Play With Your Food: Hip Restaurants That’ll Keep Kids Entertained

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You crave a nice meal out, but you’re worried your little sidekicks may get too squirmy waiting for the food to arrive. We hear you. That’s why we’ve found a bunch of restaurants with entertainment where kids can play and get their wiggles out from drinks to dessert. Pre-meal distractions like giant swings, patio playgrounds, arcade games and a giant foosball table you’ve got to see to believe will all keep your darlings dazzled while they wait for dinner. Read on for the details!

Sarah S. via Yelp

Nate’s Garden Grill

Nate’s Garden Grill is located in San Diego’s largest organic nursery, City Farmers. Here, you and the kids will feel cozy and welcome dining on the rustic patio while listening to local musicians play toe-tapping tunes daily. Kids will love the fresh, house-made biscuits and jam they can enjoy while jamming to the music. The folks at Nate’s say, “It is the perfect setting for relaxing with family and friends and enjoying good quality food, beverages and music.” Sounds perfect to us!

3120 Euclid Ave.
San Diego, CA 92105

Dannie M. via Yelp

Soda & Swine

A giant foosball table where many people can play is a highlight for half-pints. If they need more action, just head to the front for a game of corn hole. Food-wise, yummy sliders like the meatball with marinara and mozzarella or the seitan ball with chipotle BBQ and vegan cheddar hit the spot. And the small plates like fried pizza knots are perfect for sharing. For dessert, the classic apple pie a la mode deserves a special mention.

Liberty Station
2750 Dewey Rd., Suite 104
San Diego, CA

Shandis C. via Yelp


Based on the age-old notion of gathering around the fire to share good food with friends and family, Campfire has a hospitable vibe and even invites kids to play and relax in the teepee on their patio. They’ll feel like they’re camping right in the city with water poured from a canteen into metal mugs. Grown-ups will be pleased to find artisanal cocktails including a variety of fiery combos. The kid’s menu is a simplified version of the regular menu, but most kids will opt for the gooey grilled cheese. Everyone will delight in the desserts, including, you guessed it, s’mores for dessert.

2725 State St.
Carlsbad, CA

George P. via Yelp

Officine Buona Forchetta

Swings, a seesaw and tasty Italian food––that’s amore. It’s a parent’s paradise when kids can play on the playground before and after dinner. Even more, the pizza and pasta dishes are homemade and the menu is huge. Also, you can sit outside on the heated covered patio with a full view of the play area.

Liberty Station
2865 Sims Rd.
San Diego, CA

William Perls

Viewpoint Brewing

What’s not to love about giant swings with a view and fun games like bean bag toss? Without a doubt, this craft brewery has a picturesque view of the San Dieguito Lagoon, with good beer and a delicious menu to boot. Try the Backyard burger, truffle fries and burrata kale salad, which all deserve a shout out. Further, dogs are welcome (on the patio) too! It’s also the perfect place to brunch on Sat. & Sun.

Del Mar Neighborhood
2201 San Dieguito, Suite D
San Diego, CA

Shuzhen Y. via Yelp

Karl Strauss Brewery Gardens

Whether it’s Sunday brunch or afternoon eats this local brewery’s koi fish pond keeps the littles entertained. Get a seat outside on the patio, which is perched upon the expansive pond that’s filled with fishies to admire. We appreciate the kid’s menu with items like mac n’ cheese, grilled chicken breast and a root beer float. Also, you can order a craft brew flight and you can’t go wrong with the fish and chips. On the other hand, it’s a perfect Sunday brunch spot where it’s loud enough for kid noise and you’ll find items like pancakes, eggs and a carving station. Whatever you do, be sure to put this eatery on your list of places to go.

9675 Scranton Rd.
San Diego, CA
Online: karlstrauss.sorrento-mesa

San Diego Air and Space Museum

Flight Path Grill

Kids’ meals and plane watching! Grab the lunch combo after checking out the museum. Little aviation experts love digging into a grilled cheese (with apples or chips) while watching planes fly over. The view is beautiful and you can have a glass of wine too. Notably, plan on making a day of it since you must visit the museum (or pay admission) to get to the grill.

Balboa Park
San Diego Air & Space Museum
2001 Pan American Plaza
San Diego, CA

Mario R. via Yelp

Hello Betty Fishhouse

After ordering, little surfers can run to play in the dune buggy (right in the middle of the restaurant). More still, the pinball machines are tons of fun. You’ll eat up the Baja fish tacos and peel and eat shrimp. Likewise, kids will dig the chicken fingers or cheeseburger (off the kid’s menu). Make it a family date night with a walk to the nearby theater or Oceanside Pier. Save some cash on Taco Tuesday too!

211 Mission Ave.
Oceanside, CA

Mitch’s Seafood

Mitch’s Seafood

Watch the fishing boats dock with the day’s catch while eating fresh fish. Also, the seagulls and seals in the water make for great entertainment. You’ll find a little guppy menu with fish and chips and a cheeseburger. If kiddos need to move around, there’s a small beach next to the restaurant. In short, we recommend this place for the fresh seafood and the views of the seals, ships and boats.

