While in San Francisco with your kids, you will inevitably find yourself at Pier 39 at some point, surrounded by dining options from fast food to fine-dining. For me, after a day of walking around on the windy pier, I prefer an indoor seat where I can sit, relax, enjoy the view and a maybe even a glass of wine… we are only an hour from wine country, after all. 😉
Three of my top picks for kid friendly restaurants on Pier 39 are run by the family who created Pier 39 to begin with! Not only do they run great kid-friendly restaurants, they offer lots of tips on how to make the most of your time on the pier. Here are their restaurants and what I like most about them:
Pier Market is known for their mesquite grill. From the front window on the boardwalk you can watch the guy cook your food on a huge open-fire grill (pictured above). The mesquite gave our grilled fish a wonderfully light, smoky flavor.
We started out with a half order of steamed clams that came out perfectly tender in a white wine broth that was light and garlicky (but in the right way). We also ordered the garlic sourdough bread, but since every table gets fresh sourdough, we didn’t really need it. I was happy we did, though, because the toasted garlic version was the perfect thing to dip in that tasty clam broth to not miss a drop! Cooper LOVES fresh sourdough bread and plowed through the breadbasket in no time. 😉
For entrees, my husband ordered the blackened rock cod, and I had the mixed grill (because everything looked so good, I couldn’t decide!) which had salmon, swordfish and a shrimp skewer – all grilled over the mesquite. Even the veggies were cooked over mesquite fire – which was delicious. Really nice flavors and light, tender textures on all the fish. Cooper got the chicken strips and raved about how crispy and juicy they were. The portion sizes are generous, even on the kids menu, and the prices are reasonable (especially for the area), making it a good value in my opinion.
You can order wine by the glass in a single or one-and-a-half serving, which I thought was perfect! I usually want a little more than one glass, but not always two, so I love that option and wish more restaurants would offer it.
As good as the food is, the view was my son’s favorite part! Huge windows overlook the marina where the sea lions hang out, and there’s really not a bad seat in the house for seeing them. There weren’t very many sea lions on this trip because in mid-July they are only just starting to come back from their mating season adventure. Basically any time outside of June/July there will be hundreds of them. But this time, there were only about a dozen. Still fun to watch, though. On a clear day, you can also see the Golden Gate Bridge from here, as well.
The staff is super-friendly and clearly trained in fine dining service. Kids are clearly welcomed here, with each child given a little bucket of crayons and a kids menu that includes ocean-themed coloring pages and activities upon being seated. Speaking of the kids menu, I love the variety of options from grilled fresh fish to burgers and chicken strips.
The decor is cool – lots of dark wood and brass accents give it a classy, yet nautical feel. There is also outdoor patio seating along the boardwalk and next to that is a walk-up window called the Crab Stand for quick-serve sandwiches and small bites on the go. The bathrooms are unisex which is great! Each bathroom is an individual room, with enough room for a stroller and changing table, and the sinks are out in the bathroom ‘lobby’. This ensures the lines are super short by allowing whomever is next in line to go regardless of gender.
Wipeout Bar & Grill
If you’re looking for a FUN restaurant with lots of cool, kitchy stuff to look at, Wipeout Bar & Grill is all decked out in surfer theme… perfect for California! Kids will love the bright and colorful decor – giant shark ‘swimming’ above, cool hand-painted murals on the walls, and surfboards everywhere (including as some of the tables!). Even the unisex bathrooms have a beach vibe going on with a big ‘cabana’ at the entryway. It has a bit of a diner feel, and the portions are big like that, but the offerings are more thoughtfully regional with a Cali-Mexi flair that was fun and tasty.
Although it’s super popular and has great options for kids (and adults) for lunch and dinner, we wanted to try something different and went there for breakfast instead. Personally, I don’t care for paying $20/person for hotel buffet breakfast when I can get good service, great views, and fresh, flavorful food for the same price (or less in this case!) somewhere else. Wipeout did not disappoint in this arena. We sat inside with a great view of the marina, but there is lots of outdoor seating on the boardwalk side as well.
From Huevos Rancheros and Chilaquiles (pictured below) to California classics like a veggie omelet or fruit & yogurt, and kid favorites like pancakes and french toast… this menu has something for everyone. I know because my husband is an adventurous eater and my son is super-picky, and both were very happy with their choices, as was I. I expect the same would be true for lunch or dinner as well.
If you’re feeling like you want something in the fine dining category, Fog Harbor is for you but still very kid-friendly. They have the same kids menu as Pier Market (which is great!) and portion sizes are large here, too, making it another great value. The view is even better because you’re upstairs, giving you a clear view of the Golden Gate Bridge (if the fog cooperates) and of the sea lions lounging on the platforms. As with the other two, the food is fantastic.
I completely LOVED the tuna poke with mango (pictured above), the tuna just melts in your mouth! We also had calamari for an appetizer that was really tasty. The breading was perfectly seasoned and the calamari were nice and tender. For entrees, Coop had the burger from the kid’s menu (pictured above, he ordered it plain) and loved it. I had the pan-seared sole (pictured above) and was impressed that was actually just pan-seared… not breaded or floured like many places do. The portion was large, the fish was light and flaky, and the beurre blanc sauce was light and flavorful. Husband ordered the linguini and clams and was impressed (and he’s really hard to impress, I might add!)… the pasta was al dente, the clams were tender and the white wine sauce had the perfect hit of garlic.
The decor is more upscale here, white tablecloths and all, and the service reflects that… very attentive, but not intrusive. If you’re not into unisex bathrooms, you will find separate restrooms here. 😉 As mentioned before, the view can’t be beat.
Overall, we highly recommend each of these for a nice, sit-down family meal while at the Wharf. Have you been to any kid friendly restaurants at Pier 39? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
(Disclaimer: Each of these restaurants gave us a media discount on our visit. This did not, however, influence my opinion. I would happily dine at all of these restaurants with my family again at full price.)