Carmel-by-the-Sea has a reputation for a charming couple’s getaway or a chic girlfriends’ escape. And it is. Oh, the wine there is ah-mazing. But, if you’re like me, you might find yourself in Carmel with a kid or two along for the ride. And you’re wondering if any restaurant in Carmel caters to families or is it all just candle-lit settings for two. I know I was a little worried about finding great places to eat that wouldn’t frown upon bringing a 7- and 9-year-old in with us. So let’s talk about dining with kids in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase from an affiliate link, I receive a referral payment. I received gift certificates to purchase food at Lugano’s Swiss Bistro and Fifth Avenue Deli. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.
Things to know about dining with kids in Carmel-by-the-Sea -by-the-Sea
When planning this trip, I found only a few restaurants with kid’s menus mentioned online, and I found even fewer blog posts about family-friendly dining. So, I assumed the place was just not that accommodating to families. I was wrong.
So, one thing to note: Just because the restaurant’s website doesn’t mention a kid’s menu, they likely have one. Ask for it when you arrive.
One big thing that I was not quite ready for were the prices. I mean, I knew everything was going to be more expensive in California, of course. But even with the forethought, we didn’t have the food budget set high enough for this trip.
For the most part, expect a family of four to spend about $70 for breakfast (especially if you order coffee or juice), up to $100 for lunch, and about $150 for dinner (if you order wine).
Breakfast in Carmel-by-the-Sea
While our hotel offered a complimentary, light breakfast, I had to venture out because breakfast is my favorite meal ever (and because my kids get up at around 6 a.m., a full two hours before breakfast is served there). Carmel-by-the-Sea restaurants did not disappoint when it came to breakfast.
Tuck Box: I was pretty excited to eat at the Tuck Box because it’s so iconic in the city. How cute is that building?
The interior matches the exterior, with quaint teapots and wood paneling for décor. There was also a fireplace. We sat at the table in the storybook window. If you’re going to dine here, it’s important to know they only accept cash.
This was one place without a kid’s menu, but being breakfast, it wasn’t a big issue. Both kids had a waffle and they split a side of bacon.
Before our plates came out, my husband and my fresh scones were brought to the table. Try the fresh whipped cream marmalade, including lalaberry which is only grown in California.
From Scratch Restaurant: Another great breakfast spot was From Scratch Restaurant, which was featured in an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.” Expect a wait here. They were pretty accommodating for our family. My daughter had a bit of a meltdown and one waiter stopped by our table to give her a cute keychain toy (plus one for her brother).
The kid’s menu is decent, and the full menu is ample. I tried the biscuits and gravy that Guy Fieri had – it was delicious. The kids had a ginormous chocolate chip pancake with fresh fruit, plus a side of eggs. From Scratch’s menu was for breakfast and lunch, and kid’s meals ranged from $7.45 to $8.95.
A third place that I can’t vouch for the food, but can say the coffee was the best is called Carmel Belle. Even just plain, black coffee was oh-so-good.
Lunch & Dinner in Carmel-by-the-Sea & Monterey
We had a lot of plans for picnics on hikes and, well, the rainy weather put an end to that dream. There wasn’t much dining al fresco during this trip.
Fifth Avenue Deli: The plan was to grab food from Fifth Avenue Deli in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and then head out for a picnic. It was a short walk from our hotel. We did get our picnic food, but ended up just eating it back at the hotel, since as I said, it rained. A lot. The deli also has a selection of wine, in case you needed a bottle or two for your picnic (at the hotel).
Baja Cantina Grill & Filling Station: I really wanted to like Baja Cantina Grill more than I did. It was a fun looking place, with quirky décor. However, the food was only so-so.
The décor is a lot of fun here, though, so it proves a lot to look at while you wait for your food. It’s all race cars, motorcycles and related movie memorabilia here. There is a kid’s menu.
