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Unchained: Dine Local at Orlando's Family-Friendly Best



It’s undeniably easy to find restaurants catering to families in the Orlando area, but with so many chain offerings to navigate visitors often find themselves eating in places they could just as easily enjoy in their own hometowns. With this in mind, 10Best has culled 10 wonderful local joints your family will love, from lunch-perfect locations like the Hot Krust Panini Kitchen, where house-roasted meats pair with crusty-fresh bread for your midday sammie cravings to to Asian-fusion temples like the Noodles & Rice café, where the grown-ups can get as adventurous as they’d like with no worry for finding something their pickiest little ones will devour. Fast-casual patrons at College Park’s Hubbly Bubbly can enjoy healthy Middle Eastern fare as they explore the Main Street stylings of this vibrant, colorful neighborhood and those out by UCF can enjoy free bocce and phenomenally large slices at Lazy Moon's East Orlando outpost. Downtown visitors enjoying a short urban hike around Lake Eola Park will want to sample more than one of the creative flavors at the Pop Parlour, where icy treats made not only with fresh fruits, but vegetables, herbs and even alcoholic beverages (21 and over for these, please) pack a wonderful – if occasionally boozy – punch. 


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Mediterranean/Middle Eastern fare is oft rife with fresh-grown vegetables, cool crisp mattresses of color on which more decadent fare is generally piled. Extra kudos goes to the healthy falafel joint that's extra happy to throw deep-fried cauliflower and what amount to bite-sized latkes (herein called mazel tots; oy vey, so cute you could pinch it!) on the side dish menu. You know, just in case there was a little too much healthy going on. Hubbly Bubbly is a clean, counter-order operation in College Park that's enjoying a nice stream of local biz due to its bright atmosphere, tasty food and a tight but flexible menu. This allows for ordering of items like falafel, shwarma-style chicken or lamb and steak in salad or hummus bowls or stuffed in a pocket sandwich.

Recommended for Family Friendly because: With a mostly healthy menu that's tinged with a bit of decadence, casual, bright Hubbly Bubbly is a great pick.

A.D.'s expert tip: Exploring College Park? Hubbly Bubbly is a great lunch or dinner option that won't break the bank.

Read more about Hubbly Bubbly →




Few families can resist the lure of Mexican food when dining out. For one thing, you know the server's going to put chips and salsa down immediately (which means you'll have time to order a margarita and genuinely peruse the menu). At Garibaldi, families have the added bonus of knowing said Mexican food will be dining-out money well spent. Garibaldi is not a tourist hang, it's a bonafide local favorite with a bright, airy interior, great chunky salsa and predictably good cuisine, from their "Little Amigos" menu (which does offer a cheeseburger so the rest of the family need not bow to the pickiest eater of the bunch when craving Mexican) on up to house specialties like their eponymous fajitas and decadent carne guisada.

Recommended for Family Friendly because: Margaritas, music and Mexican munchies make Garibaldi a local favorite for families.

A.D.'s expert tip: Pop in Saturday night for the live mariachi band. Mexican classics and popular songs reimagined make for an extra festive evening.

Read more about Garibaldi Mexican Restaurant →




Serving up tasty fast-casual eats from its comfortable Dr. Phillips digs, this cheery "paninery" does up a multitude of classic pressed sandwiches with fresh, locally made bread and house-roasted meats, which makes a big difference when it comes to taste. Vegetarians will find more than a few selections of krusty-with-a-K goodness for their diets, as well. From Philly steak to fondue turkey, Greek veggie to the sriracha-laden "Razzle Dazzle," which melds steak, provolone, strawberry jam and banana peppers for a unique fruity-tangy-creamy amalgam, â€" diners are sure to find a sandwich to suit in HK's fast-casual environs. They're pretty friendly, too!

Recommended for Family Friendly because: Fresh bread and fresh fillings make Hot Krust a family-friendly go-to in the Dr. Phillips neighborhood.

A.D.'s expert tip: Not in a sandwich mood? Try the Cactus Chili. The regulars love it! And yes, there's actually cactus in it.

Read more about Hot Krust Panini Kitchen →


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Even when the Saints aren't marching in the Super Bowl, Tibby's New Orleans Kitchen leans heavily toward festive. Bourbon Street-slash-Mardi-Gras décor with a bit of Louisiana folk art panache creates the vibe. Dishes including red beans and rice, andouille and cheddar grits and a 12-napkin roast beef po'boy seal the deal. Born of Cajun love by folks with roots in New Orleans, fans of the region's cuisine will enjoy muffaletta, shrimp Creole, crawfish etouffe and a host of other popular dishes. And since we're talking New Orleans, don't forget the drinks. You'll find Tibby's pours a hurricane worthy of a few strands of beads.

Recommended for Family Friendly because: Festive Tibby's is a feast for the eyes and the belly. Lots of options for finicky little ones and colorful distractions to entertain.

A.D.'s expert tip: Beignets. They are an anytime food.

Read more about Tibby's New Orleans Kitchen →


Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe
Photo courtesy of Park Ave Photography


Willkommen! Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe is a family-run operation that many say serves the best traditional German fare in all of Central Florida. Craving your tante's schnitzel? Ready to sample more sausage than a Bears fan at a tailgate? This is your place. Also on tap: more than 50 different German beers (draught varieties come in three sizes) and live entertainment on their expansive sidewalk patio Thursday through Sunday. And if your brat's not a fan of brats, fear not - potato pancakes, cheese and cold cut platters and massive German pretzels will sate the group's picky eater.

