How to eat out with the kids in SF without driving other customers crazy (2023)

The unintended behavior of a San Francisco restaurant ownerPositionwho called unruly toddlers "satanic" has sparked a social media firestorm over whether toddlers should be allowed in restaurants.


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Zazie's owner, Jennifer Bennett Piallat, was dining at a local sushi restaurant when her meal was interrupted by unruly children. (Read the full story atSFGate.)

How to eat out with the kids in SF without driving other customers crazy (1)

“It may shock you, but the decision to have children means you can't go out and eat for about 3 years. Please. Accept your fate - you are killing me,' wrote Bennett Pilat.

Some locals came to her defense, others strongly disagreed with her and Bennett PilatHe apologized.


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Here's what I've learned as a mother of three:

Of course, families need to eat out—especially in a city like San Francisco, where young palates can be exposed to an exciting array of flavors from around the world.

Additionally, mothers and fathers deserve breaks from cooking and children need to learn to eat in an environment where they are expected to behave.

That said, parents need to be smart about when, where and how they eat out with their kids. Here's an updated version of some tips I've shared with SFGate readers over the years.


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Go where you are welcome.The children's menu is an immediate invitation for families. As is the high chair. Some restaurants even go so far as to provide crayons and coloring books for little guests (Tacolicious,FoodIPark Chow, for example) and plastic tableware (AliceChinese restaurant in Noe Valley). These restaurants want parents to push strollers through their doors and appreciate the interests of families.

Barneya,Pizzeria Amici East CoastIBuca di Beppothey are unpretentious restaurants that offer comforts for the whole family. These places are not for mom and dad to enjoy frisée salad with pickled beets, avocado and cilantro vinaigrette. It's about mom and dad hanging up their aprons at night.

Some less expected restaurants quietly welcome families. In these elegant establishments, adults will find a seasonal menu and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, while children can practice good manners. Mission AreaForeign cinemahas perhaps the most beautiful children's menu in town. The $15 three-course meal includes carrot and celery sticks served with dipping sauce, buttered pasta with Parmesan cheese and two scoops of homemade whipped cream. I take that as an invitation to bring my 11 and 12 year old, but not my 2 year old who can't sit still for three seconds and has been known to stuff raisins up his nose.

Pay attention to the host's instructions.The host at the door is another indicator of whether a restaurant welcomes children. If he glances at your offspring when you walk through the door, don't worry. Why go where you are not welcome?

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On special occasions, my dad likes to invite our family to an Italian restaurant for dinnerBread and wineon Union Street in Cow Hollow. As my three children walk through the door, the host calls out their names in a thick Italian accent. My father absolutely adores his grandchildren and is thrilled that the host Mr E Vino appreciates them too. The waiters circle our table and sing to my children on their birthdays. My father beams and then orders another glass of wine.

Lorella Degan, co-owner of a restaurant in SardiniaFatwith her husband Massimiliano Conti, she also smiles when the children walk through her door. She is a warm and kind aunt every child dreams of. My son was so pleased with Lorell when we lived near this restaurant that he convinced me to buy her a present. We took him with us when we ate there one night and he was invited into the kitchen to help make his own pizza - a night he will never forget.

Yes, La Ciccia is a small restaurant aimed at sophisticated adult palates. My husband and I love their baby octopus stew and grilled sardines, but my kids will tell you their margherita pizza with sweet tomato sauce is the best in town (and they're not allowed to ask the chef to keep the basil ). If you go early and have kids (not toddlers!) who put napkins on their laps and can sit still for an hour, this is an unforgettable place for a family meal.

Be adventurous.Ramen in Japantown (We love itMifuneISuzu), pho in Little Saigon (DocBistro Bodega), puppy on mission (Balompie Cafe). These ethnic restaurants are of good quality, offer children a chance to challenge their taste buds, and often the people working there love children. Our family is also happyW To the Turksat Sirloin, where the meal begins with a basket of warm pita bread and a plate of creamy hummus drizzled with olive oil.


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The age of your children matters.If you have a mature newborn who could sleep through a Metallica concert, you should feel free to eat wherever you want. Probably not Gary Danko (though I wouldn't know because I've never been), but white tablecloth restaurants are acceptable with a calm child. Don't worry about other guests looking at you disapprovingly when you sit next to them. You know your baby and you know he will sleep through three classes.

