Question: I use to be fairly adventurous with my dining. Then my daughter
came along, and I seem to be stuck in a hell of McDonald’s and Islands: fast
food and restaurants that hand you crayons with their child menu. I need a place
that both my 2-year-old and I will enjoy.

—Andrew (& Isabel), Venice

Answer: Two-year-olds couldn’t be more charming — there is a particularly
charismatic specimen climbing up onto my lap at the moment — but the irrepressible
exuberance that makes them so much fun at the playground does tend to be fairly
awkward in a restaurant. And the amenities that pacify somewhat older children
— the blobs of pizza dough they give out to the shorties at Angeli Café, the
fish-filled fountain at Campanile, the excellent French fries at Jar — don’t
necessarily do much for younger toddlers. Any parent of a 2-year-old has submitted
to more drive-through Happy Meals than he or she probably cares to admit. But
the big, wide, loud open spaces at the Greek restaurant Papa Cristo’s are fairly
toddler-friendly, and little guys seem to love the chaos and the green corn
tamales at Border Grill. In the summertime, the grilled fish and shrimp and
crabs at the outdoor, wharf-dwelling San Pedro Fish Market at Ports O’Call are
perfect: mariachis, breezes and chips. And morning dim sum, of course, may be
the perfect little-kid meal: raucous and free-form, with plenty to see, customers
tolerant of leaping children, and a wide range of toddler-friendly food. Ocean
Seafood may not serve the very best dim sum in Chinatown — that would be Empress
Pavilion — but it is very good, and the concentration of toddlers is usually
unusually high. The earlier you get there, the less time your 2-year-old will
have to wait. 747 N. Broadway, Chinatown, (213) 687-3088.

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