Northern Marin's newest dining hot spot, Ghiringhelli’s Pizza, Grill and Bar in Novato, presents fun for the whole family with Family Fare every Monday evening in July from 5:30–7:30 pm. Families can enjoy a great dinner along with terrific children's entertainment.
Kids can sing along, dance the Hokey Pokey, take part in arts and crafts activities, play games, and watch movies. Performers include Richard J. Rogers the Music Man, Marin kids' favorite Miss Kitty, and even a magic show, who will alternate on different Mondays.
Family Fare admission is $5, and Ghiringhelli's entire menu plusa a kids' menu will be available. Ghiringhelli's menu features pizza, pasta, salads, burgers, steaks, and more. Reservations are advised, but walk-ins are welcome, too.
Over the past few years the little West Marin town of Point Reyes Station has become a hot spot for tourists and Bay Area day-trippers. With its bucolic rural setting, charming downtown, nearby Point Reyes National Seashore, and emphasis on local sustainable foods and agriculture, it's no wonder why it's become such a popular place. For visiting families, however, Point Reyes Station can pose something of a challenge, especially when you're hungry and need something to eat. Offerings in town tend to be either expensive or extremely busy, especially on weekends and holidays. That's why we love Cafe Reyes.
Located on Highway One just around the corner from downtown Point Reyes Station, this rustic and charming restaurant is inexpensive, usually uncrowded (it's more of a hangout for locals rather than a tourist destination), and offers up some of the best and most authentic Neapolitan style pizza we've found anywhere. Cafe Reyes has been around for years, serving up Mexican-inspired fare for many years until they decided to switch gears a few years ago and install a massive wood-fired pizza oven, which you can see—or feel, owing to the amount of heat it gives off—when you walk in the front door.
Whenever we're at an event in downtown Novato and we end up feeling hungry around lunchtime, we seem to find ourselves at Las Guitarras, especially if it's a nice day. This venerable restaurant, located on Reichart Avenue just off Novato's main drag, has been serving hearty portions of Mexican-American classics to Marin families for since 1978.
Situated in an old Victorian house, Las Guitarras also boasts an extensive patio that's our go-to spot whenever we dine there. It's shady and open, with a big old burbling fountain and plenty of space for families to spread out. and relax. And there are usually plenty of families with young kids there, so you probably won't be alone amongst a sea of childless diners.
Las Guitarras's fare isn't exactly exciting, but it's fresh, predictable, and familiar—perfect comfort food. Whatever they're doing, it must be something right, since they've been on the Novato dining scene for over 30 years. Maybe part of the attraction is their margaritas, for which they're something of a local legend?
Novato family favorite Finnegan's Marin celebrates its fifth anninversary this month! With its old world atmosphere, Irish-inspired fare, and extensive and inexpensive (everything's $3.99!) children's menu, Finnegan's is a family friendly pub located in the heart of Novato's Old Town. They're also famous among local parents for their kids-eat-free Sunday nights, where children 12 and under can dine for free with the purchase of each adult meal from 5 to 10 pm.
In celebration of their fifth anniversary, Finnegan's is extending their kids-eat-free deal to the entire month of June, 2011. That's right—come on in at any time during the month (Father's Day, June 19, and the Novato Art, Wine and Music Festival weekend, June 11 and 12, excepted) and kids can eat lunch, dinner, or weekend breakfast for free.
Finnegan's Marin was opened by Novato resident Henry Hautau in 2006 and quickly became a gathering spot for families in the community. Finnegan's has the warm inviting atmosphere of a traditional pub, with lots of dark wood, cozy booths, and a large bar dominating the front room. Further back you'll find a more open dining room with tables for larger parties, and a outdoor patio for use on nice days. The walls sport mirrors, and sports memorabilia, as well as plenty of flat-screen TVs for use on game day. You'll also find photos of community sports teams, groups, and schools decorating the rooms—we even found our son in a group photo from his preschool a few years back!
There are plenty of pizza places in Marin, but one that comes up as many families' favorite is Mulberry Street Pizzeria in San Rafael. It's one of our favorite family friendly places for pizza, too. This award-winning restaurant has been flinging dough and dishing up gourmet pizzas for 25 years. Mulberry Street Pizzeria has won a whole slew of awards, ranging from the Pacific Sun's "Best of Marin" to the 2005 Food Network Challenge Pizza Battle, where their "For the Love of Mushrooms" pizza took home the top prize.
Mulberry's atmosphere, despite its strip mall location off Lucas Valley Road, is a bit nicer than your run-of-the-mill pizza joint. This is no trendy thin-crust minimalist pizza—Mulberry's pizzas are huge and loaded with toppings; we rarely finish one, which of course means there's some to take home for lunch the next day or a midnight snack. The only drawback of such a hefty pizza is that the crust sometimes gets a little soggy near the center, but we're happy to overlook that. You can always ask for less stuff on your pizza if you like.
Way back in the days before children (BC), we used to love to go out for Indian food. This happy trend continued even after our son was born; until he hit about three he would eat just about anything we put in front of him, but eventually he entered his "white food" stage and it was all over. Fortunately, kids eventually outgrow their seemingly carbohydrate-only diet, so we decided to check out the lunch buffet at Anohka Cuisine of India, a restaurant located since 2009 on Grant Avenue in Old Town Novato.
The lunch buffet is a great strategy when dining at Indian restaurants with children, because there are usually more than enough items offered that will please little picky eaters, and the grownups with more sophisticated palates can indulge in their favorite dishes without worrying if the kids are going to eat it or not. Anohka's buffet is pretty cheap at $8.95 a person, and with kids at half-price it's really a win-win situation for everyone concerned.
The Cantina, a blast from Marin's recent past, has re-opened in Mill Valley's Blithedale Plaza. If you grew up in Marin you probably spent some time at this Mexican restaurant, renowned for its margaritas and family friendly setting. I loved coming to this restauant in my younger years. The Cantina closed in 2007, and was turned into a branch of musician Carlos Santana's fancier, pricier Maria Maria. Well, Mill Valley's Maria Maria is history, and the Cantina is once more open for business. We visited a short time ago with our own kids, and are happy to say that it hasn't changed much, despite the restaurant's three-year hiatus. The Cantina's current chef was even with the restaurant way back in 1983.
Our go-to place for Japanese food in Marin has always been Taki restaurant in Novato's Pacheco Plaza. We've been dining there for years (even before we had kids), and it's consistently provided good food, friendly service, huge portions, and a pleasant atmosphere. It's a great family dining experience.
Like the shopping center it's located in, Taki has been recently remodeled. It still has a rustic Japanese country inn atmosphere, with lots of woodwork, Japanese art and decor. While the shopping center is a lot more pleasant than it used to be, it's still a suburban shopping center, and the warm ambience of Taki goes a long way in making you feel like you aren't in a strip mall. While most of the seating is at regular tables, there's a Japanese-style tatami area for larger parties in back. There's even a new outdoor dining area in front of the restaurant, in case you happen to be there on a nice day.