The Real Happy Meals of the Valley

Four safe havens where kids and parents can dine with gusto.

You know the scenario. Everyone’s starving, and there’s no time to cook. Or the fridge is bare. Or maybe mom just needs a night off.

You load the family in the car and head straight for that same old place that’s serving food you’ve ordered so many times, you’d almost rather not eat. With the Valley now teeming with new eateries, there’s never been a time better to try something new.

Here’s a smorgasbord of choices sure to please even the pickiest palate— without boring us big kids to death. Duck confit? Knackwurst sausage?  Bring it on!

Keeping the Peace

From decor to food, the word that best describes the Swiss Chef Restaurant in Van Nuys is comfort. You and your family will completely relax here; there’s no stigma attached to walking in the door with toddlers. Slide into an old school, cozy, red leather booths with plenty of knickknacks to keep little ones mesmerized.

The menu is heavy on hearty European comfort fare. Start with the soft Bavarian pretzel served with a sweet mustard dipping sauce. It’s big enough to satisfy a family of four.

Or go with the traditional fondue pot, bubbling with a rich, Swiss cheese concoction. Children love the interactive experience of dipping. If you’ve got a hotdog fan, try the wurstplatte, which includes a variety of tasty regional sausages. Parents can wash it all down with a frosty mug of German beer on tap.

While the kiddos chow down on potato dumplings and pasta, adults can partake in a more refined meal. Dishes like the flavorful osso buco gremolata served over linguine and tender steak tartare are two favorites.

There’s a chance you’ll even get dinner and a show. On some nights, chef and owner Ueli breaks out his accordion and sings for the crowd.

Gourmet in Disguise

If you’re looking for a healthy option, Take A Bao in Studio City is a must-try. The food is locally sourced, with an emphasis on seasonality, and the meats and poultry are hormone-free. The vibe here is on the casual side, but the cuisine includes several sophisticated Pan-Asian dishes aimed at delighting foodies.

The main event is “bao”–a Chinese steamed bun that holds tasty fillings—from mild to super spicy—like panko-crusted fish, sweet soy-grilled tofu and perfectly cooked duck confit with plum hoisin sauce. Calorie-conscious diners can wrap the savory bites in lettuce instead.

A slam-dunk option for kids is the $8 bento box. You pick from proteins like chicken teriyaki or BBQ pork bun, starches including buttered noodles or brown rice, and a veggie.

This is the kind of place that can come in handy and even jump-start a date night. Watch the kids devour bento boxes while you sip a passion fruit margarita. Drop ‘em with the sitter, and you’re off!

Modern Mexican

Loteria Grill, a bustling eatery in Studio City, offers modern takes on authentic Mexican dishes in a bright, spacious environment. Kids get a kick out of the colorful decor that includes an enormous piñata and a life-size Loteria (lottery) game cards on the walls.

Weekend brunch here is a great family outing. Go early—tables and high chairs go fast.

We recommend digging into one of their oversize breakfast specialties like the famous chilaquiles. This signature dish features fried tortilla strips, scrambled eggs and Mexican cheese topped with a mild green sauce or a spicy mole poblano. Don’t plan to eat again for most of the day—it’s that filling. 

No kiddie menu here, but the staff is happy to cater to the younger set. Children can share a main dish or simply chow on perfectly prepared sides like black beans, rice, chips and guacamole.

Another option: the quesadilla appetizer featuring four over-stuffed, handmade corn tortillas oozing with Oaxaca and Jack cheese. Eat family-style so every-one can taste test. Who knows, someone in the crowd might expand their food repertoire!      

Custom Wheels

The chain eatery PizzaRev may be one of the newer spots in the Valley, but it’s quickly becoming well-known with three locations. When the kids want plain but the adults want anchovies and peppers, it’s a non-issue here. Each diner can custom-craft his or her own pizza for around $8.

With a pizzaiolo assisting from across the counter, diners choose from among the various crusts (gluten-free available) and sauces, and from more than 30 fresh ingredients including sweet fennel sausage, artichoke hearts, prosciutto, burrata and even a drizzling of truffle oil. Your creation then slides into a state-of-the-art stone hearth oven. A few minutes later, your masterpiece is ready to devour.