There comes a time in every San Francisco family's life when things call for a trip to that behemoth of budget friendly housewares, Ikea. You can try to avoid it like the plague but eventually you'll need something that is most easily/cheaply/only found there. There's no real way to "pop" in to an Ikea, which is why they wisely have multiple food options available--I have fueled my trips there more than once on a hot dog and some lingonberry soda. But our last trip to the Emeryville location was timed just before the dinner hour, and we wanted something other than swedish meatballs to choose from.
Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe around the corner fit the bill perfectly. Both the food and the aesthetic are just what you might need after a few hours battling rogue shopping carts around a maze of aisles looking for one specific kitchen item that you've only seen at Ikea years ago and could not find (or did that only happen to me?). While Ikea had mild EDM pumping like a geriatric rave, Rudy's neon signs, slight 60s kitsch and the 80s tunes were a totally organic and welcoming blend.
Hubby had already eaten there before and could vouch for its stroller friendliness, and before I could ask we were seated at a table complete with high chair ready to go. The menu is standard diner fare, perhaps kicked up a bit. It was a hard choice since breakfast is served all day, but I opted for the BL(A)T with avocado, and hubby had a few fancy cheese options for his burger, but stuck with cheddar.
The food came fast, was piping hot and flavorful. If you're a fan I recommend an upgrade to onion rings over fries. There isn't a kids menu but there are small side dishes, so we ordered M. the Sonoma Chicken Salad, which she gobbled up. Also nice were the prices--since we were on the other side of the Bay things were a few dollars less than they'd be in SF, which was a nice treat for our pockets. As far as family friendliness goes, I noticed all types of groups coming in while we were there, from kids in freshly-grass stained baseball uniforms to a couple sitting in the same side of their booth to friends catching up over beers. Oh, and I think there are 90 Barbies on the wall.
Perhaps it was the excitement of the day, but M. was in a bit of a yelling mood, and no one batted an eye in our direction--it was just loud enough that I think her noise blended. I wanted all of us to enjoy our meals without stress, and we got just that. Back in the day Rudy's would have been perfect for some grub after a night out (they are open until 1 am), but its equally great for a family meal. Next time we'll skip Ikea and go straight there.
Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe
4081 Hollis Street
Emeryville, CA 94608
Stroller Friendly? Yes
High Chairs? Yes
Takes Reservations? Yes