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In Florida, fresh seafood is the answer to just about any food-related question. During a whirlwind 3-day trip, we got a taste of Florida flavor – in the food and the dining experiences. Here are 7 Punta Gorda restaurants (plus 2 yummy dessert places) that welcome kids and parents alike.
Disclosure: The writer was hosted for this trip.
Punta Gorda Restaurants
Finding kid-friendly restaurants on a family vacation is getting easier. But it still can be a challenge, especially if you happen to travel with a picky eater. During a 3-day trip, we found plenty of fun things to do in Punta Gorda Florida. And we got a taste of the good food, fun atmosphere and sumptuous seafood Southwest Florida has to offer.
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Here are 7 of my favorites:
Penny’s Diner in Punta Gorda, Florida
This is such a down-home neighborhood place that Penny herself took our breakfast order. The pancakes were are as big as the plate she served them on – definitely enough to share — and the eggs were perfectly cooked.
Penny’s Diner serves breakfast and lunch from 7am-3pm. Be sure to check out their specials on their Facebook page.
PERCH 360 at the Wyvern Hotel
PERCH 360 gets big points for the views. Definitely look into a dinner here to enjoy the sunset and views of downtown Punta Gorda, Charlotte Harbor and the view of the bridge over the Peace River to Port Charlotte. This is an outdoor dining experience so keep an eye on the weather forecast when planning out your visit.
We ordered what the restaurant called tapas – which I think of as “small plates.” The mussels that came over a bed of French fries were more than enough for two people to eat as a meal.
PERCH 360 is open Sunday-Thursday 11am-10pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 11am-11pm.
If you visit PERCH 360 with kids aim for a lunch or early dinner. The scene shifts a little to the party spot side of things later in the day. Also know that the rooftop restaurant is right next to the rooftop pool. If your kids are like mine, they likely will be more interested in swimming than eating.
Peace River Seafood
This is Old Florida dining at its finest, complete with the characters who cook and serve the meals and the fellow diners who eat there.
Peace River Seafood is an authentic crabhouse set in an Old Florida Cracker house. That means you eat with your hands while sitting outside at picnic tables. The placemats are sheets from that morning’s newspaper and the seafood comes on a huge tray, along with mallets for breaking open the crabs.
The shrimp was perfectly seasoned (with the cook’s own special seasoning, not Old Bay spice, he told us), the stone crabs sweet and delectable and the blue crabs a local specialty. Our seafood tray also included oysters and clams, but I was so happy with the crab and shrimp that I didn’t even get around to trying the oysters and clams.
All of the seafood is sourced locally and delivered daily by local fishermen and cooked out back. Luckily, the waitress was happy to demonstrate how to get at the meat inside the in-tact blue crabs. It was a lot of work, so I just ate the demonstration crab.
Peace River also serves a delectable (and huge) burger along with a plate full of fries if you have a family member who doesn’t eat fish. They are open Tuesday-Saturday from 11am-7pm.
Dean’s South of the Border
We had a delicious breakfast at this welcoming bar and Tex-Mex restaurant. It’s outside dining. But there were plenty of tables under a roof. That meant we stayed dry as a raging storm dumped buckets of rain around us.
I had vowed to behave, but then I saw the breakfast bowl covered in sausage gravy and gave in to my weaker self. And I was oh so glad I did! The gravy was perfectly spiced, with just enough after burn to let you know it included some red pepper flakes. The breakfast tacos looked mouth-wateringly yummy too.
There’s a Little Amigos Menu that includes the requisite mac and cheese and hot dogs, but the kid entrees also have a Tex-Mex flair with cheese quesadillas, tacos and burritos.
Dean’s South of the Border is open for dine-in and to go orders. Check out their current hours here.
Carmelo’s Italian Ristorante
When you’ve had enough seafood, head to Carmelo’s for some good old fashioned spaghetti and meatballs. The food at this Italian restaurant is delicious and more than enough for two meals. The restaurant is housed in a beautiful old mansion, with covered outdoor seating.
The Bambini Menu is appropriately Italian, with spaghetti and meatballs and even more sophisticated fare such as fettucini Alfredo and penne with vodka sauce. For the less adventurous, there is a chicken cutlet with french fries, the closest thing to chicken fingers you’ll find at this upscale fine dining restaurant.
Carmelo’s is also a pizzeria, but I’m from Chicago, which means I’m a pizza snob. So we didn’t try the pizza.
Carmelo’s serves lunch (currently takeout only) and dinner (takeout or dine-in). Their website has updated hours.
Village Fish Market
The food here is just fine — my blackened grouper was de-lish! — but the reason to visit is the location. It is housed in Fishermen’s Village and the outdoor space sits along Charlotte Harbor. There’s almost always live music playing in the square near the outdoor bar, giving the whole place a fun and festive feel.
The kids’ menu offers pasta, popcorn shrimp and fish n’ chips. Check out Village Fish Market menus here.
Table & Tap (Closed in April 2021 but is being reworked into Babcock Ranch)
Although Table & Tap closed in April 2021, it’s being reimagine by a local restauranteur and will reopen in July. Stay tuned for updates.
Located in a planned eco-development this restaurant is surrounded by the 73,000-acre Babcock Ranch Preserve. (Head there for the Swamp Buggy Eco Tour, one of the best things to do in Punta Gorda.)
The community is all about sustainability. The town bills itself as the first “smart city.” It’s fueled by massive fields of solar panels. Half the land is reserved for parks, greenways and lakes.
Table & Tap is a farm-to-table restaurant that sources its ingredients locally, everything from “the honey we get up the road at Wonderful Bees to our Wild Boar from 3 Suns Ranch,” and herbs and vegetables grown in the Babcock Ranch community gardens.
The restaurants offers several vegan options along with appetizers to share (the red deviled eggs did not impress, but the fried goat cheese was a big hit) and entrees such as pigtail mac & cheese and shrimp po’ boy (both got double thumbs up). It’s also a steakhouse, with reasonably priced ribeye and NY strip steak choices.
The outdoor space overlooks Babcock Lake.
The children’s menu offers a choice of sweet potato fries, broccolini or fruit in place of french fries. Otherwise, it’s a pretty standard burgers, grilled cheese and chicken tenders.
Desserts in Punta Gorda
Zoet Sweet Boutique
This charming little storefront is filled with luscious-looking creations. I vowed to look but not eat, but I failed. The cherry turnover looked too good. And it was!
This ice cream shop is across Founder’s Square from Table & Tap in Babcock Ranch. This time, I managed to stick to my vow to look but not eat. Good thing, too. The scoops were big as baseballs. However, I did get a taste of some of the yummy ice cream creations and they all seemed well worth the calories.
More Punta Gorda Restaurants
With so many good Punta Gorda restaurants and so little time, we couldn’t get to everything we wanted to try. We had hoped to get to Harbor Scoops for ice cream. A Punta Gorda native praised The Perfect Caper as the best restaurant in town. Laishley Crab House serves steaks, fresh seafood and sushi right on the harbor. John Ski’s House of Breakfast is famous for its Fat Boy breakfast. That is an extra large order of country potatoes, sausage patty, 3 strips of bacon and 3 eggs, all smothered in sausage gravy and topped with cheddar cheese. It’s exhausting just to think about eating all of that!