Announcing that the famiglia is going to dine out is like telling the kiddies it’s Christmas Eve. Squeals of joy ensue and sugar plum delirium starts circling their heads. My wife and I even make time for just the two of us to hit a local place once in awhile. Following is a brief look at five family-friendly restaurant options and a trio of spots for those parental unit-only outings:
Literati Café (West L.A.): Tuesday is Grilled Cheese Night so we take our place at one end of a communal table and dig into our shiitake mushroom grilled cheese awesomeness or grapes ’n rosemary melts. Each sandwich comes with potato chips and micro-greens salad and you can get a cup of tomato soup for an additional $2 when you order a beverage. You might even think you walked into a library as those patrons who can’t be separated from their iPads seem to be there for the free wifi alone.
The Counter/Mitsuwa Marketplace (Santa Monica/Mar Vista): The Counter is our go-to family burger emporium where you can never go wrong with sliders for the boys (My daughter inexplicably steers clear of the beef and goes with a side salad every time). I’m a regular with the build-a-burger concept and we all share an order of fries (1/2 regular, 1/2 sweet potato). They also have one of the best veggie burgers in town, according to my wife. If you want authentic, inexpensive Japanese food, you can’t go wrong at Mitsuwa’s food court, but don’t forget your dead presidents because it’s cash only. Here, the boys share a bento box and Miss A inhales a bowl of udon or Ikura — sticky rice with salmon roe. I’m a spicy tuna sushi guy while Irene almost always gets her eel sushi.
Don Chuy’s/Gilbert’s El Indio (Mar Vista/Santa Monica): The kiddies helped us celebrate anniversary #15 at the local mom-n-pop Don Chuy’s. The menu, specializing in the cuisine of Leon Guanajuato, is basic Mexican (enchiladas, quesadillas, fajitas, etc.) but I thought I’d try my luck with the “especiale” chicharron in a spicy verde sauce. Better luck next time (if there is a next time) as the dish was a bit soggy and a little too spicy. Gilbert’s is the more festive of the two places with better food and better margaritas.
And for the adults…..
A-Frame (Culver City): We popped in at the tail-end of a reverse Happy Hour (10-11:30 p.m.) and grabbed two open stools at the 8-seat bar for a Stella and a hot tea and from the offerings under the “To Pass Around” part of the menu shared the sesame leaf-wrapped shrimp tempura with fresh cucumber, herbs and shoyu dipping sauce ($14). Food truck godfather Roy Choi has a winner with this brick-and-mortar place and I have every intention of returning for more. With its fun approach, it’s an A+ for A-Frame.
Santa Monica Seafood Oyster Bar: As anyone who shops the seafood cases knows, the fish is always excellent. So next time give yourself a bit more time and try the cafe for a dozen assorted oysters and a pint of Guinness. Can’t beat it.
(Santa Monica): Not your average lobby bar. Though there is a small bar at the front, the lounge spills out onto an open-air patio. We sat just inside where we enjoyed a pinot and a cab (me) and two champagnes (my wife) the complimentary pistachios/savory pretzels were a nice touch as well.