Before you take the family to San Francisco's most popular tourist spot, you should know it will be very crowded and there could be waiting lines at the restaurants. Most important, most of the eateries have very high menu prices. That said, the kids can have lots of fun finding good food, either in the restaurants or from the many outdoor street vendors.
For little kids, it is much more economical and enjoyable for them to choose their food from the many outdoor stands and take-out windows. One of our favorite places is nearby Pier 39, where the restaurants are a bit less expensive than those on the original wharf. We loved buying fresh-cooked take-out fish, chicken and shrimp dishes there, and then finding places to sit outdoors near the pier's railings. The sea and rocks below are often populated by hundreds of seals, who bask, swim, bark, bellow and generally are as entertaining as a Broadway show. Our kids could even get the seals to applaud their own performances by clapping their hands at them.
If you want to take the gang inside, try the Rainforest Cafe at 145 Jefferson Street. It features many funky names for items on its menu, is full of kid-friendly gimmicks, including a big acquarium. While you're eating, you can experience all kinds of simulated changes in weather for sight-and-sound effects, including a big Pacific sunami and what else, a rainforest downpour. The kids will love the animals: lions, tigers and bears, oh, my! If the kids order from their own menu, expect to pay about $10; for adults, your meal, including even simple stuff like fried fish and chips, could cost up to $25.
Unless you're disgustingly rich or are on an unlimited expense account, don't take your family to Gary Danko's, 800 North Point Street in Ghirardelli Square. A super posh eatery, it's just up the street from Fisherman's Wharf, elegantly decorated with ancient Asian god faces and contemporary silver globes. Just know that as food is high priced down in the Wharf's tourist traps, it is sky-higher here.
If your kids have a taste for lobster bisque, herb crusted leg of lamb, baked chocolate soufle or other fine French dishes, tell them to wait until they're all grown up and can afford to pay for them. Dinner prices at Danko's range from $60 and up, and up, and even more up, although there is a kids' menu that's almost reasonably priced.
McCormick & Kuletos Seafood, at 900 North Point, is a somewhat more economically-priced restaurant nearby in Ghirardelli Square, and its dining location offers great views of the Wharf, cityscape, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Be prepared to pay from $25 to $50 for an adult meal on a menu that is mostly seafood. Prices for appetizers are reasonable, and most kids could make a satisfying meal of one or two small dishes.
Say it ain't so, Joe! DiMaggio's Restaurant was once on the south side Jefferson Street just west of Taylor from the 1930s through the 1950s, but the famous Fisherman's Wharf attraction is long gone. I was there during Navy service, and although at age 18, I was not quite a kid anymore, it was a great place to visit. The DiMaggio major league brothers, particularly the immortal Joe, were my boyhood heroes, and every West Coast high school baseball player dreamed of visiting Joltin' Joe's restaurant.
I enjoyed the home-style Italian cooking. Prices then were about $5 for a full-course meal, including antipasti, main dish of ravioli and clams casino and a cool dish of spumoni. Vino was 25 cents extra. Replacing DiMaggio's today is a tourist trap joint called Joe's Place. Nuff said?