[This post has since been updated.]
Ever since Aria became a toddler, it’s been a littttle bit more of an “adventure” going out to eat. There’s also an added layer of challenge now that Ezra is a mobile and super chatty 9-month-old. Sitting still for a long period of time is just not something that’s making it onto Aria’s resume just yet, so….. It’s really just a matter of finding family friendly restaurants where a toddler and a baby could potentially be loud–and even better, for that said toddler to be in an environment where there’s something that’ll help keep her occupied/or entertained.
Santa Barbara is an interesting mix of family friendly and kinda-not-so-family friendly. There are a ton of restaurants here, but not nearly as many that are family friendly. The majority of them are a bit more on the classier/hipper, you-can-eat-here-if-you-are-guaranteed-not-to-scream-or-spill-food-on-the-floor side.
A few disclaimers:
- You might have a really obliging toddler/kid who can go out with you anywhere. That’s AMAZING! You can pass this list along to someone else who has a little one with more of a bent towards lots of volume, mess making, and the need to have something to keep them occupied ;).
- There isn’t always a play-area or kid-area involved. Kid-friendly could simply mean that it’s a restaurant that offers a kids’ menu and is OK will kids being loud ;). In a couple of cases, there aren’t kids’ menus, but the environment lends itself to being family friendly.
- This list includes both local-to-Santa Barbara spots as well as chain restaurants–in case anyone was wondering.
- Last but not least, you know your kids better than anyone else. Some of these places might work great for your family, and others…not so much. #youdoyou
Where to Get Your Eat On
(This list is a compilation of places we’ve gone to as a family as well as places that have been recommend by other mamas.)
Benchmark Eatery (Downtown): This restaurant has a laid-back vibe, and it serves your classics–pizzas, burgers, etc… Your little ones will get an activity sheet, Wikki Stix (at least when we’ve been there), and crayons.
Bluewater Grill (By the Water): I haven’t been here yet since it’s still fairly new, but I’ve heard from some mamas that this is a good place for families.
Brass Bear Brewing (Funk Zone): Great food, drinks, & vibes. There’s a kid’s menu as well as a a super-cute (see picture above from their website), well-kept, supervised play area on these days/times:
- Saturday 1-7pm
- Sunday 1-7pm
- Wednesday 5-7pm
Brophy Bros (on the harbor): Good views. Fresh seafood. A casual enough feel to where it’s great for families with kids.
Cajun Kitchen Cafe (multiple locations): casual diner with good food & laid-back feels. Kiddos get a coloring sheet menu and crayons.
California Pizza Kitchen (Downtown): Lots of seating. Kiddos get a coloring sheet menu and crayons.
Creekside: We just went here the other day, and it was great for our kids. There’s an amazing outdoor sitting area with another level down where kids can run around and play with games and toys. The kids meals come with a popsicle upon request; we may have eaten those ourselves….
Crushcakes: Super cute spot downtown that specializes in cupcakes & serves yummy breakfast and lunch options along with Intelligentsia coffee. There’s inside and outside seating (it’s not the biggest place, but if you’re not going with a big group–this is a good option). There are kid options on the menu. They have mini cupcakes too, so that’s an added bonus if you’re celebrating something or just looking for a fun little treat for the kiddos–or yourself ;). This spot is also right by Kid’s World/Alameda Park and Alice Keck Park (aka Turtle Park), so you could always pick up your food and picnic it up.
On the Alley (Harbor/Goleta locations–the more casual sibling to Brophy Bros): We go to the one by the harbor and love sitting outside. It’s a super casual spot that serves breakfast, lunch, & dinner and has a kids’ menu.
Santa Barbara Public Market (Downtown): Lots of delicious eateries here (it’s basically am elevated food court)! You can pick what you’d like and then sit together at the open seating areas; there are also tables outside. There’s a chalk wall at the back that Aria loves, and The Garden offers coloring sheets, crayons, and board games. Our fave spots for food there are Empty Bowl & Corazon Cocina. And if you get drinks at The Garden, they let you bring in food from any of the other spots.
Island’s (La Cumbre): These are all over California. I’m not sure where else they are, but it’s a restaurant cain that offers tons of burgers and sandwich options along with some other items. There is a kids’ menu, and it’s got a super laid back environment, so it’s perfect for las familias.
Kyle’s Kitchen (multiple locations): This is basically fast food elevated with healthyier options;. You get good food in a comfortable setting. They do have a kid’s menu here.
Los Agaves (multiple locations): If you’re looking for a family friendly Mexican food spot, look no more. They don’t have a kids menu, but we have had lots of success just ordering a couple of sides for Aria.
Moby Dick’s (on the pier): I don’t know how often we think of going here mainly because the restaurants on the pier always feel a bit tourist trappy to me, but it is family friendly. Your littles get a coloring sheet and crayons.
Padaro Grill (Carpinteria): This counts because it’s in Santa Barbara county, right? Either way, it’s awesome! The tables are surrounded by grass and trees, and you’re right by the beach. Eat there, or take it to your staked out spot on the sand.
Phamous Cafe (Goleta): I will be the first to say that i’m a litttttle picky when it comes to Vietnamese food….since I’m Vietnamese. But I’ve had a better experience at Phamous Cafe than any other place in town that serves Vietnamese food. If you need your Pho fix, you could go to my parents’ house and she probably would feed you, but it’d be easier to go to Phamous and bring the kiddos.
Pizza Mizza (multiple locations): Family-friendly, casual spot that’s great for families. There is a kids menu here.
Rusty’s Pizza (multiple locations): OOOoook, so i’m kind of cheating on this one since they don’t have a kids menu. However, it’s pizza. So if your kids can eat pizza, then you’re good to go :).
Shalhoob (Funk Zone): We’ve heard amazing things about their burgers, but we actually haven’t been here yet. However, i’ve heard parents rave about this place since the patio area is great for kids. I checked their online menu and didn’t see one specifically for kids, but there are definitely kid-friendly options, or you can just bring food for the littles.
I shared this blog post on the Santa Barbara Moms FB page, and I got such great feedback. Here are some of the places that fellow mamas shared (did my best to include any of their comments):
Hollister Brewing Company (Camino Real)
Kahuna Grill (Camino Real): circle area that kids can run around and play in
Longboards (on the pier): not the friendliest prices, but you get to throw peanut shells on the floor and there’s a great view (good for when visitors are in town)
Mesa Cafe: great kids menu and coloring sheet & good environment
Mulligan’s (@ Golf Course): great patio area
Natural Cafe (Camino Real)
Pepe’s (Goleta): good outdoor and indoor sitting areas
Pizza Guru: has board games
Shoreline Cafe: tables right on the sand, so kiddos can play nearby
Sushi Ai (Camino Real): $1.99 kid’s menu
Yellowbelly: great kids menu
These two aren’t restaurants, but they definitely get the job done with the pre-made food options as well as the self serve food areas–especially if you just want to pick up food and then eat it al fresco!
Lazy Acres (Mesa): If you’re looking for a place where you can grab a tasty, quick bite that is family friendly, this is definitely a good option. There are tables outside, or you can take your food to a nearby beach or park.
Whole Foods (Upper State): See Lazy Acres description ;).
Hope you found this helpful! I know it can be a game changer when some of the guess work is taken out :).
Are there any spots that you and the fambam like going to that aren’t on this list? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to keep expanding this list and trying new spots around town.