Face it, sometimes you don’t want to deal with getting the little ones through an entire restaurant meal—or with strangers’ stares as you whip out the iPads and cell phones to get you through said meal. Lucky for you, there are plenty of Bay Area cafés and restaurants that hold one very special ingredient: TOYS. The following places have all the toys, books, and play areas needed to keep the kiddos occupied while you eat, so go forth and enjoy your meal! Or in the very least, digest it. What not to forget: the hand sanitizer.
The Sleeping Lady
This restaurant, beer, and wine bar is also a music venue with a small stage, so when the when the stage isn’t in use, it doubles as a toy pen that all little ones are encouraged to partake in. The restaurant is often overrun (in a good way) with bikers on break or families enjoying their organic burgers, so it’s loud and perfect for a casual family meal. Or for something a little different, visit their Saturday uke jams where music lovers from all over the Bay pack the house with ukulele in hand.
23 Broadway Blvd
Pine Cone Diner
While there’s no separate playing area, what this cozy Point Reyes Station diner does have are buckets. Buckets of toys. Four of them, to be exact, right next to the window (on your right) as you walk in. Smallish buckets, but just enough to keep the kiddos occupied while you’re breakfasting on their specialty of pan fried Rainbow Trout or any number of delicious menu items, which BTW now includes gluten-free pancakes. Just grab bucket, order meal, and dine!
60 4th St.
Point Reyes Station 94956
Pizza Orgasmica & Brewing Co.
Their play area is huge! (That’s what she said.) Sorry, with a name like Pizza Orgasmica, we couldn’t resist. But really, it is huge—a whole back room huge dedicated to toys and lined with large communal dining tables for chowing down on pizza pies and home-brewed brewskies, as well as kiddo-sized tables (though those don’t seem to get used much). It all makes for the perfect meal setting.
Insider tip: on weekends, sometimes the kids’ section is taken over by a birthday party (or 3). If you want a more leisurely experience, call beforehand to see how busy their play area is.
819 A St #34
San Rafael 94901
Blue Dot Café & Coffee Bar
Not only does Blue Dot have the fancy kind of coffee where the barista makes swirly hearts with your foam (that you will inevitably Instagram at some point), but they have the ideal parent-foodie menu, which basically means yummy stuff for grown-ups and kiddos alike. Top that all off with a big blackboard and some fun toys, and you have a kid, parent, and mom-group friendly local café. It all equals bliss.
1910 Encinal Ave.
Zocalo Coffee House
You’ve got it all here: a coffee house that roasts their own beans, gluten-free treats, and an array of locals (on laptops, sipping coffee, and catching up). This is the kind of café where you can get your caffeine fix and actually enjoy a conversation with another adult without feeling rushed, thanks to a large area in back lined with chalkboards and small mountains of books and toys (the promise land!).
645 Bancroft Ave.
San Leandro 94577
Rigolo has helped parents all over the city hone the art of children playing in restaurants with their fenced off section of toys, coloring materials, and even balloons… all within close watch of the kiddos as you chow down French bistro faves like Croque Monsieur and Beef Bourguignon.
3465 California St.
San Francisco 94118
What are some of your favorite places for simultaneous eating and playing?
All images courtesy of Mae Respicio.