Owens Fish Camp
Owens Fish Camp

Dining out with kids: An adult-friendly guide

Going out to eat with little ones, even on vacation, can be a dreaded experience. But it does not necessarily need to be all hot dogs and French fries. Sarasota offers plenty of dining establishments that have something wonderful to offer for both parents and children so everyone gets the best of both worlds.

Trying to find a place in Sarasota that works for both your kids and your appetite? Check out these adult- and kid-friendly establishments that will make vacation dining fun and easy.

Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar

For You

Slurp a dozen and feast on local seafood at Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar. Wahoo cones and fish tacos are always a hit. Full bar with specials such as Sunday Bloody Mary’s. Combo pots and benched picnic-style tables embrace the laid-back attitude. Enjoy views of Phillippi Creek as mullet jump, pelicans dive, and manatees surface.

For Them

Hands down, my kids’ favorite restaurant. While waiting for fish, hot dogs, pasta, shrimp, and most anything else imaginable, they gawk at the mounted fish and maritime décor. It’s an infinite I-Spy game. Meander to the dock and watch the fish and boats as they arrive.

Insider Tip:

Any wait time is pacified with photo ops out front of the restaurant; climb right on that tortoise and alligator and say cheese! Check out the water’s edge and inquire about the gondola rides.

O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill

O'Leary's Tiki Bar
O'Leary's Tiki Bar

For You

O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill gives the quintessential Florida tiki experience with live music, boat drinks, and sand underfoot. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner served on their outdoor tables offering exquisite views of the marina, Sarasota Bay, and iconic Ringling Bridge. Live music daily epitomizes the ParrotHead experience.

For Them

No need to sit down here. Dancing, puppy-petting, and wading in the water are the norm at this most laid-back establishment. And they have popsicles.

Insider Tip:

The adjacent Bayfront Park features a playground and walking trail with amazing views of the water and sunset; take a meander after eating.

Old Salty Dog

For You

Sitting al fresco with the salty air breezing by, it’s a challenge to not take a deep breath and relax at the Old Salty Dog. Located directly on Sarasota Bay, it’s a prime spot for a cool drink and fresh fish. The grouper sandwich is the go-to menu item, but don’t discredit the rest of the menu. And if stone crabs are in season, stifle any hesitation – just go for it. Breakfast will also be offered soon.

For Them

Food served to children is in a Frisbee. Enough said. That disc will keep the little ones entertained for the duration of the meal and onto the beach afterwards. Watch the pelicans dive, search the waves for dolphins and manatees, and giggle at the schools of fish congregating on the pilings. Marine Max next door docks boats; watching them maneuver the fork lifts never fails to distract hangry toddlers. For hot dog lovers, the “Salty Dog” gives a twist to an old classic. Kids meals also come with Oreos.

Insider Tip:

Old Salty Dog is located across the street from Mote Marine Aquarium; if time allows, make a day of the two. Ken Thompson Park, about a quarter of a mile further down, offers a playground, nature trails, and stunning views.

Colombia Restaurant

For You

Colombia Restaurant, a St. Armand’s staple, serves outstanding paella, sangria, and their signature 1905 Salad. Tapas, seafood, and fun facts abound on the fourteen-page menu of Cuban deliciousnesses. It’s the perfect break from the strolling and shopping around the Circle. Great people watching and décor to admire.

For Them

Within moments of sitting, each guest receives his/her own loaf of Cuban bread with an abundance of butter. It’s so quick and so delicious, any hangry diner is immediately pacified. The chatter of customers at Columbia is loud enough to stifle the sounds of any tantrums, silly voices, or whines, which makes for happy kids and happy parents.

Insider Tip: Ask the hostess to purchase the bread, even if you aren’t a Columbia diner. For under $5, you can take home your own loaf of the good stuff, heated up by them or by you later. Salad dressing, cigars, and more are sold, as well.

Caragiulos

For You

Down historic Palm Avenue, nestled amongst art galleries and upscale shopping is the Italian restaurant Caragiulo's. Not your typical Americanized Italian, this is the real deal. Each item on the menu shines, and the daily specials never disappoint. A table outside under the bistro lights feels fresh and exotic and the cozy old-world interior makes you feel like you’re home, but in Italy. With palm trees. Either way, plan on lots of pasta, wine, and laughter.

For Them

Make your own pizza. They bring the dough, cheese, sauce, and toppings. And the little chefs go to work. Punch that dough. Spread the sauce. Make it just right (yes, this may take a while – enough time for Mom and Dad to relax and have a real conversation). When ready, the kitchen throws it in the oven until baked to perfection. Having been made with their own two hands, it’s the best pizza in the world.

Insider Tip:

Each first Friday of the month is the Palm Avenue Gallery Walk from 6-9pm. After dinner, stroll along the Avenue for themed performances, extended store hours, and dining.

Mandeville Beer Garden

For You

Over 180 options of craft beer from which to select. Don’t be intimidated; the kind and knowledgeable staff is helpful as can be with your selections. Watch the game or admire the amazing modern-industrial décor. Indoor and outdoor options make it a win-win. Extensive menu spans from kale and quinoa salad to burgers and sausages. Ping pong, baggo (aka cornhole), and speakers with game updates make the outdoor garden feel like your coolest backyard hangout.

For Them

Sandbox and great climbing tree to enjoy with new friends while noshing on a spiral hotdog (always better than a basic straight one) and root beer float. Alphabet soup warms on those cool (-ish) Florida winter evenings. Show the grownups how to play ping pong or cornhole.

Insider Tip:

Be sure to check their Facebook page for updates on live music playing. Their website posts events such as Movie night.

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