Best San Diego Restaurants for Families

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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.

Kid-friendly Corvette Diner at Liberty Station in San Diego (Photo credit: Corvette Diner)
Corvette Diner at Liberty Station (Photo credit: Corvette Diner)

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.

Fish Market in Del Mar, San Diego County for families
Fish Market in Del Mar (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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.

Plates, salads, and sandwiches at Urban Plates in San Diego
Plates, salads, and sandwiches at Urban Plates (Photo from the Urban Plates Facebook page)

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.

Strawberry pancakes from Richard Walker's Pancake House in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter
Strawberry pancakes from Richard Walker's Pancake House in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter (Photo credit: Richard Walker's Pancake House Instagram)

4. Richard Walker's Pancake House – Best Pancakes in Town

Besides my mom'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.

Pizza Port pepperoni pie on the beach in Del Mar in San Diego County
Pizza Port pepperoni pie on the beach in Solana Beach (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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.

An array of Burger Lounge offerings
An array of Burger Lounge offerings (Photo from Burger Lounge Facebook page)

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.

Strawberry Hot Fudge Sundae at Ghirardelli San Diego Gaslamp
Mmm…Strawberry Hot Fudge Sundae at Ghirardelli San Diego Gaslamp (Photo credit: Ghirardelli Facebook page)

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.

Tijuana Style Eggs Benedict at MaryJane's puts a Mexican flair on an American classic breakfast dish
Tijuana Style Eggs Benedict at MaryJane's Diner (Photo credit: Hard Rock Hotel 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 brunch 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!

Gelatos galore at Chocolat Cremerie in the San Diego Gaslamp District
Gelatos galore at Chocolat Cremerie (Photo credit: Chocolat Cremerie)

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!

Cash & Carry Italian Foods at Filippi's Italian Grotto in Little Italy
Cash & Carry Italian Foods at Filippi's Italian Grotto in Little Italy (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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.

The Prado's outdoor patio in Balboa Park
The Prado's outdoor patio in Balboa Park (Photo from The Prado's Facebook page)

11. 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.

Lunch at The Prado including Prado Pressed Salad
Lunch at The Prado including Prado Pressed Salad (Photo from The Prado's Facebook page)

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.

Cafe Coyote is a favorite among all of the Mexican restaurants in Old Town San Diego
Cafe Coyote is a favorite among the many Mexican restaurants in Old Town San Diego (Photo credit: Cafe Coyote)

12. 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.

Roberto's Mexican Food in Del Mar
Roberto's Mexican Food in Del Mar (Photo from Roberto's Facebook page)

13. Roberto's Very Mexican Food – Greasy but Good

Roberto's Very Mexican Food serves greasy but delicious Mexican grub. Head here after a day at the nearby Torrey Pines Natural State Reserve in Del Mar. Chow down at picnic tables on their outdoor patio.

Jose's Courtroom in La Jolla
Jose's Courtroom in La Jolla (Photo from Jose's Facebook page)

14. Jose's Courtroom – Fabulous Fajitas

For San Diego's best fajitas, go 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.

Rubio's original fish tacos
Rubio's original fish tacos (Photo from Rubio's Facebook page)

15. 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.

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.

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.

La Jolla Shores Beach in San Diego County
Discover more of San Diego (Photo courtesy of SanDiego.org)

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.

Best San Diego Restaurants for Families

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!

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin, MBA, is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular travel blog, TravelMamas.com. She is an expert in travel with kids and without. As the author of the book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents how to make the most of traveling with babies and children. Colleen loves sharing tips on hotels, cruises, spas, theme parks, and global lifestyle topics. When she is not traveling the world, she lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Jason Carlton (Carltonaut) says

    We’re heading to San Diego next month (hopefully) and there are a few you’ve listed we will have to visit – like the Corvette Diner and Ghiradellis. Thanks for the suggestions.

  2. littlemisadvencha says

    i love the pizza stop and ice cream shop. I’m always on the game when it comes to foods tripping. ❤️

  3. Emman Damian says

    The Fish Market seems like a great option for me. I hope to visit it when I come to San Diego. Sounds like a great place.

