We all know date nights are important in a healthy relationship, but sometimes my husband and I get a kick out of taking our kids to dinner with us. Besides giving them the chance to practice manners and acting like big girls, it gives me a much needed break from cooking yet another dinner. And as much as we love having them with us, it can be a challenge not only to get everyone out of the house, but to find a place we can all agree on. Because let’s be honest, sometimes I just feel like hitting up a place that has alcoholic beverages, and REAL napkins, not paper ones. The bar is set real low now that I’ve got kids.
But I’m also not eager to ruin anyone else’s hard-earned date night. So where’s a family with kids to go where both the kids AND the grown ups can enjoy a dinner out? Here’s my running list of South Tampa favorites. These are restaurants that our family of four, that’s my husband and I and two kids under 5, can go to get a great meal for everyone, parking is not a huge hassle, and most of them do in fact have real napkins. They are “real restaurant” enough to teach our kids some basic etiquette, but also casual enough that they can giggle and be themselves without disturbing anyone else.
- Bella’s Italian Cafe 1413 S. Howard Ave #100, Tampa FL 33606
We LOVE Bella’s. Italian is a crowd pleaser, and they have a huge menu so we can always try something different while the kids can choose from personal pizzas, plain pasta, or yummy spaghetti. They are generous with the bread basket, which is a big win for our youngest who hasn’t quite mastered patiently waiting for her meal yet, and they have a great coloring kids menu with crayon buckets. Sometimes if you ask nicely you can even get them to bring your kids little balls of pizza dough to play with. Makes our night every time. They have a parking lot making it easy to get in and out, and usually a valet on weekend nights. It’s a great family spot, and always enough of a crowd and a friendly vibe that ensures our two little munchkins don’t disturb anyone.
2. bartaco 1601 W Snow Ave. Tampa, FL 33606
Bartaco is my favorite spot right now for so many reasons. It’s in Hyde Park village, so it can be crowded on weekends, but it’s perfect for early weeknight dinner or even a weekend lunch date with the kiddos. Nothing makes you feel cool and remember your glory days, while also having fun with your stroller, like a jaunt into Hyde Park! So not only can the hubs and I get in touch with our urban roots, they have the BEST kids platters ever. Huge fruit kabobs and a great presentation. Plus last time we were there they gave my kids each a whole coloring book to work on while we waited. Major. Tacos are kind of my jam, so of course I am obsessed with their menu, but the fact that my kids can fill up too makes this Hyde Park gem my fave spot for a taco + Pacifico fix.
3. Bonefish Grill 3665 Henderson Blvd. Tampa, FL 33609
While it may seem a little much for kids, don’t be scared. They have a really great kids menu, valet parking every time I’ve ever been, and the who doesn’t love Bang Bang Shrimp? Seriously. Their kids menu has some yummy options other than the normal chicken/french fry combo that’s so common. Fried and grilled fish and chicken, Mac ‘n Cheese, and a couple of other items. Plus they offer it with veggies, and since you’re at an actual restaurant the veggies are good and not scary, so kids are more likely to actually ingest them. My oldest got popcorn shrimp and loved it. And she tried a vegetable. Big win. So even the little ones can branch out and try new stuff if they want. Hey, it’s just exciting to have options, I’m not saying I veer from the ol’ standby often, but every once in a while it’s nice to try and get them to branch out. Sometimes, especially with picky eaters, that’s not nice at all, and they do have chicken and french fries, if you’re into that (you know, actually enjoying your own dining experience).
4. Pane Rustica 3225 S MacDill Ave. Tampa, FL 33629
So this is by far my kids’ favorite lunch/brunch spot. They have huge tables, and we almost always end up here with out of town guests because it’s so laid back but the food is so good. For lunch and brunch you walk through the line at the counter and can pretty much close your eyes and point to anything and it will be delicious. They bake their own bread, make a mean grilled cheese for kids, awesome flatbread pizzas, some of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had, and they also have all kinds of seasonal menu items that make the food feel elevated while maintaining a comfortable, casual atmosphere. I’ve never been for dinner, so I can’t vouch for that, but for a daytime meal with kiddos we like this place a lot. Closed on Mondays.
5. Datz 2616 S MacDill Ave. Tampa, FL 33629
Ok, I know what I said up there about places where parking isn’t a hassle, and that’s not exactly the case here– the great big downside (the only downside?) to Datz is parking. Especially if you have younger kids or a stroller, it’s not super fun to have to park a block away, or wait 30 mins for a table–both of which are a likely possibility at Datz…But that’s because it’s so freaking good! The big bonus for kids is the fact that there’s a display case with desserts in the front, AND Dough, the bakery, is right next door. Bribery, anyone? So if you’re going to do Datz, I’d say just really consider your timing. Early weeknights are probably best if your parenting goals are like mine and your main mission in life is to avoid the hungry-kid-meltdown. But if you do manage to make it in the door and sit down, you won’t regret it! A definite foodie spot, I love their whole menu. They have a fun atmosphere and are great with kids. And while they do have a kids menu, with things like Mac N Cheese bites on the regular menu, sometimes my kids just nibble off my plate. Plus, if you need a laugh, they have the best marquis in town. (*Insider Tip: Text Datz to (305) 600-5326 to get on the waiting list before you arrive!)
6. Cappy’s 3200 W Bay to Bay Blvd., Tampa, FL 33629
Ok, it’s a pizza place. But there’s something really nice about the fact that it’s a real pizza place. Dedicated to pizza. Nothing to fuss over, no fancy pants, artisanal, fussy menu items. They have pizza (deep dish style, too), they have calzones, they have salads (if you or your kids are gluten free, I think this is your only option. I don’t think they do gluten free crust, but I could be wrong!), they have beer (and wine). Done. Big cozy benches where you can enjoy time with your family, and your pizza while supporting a local-owned pizza business instead of calling in from a national chain. Good stuff.
There’s my list! Go ahead and be the craaaaazy parents that take your kids to dinner with you, and avoid the eye rolls at these kid-friendly South Tampa restaurants. Have another South Tampa fave that leaves you feeling like a grown up and the kids full and satisfied? Add it in the comments below!