Madfish Grill opened in May 1999 in a space once occupied by a bank. The kitchen is the old drive through teller window and the walk-in safe is now a private dining area affectionately referred to as “The Vault.” Roomy booths make up the main dining area and the cozy bar lounge is always alive with the chatter of regular patrons, who keep coming back for the ebullient bartenders and fresh seafood.

PHOTOS BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.

General Manager and Chef Ben Gough, along with his tight-knit team, strive to please all their customers all of the time – a feat that is near impossible in an industry based on catering to a variety of personal preferences. Arguably the most difficult palate to please is that of a child. Children are notoriously picky eaters. Chef Ben recalls a time – before his own children Sydney, 12, and Logan, 10, were born – when he read an article that resonated with him. “The article said that children are often the decision drivers when it comes to choosing a restaurant. If the children like going to a place, that’s an easy decision for the parents.” He set out to design a comprehensive kid’s menu that goes beyond pasta with butter, fish sticks or chicken nuggets.

Madfish Grill now boasts the most extensive, varied and adventurous children’s menu in Sarasota and, as it turns out, the restaurant is ahead of a curve. In true cyclical fashion, the children’s menu is once again a key driving factor in restaurant choice and many restaurants are scrambling to get on board. The kids menu at Madfish Grill contains an entire section devoted to the cheese and butter options you’d expect—grilled cheese, penne pasta, chicken tenders, mac ‘n’ cheese—but even within this selection of classics there are healthier alternatives. The grilled cheese is served on whole grain bread and there’s grilled chicken for the pasta. The Kids Only entrees offer smaller portions of adult favorites, giving children the option of grilled, sautéed, broiled and pan-fried versions of mahi mahi, shrimp, tenderloin and salmon.

KIDS FISH TACOS.

Ben’s daughter, Sydney, loves the Coco-Mac Shrimp, which is coconut macadamia encrusted shrimp with an orange ginger sauce. Logan ventures off the kids menu to order the Black Bean Soup. All Kids Only entrees are offered a la carte with a choice of sides ranging from fresh fruit to roasted sweet plantains to broccoli with cheese sauce. Ben is focused on adding more choices such as cohesive entrees with specific sides designed to complement the main dish. Looking for somewhere to take the family for dinner that’s sure to satisfy disparate tastes? Look no further than Madfish Grill, which features Early Bird, Gluten-Free and Sunday Brunch Menus, as well as, hands down, the best Kids Menu in Sarasota.