  4. So many great places. I can’t focus now after seeing the gelato. Oh my mercy goodness gee!!

  5. WanderlustBeautyDreams says

    These restaurants sound amazing. I would love to check these out whenever I’m in San Diego!

  6. Joanna Clute says

    San Diego is such a beautiful city. The people and the culture there are definitely worth the visit.

  7. Ntensibe Edgar Michael says

    Nnnniiiiccceeeeee….I think I will do The Fish Market restaurant! I live and love fish.

  8. Annemarie LeBlanc says

    The Oceanaire Seafood Room is the best one for me. I love seafood and would love to sample their cuisine. I’d go to Chocolat for dessert. OMG, these San Diego restaurants is paradise for any foodie!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Oceanaire is probably my favorite restaurant in the world! Love the decor, the food, the service…everything!

  9. Kelly Martin says

    These San Diego restaurants all sound amazing! I’d love to try all of them when I visit.

  10. All of these places look great! That diner looks especially fun!

  11. Wow! So many options and they all look good! I’ve been to San Diego once and I only ate at the hotel haha. Lame! It was for a conference so I couldn’t really leave, but still not as cool as trying all these different places!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Next time you visit San Diego, I hope you have an opportunity to get out and taste some of the city’s delicious food!

  12. Great list! The descriptions of the Burger Lounge and Ghiradelli’s are making my mouth water! I’ll have to check them out the next time I’m in SD!

  13. Great list! I have never been to San Diego before, but plan to some time in 2020. I will for sure keep this list handy for when I go. Thanks!

  14. Haven’t actually been to San Diego but definitely on my to visit list! Thanks for sharing this! This is gonna help me in preparing my itinerary 😀

  15. Carol Cassara says

    Everything sounds and looks delicious! I love it when a foodie shares their own list of places to try and which food to look for! It’s definitely one of the things that I look forward to when visiting a place!

  16. Thanks for this, I am going to bookmark this post. We were here a few years ago and did not know where to eat, and found the area a little touristy. And I love San Diego and hope to be back and check out your recommendations!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      The Gaslamp definitely has its fare share of tourists, but locals love to hang out & eat there, too! I hope you enjoy some of these restaurant picks on your next visit, Mitch!

  17. If I ever get back out to San Diego, I’ll have to add these restaurants to our must-eat places. It’s always good to get a perspective of cuisine from a foodie!

  18. Makeba Giles says

    Having several recommendations/reviews of food places is a blessing. It gives us, the reader, so options on where to go for a meal, if we’re in the area. Great review!

  19. Bill Sweeney says

    You wrote a great recommendation on some great places in San Diego! This will be a great resource, should we ever decide to go there.

  20. Danielle Smith says

    These all look like great choices of places to eat. Wonderful decorations and a great view are what I look for.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      For great decor, you’ll love the Oceanaire Seafood Room & for incredible views – Fish Market & Top of the Market are fab. Hope you like seafood! 🙂

  21. Melissa Chapman says

    I love that array of great restaurants and the food looks so good in all I would have to make a decision which to start with. The dessert offerings and breakfast places were also among the best I have seen.

  22. Catherine Sargent says

    These all look amazing places to eat. If I am ever in the area I will be visiting Chocolat Cremerie and Ghirardelli’s Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Oh you must, Catherine! Then you can compare & decide which has better ice cream! (Uh-oh…now I’m craving ice cream!)

  23. Well, NOW I’m starving. I’m bookmarking this for my next trip to San Diego. I think I’ll be out there again fairly soon, and alllll of these places are going to be stops for me.

  24. Sherpa Reviews says

    Great selection of places to visit. The Oceanaire Seafood Room is a favorite of ours with its great decor and fabulously fresh cuisine. Their jumbo lump crab cake is to die for – a mound of crustacean-themed goodness served with a decadent creamy mayonnaise. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Sherpa Reviews – Aww, man! Now you’ve got ME craving those Oceanaire crabcakes. They are ridonculously good, aren’t they?!

  25. My vote goes to Anthony’s Fishette. The fresh air and view of the harbor probably have a large influence on my choice.

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