our clan, and a side of vegetarian rice or fried plantains are something to consider. Of course the big jars of horchata or agua fresca may catch little eyes as well. Parents can kick back and enjoy the sun, grab a beer or glass of wine, and chow down on any number of dishes like tacos, tamales or enchiladas. If your picky eater decided to be extra-picky on the day you visit, don’t forget — you can always pop into The Pasta Shop next door and grab a baguette. Tacubaya is at 1788 Fourth St. (at Delaware Street), Berkeley.  Connect with the restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.

Bowl’d Korean Rice Bar

Bibimbap at Bowl'd, Emeryville. Photo: Emilie Raguso
While this bibimbap bowl with spicy pork may be geared more towards adult palates, there is plenty for kids to eat at Bowl’d. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Korean food may not be something you would consider for the youngest members of your family, but when they can get their own little rice bowl complete with shredded veggies, a pack of toasted seaweed and a chicken nugget, you may want to reconsider. Bowl’d on Solano Avenue in Albany is a great option to mix things up from the regular go-to family spots. Parents can fulfill their own cravings for items such as kimchi pancakes, a signature “bibimbop” rice bowl, or any number of their BBQ, soup, or noodle options. There are currently two other Bowl’d-owned restaurants (one in South Berkeley, called Spoon, and one in Temescal), and each has a slightly different menu. A fourth location is soon to open in Alameda. Bowl’d is at 1479 Solano Ave. (at Santa Fe Avenue), Albany and 4869 Telegraph Ave. (between 48th and 49th streets), Oakland. Sister restaurant Spoon is at 933 Ashby Ave. (at Ninth Street), Berkeley. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook.

Oni Sushi

Oni Sushi. Photo: Adrienne Schell
Oni Sushi goes above and beyond to please parents and kids. Photo: Adrienne Schell

While well-known sushi spots such as Coach, Mijori and Kirala draw big crowds, it is a family-friendly gem tucked into the Montclair District of Oakland that gets my top vote. Beginner chopsticks, a patient staff and a darling sushi roll shaped like a teddy bear take the edge off the challenge of eating out with kids. The staff even goes above and beyond the usual. A friend shared the following experience: instead of asking in front of the kids if they wanted dessert, the server handed my friend a Post-It note with the handwritten question. Only a like-minded parent could be so thoughtful as to think a sugar rush might need to be avoided. I say ditch the long waits and lines elsewhere and take a sip of sake at this neighborhood spot. Oni Sushi is at 6100 LaSalle Ave. (at Moraga Avenue), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook.

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