Lalla Grill: This restaurant on Cannery Row in Monterey had the best view of the trip. The kid’s menu had a nice variety, and I enjoyed my salad. Kid’s entrees included grilled salmon, steak, a Kobe kid’s burger, as well as the usual stuff like macaroni and cheese and chicken tenders. Prices ranged from $3 to $9 for kids.
Ghirardelli: And a little tip for those with a sweet tooth, Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop is located between Lalla Grill and Monterey Bay Aquarium in Cannery Row. We spent the morning at the aquarium, walked to Lalla Grill for lunch, returned to the aquarium for another two hours, and then for a late-afternoon snack, we walked back to Ghirardelli. Heads up: You get a free square of chocolate just entering Ghirardelli.
Abalonetti Bar and Grill: This Old Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant came recommended to us by the guy pouring the wine at a wine tasting room. (He pronounced it Abolonetti as “Apple and Eddies”). We all had fish and chips (or shrimp and chips) for lunch. It was fine, but not outstanding. Kid’s meals were all $7.95, with the usual fried seafood options (fish, calamari or popcorn shrimp), plus a few non-seafood choices like linguine and marinara, corn dog, and hamburger.
Tip: As you walk the wharf, you can sample several chowders for free. It’s almost a meal itself.
La Biciclette Restaurant: This Carmel bistro came highly recommended to us. La Biciclette is super charming, and what I’d picture as an ideal date spot. Think like a small, French bistro (and when you walk in, you briefly think, “Maybe I shouldn’t bring my kids here.”). There’s no kid’s options, but there are pizzas on the menu, so you’re not totally out of luck if you bring kids with you. Still, this one I wouldn’t necessarily say is the best choice.
Lugano’s Swiss Bistro: Fondue makes for a fun night out with the kids, don’t you think? Lugano’s Swiss Bistro is decked out like a Swiss chalet, and the menu is features Swiss food in addition to the fondue.
The night we went, I wasn’t feeling up for fondue, though, so I had the schnitzel – it was superb. If you do think you’ll want to order fondue, note that there didn’t appear to be kid’s prices for fondue.
Ask for a kid’s menu when you arrive. I’m not sure why they didn’t just offer us the kid’s menu to begin with. If you were hoping for “Swiss” kid’s food options, you will be disappointed. It’s pretty standard kid’s menu fare – pepperoni pizza, chicken nuggets and hamburgers. My son order the frankfurter, which looked like a hot dog to me. Prices were the most reasonable for kid’s meals, between $5.95 and $6.95.
Sur Restaurant: We weren’t planning on going to Sur, but we ended up there when most of Carmel-by-the-Sea was without power and our first choice had a two-plus hour wait. Our waiter didn’t seem pleased to have us, for some reason. Anyway, at least there was a kid’s menu there. The kid’s entrees were pretty standard with grilled cheese, chicken tenders and a cheeseburger, plus a few more unique options like calamari strips and flatbread cheese pizza. Prices for kids ranged from $8.50 to $12.50.
Wish we left room for dessert – they serve arctic bonbons, these chocolate dipped vanilla ice cream balls served over a basket of dry ice.
From Scratch, Lugano’s Swiss Bistro, and Sur Restaurant are located in a shopping center called The Barnyard. It’s a nice place to walk around, with small fountains and a ton of plants. The Barnyard is not in the area of Carmel-by-the-Sea where all the famous architecture is, so it’s not a walkable distance from most hotels.
Wine tasting on a family trip
If you’re curious about wineries and wine tasting rooms (because there are several in town, and the wineries are nearby), I’m sorry to say we didn’t go to many. I had two wineries in mind that I’d read were welcoming to families (I included them on My Carmel-by-the-Sea Bucket List).
Carrie, the owner at Hofsas House, said most wine tasting rooms are kid-friendly as they’re not technically bars. We stopped at the tasting room or Dawn’s Dream Winery in Carmel-by-the-Sea. There were couches in a corner with a stack of coloring books, so we felt fine letting the kids entertain themselves why we tried the Chardonnay and Pinor Noir.
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