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We took the newborn to the tiny Pizzeria Delfina when he was just six weeks old. She nestled like a hibernating bear in my husband's elbow. No one even knew it was there. If we could afford to eat out more than once a week, we would be at Zuni, Marlowe, Nopa.

Picky kids, on the other hand, are not interested in restaurants. My first was colicky and we learned that the hard way trying to take her out for Chinese food one night when she was about three months old. My husband and I were trying to comfort her outside. No one was having fun. We didn't eat out again for several months after her nervousness subsided.

Little kids are a different story and I know I'm in the middle of a terrible 2 years. They feel best at home, where they can squeal with joy, throwing food around the room. When you're desperate to go out for a meal, opt for casual counter-service restaurants (think taquerias) or those few places that cater to 2-year-olds. The couple that owns itEagle Pizzeriain the Sunset is loved by local parents for providing a generous supply of toys for busy hands. Your little one can play in the mini kitchen while you enjoy a slice of bread and a beer. My family loves it tooFor pizzaon Hyde Street in Russian Hill. Another option is restaurants with spacious outdoor terraces or even better a grass and trees to climb as you findPark cottage.


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Find out when to go.Earlier is always better for dinner – aim for 5:30pm. Your child will be less tired and behave better. The restaurant will be less crowded. If you want to eat in a trendy place, try lunch. I take my 12 year old daughter for lunch from time to timemissionary cheese. He likes raclette, spicy Swiss cheese melted over fries. I would never take her on a Friday night when the place is full of twenty-somethings drinking wine. The wrong crowd.

Be polite and respectful.If your baby starts crying in a restaurant (which is totally normal), put a pacifier in his mouth and run straight for the door. If your little one becomes unruly, the same. Just get out. If your toddler throws food on the ground, help clean it up and leave a generous tip. Teach your children to say "please" when ordering: "Can I have a Caesar salad" - this always impresses the waiters and tasters around you. If you are eating at a restaurant without a children's menu, expect your child to order from the main menu. No special requests for plain pasta - because if that's all your child will eat, then why are you at this restaurant?

Limit running.Babies and children need a lot of equipment: diapers and wipes, crayons and coloring books, booster seats. Use your best judgment. Don't take a big, bulky stroller to a pantry-sized restaurant—carry your baby in a sling. Don't throw a big bag of crayons on a white tablecloth - try a deck of cards instead. Sometimes we bring a stack of Uno cards when we go out to dinner - but family card games only work in certain places, like a pizzeriaPi-Baron mission. People don't pay $30 for a piece of wild king salmon at Zuni to watch your family play cards. It's all a matter of common sense!

And absolutely no running - ever.I recently spoke with the manager of Chow on Church Street in the Castle, and Darrell Bosacki said his biggest annoyance is the kids rushing through the restaurant.


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"If I ever had a message to give my parents, it would be that running into a restaurant is not okay, no matter what, because it's dangerous," Bosacki said. "Everywhere I've worked, I've seen this happen. The child asks his parents to go to the bathroom and they let him go on his own and he runs away."


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Amy Graff is the news editor at SFGATE. Born and raised in the Bay Area, she got her start in news at the Daily Californian at the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied English Literature. He has been associated with SFGATE for over 10 years. You can email her at


How do you make kids behave at a restaurant? ›

7 Tips to Help Kids Behave in Restaurants by Emily Farris January 20, 2020
  1. Go early. Like, old-people early. ...
  2. Look at the online menu before you go. ...
  3. Strategic seating. ...
  4. All hail the high chair! ...
  5. Carry a stash. ...
  6. Put away your phone. ...
  7. Keep on Keepin' On.
Jan 20, 2020

How do I keep my baby occupied at a restaurant? ›

Entertain with food, toys, crayons and a play mat

Keeping the baby busy is the key to an enjoyable experience! Don't put all your eggs in one basket: bring toys, snacks, crayons, and a play mat. The restaurant might have crayons too.

How do I get my toddler to sit at the restaurant? ›

8 Tricks I Use To Get My Kids To Behave In A Restaurant
  1. I Feed My Kid Before We Leave The House. Giphy. ...
  2. I Let My Kid Use Silverware. Giphy. ...
  3. I Check To Make Sure The Restaurant Has A High Chair. Giphy. ...
  4. I Bring Entertaining Toys. Giphy.
Apr 17, 2017

What dish is San Francisco known for? ›

One of the most famous dishes that San Francisco is known for is cioppino, a hearty seafood stew that originated in the Italian-American community in North Beach in the late 1800s. It is said that the dish was created by Italian fishermen who would gather the day's catch and make a stew out of it on their boats.

