Where To Eat In LA When Your Toddler Sucks
We're often asked about which LA restaurants are the most kid-friendly. The truth is, the answer depends on how monstrous your kid is (in this current phase of theirs). It doesn’t matter if a nice restaurant has chicken tenders and buttered noodles on the menu, if your two-year-old is hell-bent on destroying your night and everyone else’s, they will. And that’s where these places come in handy. They might not have the best food out there, but they do offer exceptional kid-friendly amenities: playgrounds, sand, and atmospheres loud enough to mask a shrieking toddler. No matter what brand of chaos your kid chooses today, these restaurants will help make it OK.
Let's face it, Malibu beach days are a marathon. But Malibu beach days with toddlers? That’s like signing up for a Tough Mudder. So be sure to stop off at John’s Garden for a breather. The tiny sandwich shop inside the Malibu Country Mart might not serve our absolute favorite sandwiches in the neighborhood, but it does have prime real estate adjacent to the shopping mall’s massive outdoor playground. Now you can enjoy your sandwich in peace while your child swings and runs with 3-year-olds who have already been accepted to Harvard-Westlake.
Spoke Bicycle is part cafe, part bicycle repair shop, and home to one of our favorite patios in the city. The open courtyard space is filled with long, shaded picnic tables that on weekends are filled with families fueling up on breakfast sandwiches and pretending they don’t know that child who just tipped over a stranger’s Jenga game. The beer list is great, there's room for kids to roam, and you won't need to worry about reservations because they don’t take them. If you want to turn lunch into an all-day outing, rent some bikes from the shop and cruise the LA River afterward.
Turns out the only way to get your child to listen to anything you say is to put them at a table with career-driven plastic dolls. Good news is, the American Girl Cafe exists. Located on the second floor of a giant toy emporium at the Westfield Century City, this pastel pink-colored cafe is the ideal place to keep your offspring entertained while you dissociate from your body for 90 minutes. Is the food amazing? Of course not. But for $27 you get a multi-course extravaganza of soft drinks, cinnamon rolls, a three-tiered High Tea stand filled with fruit skewers, cucumber and cheese bites, meatballs, and toasted ravioli, an entree of your choice, and dessert. That’s a value even stuck-up Samantha would approve of.
We don’t mean to worry you, but if your child doesn’t get excited by a giant 12-foot hotdog, there’s a chance they’re A.I. Better bring them to Tail O’ The Pup to test the waters. The historic Weho hotdog stand was recently brought back to life, complete with an air-conditioned interior, two colorful patios, and the iconic dog-shaped stand out front. With everything from corn dogs to chili fries to soft serve, the menu is a child's dream, but if you’re looking to get in on the fun, go for the Chicago Pup, an excellent take on the classic Chicago-style hot dog complete with sweet relish, pickle spear, sport peppers, mustard, poppy seeds, and absolutely no ketchup.
If you live in LA and have accumulated children, spending an afternoon at The Grove is a given. See’s Candy is obviously on the agenda, but before that, head over to Singapore’s Banana Leaf at The Original Farmers Market. You and your kids can slurp down sweet, creamy laksa or the best beef rendang in town. Plus, the tiny stall is located on the back side of the market, far enough away from the hoards of other unattended children in case you and your offspring need to take a full breath or two.
One could argue that any location of Cheesecake Factory is good for poorly behaved children, but the Marina Del Rey location is really good. For starters, the place is absolute chaos on the weekends, full of post-beach families whose collective sanities are in a state of free fall. Whatever mood your child is in, trust us when we say it’ll be a blip on the radar compared to what’s going down here. Most importantly though, there’s a semi-private beach on the property in the event your child—or let’s be real, you—need a long, deep breath of ocean air.
