If I had to choose one word to describe Pensacola it would be this: “easy” — music to the ears of traveling parents. Particularly in the bewitching hours, usually between about 4 to 6 p.m., when the kids are hungry, stir-crazy and cranky. 

Here’s the great news: Many lunch and dinner spots in the Pensacola Bay Area cater to kids and their tired parents. They get it. They understand that parents need an easy experience — with entertainment, good food, kids’ menu options, and an ample selection of adult beverages for the parent chaperones that just may need to indulge in a cold one by nightfall.

We love to take our kids out to dinner because there are so many options, and my two girls rated their “favs” for this blog.  Their Kid’s Choice Awards for kid-friendly dining (in no particular order) go to:

Jerry’s Drive In:  A Pensacola favorite for its great burgers, fried grouper, quick and easy breakfast, milkshakes and mini arcade to entertain the youngins’ — and adults. Let’s admit it.

Red Fish Blue Fish: This colorful, fun and quirky restaurant has a backyard playground the whole family can appreciate. The huge, grassy outdoor area (with two sandy beaches) overlooks  Santa Rosa Sound and lives up to its playful reputation with fire pits, a volleyball court, outdoor games, and a bar. Take your pick of seafood, poultry, burgers, fried baskets, taco plates and po’boys – “sauce on your elbow style,” as the menu boasts.

Red Fish Blue Fish

Dog House Deli: Great tasting hot dogs for the kids and funkier specialty dogs and toppings for the braver adults. It also boasts super speedy service and is located in two locations — right in the thick of Downtown Pensacola, along Palafox Street, and on Pensacola Beach, off Via De Luna Drive.

The Fish House:  This restaurant overlooking Pensacola Bay features the best kid’s macaroni and cheese, hands down. Plus, your kids will be mesmerized by the wall-sized aquarium which separates two rooms. So snag a seat close by, if you can. The restaurant also boasts fresh gulf seafood and fabulous cocktails for the adults, a gift shop, and the ability to walk to the docks and look at boats for entertainment.

Fish House with Kids

Flounder’s Chowder House and McGuire’s Irish Pub: Flounder’s, located on Pensacola Beach overlooking Santa Rosa Sound, serves the kids’ meals in sand pails and features playgrounds, a volleyball court, live music, good food and funky drinks. It’s parent restaurant, McGuire’s, located in Downtown Pensacola, is known for its burgers, beef and beer. It’s loud (which helps drown out the sound of any crying kids), fun and outlandish. Your kids will be entertained when they try to count the more than $1 million in dollar bills dangling from the ceiling and walls. Take part in the tradition, sign your name to a dollar bill and staple it somewhere.

The Flora Bama Yacht Club in Perdido Key:  Are we in Florida or Alabama? Directly across the street from the famous Flora-Bama gulf-front beach bar lies the Flora-Bama Yacht Club. The indoor and outdoor restaurant, located on Ole River, features family-friendly dining, live music, and water activities like kayaking and paddle boarding.

Peg Leg Pete’s: Ahoy Matey! Snap a picture with One-Eyed-Pete as you enter this kid-friendly establishment. The restaurant offers burgers, po-boys and sandwiches for the little ones and fresh seafood and Cajun specialties for the adults. More importantly, Peg Leg features a sand-bottom playground and jungle gym for the kids to entertain themselves while the parents listen to live music. Located on Little Sabine Bay, on Pensacola Beach, take a stroll along the dock and check out all the boats stationed at the marina.

The Oar House:  This hidden-away gem offers delicious fried seafood, they make a mean fish taco, and the restaurant features outdoor, covered dining overlooking Bayou Grande and Bahia Mar Marina. Your kids will enjoy meeting the friendly geese on site who like to eat crackers and bread. The restaurant also has the famous ring toss game and a beach volleyball area to keep your kids occupied. What more can you ask for?

I have to agree with the above Kid’s Choice list, but my little voters missed a few that might not have super fancy playgrounds or outdoor spaces, but have fun atmospheres, the love of kids and great food. 

Al Fresco:  Four food trucks and an oyster bar on the corner of Palafox Street downtown feature everything from barbeque sandwiches to gourmet grilled cheese to black bean burritos to Chinese cuisine. Ride your bikes, sit outside and watch the word go by.

Ozone’s Pizza: Who doesn’t like pizza? And not only are the pies here to die for (you must try the Ponderosa Stomp), Ozone’s also provides kids with crayons and a pizza drawing to color in while you dine. Afterward, they will display every child’s creative masterpiece along the walls of their family room.

Five Sisters Blues Cafe:  A great place for jazz brunch, this energetic and family-style cafe features Creole-style Southern fare and makes the best homemade fried chicken and waffles in Pensacola. Hands down. Kids (and adults) are welcomed to get up and dance to the music of the live blues and jazz artists that play regularly. Mine sure do.

Scenic 90 Café:  Nicknamed the “shiny diner,” this classic American old-time diner that resembles a silver bullet is a blast from the past. The diner features an ice cream and malt bar, makes a killer banana split, serves breakfast all day, and makes a chicken and dumplings that rivals your grandmother’s. Don’t leave without trying a slice of one of their homemade pies. You’re welcome.

Hope we didn’t leave one of your favorites off the list! If so, let me know. And, if you’ve discovered a hidden hot spot that’s great for family dining, please comment and share!