How do I keep my kids quiet at a restaurant? ›

Pack Your Own Distractions

Just in case boredom or restlessness sets in, pack a few toys, books, tools for coloring, or anything that will keep your kids quiet and won't make noise that will distract other diners. Murphy cautions against electronics, though.

What is dining etiquette for kids? ›

Don't talk with your mouth full. No one wants to see all the food in your mouth, or have it sprayed across the table! Remind your child to take small mouthfuls and swallow their food before talking. Avoid using devices at the table; no phones, tablets, TV, video games etc.

How do I keep my child occupied at the dinner table? ›

How to Keep Your Kids Busy at a Restaurant
  1. I Spy. You will see this on a lot of my lists because it is so easy to play anywhere. ...
  2. Dining Out Printables. ...
  3. Straw Wrapper Worms. ...
  4. Straw Wrapper Roses. ...
  5. Knives and Sugar Packet Tic Tac Toe. ...
  6. Snacks. ...
  7. Order Dessert. ...
  8. Family Dinner Conversation.
Apr 15, 2013

Can my 9 year old be in the delivery room? ›

Dr. Davis recommends that older children be at least 16 years old to be present during labor and birth. Any child who is present should be counseled about the process of vaginal birth so they know what to expect and are not alarmed. Children are not allowed in c-section deliveries.

Why do toddlers misbehave in restaurants? ›

It's all so exciting for her. The main reason your toddler behaves like this is because of excitement. Eating out is very different from eating at home.

What age do kids behave at restaurants? ›

By age 8, many kids can: sit for an hour or more in a restaurant. eat politely in casual restaurants without prompting from parents.

What drink is San Francisco known for? ›

San Francisco bartenders have been mixing up great drinks for a very long time. Some well-known drinks were either created there or found a second home in the city. The Bay Area is famous for the gin martini, its predecessor, the Martinez, pisco punch, and the unforgettable mai tai.

What dessert was invented in San Francisco? ›

Fortune Cookies. Though a couple of Los Angeles bakers have tried to claim credit for creating the fortune cookie, food historians agree that the most reliable origin story comes from San Francisco.

What food was invented in San Francisco? ›

Cioppino is invented at Alioto's San Francisco. 1905 — Oakland's Frank Epperson invents the Popsicle. 1908 — Chicken Tetrazzini is invented in San Francisco for Luisa Tetrazzini, an Italian coloratura.

How do restaurants deal with toddler tantrums? ›

  1. Show him you feel for him. Sure, your little often seems like a crazed lunatic, but he can still be reasoned with. ...
  2. Pull out your bag of tricks. ...
  3. Offer ice cream, treats, toys, anything. ...
  4. Take him outside for a breather. ...
  5. Get the hell out. ...
  6. More for Toddler Moms:
Feb 3, 2016

How do you not lose kids in a crowd? ›

Staying alert in crowds and while out with your children is the best way to prevent anyone from getting lost. Don't get too distracted by conversation with your spouse, friends, or other family members. Always keep an eye on where your kids are and what they're doing.

How do I keep my 4 year old busy at a restaurant? ›

5 Ways to Occupy Kids in a Restaurant
  1. A kid-sized bag. Have your child pack little backpack or cute mini suitcase with things to play with at the restaurant. ...
  2. Colorforms. ...
  3. Play-Doh. ...
  4. Paper and pens. ...
  5. Washable placemats and books.

Is it rude to leave the table before everyone has finished? ›

Generally, one should not leave the table before the host or the eldest person finishes his or her food. It is also considered impolite to leave the table without asking for the host's or the elder's permission. Normally whoever completes first will wait for others and after everybody is finished all leave the table.

Should kids sit at the dinner table? ›

Yes, as much as possible, your toddler should sit at the dinner table for meals. This is where they will learn proper table manners as well as learn to model eating habits. If they aren't hungry, they only need to stay for a few minutes. They do not need to stay at the table until everyone is finished eating.

At what age should kids sit at table to eat? ›

When to Transition from High Chair to Table. Although there's no specific age, your toddler will typically be ready to move away from the high chair anywhere between 18 months and 3 years of age.

