Taking kids out to eat can be a daunting task and a lot of times it is just easier to order take out, swing by a drive-thru, or to cook something up at home. Instead, there are plenty of quality restaurants in town that are perfect for families, with options to please both kids AND their accompanying adults. A couple months ago, we shared with you a few of our favorite family friendly spots in town. Here are a few more to add to the list. Keep in mind, this list won’t include some of the bigger chain restaurants that families sometimes tend to gravitate towards. One of our goals is to teach our kids the importance of eating locally and supporting smaller, more homegrown businesses. These are places that we find ourselves going back to again and again, not just because our kids love them, but because the food is great too.
Picasso’s – Picasso’s is definitely NOT your average Italian restaurant. This Mandarin area eatery is a great place for a family meal. The menu is huge, so there are plenty of options for everyone. There are sandwiches and salads, pasta dishes, hearty Italian entrees, and page after page of tasty pizza options. The kids’ menu is also impressive, with around ten options priced at just $4.25 each, and a “Create-a-Palette” option that lets you choose items a la carte style for $.95 each. Service is consistently great and staff is attentive and friendly. If you’re looking for good Italian food for you and your familia, this is the place. Picasso’s is located at 10503 San Jose Boulevard.
Sid & Linda’s Seafood Market and Restaurant – Living on the coast means that we have access to some amazing fresh seafood. One seafood place that has never disappointed us is Sid & Linda’s. Its convenient Atlantic Boulevard location makes it easy to get to no matter where you’re coming from. And the casual setting is perfect for families. We’ve always had fast, friendly service, and really good food. Our kids love fish, so the menu has plenty of options for not only them but for us grownups too. I can’t get enough of their spinach cakes. Fresh spinach cake, seasoned perfectly, and then pan seared to a beautiful, crispy golden brown – yes, please! Sid & Linda’s is also just a fun place to take kids. The adjoining seafood market offers a place to take a rambunctious toddler for a stroll while waiting for your food. Sid & Linda’s is located at 12220 Atlantic Boulevard, in the BJ’s shopping plaza at Kernan and Atlantic.
Mezza – Mezza (formerly known as Mezza Luna) has been a staple at the beach for over 25 years. This is a restaurant that plays double duty, catering to both families and date-nighters. They offer delicious entrees and gourmet appetizers to satisfy us grownups, but they can also be surprisingly kid-friendly. From 5:00 – 6:30 every evening, kids can make their own pizza, from kneading the dough to putting on toppings. They can then watch it cook in the wood-fired oven. Ask for a table in the kid friendly lounge or patio area and then sit back and enjoy your meal. Since kids under 10 are not permitted in the formal dining room, you can relax a bit knowing that your little ones are probably not ruining anyone’s fancy date night. Mezza is located at 110 1st Street in Neptune Beach.
Seven Bridges – We’ve been fans of Seven Bridges for a long time now. First off, the place is huge, so you can easily ask for a booth tucked away from the crowds if that is better suited for your family. Or you can grab a seat on the patio. No matter where you sit, service is consistently prompt and attentive. As far as food goes, there is plenty of variety on their extensive menu – from pizzas and burgers to tacos and salads. I am a sucker for their delicious shrimp and grits. There is a large selection of sharable starters and a la carte sides for plenty of options to please your burgeoning foodie, while the lengthy beer list will make the grownups happy. Seven Bridges is right next to Tinseltown at 9735 Gate Parkway, so if you’re feeling ambitious, you can do family dinner and a movie too!
Marianas Grinds – This hole-in-the-wall spot meets all of our requirements for a great family friendly restaurant. Great food? Check. Friendly, prompt service? Check. Casual atmosphere? Check. Wallet-friendly price tag? Check. This Pacific Island eatery is one of our new favorites and it is just perfect for families. There are familiar menu options for the kiddos and some interesting and adventurous picks for adults. The best part is that it won’t break the bank. The relaxed, low-key atmosphere is an added bonus. The owners definitely don’t mind having kids around. They are friendly, accommodating, and eager to share their love of their Chamorro heritage. This is a must-try if you are looking for a fun and easy-going place to enjoy a tasty meal and stretch your little foodie’s palate. You can find this hidden gem at 11380-10 Beach Boulevard, in the Winn Dixie shopping plaza at Beach and St. John’s Bluff.
