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Family-friendly Dining

How to dine out with the family and make everyone happy

Deciding on where to dine out requires considering who is going to be around the table as much as what will be on it. Are there children in the mix? Harmony – and budgets – are best preserved by selecting a spot that has a kids’ menu with dishes geared to younger tastes and smaller appetites – with prices to match. 

And while it’s great to cater to the younger set – and those with dietary restrictions – the rest of us have some needs, too. A range of grownup dishes and adult beverages should be part of the package. And some atmosphere doesn’t hurt, although you might want to compromise a bit on this one and pick a place in which an occasional youthful screech will go relatively unnoticed. With those parameters in mind, here’s a sampling of 10 local restaurants that fill the bill.

Blue Giraffe at Periwinkle Place – This popular Sanibel restaurant serves casual, island-inspired American fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Kids get their own menu plus an area to play in while the adults talk and enjoy beverages. (If the original location is crowded, check out the Blue Giraffe 2 at nearby Beachview Estates. (There’s a $5 coupon on the restaurants’ website that’s good until Sept. 30.)

Boathouse Tiki Bar & Grill – This casual outpost has two waterfront locations – one at the Cape Coral Yacht Club at Redfish Point and a second at Sweetwater Landing Marina on State Road 31 in east Fort Myers. It might not immediately seem apparent that these are family spots, but they are both casual, the Fort Myers location also has a pool (open to all those 12 and older) and big TVs. Both locations offer live music and wide-ranging menus – think, Florida gator bites, peel and eat shrimp, salads, sandwiches, tacos, baskets and burgers and full entrees for heartier appetites. The kids’ menu offers a choice of eight options served with fries or fruit and milk, juice or a soft drink for $6.99 for children 12 and younger. And there are plenty of adult beverages for the more mature members of the group.

Bubble Room Captiva – There are mainlanders who make the drive for a meal at this Captiva institution where Christmas décor twinkles year-round and servers wear Boy Scout uniforms. It began in 1979 as a handful of tables in the front of the Farqhuarson family home. Décor in the single room featured toys from the 1930s and ‘40s and it evolved from there. Today the sprawling restaurant features moving trains on all three floors, photos of old movie idols and lots of Christmas décor. (Don’t miss the Elf Room.) The menu still offers some of the original fishes, such as Flaming Socra Cheese and Marilyn Mignon, among other dishes, as well as oversized slabs of red velvet cake and other desserts

Food on table at Coconut Jacks

Coconut Jack’s Waterfront Grill – Besides having a great view of Estero Bay and a cool tiki hut under which you can dine if the weather cooperates, this Bonita Springs restaurant offers a wealth of options on both the food and drink sides. There’s a kids’ menu (this one includes fun drinks like virgin daquiris and virgin pina coladas) and one for those who are gluten-free. For the rest of us, there are lots of seafood options, burgers, sandwiches, plated entrees and desserts, including raspberry Key lime pie.

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille – With locations on Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva, these funky watering holes are actually serious restaurants with a sense of fun, reflecting the persona of the man who created the character for whom the places are named. Author Randy Wayne White writes the Doc Ford novels (24 so far) and now is a partner in the restaurants that bear his hero’s name. There’s a well-chosen kids’ menu plus some seriously good food for the rest of us – Bayamo Black Bean Dip, Caribbean Jerk Tostados, fish tacos, Cuban sandwiches, paella, achiote redfish bowl, burger, cheese steaks, a gluten-free menu and lots of beverages. Anyone who has read the Doc Ford series will recognize the décor and might even get a glimpse of the author – who lives on Sanibel – now and again. 

Pizza at Fine Folk on Table

Fine Folk Pizza – There are lots of pizza places in these parts but this one is where the staff comes to the table and teaches your children how to hand toss their very own pizza crusts. Besides the fun, the pizzas are wide ranging with some eclectic selections and even some dessert versions. The pies are fine and name for folks like Vegan Uncle Vinny and the Hawaiian.

The Gathering Place –  A whimsical, casual spot for breakfast or lunch. Comfort food is found in abundance and service is warm and welcoming. Chef-owners Tony or Shawn can be found greeting guests and conjuring up classic breakfast fare, a variety of grilled cheeses, tostadas, salads, burritos, waffles, sandwiches and, especially, desserts. The kids will love all the kitschy knick-knacks and slogans covering the walls.

Hooked Island Grill – Watch the dolphins and manatees frolic in Matlacha Pass as you enjoy pork belly bao buns, whole fried snapper, peel and eat shrimp, a variety of smoked meats, salads, tropical pineapple bowls and other goodies. There’s a children’s menu, full bar, live music and a carefree atmosphere.
 
Sunflower Café – No matter what your dietary habits, odds are you will find something to your liking on the voluminous Sunflower menu. This has long been a popular casual spot on Summerlin Road just before you get to Fort Myers Beach. Carnivores can tuck into a N.Y. strip, rib eye or pork chops. There’s shrimp, scallop and fish for seafood lovers. Other options include gyros, entrée salads, pasta, spinach pie and lots more. Breakfast is served here, too. Save room for the baklava cheesecake. 

10Twentyfive

10 Twenty Five – The gastropub is named for its address on Santa Barbara Boulevard in Cape Coral (there’s a second location in downtown Fort Myers). The menu offers seafood, vegetarian dishes. soups, salads and signature dishes like char-grilled meatloaf, fish and chips, and mac and cheese topped with chicken (grilled, blackened or fried) or broccoli, collards or smoked brisket. The restaurant offers signature cocktails, beer and wine.