I used to be a big fan of hitting up bars that served food on the weekends (and yes, Thursdays count as the weekend). Then motherhood happened. My husband and I did the very common I-can’t-afford-a-bigger-San-Francisco-apartment move to the East Bay. We’re in Berkeley now. It’s great. I still love SF too (and lucky for you I’m not here to make some tiresome comparisons about which side of the bay is more hip). Anyhow, back to beer and babies. I still like to go out, but bars are out of the picture for now. I know I can technically take my ten month old to any restaurant that serves beer, but sometimes I don’t want to deal with the glares when my baby starts practicing his falsetto. And he always practices his falsetto. I’d rather go somewhere baby-friendly, and close. Somewhere that actually has a diaper changing table in the women’s room, and maybe even one in the men’s room (I know, I’m asking for so much). And somewhere that has gluten-free options, because I have celiac disease. These places do exist. Here’s a list of my favorite baby-and-beer-friendly locales in the East Bay:
5 Baby-Friendly East Bay Beer & Food Spots
Westbrae Biergarten is not only baby-friendly, it’s dog-friendly too, so you don’t have to choose which creature you love the most. This North Berkeley beer garden comes replete with Berkeley’s famous Pedro’s Brazilian Cafe food truck (they have another location on University Avenue). There’s a very large play area filled with a sand pit and a bunch toys for the kiddos. Many a toddler has ingested sand here, including mine, but they live and learn. Westbrae Biergarten has revolving list of delicious beers on tap, and at least two or three different options for gluten-free cider, including Boonville-based Bite Hard Cider and Golden State Hard Cider from Sebastopol. The Brazilian cafe is famous for their tri-tip sandwiches - but their gluten-free tri-tip rice plate is a great alternative. Also delicious and gluten-free: seasoned french fries and the Flying Pigs: bacon wrapped chicken grilled on mini-skewers.
Don’t be fooled by the name, Farm Burger also has an impressive array of beer and wine. There is a great play area for the little ones with a huge chalkboard where they can practice their abstract drawing skills. Berkeley resident Erika Larsson-Hall says the food and beer are great, but she comes because her four year old son Johan plays with all the toys, and the other kids, in the play area. Translation: mommy gets to hang out with her friends without interruption. Their grass-fed hamburgers are the best I’ve tried thus far in the East Bay, plus they have gluten-free bun options. I recommend the Bibb Wedge salad with bacon and ranch dressing (minus the crispy onion rings, if you’re gluten-free). Celiac-friendly booze includes Golden State Cider from Sebastopol, plus a variety of red and white wines.
There’s no age limit for kids at The New Parkway Theater’s Baby Brigade but I saw a relatively disturbing movie there called ‘Kill the Messenger,’ so I don’t think I’d want my four year old to see it. But watching a movie here with my then four-month old was awesome. He slept in my arms, I ate popcorn. Most Baby Brigade movies are PG-13 or Rated R, and they usually have two movie offerings a week. Tons of beer, wine and food, comfy couches in a dimly lit room, and nobody cares if your kid starts crying during the movie. All their beers are produced within 200 miles of Oakland, and they have a really big menu of diner foods: burgers, pastas, pizzas, nachos and more. They have a delicious gluten-free mac and cheese and the option for getting gluten-free buns for your burgers.
The New Parkway Theater Baby Brigade
Address: 474 24th St, Oakland [Map]
Ph: (510) 658-7900
Baby Brigade Hours: 12:30pm or 1pm showing on Saturdays; 6:30pm showing most Mondays
Facebook: The New Parkway
Price Range: $ (entrees under $10)
If you have a kid and you like your Black and Tans, this place is a godsend. Kensington Circus Pub has a children’s play space and an impressive selection of beer. The play space includes a bunch of toys for kids to play with, and chalkboard to draw on.They have domestic beers on tap, like Trumer Pils and Boont Amber Ale, and a ton of bottled options. Gluten-free ciders include Blackthorn Apple Dry Cider and Wyders Pear Cider. The menu is your typical pub fare with things like fish and chips and hamburgers, plus a kid’s menu. I enjoy Celiac-friendly fish tacos: two sauteed tilapia tacos with fresh avocado, coleslaw, salsa, their lime-jalapeno sour cream sauce and corn tortillas. Kensington Circus Pub also has live blues, jazz and bluegrass music many evenings - their calendar of events is online.
Kensington Circus Pub
Address: 389 Colusa Ave, Kensington [Map]
Ph: (510) 524-8814
Hours: Mon-Thu 5:30pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm; Sat-Sun 8am-2pm; Sun 5pm-9pm
Facebook: The Kensington Circus Pub
Price Range: $$ (Entrees $11-17)
Ok, this one doesn’t have a play area, but Jupiter brews twelve of their own craft beers, serves 20 or so other regional beers, and has been around practically forever. In fact, my husband took me here on our first date 10 years ago. They’re way more Celiac-friendly now: they have a delicious pomegranate cider by Two Rivers Cider, and Omission gluten-free beers. Plus there's the option of getting Oakland's amazing Mariposa gluten-free crust for your pizza (additional $4 for the crust). Their artichoke dip is the most delicious thing ever - but sadly not gluten-free (I accidentally ate it once and suffered the gastrointestinal consequences). The outdoor area is great for younger children. There are heat lamps and a nice fire pit that your kid can trip out on from a safe distance so that he stops have a crying fit (yes, I’m describing my Saturday last week). Jupiter also has live outdoor shows - the schedule is on their website.
Address: 2181 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley [Map]
Ph: (510) 843-8277
Bar Hours: Mon-Thurs 11:30am–1am; Fri 11:30am –1:30am; Sat 12:00pm –1:30am; Sun 12:00pm-12:00am; Kitchen Hours: Mon-Thurs, 11:30am–11pm; Fri 11:30am –12am; Sat 12pm–11pm; Sun 12pm–10pm
Facebook: Jupiter Berkeley
Price Range: $$ (Entrees $11-17)