Where to Eat in Orlando with the Family, Outside the Parks

We’d just gotten off Pirates of the Caribbean and walked out into the hot Orlando sun. My 6-year-old was fading fast and the look on his face told me it was time for lunch. Without doing any research on kid-friendly restaurants in Orlando, we blindly chose Pecos Bill Cafe. When we walked in there was a 30-minute wait. Not knowing where else to go, we stuck it out.

On our last day in Orlando, we decided to skip the theme parks, and had some fun on a few attractions out on I-Drive. When the same lunch time cravings set in we found a nearby BBQ place and braced ourselves for the line. But the hostess greeted us with a smile, “right this way.”

The food was good, service was friendly, and my kids didn’t have to wait half an hour to eat chicken fingers and fries. So, if you’re in Orlando and decide to skip the parks one day, these family-friendly restaurants will give you a refreshing change of pace from Disney Mania.

1) T-REX

Kid-friendly restaurant in Orlando: T-REX

For whatever reason, kids love dinosaurs. My wife and I have a theory that because kids are literally so small, the dinosaur offers the possibility for growth and power. Regardless, if your kids love dinosaurs (I bet they do), then definitely check out T-Rex. This kid-friendly dining experience is set amidst prehistoric creatures and meteor showers every 15 minutes. You'll be both surprised (in a good way) by the quality of the food and the prices, even at this more touristy Orlando restaurant.

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2) Bubbalou’s Bodacious BBQ

bubbalous bodacious bbq restaurant in Orlando - kid friendly

I don’t know about you, but my family loves BBQ. So when we’re on our annual family vacation we make it a priority to seek out the best a city has to offer. It seems there are two contenders for kid-friendly BBQ in Orlando - Bubbalou’s and 4 Rivers Smokehouse. I gave the nod to Bubbalou’s based on multiple reviews that mentioned the long lines common at 4 Rivers. Both restaurants offer the standard finger-licking goodness but upon reviewing the menus it seems Bubbalou’s is more affordable. Everyone keeps talking about the mac-n-cheese which I know is a kid-friendly dish with my boys. 

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Marriott's Grande Vista (starting at $119/night)


3) Sweet Tomatoes

Kid-friendly restaurant in Orlando: Sweet Tomatoes

Obviously you and your family can’t eat BBQ for every meal. If you tried, you’ll have to roll yourself out of Florida when your week-long Orlando vacation is over. Sweet Tomatoes sounds like the perfect kid-friendly restaurant for those who want healthy options. They boast an enormous salad bar, soups made from scratch, hot pastas, fresh-baked goods and a ton of dessert options. There are four restaurants in Orlando and apparently the one close to Disney on S. Apopka-Vineland Rd. tends to get very crowded. Dinner is $15 a person for the all-you-can-eat buffet, so a family of four is quickly going to plunk down $60. Lunch is also all you can eat but only costs $9.

If you check out their website, you'll see they offer a free lunch if you become a “Club Veg” member. With these coupons, a healthy lunch for 4 will only cost $18. Not bad. Not bad at all.

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4) Hot Krust Panini Kitchen

Hot Krust Panini Kitchen in Orlando - Kid friendly restaurant

I've been to Hot Krust a few times and each time it gets better. Ever since owning my very own George Foreman grill as a college junior, I’ve been a big fan of panini sandwiches - dare I say, an aficionado. It was this deep love for hot, pressed sandwiches that initially drew me here while on business. I’ve tried the meat-lover, cowboy-jack and, of course, I had to give their burger-nini a go. All have been great. This Orlando restaurant has won a bunch of “Best of” awards and the word is definitely out. They also offer gluten-free bread for those with food sensitivities. All their sandys range from $6 to $9 and kid-friendly paninis are only $4 and come with a cookie. Please note that they are closed on Sundays.

A reviewer on Yelp summed up a typical experience quite well. “There are only so many places one can go to and feel just as welcome as they would their friendly small-town neighborhood store. Here in the middle of Orlando, Hot Krust panini kitchen has found a way to do that, while also providing even better quality meals.”

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5) Havana’s Cuban Cuisine

Havana's Cuban Cuisine in Orlando - kid friendly restuarant
Whenever I vacation with the family, I'm always on the lookout for local cuisine that reflects the culture of the residents who live there. In Florida, I had my heart set on Cuban food. My kids are adventurous eaters and my 3-year old actually likes spicy food. If your kids are not, they offer the traditional kids meal of cheeseburger, chicken fingers and fries. With that said, I found Havana’s after doing a ton of research for an upcoming family vacation to Orlando and it is now #1 on my “Must Eat Here” list. They offer all the traditional Cuban dishes and continue to receive rave reviews. I’m all about empañadas and steak and from what I saw and read, they do it right. 

“Overall, the experience was great,” proclaimed one avid Yelper. “My family wanted to go back later in the week because it was so good. The waiters were all very entertaining and personable. We enjoyed their liveliness. We could not have been more pleased with our dinner. If you are in Orlando, visit Havanas for a casual, fun dining experience.”

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Yelp Rating: 4 Stars out of 407 reviews
Trip Advisor Rating: 4 Stars out of 79 reviews

Photo: Lake Buena Vista Resort

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About Eric Rubin

After traveling the world with his wife, Eric wanted to share that same love of travel with his two boys, Jonny and Oscar. As Vacatia's Marketing Manager, he gets to return to his roots as a journalist and travel writer.