Kid-Friendly Restaurants on the Gulf Coast

by | Jan 14, 2022 | Destinations, Family Adventures, South East, Traveling with Teens, USA

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When you’re planning a relaxing family vacation to the Gulf Coast, the one thing you don’t want to have to think about is food. But finding kid-friendly dining options with great food that the whole family can enjoy does take time and effort. Luckily, our beach experts have done all the work for you. Whether you’re looking for live music, ocean views, or places for kids to play, you’ll find just the right spot with our list of family-friendly restaurants on the Gulf Coast. 

 

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The Best Family-Friendly Restaurants on the U.S. Gulf Coast. A sunset on the beach.

 


Tacky Jack’s

Fort Morgan, Gulf Shores, and Orange Beach, Alabama

 

When I first laid eyes on Tacky Jack’s, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. Is it a giant tree fort? A playground for grown-ups? The restaurant has a family-friendly, casual atmosphere with live music and jolly tables full of tourists. There’s an outdoor sandpit with a play area for kids, plus outside seating so you don’t have to worry about taking sand indoors. In addition to seafood and southern specialties like Fried Green Tomato Fries and Po’ Boys, the restaurant also offers a full breakfast menu.  

 

 

Pro-Tip: Many Gulf Coast restaurants are local chains. There are several locations stretched across the area, but they all have a hometown flavor. And most of them have a gift shop!

 

 

The Gulf

Orange Beach, Alabama and Fort Walton Beach, Florida

 

The Gulf is one of my top picks as a perfect place for the entire family. Sheer cool factor combines with a kid-friendly atmosphere to make for a fun, delicious meal. The waterfront restaurant is built from salvaged shipping containers, and its outdoor seating features string lights, fire pits, and comfy couches. While adults may enjoy delicious food like poké bowls or short rib ragu, kids will appreciate the chicken tenders and grilled cheese.  

 

 

The Gulf in Orange Beach is one of the most faimly-friendly restaurants on the Gulf Coast.

This is the confident pose of a mom who doesn’t have to worry about anything spilling on the floor because all of the seating at The Gulf is outside. Photo by Paul Nicholson.

 


Original Oyster House

Gulf Shores and Spanish Fort, Alabama


Original Oyster House is one of the most well-known Gulf Shores restaurants and one of the best places to get traditional fried seafood in the area. Our family appreciates the kid’s menu, which offers small portions of popcorn shrimp and fried fish (as well as pizza and corn dogs, in case your kids refuse to eat anything else). Each kid’s meal is served with a tiny, plastic alligator, which my kids treasure as a souvenir of the trip. The Spanish Fort location includes a covered playground. 

 

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The Pancakery

Destin and Panama City Beach, Florida

 

Nothing says vacation like a ridiculous breakfast, and The Pancakery is one of the best breakfast spots I’ve found in the area. Your kids will love all the options available for breakfast fun, like smiley face pancakes, M&M pancakes, and blueberry-filled pancakes. You’ll love that you can get avocado toast or a veggie omelet instead. (Who am I kidding? I’m totally going for the Nutella crepe.)

 

 

A pancake with a whipped cream smiley face and strawberries. The Pancakery is a kid-friendly place to eat on the Gulf coast.

Kids love the silly shapes and flavors available for breakfast at The Pancakery. Photo by Christy Nicholson.

 

 

Lambert’s Cafe 

Foley, Alabama

 

Lambert’s Cafe provides Southern cooking and good food just a few miles from the beach in Foley, Alabama. (Those of you who are bargain shoppers will want to know that it’s right by an outlet mall.) There’s a wooden train structure out front that will be a hit with little kids, while older kids will crack up every time a server throws a roll at them. That’s right, they throw rolls. It’s sure to be a memorable meal.

 

 

Lulu’s 

Gulf Shores, Alabama, and Destin, Florida

 

I love the casual, breezy feel of a meal at Lucy Buffett’s Lulu’s. There’s often live music, but it’s not so loud that you can’t have a conversation. One of the best parts about Lulu’s is their special menus for allergy needs, which helps families eat safely whether they need meals that are gluten-free, shellfish-free, or vegan (they even offer a gluten-free Bloody Mary!). Lulu’s is known for its family-friendly events, such as visits from the Easter Bunny or “Billy” Claus as well as a holiday-lighted boat parade. This will be a popular stop for teens – the Gulf Shores location has an all-ages ropes courses available for an extra fee, and both locations have arcades. 

 

 

The Back Porch 

Destin and Panama City Beach, Florida

 

The Back Porch offers seafood specialties like Gulf shrimp and oysters. The Destin location is right on the ocean, just a short walk down the beach from condos, beach houses, and vacation rentals. There’s a sandy beach area right by the restaurant where kids can play while you wait to be seated. The Panama City Beach location is in Pier Park, a shopping district located by the water. Both restaurants offer kid’s meals (like pizza, popcorn shrimp, and grilled cheese) that come with a souvenir frisbee so you can head out to the sand after lunch for family fun. 

