At last, here it is: our annual who’s who of the best dining, attractions and services for families in the Dallas area. Readers, this feature is by you and for you. You voted for the winners and now you can refer to these pages all year long as you look for fresh spots to eat, play and shop with your family in 2014. Read on to start planning your first adventure.
Best Themed Restaurant
The food is good, but let’s be honest – the kids are really in it for the life-like animatronics that growl and caw and hiss while they munch on Jurassic Chicken Tidbits, Rainforest Rascals or Mini Mojo Bones (chicken nuggets, mini burgers and pork ribs, respectively). Healthy sides like bananas and applesauce are available with each kid’s meal, plus all the animal encounters they could wish for.
Best Restaurant to Share a Family-Style Meal
Babe’s Chicken Dinner House
The southern fried chicken, all-you-can-eat sides and rousing choruses of the Hokey Pokey have made Babe’s a family favorite for 20 years. Each location boasts a unique history, but they all have the same home-style menu and casual atmosphere kids and adults both love. Come early (Babe’s doesn’t take reservations) and stay for one of their delicious homemade pies or banana pudding.
Multiple locations; babeschicken.com
Best for Healthy Dining
Whether you’re watching your waistline, looking to accommodate a special diet or taking a self-imposed leave of absence from the fast-food drive-thru, Zoës Kitchen has you covered with healthful, Mediterranean-inspired dishes for the whole family. With a delicious (and health-conscious) menu, it’s easy to see why Zoës Kitchen was voted Best for Healthy Dining. Try the kabobs at one of their family-friendly locations or pick up a meal to-go.
Multiple locations; zoeskitchen.com
Best Place to Grab Dinner on the Go and Best Grocery Store
Are you into fast, easy and healthy food for your family? Make that quick trip to the supermarket even quicker by stopping into your nearest Central Market. Their ready-to-eat meals, gourmet desserts and more from the in-store cafés satisfy every palate. For a treat the kids will love, sign them up for a cooking class and summer camp at the Plano or Dallas Lovers Lane locations, or for a story time, snacks and crafts each Tuesday at Preston Royal.
Multiple locations; centralmarket.com
How do you take your MOOYAH? We’re partial to turkey and swiss, but you can’t go wrong with a classic MOOYAH outfitted with your choice of toppings. With hundreds of ways to satisfy your hamburger hankering and Little Moo Meals for the – you’ve got it — littles in the family, it’s no surprise MOOYAH took best burger. Their burger may be the bomb, but don’t forget an order of fries and one of their famous shakes.
Multiple locations; mooyah.com
If you’re in the market for traditional Brazilian fare, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for the best brunch around town, Café Brazil is for you. Not just another coffee house, Café Brazil has evolved from a gourmet coffee shop to a weekend destination for leisurely brunches, long lunches and late-night bites. Bring the family in for Café Brazil’s famous weekend brunch. While you get your coffee and crepe fix, the kids can chow down on Candy Bar Pancakes or Pigs in a Blanket. If brunch isn’t your thing, be sure to check out the kids-eat-free specials and stop by for supper. We hear the chorizo rolls are divine.
Multiple locations; cafebrazil.com
Best Food Truck
Rock and Roll Tacos
Owners James and Mary Ann Quinonez take culinary inspiration from their workers – A.K.A. their six children – and present tasty south-of-the-border flavors in palatable portions. Favorites include Que Pasta! (spicy mac ’n’ cheese) and original street tacos. Find the truck at The Food Truck Experience on Greenville Avenue every Wednesday from 6–9pm, or follow them on Facebook and twitter to see where the truck will be next.
Best Place for a Sweet Treat
Nothing Bundt Cakes
Nothing Bundt Cakes has the Bundt business covered, and we’re OK with that.
It doesn’t get much better than a melt-in-your-mouth bite of Bundt cake made with fresh eggs, real butter and cream cheese. With a number of flavors (try the marble) and cakes available in everything from bite-sized bundtinis to tiered cakes for large groups, there truly is a Bundt for every sweet tooth and every occasion.
Multiple locations; nothingbundtcakes.com
Best Place for a Cold Treat
Sugar- and fat-filled ice cream became a thing of the past the minute we had our first scoop of Paciugo’s handcrafted gelato. Using quality ingredients and fresh fruit, Paciugo creates Italian gelato that is light, smooth and – wait for it – 70 percent lower in fat than traditional ice cream. We’re partial to the Mediterranean Sea Salt Caramel, but there are numerous other flavors to choose from. Can’t do dairy? Try a water- or soy-based flavor. Gelato comes in three portions (cup or cone), plus a bambino size just for little ones.
Multiple locations; paciugo.com
Best Doughnut Shop
It doesn’t get much better than a delicious, decadent doughnut. We’ve always been fans of good-old-fashioned glaze, but with artisan flavors like Strawberry Lemonade and Breaking Bad (chocolate-cake donut topped with salted caramel blended with icing) at Hypnotic Donuts, our neighborhood go-to might be in trouble. Do you prefer savory to sweet? Try a practically sinful chicken biscuit. Tell your neighbors to the north to start hoarding their calories; Hypnotic Donuts plans to expand to Denton in January.