Beachside Seafood – Tired from a day at the beach with the kiddos? Cross the street and head to Beachside Seafood. Its laidback “beach shack” atmosphere means that you can come as you are – dressing up the kids is definitely not required here. The open-air upstairs dining room is a fun place to plop down at a picnic table and dig into some tasty fresh seafood while catching a decent view of the ocean. The menu offers up plenty of dishes to please everyone in the family. Their kids’ menu has a lot of your typical seafood restaurant eats, while the appetizers and sides list offers plenty of other items for a little variety. Beachside Seafood is at 120 3rd Street, just south of Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville Beach.
Chicken On Wheels – Many of you have probably driven past this place over and over again and never noticed it was there. Chicken on Wheels is a Peruvian restaurant specializing in rotisserie chicken and grilled meats, and it is the epitome of a hole-in-the-wall. Their rotisserie chicken is some of the best we’ve had in Jax. Aside from the food being delicious, Chicken On Wheels offers family meals that are very affordable – as in a whole rotisserie chicken plus sides and a 2-liter drink for $22 affordable. And it’s even less expensive if you do take out! Whether you dine in or take your meal to go, it is an affordable and delicious way to feed your family. You can find Chicken On Wheels at 10916 Atlantic Boulevard Suite 8.
Jimmy Hula’s – I don’t know about your kids, but mine would happily eat tacos every day if I let them. One of our favorite places to go for tacos is Jimmy Hula’s. But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill taco place. Jimmy Hula’s has a beachy, relaxed vibe that is perfect for kids, so much so that it has become a favorite with our two kids and we’ve started seeing the same families there each time we go. The boat booth seats are a playful touch that immediately lets you know that kids are welcome here. The menu is just as family friendly. There is a plethora of kid options (tacos, nachos, cheese quesadillas) as well as food to please us grownups. As an added bonus, they sometimes feature live music, which is great for keeping busy kids entertained. We have been lucky enough to catch musician Tad Jennings performing there on occasion. He’s an incredibly talented musician and his music is a perfect fit for this casual, laidback taco joint. Catch him and some really good food at 13170 Atlantic Boulevard, in the Publix shopping plaza at Atlantic and Hodges.
Soul Food Bistro – Looking for some satisfying soul food? Take your family to Soul Food Bistro. Soul Food Bistro offers wonderful, affordable food served cafeteria line style. And they have some of the friendliest service in town – we’re talking true Southern hospitality that will make you feel right at home. Service is quick and the food is just like your Southern grandma used to make…fried chicken, collard greens, mac and cheese. The Soul Food Bistro has two locations in town at 11876 Atlantic Boulevard and at 5310 Lenox Avenue Suite 1.
The Candy Apple Café – It doesn’t get much more fun than a restaurant in the same building as a candy store. If you can get your kids to contain their excitement about the candy for long enough to make it through dinner, this is a fun and whimsical place for families to dine. There are plenty of colorful, lively accents to keep kids entertained. There is also a decent kid’s menu, with everything priced at $6.00, plus a few appetizers that my kids would drool over (Mini corn dogs! Cheese plate!!). After dinner, head upstairs and check out everything that Sweet Pete’s has to offer – from ice cream to chocolate to every kind of candy you could imagine. This is a kid’s dream come true. The Candy Apple Café is located at 400 North Hogan Street, just steps away from Hemming Park.
Trasca & Co. Eatery – This relatively new Ponte Vedra eatery is a great place for families. Their relaxed, vintage décor is super kid friendly, while their signature paninos are just plain delicious. If you’ve never tried a panino, you and the kids are in for a treat. Fresh ingredients, melty cheese, golden brown dough…yum. Their menu features a ton of panino options, as well as salads, pizza, and a decent kids’ menu. Eat a good meal and then treat yourself to a slice of their Famous Mud Pie. Trasca & Co. is located in the Sawgrass Village Shopping Center in Ponte Vedra Beach at 155 Tourside Drive, Suite 1500.
So there you have it. These are just some of our top family friendly picks – the ones with which we have had the best experiences. These may not work for every family and that’s ok. There are a ton of family friendly dining options in town, with choices to keep both kids and parents happy. Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you should have to hide away at home and never venture out to explore our amazing local food scene. Let us know if you find any other spots that should make the list next time!
For this review we welcome a member of our own JRR family: Rhonda Kovar is a former call center manager turned stay-at-home mom. She grew up in the heart of North Carolina and moved to Florida after getting hitched in 2002. She is a graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne University and a lover of all things crafty, musical, or edible. Rhonda loves finding new and delicious ways to turn her two tiny picky eaters into future foodies. You can follow her on Instagram.