 

 

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Boshamps 

Destin, Florida

 

Boshamps is one of the best restaurants in the Destin area and offers a fantastic combination of gourmet cuisine and family-friendly dining. Located on Destin Harbor, the restaurant has a sandy play area out by the water to keep little ones busy before and after the meal. Adults will love the savory dishes made with local ingredients, including smoked farm chicken, duck confit cassoulet, and house-made tomato jam. (But don’t worry, the kids’ menu has simpler fare, like chicken fingers and corn dogs.)

 

 

Boschamps is known for their rich, gourmet food, but the restaurant also is kid-friendly.

Years later, I’m still thinking about this exquisite meal at Boshamps. Photo by Christy Nicholson.

 

 

George’s at Alys Beach

Alys Beach, Florida

 

An upscale restaurant with major date-night vibes, George’s is also a great place for a special family night out thanks to their Tadpole menu featuring fried shrimp and chicken tenders. Adults can choose between light, grilled fare, and hearty burgers and tacos. The porches and patios provide plenty of outdoor seating. 

 

 

The Hangout

Gulf Shores, Alabama

 

The Hangout is famous for its annual music festival, so I figured it was a party spot that wouldn’t be good for family dining. And while they do have quite the selection of frozen drinks and cocktails, the Hangout also caters to younger folk with their kid’s menu that offers options like hot dog sliders and mac & cheese. We enjoyed a New Year’s Eve buffet in the dining room there a few years ago and discovered that the restaurant is definitely kid-friendly. Plus it’s the location of a polar bear plunge on New Year’s Day each year. Free chili for anyone who participates! 

 

 

The entrance to The Hangout has surf shack vibes, but inside is a great place for families to eat.

At first, I was daunted by the party vibes at The Hangout, but it happens to be a great place for the entire family! Photo by Christy Nicholson.

 

 

Rockin’ Tacos

Fort Walton Beach, Florida

 

With a back porch that faces the Gulf of Mexico and fantastic, Mexican-inspired food (yum, street corn), Rockin Tacos is perfect for when you’re ready for something other than seafood. You can still order fish tacos if you want fresh fish, and you can even get tacos made with alligator meat. If your family isn’t feeling adventurous, you can order standard burgers off the regular menu as well as the kid’s menu. 

 

 

HarborWalk Village

Destin, Florida

 

I’m cheating on this one, because HarborWalk Village isn’t a restaurant. It’s a whole entertainment district! With plenty of casual dining, food trucks, and dessert spots, HarborWalk Village is a great place to go when you aren’t quite sure what to do next. Find a snack or a meal, then stay for mini-golf, the zipline, or an escape game. There are options for all ages!

 

 

The sun sets over Destin Harbor on the Gulf Mexico, with a long bridge in the background. HarborWalk Village has a beautiful view and is a great place for families.

HarborWalk Village is a wonderful place to watch the sun as it sets over Destin Harbor. Photo by Christy Nicholson.

 

 

The Crab Trap

Destin, Pensacola, and Fort Walton Beach, Florida

 

The Crab Trap is a great place to go when the kids need to play and you need to rest. All three locations have lovely views of the water, and they also each have playgrounds surrounded by picnic tables to give weary parents a chance to sit down. You can order just about any type of seafood you want, including fresh-caught Gulf seafood, Maine lobster, or Alaskan crab. The kids’ meals each come with a beach pail perfect for playing in the sand. 

 

 

 

 

Five Sisters Blues Cafe

Pensacola, Florida

 

If you’re serious about trying classic southern food, look no further than Five Sisters Blues Cafe. The restaurant offers traditional menu items like fried green tomatoes, collard greens, cheese grits, and pulled pork. A kids’ menu is available for the 10 and under set. Consider making plans to go during Sunday brunch, when Five Sisters hosts live jazz music. 

 

 

Tropical Trader Shrimp Co.

Panacea, Florida

 

A friend alerted me to Tropical Trader Shrimp Co., which is tucked away on a quieter part of the Gulf Coast. They are known for their family-style fish cooking service, where they allow you to bring your own freshly caught fish. They’ll prepare the fish to your liking, whether baked, broiled, or fried, and add some extra hush puppies to complete the meal. (But don’t worry, you can always order from the menu if you didn’t bring your own fresh seafood.)

 

 

The Gulf Coast is the perfect place to relax.

Time to relax and let someone else do the cooking! Photo by Christy Nicholson.

 

 

There’s a little something for everyone on the Gulf Coast. Head to these beach spots for fun, sun, and fresh food, and the whole family will have a blast.

 

 

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Kid-Friendly Gulf Coast Restaurants. Photo: A bridge over Destin Harbor at sunset, a plate of food at Boschamps.

 

 

Christy Nicholson is a writer, editor, and recovering perfectionist from Nashville, Tennessee. When not traveling with family, she enjoys cozy days at home reading, gardening, making music, and wrangling two awesome kids. Christy writes at Any-Worth.com about travel and sustainable living.

 

 

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