Recommended for Family Friendly because: Hollerbach's is a casual, friendly family affair, a place where groups gather to enjoy music, sport, food and drink.

A.D.'s expert tip: Love what you're tasting? Grab some authentic German eats to go at the Hollerbach-owned Magnolia Square Market, just steps from the restaurant.

Read more about Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe →




The brains behind a longtime favorite panini joint here in town (he's since sold that business) is at it again, this time in trendy Mills 50, with Too Much Sauce, a clean-lined rice-quinoa-salad bowl joint that's tailor made for quick service, and healthy food (as healthy as you want it to be, that is) with lots of color. Get creative choosing a base, veggies and a protein - along with one or more of their signature sauces - or let them do the hard stuff and choose from a few pre-designed choices that range from uber healthy (the veggie) to debatable (Sauce of the Border features lots of cheese and sour cream). What's nice is you can customize and keep your calorie counts down if that's something you're interested in - plus the food here is fresh and fun!

Recommended for Family Friendly because: Parents, rejoice: Too Much Sauce gets a capital F for "flexible." Kids' bowls can be tailored precisely to their liking. Maximum enjoyment, minimum whining.

A.D.'s expert tip: Gluten-free folks: Everything on their menu, save desserts, is completely GF.

Read more about Too Much Sauce →


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East Orlando


When is a slice not a slice? When it's a massive pennant flag of crust covered in melty cheese and the toppings of your choice. That's pretty much what they're serving up at Lazy Moon, much to the delight of the regulars, which come from all walks. Some actually DO walk, in fact, becauseLazy Moon is super-popular with the students at nearby UCF. Not surprising, because Lazy Moon brings the value, It's big pies, classic to creative, are available for eat-in (bring friends, seriously!) or take-out. Stay for a beer or a game of bocce if you like. Their indoor courts are open and free to all patrons. Noobs welcome.

Recommended for Family Friendly because: Don't just feed your family for a reasonable price. Go to Lazy Mooon and completely overfeed them with "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids"-sized slices.

A.D.'s expert tip: Vegans, you are not forgotten. Lazy Moon's Treehugger comes with vegan cheese and two toppings of your choice. UCF too far? Hit their Mills 50 location on Colonial!

Read more about Lazy Moon →




Warm, melty grilled cheese: that's serious comfort fare right there. At Toasted, they level it up a notch with gourmet takes on the good old ooey-gooey, flat-pressed fave that takes you straight back to childhood. For nostalgia junkies and "safe" eaters, they've got the 101 (that's actually what they call it), simple, unfancy tomato and cheddar. For everyone else? The sky's the limit. Gouda and havarti, fontina and jack, muenster and mozzarella meld with all manner of meat, veggie and even fruit, creating cheesy Frankensteins such as the Blackberry Melt (fontina, applewood-smoked bacon, blackberry mash and arugula), the Fig & Goat (havarti, goat cheese, mission figs, basil and honey) and the Street Taco (jack, roasted pork, red onion, cilantro and jalapeno). The burger side of the menu is no less creative and vegans � yes, really � actually have their own menu of melty morsels, as well.

Recommended for Family Friendly because: Toasted's grilled-cheese-based menu is a good call, even for picky eaters and its expansive menu allows parents to get adventurous while feeding the little ones.

A.D.'s expert tip: Toasted has two other locations in town: Lake Nona and UCF (East Orlando). Check your GPS to see which venue melts best with your whereabouts.

Read more about Toasted →




If you can't please a diverse family at a restaurant with "noodles" and "rice" in the name, you may as well just give up on eating out. This Asian fusion favorite culls together an array of delightful dishes, from Hong Kong-style barbecue to the steamy fragrant hot pot. Pad Thai to spicy noodles, ramen to won ton and more satisfy the carbohydrate addict's cravings while an array of other Eastern noshes â€" delicious curry pineapple fried rice, succulent Korean short ribs, crispy-fried samosa â€" make dieting here nearly impossible. Courteous servers are happy to explain the hot pot process for newbies.

Recommended for Family Friendly because: This cute, neighborhood eatery is super friendly, its menu is super diverse.

A.D.'s expert tip: The Mills 50 neighborhood is a fun one for exploration. Come early or leave time after your meal to stroll a bit.

Read more about Noodles & Rice Cafe →


The Meatball Stoppe
Photo courtesy of The Meatball Stoppe


Meatballs: so simple â€" a small, round hunks of deliciousness from your Nonna's kitchen, laden with garlic, spices, just the right amount of fat. Top 'em with sauce or cheese or both. Lay them gently onto a bed of pasta or polenta. Smash them into a crusty roll and top 'em with a fried egg. They're filling, comforting, and at this Lake Underhill family-run, fast-casual outpost that's edged out toward East Orlando, quite reasonably priced. What's more is that they're easy to grab on the go, but feel free to stay a while and sample the variety, which runs from traditional to Mediterranean, sausage to mac-and-cheese explosion. Pair them with sauces, salads, sides. Luxuriate in the simplicity â€" and the value.

Recommended for Family Friendly because: What kid doesn't like meatballs? And what grown-up for that matter? Roll in and taste a few - along with the cannoli.

A.D.'s expert tip: Meatball Madness on Mondays and Wednesdays mean most meatballs are $1 per.

Read more about The Meatball Stoppe →


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Meet A.D. Thompson

Amy Drew has spent nearly three decades as a professional writer and roughly half her life as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

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