Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you should have to hide away at home and never venture out to explore our amazing Jacksonville food scene. Taking kids out to eat can be a daunting task (trust me, I know) and a lot of times it is just easier to hit up a fast food joint, order take out, or to cook something up at home. But that can get old really quick. We parents want good food too doggone it (ok…tantrum over). Luckily, families don’t have to be relegated to cheesy kid-themed restaurants, boring chains, and iffy fast food places. There are plenty of places in town that are perfect for families. Some are clearly designed as “family friendly” while others aren’t necessarily “kid” restaurants, but are surprisingly well-equipped to handle the extra needs that a family with small children might have (think: high chairs, decent kids’ menu, quick service). Here are just a few of our favorite family friendly restaurants in town. 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 top notch too.
Your Pie – Kids can be picky. So why not let them pick exactly what they want to eat? Your Pie is a pizza place that does just that, offering completely personalized pizzas made with fresh ingredients and cooked right in front of you. Toppings range from the traditional (pepperoni, olives, green peppers) to the more far-out (think corn and cranberries). It’s basically dinner and a show as far as kids are concerned. And you can feel good about what is going into your family’s food, because it is literally right in front of you as they prepare it. They even have vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free options, which is a big plus for families with dietary restrictions. After your pizza, indulge in some yummy gelato or sorbet as a reward for eating all your dinner. Your Pie has two locations locally at 4828 Deer Lake Drive West in Jacksonville and 1545 County Road 220, Suite 125 in Fleming Island.
Maple Street Biscuit Company – Kids have you up all night and you just can’t even function, much less think about making breakfast? Head to Maple Street Biscuit Company. With multiple locations around town, there are sure to be delicious biscuits somewhere in your vicinity. Maple Street has something for everyone, from biscuit purists to more adventurous eaters. The Squawking Goat is one of our favorites, as is their very tasty Mac and Cheese. Honestly, I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t like biscuits, so we’re pretty certain that the whole family will be happy with this breakfast/brunch spot. They also serve dinner on Fridays and Saturdays if you’re struck with a breakfast for dinner hankering on the weekend. Quick, friendly service in a fun atmosphere is also a plus at Maple Street. Maple Street Biscuit Company has four locations in town at 2004 San Marco Boulevard, 1171 Edgewood Avenue South, 1627 Race Track Road, and 410 North 3rd Street out at the beach.
St. Mary’s Seafood – Our kids love seafood, and lucky for us that living here in Jax means that we have access to some very tasty and fresh seafood. St. Mary’s Seafood in Mandarin is a great place to take the family for a Southern seafood feast. The atmosphere is casual and delightfully low-key, which is exactly what you want when dining out with kids. Service is friendly and attentive. And the food is a perfect example of good Southern-style seafood, with portions that are generous and prices that are super affordable. The “Little Pirates” menu has plenty of options for the kids, plus a long list of sides to choose from as well. St. Mary’s Seafood is located at 11290 Old St. Augustine Road in the Mandarin area.
European Street – When it comes to reliability and just plain good, family friendly food, European Street is right at the top of our list. European Street is a true local favorite, offering yummy soups, salads, and sandwiches as well as some amazing desserts, all with a bit of a European flair. And with several locations in Jax, it’s a convenient spot no matter what side of town you happen to be on. As far as kid friendly choices, there are plenty – from huge PB&J sandwiches to awesome fruit and cheese plate appetizers to a great selection of a la carte items and sides like hummus and fresh fruit. My son’s personal favorite is the Monster German Wiener, Jr…because hotdog. And never fear, grownups – European Street has you covered with over 200 beers to choose from. Also be sure to stop by the dessert case on your way out and pick up something for the ol’ sweet tooth. I highly (HIGHLY) recommend a German chocolate cookie, which is massive enough to share, although I won’t judge you if you end up eating it all yourself. European Street has four locations around town at 2753 Park Street, 1704 San Marco Boulevard, 5500 Beach Boulevard, and 992 Beach Boulevard.
Corner Taco – This food truck turned brick-and-mortar Five Points staple is one of our favorite places to take the kids. The menu is simple and not at all overwhelming, but still offers some solid choices for kids and adults alike. Our kids are crazy about the black beans and rice and the kids’ cheese quesadilla. And what kid (or grownup) doesn’t like chips and queso? The cheddar and brie queso at Corner Taco is to die for. Another plus at Corner Taco is their festive, yet relaxed ambiance. The bright colors and semi-swanky décor are great for keeping antsy kids entertained, and their large tables are great for bigger families that need room to spread out. Corner Taco is located at 818 Post Street.