Why does my child hide under the table when upset? ›

Another factor that plays a part is the fact that a sense of powerlessness from early trauma can lead to a need to control, particularly when stressed. Coupled together these two powerful urges – to control and the overwhelming sense of shame can cause a child to run and hide.

How long should kids sit for dinner? ›

Be realistic about how long they should stay seated.

Most kids can handle 2-5 minutes seated at the table per year of life. If it is a meal they're not into, it's usually on the lower. If it is a meal they are more fond of, they will usually stay a bit longer to allow them more time to eat and enjoy it.

How soon can you take a baby out to eat? ›

According to most pediatric health experts, infants can be taken out in public or outside right away as long as parents follow some basic safety precautions. There's no need to wait until 6 weeks or 2 months of age.

How long do you have to leave baby food out? ›

Never allow opened jars of food to sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Solid baby foods that have been opened may be stored in the refrigerator for a maximum of three days.

Does what you eat go straight to baby? ›

Very early. Research shows that what a woman eats during pregnancy not only nourishes her baby in the womb, but may shape food preferences later in life. At 21 weeks after conception, a developing baby weighs about as much as a can of Coke — and he or she can taste it, too.

Should your mom be in the delivery room? ›

Who you have at your birth is a decision that is entirely up to you – and you only. Some women cannot imagine going through such a major life event without their mother by their side, whereas other woman can't think of anything worse than having their mother in the birth room.

Should I let the father of my child in the delivery room? ›

You don't have to let anyone in the room who you'd prefer not to have, and that includes your child's father, your mother in law, your own mother, or anyone else who decides that she or he would like to be present. It's a medical procedure and it's your body.

Should the father be in the delivery room? ›

If a mother has had a C section, a father is present to deliver important skin-to-skin contact directly after birth.” “Fathers' empowerment, intimacy for the couple, closer bonding for parents and baby, and baby benefiting from the microbiome at birth” are all valuable reasons for dads to be present, she says.

How do you deal with a disruptive toddler? ›

How to handle difficult behaviour
  1. Do what feels right. What you do has to be right for your child, yourself and the family. ...
  2. Do not give up. Once you've decided to do something, continue to do it. ...
  3. Be consistent. ...
  4. Try not to overreact. ...
  5. Talk to your child. ...
  6. Be positive about the good things. ...
  7. Offer rewards. ...
  8. Avoid smacking.

Why is my toddler acting out so bad? ›

They're learning the rules. When toddlers act out, they're testing the limits—not (just) of our patience, but of the world around them. They're learning the rules of their home and society and seeing what's acceptable and what isn't.

What is unacceptable toddler Behaviour? ›

defiance (e.g. refusing to follow your requests) fussiness (e.g. refusal to eat certain foods or wear certain clothes) hurting other people (e.g. biting, kicking) excessive anger when the child doesn't get their own way.

What age can kids cook unsupervised? ›

With an adult supervising, a lot of kids start using the oven and stove at around age 12. By the time they are 14, most kids can use both the oven or stove on their own.

When should kids stop playing with food? ›

However, if the mess or waste becomes too much, you might need to look for ways to stop excess food play. It's also natural to assume a 6-month-old baby might fling a little food, but once your child has reached 3 or 4 years old, you shouldn't see too much food play.

What do I do when my toddler won t sit for time out and gets up and runs away? ›

Your child won't stay put

If your child refuses to go to her time-out place and stay there, she needs your help. Walk her to the chosen spot, and calmly instruct her to sit down. If she springs up, gently sit her back down again.

How long should a 4 year old sit still? ›

On average, children are able to sit at the table for 2 to 5 minutes per year of life. For example, a 3-year-old can sit still for 6 to 15 minutes, a 5-year-old can sit still for 10 to 25 minutes, and by around age 7, children can sit still for about 15 to 35 minutes.

How long should a 2 year old sit still? ›

"You can't expect a 2-year-old to sit still for two minutes. Anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds is reasonable, and you can increase those increments over time."

What food is unique to San Francisco? ›

10 Iconic San Francisco Eats & Drinks That Every Visitor Must Try
  • Anchor Steam Beer. ...
  • Irish Coffee from Buena Vista Cafe. ...
  • Sourdough Bread from Boudin Sourdough. ...
  • Mission Burrito in the Mission District. ...
  • Seafood at Fisherman's Wharf. ...
  • Dim Sum in Chinatown. ...
  • Martini in North Beach. ...
  • Espresso at Caffe Trieste.

