Everywhere you go, kid’s menus are pretty standard – chicken tenders, pizza, mac and cheese or spaghetti, maybe a burger or a hot dog. Sure, kids are hard to please sometimes, but with so much amazing food, including fresh fish and local produce, Orange County should be able to offer more than just a few cheap heat-and-serve options. Here’s a list of some of the restaurants in OC that break out of the box and give our kids more choices.
Duke’s Huntington Beach
At the Huntington Beach Pier
317 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Duke’s Huntington Beach is located on the Pier with views of the sandy beach and crashing waves. You can people watch from the patio or enjoy a window seat indoors. The food for adults is delicious at Duke’s. Thankfully, they’re not trying to keep any of that away from the kids. Of course they have a few standards, mac and cheese and four-cheese pizza, all natural chicken tenders, and Kahuna cheeseburger sliders. But for keikis who aren’t afraid to eat food, Duke’s also offers grilled fresh fish, grilled all natural chicken teriyaki, coconut shrimp, keiki filet steak, and mango BBQ ribs. All kids meals are served with a beverage and the choice of fries, fresh fruit, or jasmine rice.
1150 Magic Way, Anaheim, CA 92802
Goofy’s Kitchen is designed especially for kids. The restaurant at Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim is every kids dream come true – Disney Characters wandering the room, dancing, photo ops, and a buffet full of food options geared towards young guests. The restaurant serves breakfast and dinner with five all you can eat stations serving delicious dishes like omelettes, waffles, Eggs Benedict, ham, smoked salmon, and fresh fruit for breakfast. For dinner, guests will enjoy fresh meat and fish, pizza, mac and cheese, fresh veggies, hot dogs, and an amazing dessert bar for dinner.
King’s Fish House
Locations in Huntington Beach, Orange, and Laguna Hills
King’s Fish House actually claims to have the #1 kids menu in the USA, according to the website. It’s a little less impressive than Duke’s menu, but they do still have a few good choices that go beyond the standards. Kids visiting King’s Fish House can choose from fried shrimp, fish and chips, and grilled salmon. Basic menu items also include grilled cheese, chicken tenders, a cheeseburger, or macaroni with the choice of butter, cheese, or marinara sauce.
Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ
Locations in Orange, Santa Ana, Tustin, Brea, Lake Forest
Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ offers all the standards, but a little dressed up – Grandma’s noodles with butter or alfredo sauce; chicken fingers, grilled cheese, pizza, and a cheeseburger. Their macaroni and cheese is served with their special housemade cheese sauce. Additional options include mini chicken corn dogs, Grandpa Joe’s Tri Tip Supper, BBQ Ribs, and a BBQ chicken breast dinner. Kids can choose from a wider variety of sides including salad, fries, watermelon, mac and cheese, and sliced tomatoes.
Locations in Anaheim Hills and Laguna Beach
Reunion Kitchen understands that kids can be adventurous eaters too, and that they shouldn’t be limited in their food choices. Reunion Kitchen offers a Texas grilled cheese sandwich with shoe string fries, homemade cheesy shell pasta with garlic toast, a teriyaki chicken bowl with brown rice, carrots, and brocolini, a ranch chicken salad, crispy fried chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy, barbecued steak with tater tots, crispy fish and chips, and a kid’s burger. Reunion Kitchen isn’t afraid to serve up veggies that kids love paired with big flavors, proving that kids eat real food too.
Locations in Sunset Beach and Laguna Hills
Let’s be honest. Kids love pasta. That’s why it’s on nearly every kids menu. Romano Cucina’s kids menu offers just that. Pasta. But they expand the kids pasta options by letting them choose what types of pasta they want – penne, spaghetti, or fettuccine, and they let them choose from a variety of sauces including red sauce, butter and cheese, alfredo, meatballs, sausage, bolognese, and sausage bolognese. They even offer a garlic bread pizza that little ones love.
Locations in Fullerton, Orange and Tustin
Rutebegorz offers many of the traditional kid favorites like mac and cheese and grilled cheese. The twist here is that they do have several options you don’t always find on other kid’s menus, plus most items are vegetarian. The two non-vegetarian items they offer are the pizza bagel and and the snacker’s delight which includes turkey, cheese, fruit, carrots, and crackers. Other menu options include peanut butter and jelly, cheese ravioli, pasta with the choice of red sauce, white sauce, or butter and parmesan, a quesadilla, and nachos. Every kids meal comes with the choice of soda or milk.
Locations throughout Orange County
There’s something to be said for simplicity with a little bit of selection. Wahoo’s doesn’t serve anything super fancy, but the food is delicious and kids can select the protein they want which opens the door for stepping outside the chicken tender box. Kids can choose from chicken, carnitas, carne asada, fresh fish, shrimp, tofu, salmon, and crispy fish to add to the meal of their choice. Options include a bowl with beans and rice and a kids plate with a taco or enchilada served with beans and rice or french fries. They also serve a bean, rice, and cheese burrito and a kids quesadilla with beans and rice or french fries.
Heidi Deal is the author of the 6th edition of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles (includes Orange County), an expert at exploring all that Orange County has to offer, and a children’s book author specializing in history and improving human rights.