1403 Scott St.
San Diego, CA

Punch Bowl Social

Punch Bowl Social

Punch Bowl Social is a whopping 23,500-square-foot restaurant, bar and entertainment destination that families will love. It boasts two bocce courts, private karaoke rooms, eight bowling lanes, shuffle board, Bonzini, an arcade, a custom built 360-degree bar with televisions galore for sports enthusiasts and numerous lounging and gathering spots. Even board game lovers will be pleased to find an array of classic games to play. In addition to the endless fun to be had, the food and drink menus are also a hit. The kids menu features tyke-friendly fare ranging from a cheeseburger or enchiladas to a lemon waffle or banana almond butter sandwich. Adults can sink their teeth into delectable salads, burgers, fried chicken and additional comfort foods with elevated flair––and it’s great that they also offer tantalizing vegetarian and gluten-free items. Punch Bowl Social’s made-from-scratch food is described as “American diner with a fresh, modern take on Mexican cuisine.”

Good to know: After 10 p.m., Punch Bowl Social is open only to the 21 and older crowd.

1485 E. St.
San Diego, CA

Aydee Z. via Yelp

Park 101

It takes a village! This kid-friendly and dog-friendly 8,000 square-foot multi-level, plaza-style complex fuses dining, lounging and sipping in a playful, relaxed community inspired ambiance. Kids can roam around or plop down on the astroturf, play the giant Connect Four game or bean bag toss. There’s open-air seating, cozy fire pits and many ways to eat. You can grab a cup a coffee and a donut or eat a bigger meal like pulled pork, chicken or salmon. Even more, there’s a kids menu with choices like bbq pork sliders––and kids get free cotton candy once they finish their meal!

Good to know: Park 101 also hosts many family-friendly events including trivia nights, movie nights in the park and Mom’s Who Mimosa to name a few. 

3040 Carlsbad Blvd.
Carlsbad, CA

Farmer & The Seahorse

Farmer & The Seahorse

One of our favorite brunch spots, Farmer & the Seahorse has an expansive play area complete with several corn hole games, balls and frisbees that kids can throw on the lawn, a grassy area to run and play tag or to use hula hoops or a parachute or stack the large outdoor Jenga game. The restaurant also has a rotation of indoor board games such as Scrabble to enjoy. Be sure to check out their lunch and brunch menus. 

10996 Torreyana Rd.
La Jolla, CA

Diana A. via Yelp

Mendocino Farms

Order up a healthy sandwich or salad at the counter of this charming eatery and let the kids enjoy the indoor and outdoor play spaces. They’ll find a foosball table and corn hole on the front patio and giant chalkboard walls for drawing and playing tic-tac-toe in a nice sized nook for kids inside. You’ll love the vegan Banh Mi sandwich, they’ll love the grilled cheese.

Del Mar Heights Neighborhood
12873 El Camino Real
Del Mar, CA

Bo-beau Kitchen Bar

Bo-beau Kitchen + Bar

School may be out for the day, but littles will beeline to the school bus that’s adjacent to the patio to play while big folks chow down on French crafted menu items like anjou pear flatbread and grilled salmon. Dine inside or out. You’ll find the basics for half-pints like chicken nuggets and quesadillas. 

Insider’s Tip: Call ahead to book a table near the repurposed school bus so you can take a breather while the kids play school.

8384 La Mesa Blvd.
La Mesa, CA

Beth Shea

Corvette Diner

Head to Corvette Diner for some good, old-fashioned 1950s nostalgia. This Liberty Station restaurant practically screams family-friendly. It’s an old-school style diner with tasty eats and ice cream shakes. The best part is the huge arcade where you can buy a swipe card and have a blast. The employees offer some great entertainment too. Dressed in their best 1950s attire, the wait staff has been known to perform Grease classics and The Chicken Dance right in front of your table. If you’re there at the right time, kids will enjoy watching a magician perform tricks and a balloon artist make some fancy creations. Plan for a wait on the weekends; but remember you can pass the time in the arcade.

2965 Historic Decatur Rd.
San Diego, CA 92106

Waypoint Public

Waypoint Public

Are your little ones wiggle worms? They can read, play games and kick back and relax or stay busy in the kids only special space at Waypoint Public. All while you dig in to the Chicken and Biscuit sandwich and indulge in a brunch cocktail. Once they join you at the table, little eaters can chomp down the Cocoa Krispy French toast.

3794 30th St.
San Diego, CA

C L. via Yelp

The Crack Shack

The Crack Shack offers food the whole family will love as well as a warm and inviting interior and a fun patio with outdoor seating that includes a sandbox for the kiddos. There’s also a classy bar area for those who’d like a drink. Casual and local, this cool eatery in Encinitas is definitely worth a family trip.

407 Encinitas Blvd.
Encinitas, CA

––Nikki Walsh, Leah R. Singer & Beth Shea


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