What is the red stuff in San Francisco Bay? ›

The vibrant pink hue comes from a natural source: halobacterium and microscopic algae. As the water gets saltier, some microbes can't hack it and they die off. But others are specially adapted to salty conditions and they flourish, changing the color of the water.

What food is San Fran famous for? ›

Contents hide
  • 1 Ghirardelli Chocolate.
  • 2 San Francisco Sourdough Bread.
  • 3 Clam Chowder Bread Bowl.
  • 4 Cioppino.
  • 5 Dungeness Crab.
  • 6 Pacific Oysters.
  • 7 Mission-Style Burrito.
Sep 21, 2022

What chocolate is San Francisco famous for? ›

Ghirardelli Chocolate San Francisco Heritage.

What bakery did Phil go to on San Francisco? ›

Tartine Bakery

Phil begins his trip at Tartine Bakery, which is one of the top bakeries in the nation. He enjoys a variety of pastries, including his favorite, the chocolate croissant.

What is the oldest thing in San Francisco? ›

Mission Dolores is a Spanish mission chapel built in 1782 making it the oldest building in San Francisco.

What is the most popular dish in San Francisco? ›

One of the most famous dishes that San Francisco is known for is cioppino, a hearty seafood stew that originated in the Italian-American community in North Beach in the late 1800s. It is said that the dish was created by Italian fishermen who would gather the day's catch and make a stew out of it on their boats.

What drink was invented in San Francisco? ›


The Martinez Special debuted and made its way to San Francisco. By the 1880s the recipe had been perfected and the name shorted to the Martini, and thus the San Francisco martini was born.

What is California's most iconic food? ›

Famous Foods California is Known For
  • Hollywood – Cobb Salad. ...
  • Santa Barbara (Hidden Valley) Ranch Dressing. ...
  • Santa Maria – Santa Maria Tri Tip. ...
  • Gilroy – Garlic-Stuffed Sourdough Bread. ...
  • San Francisco Bay Area – Cioppino. ...
  • Oakland – Popsicles. ...
  • Lodi – Grilled Pork Chop and Cherry Sauce. ...
  • Placerville/El Dorado – Hangtown Fry.

What is the best way to get children to behave? ›

These include:
  1. Show and tell. Teach children right from wrong with calm words and actions. ...
  2. Set limits. Have clear and consistent rules your children can follow. ...
  3. Give consequences. ...
  4. Hear them out. ...
  5. Give them your attention. ...
  6. Catch them being good. ...
  7. Know when not to respond. ...
  8. Be prepared for trouble.
Nov 5, 2018

How do you deal with a misbehaving child in public? ›

Managing misbehavior in public

If your child begins misbehaving, it is important for you to stay calm and collected. Remind your child of the expectations in a neutral manner and be prepared to follow through with a consequence if needed. A timeout may be appropriate based on your child's age.

How do you discipline a child without being abusive? ›

Below are ten alternatives to spanking that you might find helpful.
  1. Give choices. A choice gives some control back to the child on the parents' terms. ...
  2. Take a timeout. ...
  3. Get someone else involved. ...
  4. Teach them what you expect. ...
  5. Recognize their positive behaviors. ...
  6. Timeout. ...
  7. Consequence. ...
  8. Pick your battles.

How not to take kids behavior personally? ›

Don't show them that you've taken what they've said personally—keep your comments about feeling attacked to yourself, your partner or a supportive group of friends. Personalizing kids' behavior is just not helpful. It won't lead to solving the real problem for you or your child.

What are the 3 table manners? ›

With so many table manners to keep track, keep these basic, but oh-so-important, table manners in mind as you eat:
  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Keep your smartphone off the table and set to silent or vibrate. ...
  • Hold utensils correctly. ...
  • Wash up and come to the table clean. ...
  • Remember to use your napkin.

What are the do's and don'ts of dining etiquette? ›

Don't touch your face or head at the table. Don't tip up the glass or cup too much when drinking, but keep it straight. Don't reach across the table or across another person to get something. If it's out of reach, ask the closest person to pass it to you.

What are the four reasons for misbehavior? ›

Misbehavior Goals
  • Attention-getting: he wants attention and service. We respond by feeling annoyed and that we need to remind and coax him.
  • Power: he wants to be the boss. ...
  • Revenge: he wants to hurt us. ...
  • Display of inadequacy: he wants to be left alone, with no demands made upon him.


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