Miguel’s Cocina (619.437.4237) in Coronado serves up some of the best fish tacos in the city—San Diego’s signature dish—as well as authentic Mexican carne asada burritos and killer guacamole. Kids will enjoy the mild white sauce that is served with chips—a less fiery alternative to salsa. Snag a table on the outside patio for a festive atmosphere.
Filippi’s Pizza Grotto
Filippi’s Pizza Grotto (619.232.5094) has been a San Diego institution since 1950, and it’s one of the few original businesses left in the revitalized neighborhood of Little Italy. The red-and-white vinyl tablecloths and the dim lighting are ideal when traveling with very young, very messy kids, who are sure to enjoy the pizza and pasta.
Corvette Diner (619.542.1476) in Hillcrest is a ’50s-style diner that specializes in sensory overload: expect loud music, miles of neon, and sassy poodle-skirted servers who like to throw things at their customers. The signature appetizer is fried pickles, served with a side of ranch dressing. Follow up with a juicy hamburger—and might as well go all the way and get a supersized “brown cow” (Coke and ice cream float).
Red Pearl Kitchen
Red Pearl Kitchen (619.231.1100) in the Gaslamp Quarter offers foods from the Pacific Rim, crafted from luxurious ingredients like Kobe beef and Pacific lobster served in reasonably priced, family-sized proportions. Children can make a meal on the extensive dim sum offerings, like ginger chicken potstickers or the fun-to-eat wok-fried edamame. To finish, the lavender lemongrass panna cotta will obliterate all thoughts of fortune cookies.
Big Kitchen (619.234.5789) in Uptown serves up some of the heartiest breakfasts in San Diego. Staff, including the Earth-mother owner Judy the Beauty, treat their customers like family, and children are always welcome. Best of all, despite large portions, the prices won’t break the bank. Kid’s options are all under $4. There’s even a Hollywood connection—Whoopi Goldberg once worked as a dish washer here.
Smokin’ Joey’s Barbeque
Smokin’ Joey’s Barbeque (760.929.1396) near Legoland in Carlsbad is all but hidden in the corner of a suburban strip mall, but it’s worth the effort to find the place. Joey’s offers reliably good ‘que, with the perfect blend of smoke, heat, and sweet. Specialties include pulled pork and Texas-style brisket. Their Little Piglet’s Menu offers a kid-sized portion of baby back ribs, along with a chocolate chip cookie for dessert.