GAS - Family Friendly Fuel

A trip to Mayport yields a home-made seafood feast.
"Blessed are we to live by the sea." ~ anon. 

We are doubly blessed this summer as we host visiting family members between their days at the beach and trips to Orlando's theme parks. My niece and her brood of four are visiting us in Ponte Vedra for two weeks, which gives us plenty of time to catch up on all that has been happening in their lives, and to witness how the next generation of our family are growing into fine young girls and boys. 

We've been taking day trips to parks, museums, the zoo and historic St Augustine. During day excursions we've found time to duck into some restaurants that offer kid-friendly options - with no evil clowns, pizza slinging mice, or demonic koalas in the mix. At dinner,  family favorites - classic and splurge versions - have graced our home table.

She's not sure where to begin. GAS, St Augustine, FL
Admittedly, I'm outside my field of expertise when it comes to rating kid-friendly spots, but after this week I have some casual observations to share with any of you who may one day find yourself - as I did - childless in a sea of children.

My first rule for a kid-friendly restaurant - or any restaurant, really - is no sticky surfaces. PLEASE let it be clean and bright, preferably with natural light.

Quiet is too much to expect, as you'll be bringing your own noisemakers to the party. Decibel levels should be such that you can hear adult conversation over the din of happy chatter from the kids.

Easy-Squeezy Grilled Cheesy  - GAS, St Augustine, FL
The adult menu should offer more selections than the kids' menu. I used to wonder why kids menus often have no more than four selections. Now that I have seen the decision making process first hand, I get it. Do you want chicken, hamburger, hot dog or grilled cheese? Decide while you're still young. You're only going to eat four bites of it anyway, the last two of which will only be ingested under threat of you being dismembered and bludgeoned with the offending limb.

Also - it helps if the adult selections somewhat mirror the kids. No need to be jealous of your nephew's grilled cheese sandwich when you can enjoy a grown-up one of your very own.

Grown-up sized burger plate - GAS, St Augustine, FL. 
GAS "Full Service Restaurant" in St Augustine, FL does the grown-up grilled cheese one better, putting it in artisan bread and giving diners a plethora of cheeses to select from to create their own signature blend. Add-in options include applewood smoked bacon and fresh-sliced locally grown tomatoes. Its playful name increases the grown-up kid indulgence factor.

Portion sizes are a tricky one. Kids come in all sizes, and so do their appetites. Make it too small, the grownups will grumble at paying $4 or more for it. Too large, the child will not know where to begin, and instead be rendered helpless worrying that they won't be able to finish, or even take a bite out of the gargantuan sandwich looming on their plate. Pizza seems to be the exception to this rule. One mahoja-big slice and a soda makes a great lunch.

Grilled chicken - a fresh alternative
to breaded, fried chicken "fingers"
Service should be tableside and infinitely patient. Here's one situation where a perky server is a plus. Waiting on kids and their tired, frustrated adult dining companions is an under-appreciated skill. A restaurant that makes all feel welcome and special is one you'll return to and recommend to similarly situated friends. GAS made us happy to have some time together, and gave us just enough attention and space to make it memorable.

It should be noted, GAS doesn't exactly bill itself as a kid-friendly place. It seems more like a cool neighborhood hang, where some of the cool neighbors just happen to be younger than the rest. Add to that the novelty of the setting - an old reclaimed gas station. Shout out to friend and GS sister Nicole for suggesting we should fill up at GAS.

I usually skip dessert in St Augustine, in favor of a side-trip to The Hyppo for gourmet paletas, or Kilwin's for a scoop of ice cream. GAS serves some seriously great-sounding dessert, though, so I'll be back to sample one (or two) another time.

What's on your checklist for picking family friendly spots?

GAS Full Service Restaurant on Urbanspoon
GAS - A Full Service Restaurant 
9 Anastasia Blvd
St Augustine, FL 32080