Bea Bea’s is a diner in Burbank with more than 150 items on the menu, including 60 different kinds of pancakes, waffles, french toast, and crepes. Needless to say, both you and your picky little monsters are going to love it here. It’s almost always packed, but the place is larger than it looks from the outside, so you’ll rarely wait too long for a table. Considering Bea Bea’s menu is filled with dishes like peanut-butter stuffed french toast to Oreo-topped waffles, a meal here is breakfast and a trip to the candy store all in one—and that’s called time management. Don’t leave without trying our favorite thing on the menu, the Green Tea Monster pancakes: matcha pancakes with green tea mascarpone and white chocolate chips.
Salazar is usually filled with kids during the day. Plain and simple, this entirely outdoor Mexican restaurant in Frogtown is a kid haven, with margarita-sipping parents doing their best to have a good time while also keeping one eye on their children playing in their preferred habitat: gravel. There isn’t an official kids’ menu to speak of, but as we see it, even the most demonic kids will rarely pass up a quesadilla.
At this point, your toddler has enough scrapes and bruises to land a walk-on role in CSI. If you aren’t looking to add to the collection, head to Paradise Cove, where the floor is composed of Earth’s natural knee pads: sand. While you focus on taking down giant barbecue chicken quesadillas and a couple of Bloody Marys, your two-year-old trapeze artist can flip and fling to their heart’s content. Bring swimsuits, too—the beach is right there for a quick post-meal swim.
This little biergarten in Mar Vista is a great place for a low-key meal that involves brats—both the German sausage and misbehaved children—and possibly too many doppelbocks. The currywurst is one of our favorites, but we also love the jägerschnitzel, a breaded pork loin that's pounded thin and topped with mushroom cream sauce. Rasselbock even has a patio with games and toys for kids. There’s also an equally kid-friendly location in Long Beach.
Open since 1948, Cindy’s is an Eagle Rock landmark where the retro diner atmosphere is better than the food itself—a completely fine attribute considering your child ate a grape out of the litter box last night. This isn’t to say the food is bad, it’s just that the place itself is magical. Bright orange booths (which are very durable to spillage, might we add) surround a long linoleum bar where locals congregate to eat omelets and grumble about traffic. It’s also pretty loud on the weekends, which means if little Timmy decides to have a complete meltdown, the group of ladies eating carrot cake and doing crosswords won’t be too disturbed.
Sure, Golden Road is the beer equivalent of Kohl’s these days, but their massive brewery space in Atwater Village is still a great place to set up shop for the afternoon and let your kids go buck wild. There’s a sprawling front patio that’s completely astroturfed—which means fewer band-aids—and lined with various games and toys for them to throw at people. As far as the food, there’s a solid enough menu with everything from burgers to salads to carnitas poutine, as well as many vegetarian options.
This excellent Ethiopian restaurant works for families with kids simply because the place is always filled with them. There are long rows of wicker mesobs where groups tear into spongy injera, then sop it up with doro wot and beef tibs. If your group is really big, there’s even a semi-private table up front. The place stays loud and festive at night, meaning most major meltdowns will go undetected by neighboring tables.
If you’re under the impression nothing can drown out your toddler’s hell-shattering scream, try a 747 flying overhead. The Proud Bird is an LAX-adjacent food hall (don’t worry, you don’t have to enter the airport to eat here) featuring six different vendors including Bludso’s BBQ, plus stalls serving cocktails, teriyaki bowls, pizza, and more. On top of several decommissioned fighter planes your kid can gawk at, they can also burn off some of that energy at the full outdoor play area complete with slides, tunnels, and the muffling roar of nearby airplanes.
OK, so The Point is not exactly a restaurant, it’s an outdoor mall in El Segundo, but the sprawling campus is practically Coachella for people with kids. You can certainly come here and eat inside one of the nicer restaurants like Little Sister, but the name of the game is to order food from one of the fast-casual chains and head out to the big lawn. Here your tireless child can run in endless circles with every other South Bay toddler, while you sneak off to Simmzy’s for a stiff drink and unspoken bonding with all the other red-eyed parents.