Epik Burger – I cannot say enough good things about Epik Burger. Really, I can’t. This is hands-down our top go-to spot for a dinner out with our kids. Their burgers range from plain and straightforward to the more wild and gourmet. And they serve up food that seems to be quite a bit healthier than your average burger place. Their burgers aren’t dripping with grease, and they don’t leave me feeling sluggish and overstuffed. As far as kid’s options, they offer a Kid’s Combo (plain burger with fries) or there is always the option to do a build-your-own burger and order a side separately. Portions are generous, so one burger and one order of fries is usually more than enough for our two kiddos to share, with fries left over to take home for later. When it comes to customer service, Epik Burger can’t be beat. We have never received anything other than friendly, helpful, top-notch service at Epik Burger. And bonus – they have some of the best milkshakes in town! So treat your kids (and yourself) to one after your meal. Epik Burger is located at 12740 Atlantic Boulevard, Suite 105 – right where Girvin Road meets Atlantic Boulevard.
PDQ – We have written time and time again about our opinions on PDQ. Yes, it is a chain, and that typically doesn’t bode well. But between the quality food and the quick, friendly service they have certainly positioned themselves as a step above other fast food chicken restaurants. Their chicken tenders are juicy and tender, not greasy and over-breaded. And their ranch dressing makes us feel things – it is amazing. Really all of their sauces are great. Their ingredients are fresh, not frozen, and their food is made to order – not left sitting under a heat lamp for hours on end. With all that in mind, PDQ is great place to head out for a quick, easy family dinner. Add to that their wacky holiday specials like National Sunglasses Day and National Brown Shoes Day (huh?) and it’s also a fun, family-oriented place to take the kids. There are a few PDQ locations in and around Jax at 3260 Hodges Boulevard, 13702 Old St. Augustine Road, and 194 N. State Road 13.
Hawkers Asian Street Fare – Looking to expand your kids’ palate to include some Asian flavors? Hawkers Asian Street Fare is a perfect place to start. This Five Points hot spot offers a lengthy menu that runs the gamut from curries to spring rolls, crispy noodles to fried rice and everything in between. They serve their small plates tapas style, which means that dishes come out as they are ready, rather than waiting for the entire order to be cooked and brought out altogether. For families this is perfect. Have a cranky, hangry kiddo on your hands? No problem – go ahead and place an order for some edamame, egg rolls, or roti canai to keep them occupied while you look over the menu. We also love the energetic vibe and boisterous atmosphere – great for masking the sounds that kids can sometimes make. Hawkers is located at 1001 Park Street at Five Points. One word of advice, Hawkers is nearly always busy and there is usually a wait to get a table. So plan ahead for a bit of a wait and maybe consider eating at an off-peak time.
Moon River Pizza – Did I mention before that my kids love pizza? Well, they do…most kids I know have a fondness for pizza pie, hence another pizza place on our list. Moon River Pizza is a laidback, comfy local pizza spot that is perfect for families. You have the option of ordering a whole pizza or pizza by the slice, which is great if you want something different than what the kiddos want. Service at Moon River is just as casual and friendly as the ambiance. And they do a fantastic job catering to kids. Need something to entertain the kids? If you request it, the folks at Moon River will provide dough for your little ones to play with and shape. They can then cook that dough into the shape of your kid’s choice. Sounds like fun to me! Moon River has two locations, at 1176 Edgewood Avenue South in Murray Hill and 925 South 14th Street in Fernandina Beach.
[CLOSED] A&J’s Ice Cream – This place is a hole in the wall of the very best kind. Tucked away in the back corner of a non-descript shopping plaza near the beach, A&J’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream not only serves up some seriously good handmade ice cream, but really tasty barbecue as well. The interior has been recently updated to add large booths for seating – great for families. Start off your meal with brisket, smoked wings, or a slightly healthier barbecue chicken wrap. They also serve pulled barbecue chicken quesadillas, which are sure to please any kid. Finish off your meal with some of what many locals tout as the best ice cream in town. All their ice cream is made in-house with fresh ingredients in a 100-year old ice cream machine. And the old-fashioned machine is set up right in the back of the shop where you can see it and enjoy the show. How cool is that? And we’re not just talking plain jane ice cream flavors; they serve up some fun flavors like cherry cheesecake, Fruity Pebbles, and Peanut Butter Oreo. They also offer flavors that will make the grownups happy – Captain Morgan Cheesecake or Amaretto Sour Ice Cream anyone?? Can’t decide on just one flavor? Go for the Ice Cream Flight, where they’ll load up a massive waffle cone bowl with a generous scoop of each available flavor. Yes, seriously. And yes, it’s huge. And yes, it will blow your kid’s mind. So what are you waiting for? A&J’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream is located at 469 Atlantic Boulevard, Suite 5 in Atlantic Beach.
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 your family and that’s ok. There are a ton of family friendly dining options in town, with options to keep both kids and parents happy. You don’t have to rely on fast food to keep your family fed. The point is to stretch your family’s palate, search out new spots, and branch out from your regular dining out routine. Let us know if you find any other great family friendly 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.