Not so long ago, the local piers weren’t places to take the kids. They had an element of grunge (and not in a cool Pearl Jam way) and the dining options ranged from fast food to no food. But now things are changing and there are 3 great spots on gorgeous piers that are foodie heavens for parents and kids alike—the fact that there are also family activities and spectacular sunsets over the Pacific are pure bonus!

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photo credit: Meghan Rose

Pier: Santa Monica
Restaurant: The Albright
You smell the salty air. You watch people lazily casting rods off the end of the pier. All that puts you in the mood for seafood! That’s why the barely year old re-do of the Albright is such a delight. The food is delectable—the lobster makes you feel like you’re in Kennebunkport, the calamari are crisp and the oysters are briny, slurpy treats. The kids meals offer up hearty portions of kid-approved favorites, like corn dog bites and chicken tenders, while adult entrees are large enough to share with the table and encourage kids to try new flavors. And the set up is designed to entertain the kids while you indulge in sumptuous seafood:order at the front, while kids make friends with the lobsters and crabs in tanks. Then pick a table inside or out and sip your local beer or crisp wine while the kids discover Popeye.

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photo credit: The Albright

That’s right, Popeye the Sailor classic cartoons are playing and you’ll notice that he also appears on the server’s shirts. Why? Turns out Popeye was a real local character who used to fish off the end of the Santa Monica Pier. Ask the restaurant staff, and they’ll fill you in on some Popeye lore. Which just might get the kids eating their spinach!

Bonus fun for kids: Pacific Park rides, the carousel, the Heal the Bay Aquarium – there’s an embarrassment of riches for family fun on the pier.

The Albright
Serving lunch and dinner, 7 days a week.
Phone: thealbright.com
Online: 310-394-9683

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photo credit: Marika Bortolami via Creative Commons

Pier: Malibu
Restaurant: Malibu Farm
If you close your eyes and just taste the food, you could think you’re up north in Berkeley, in the middle of the farm to table cradle. But then you open your eyes and there’s no fog or Giants fans, just sparkling sea, sand and sunshine. Order at the counter and grab a seat outside (there’s indoor seating too, but barring a hurricane, we can’t imagine preferring that) while you wait for your food. Better yet, have one parent snag a seat and dolphin watch with the kids, while the other waits in line and places the orders.  Because the secret is out among locals, and there will be a line. Your little ones can decide between tofu and salmon plates for kids (OK, they can also opt for a mini corn dog or quesadilla) while you dig into heaps of crab cakes or the cauliflower pizza.

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photo credit: Ryan P. via yelp

This restaurant is not just on the pier, it’s on the very end of the pier. Hands down, this is our favorite restaurant spot in the state. (No exaggeration!) Any closer to the ocean and you’d be in the drink.   And speaking of drinks, drink up. From juices so fresh you can taste the farm and lattes with foam art that will delight the kids, the drinks here are superb.

Bonus fun for kids: Beach, baby. And you’re just a hop away from the Malibu County Mart where the kids can play on the playground and work up an appetite for dessert, which has to be the giant cookies or other outsized desserts at Malibu Kitchen for the kids and a scoop of the decadent Grom gelato for you.

Malibu Farm
Serving breakfast and lunch 7 days a week, and now serving dinner Wednesday-Sunday.
Phone: 310-456-1112
Online: malibu-farm.com

quility seafood

photo credit: Quality Seafood via facebook

Pier: Redondo Beach
Restaurant: Quality Seafood
This is where you get hands-on with your food and whack ‘em and crack ‘em. This LA institution is loads of fun and has some of the freshest fish in town, so while it’s technically not out on the pier, it’s at the pier, and it counts. It’s a fish market, and you can get your goodies to go and cook them at home, but we prefer the less-mess option of picking out whatever looks freshest and having them cook it to order, then spreading your feast on one of the picnic tables and eating seafood in the sea air. Ordering takes a little work to figure out, and it can be crowded here, but ask the helpful staff and you’ll quickly figure out the process. Basically, order each item at corresponding counter (crabs at the crab counter, fish at the fish counter, etc.) and they’ll give you a different colored ticket and approximate time to pick up your order.

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photo credit: Quality Seafood via facebook

We recommend a divide and conquer approach—send half your family to put in the crab or lobster order, while the rest head to the snack bar for the less adventurous items like fish & chips or chowder in a bread bowl. Then the last stop is Beer & Wine area for drinks of all kinds as well as a seriously awesome poke appetizer for mom & dad and bread and butter for the kids.

Bonus fun for kids: There’s loads to do on the Redondo Beach Pier, from watching the seals and pelicans to playing at the arcade to poking in the souvenir shops. But with kids,our #1 pick is a ride on the Looking-Glass Semi-Submarine. Peer through the glass bottom and get ready for the frenzy when the captain feeds the fish.

Quality Seafood
Open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week. (Note: they close at 7 p.m. on weekdays and 7:30 p.m. on weekends, so don’t plan on a late dinner.)
Phone: 310-316-8782
Online: qualityseafood.net

What’s your favorite pier? We’d love to hear your pier secrets!

-Meghan Rose