Dallas; 214/668-6999; hypnoticdonuts.com
Family owned and operated since 1946, Campisi’s is a Dallas institution. And with familial roots straight out of Sicily, it’s no surprise Campisi’s primo pasta and pizza win awards year after year. Parents and kids can meet in the middle with pizza night at Campisi’s. Family-friendly restaurants and a menu chock-full of artisan pizzas mean Campisi’s has something to satisfy every member of the family. Build your own pizza or try a specialty. The Muffaletta Pizza topped with salami, Canadian bacon and olive spread is a crowd favorite.
Multiple locations; campisis.us
Best Juice Bar
Need something green after your yoga workout? Hit up one of the four Whole Foods locations that has a juice bar (Addison, Preston Forest, Park Lane and Lakewood) for a customized juice, smoothie or protein shake. The Whole Foods juice bars are popular with kids, too – they like ordering the oddly named concoctions, and you’ll love that they’re indulging in fresh fruits and veggies rather than sugary sodas. Dietary restrictions can be accommodated.
Multiple locations; wholefoods.com
Best Taco Joint
Fuzzy’s Taco Shop
The bright atmosphere at Fuzzy’s invites families in, and the funky flavors keep ’em coming back. Kids can order off the Kid’s Menu, which boasts favorites like the famous Baja tacos (soft or crispy and topped with garlic sauce and feta) while mom and dad relax with a beer. Fuzzy’s recently introduced a loyalty app, too, so you can get free tacos just for snapping pics of your food.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
If there’s one thing Texas does right, it’s barbecue. And while we have no shortage of mouth-watering options, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is a perpetual family favorite. You can’t beat the Texas-style chopped beef brisket with a side of creamy coleslaw, but the fall-off-the-bone pork ribs are also a crowd-pleaser. Give kitchen duty a break and pick up a family pack or stop in on a Sunday when kids eat free.
Multiple locations; dickeys.com
Best City or Suburb to Raise Children
It takes just the right formula to attract families, and this bustling city has it all: economic development, a reputation as one of the safest cities in America and across-the-board accolades for the success of its education system. Take the kids to enjoy the full programming schedule at each library branch, the parks’ walking paths and scenic views and the Environmental Education Center’s Nature Explore Garden. The nearby DART Rail station means local shopping centers, entertainment complexes and more attractions in Dallas are never far away.
Best Shopping Center
With boutiques ranging from Gucci and Anthropologie to Peek and the Disney Store, fashionistas and parents with active kids in tow are equally comfortable inside Dallas’ premier luxury mall. You’ll find trendy children’s apparel, restaurants and sweet shops, an AMC movie theater and at NorthCourt, a regular lineup of entertainment. Listen to storybook readings or check out a copy from the Bookmarks library branch and soak up a few rays at CenterPark Garden. The patio of this tree-lined, outdoor area is even more stroller-friendly after a recent renovation.
Dallas, 214/363-7441; northparkcntr.com
Best Hair Salon for Kids
Cool Cuts 4 Kids
Whether it’s baby’s first haircut or your wild child’s latest trim, Cool Cuts 4 Kids knows how to keep any little one entertained while fixing his ’do. Your child will sit at a themed station and play with toys and video games while the stylist snips away with practice and patience. Plus, all products at Cool Cuts 4 Kids are safe, organic and alcohol-free so you know your kiddo is getting the best care.
Multiple locations; coolcuts4kids.com
Best Spot for Creative Kids
Glass is usually one of those untouchable objects for kids, but Smashing Times art studio in Dallas takes the danger out of working with glass, allowing kids as young as age 2 to safely create their own mosaic, picture frame or other artwork with pieces of tumbled smooth glass and nontoxic adhesive. Join the Mommy and Me classes on Monday mornings before naptime, stop by during extended hours on Thursday nights or book a slot for your child’s next birthday party.
Dallas, 214/363-2088; smashingtimes.com
Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Since the Perot opened one year ago at Victory Park, more North Texas kids (and adults) are hooked on science than ever before. The $185 million museum is jam-packed with families eager to study the science of the human body, unearth dinosaur fossils and uncover the mystery of the stars. Take the family to the mini-museum for kids 5 and younger, catch a movie in the 3-D theater or enjoy free access to the outdoor science park. And, stay tuned for the World’s Largest Dinosaurs exhibit coming in April.
Dallas, 214/428-5555; perotmuseum.org
Best Spot for Open Space and Fresh Air
The Dallas Arboretum knocked it out of the park this year with the opening of the eight-acre Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden. Keep an eye out for an upcoming student-created exhibition of science projects and the Dallas Blooms festival, but don’t limit your visits to the spring. With its annual playhouses exhibit, pumpkin patch, holiday exhibits and concerts in the summer, anytime of year is the best time for a stroll through the gardens.
Dallas, 214/515-6500; dallasarboretum.org
Best Place for an Animal Encounter
With the Dallas Zoo’s 125th birthday, 2013 was already destined to be a banner year for the largest and oldest zoo in Texas, and as fortune would have it, the birthday gifts kept rolling in with the arrival of a baby okapi, ocelot kitten and the two growing cheetah cubs, who will be getting their own Cheetah Run in the spring. Make your visit complete by feeding the giraffes at the Giants of the Savanna exhibit and stopping by the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo — expect to see the new giant anteater exhibit later in the fall.
Dallas, 469/554-7500; dallaszoo.com
Best Children’s Theater
Dallas Children’s Theater
The Rosewood Center for Family Arts is home to not only to a thriving theater academy for children and teens, but also to the best costume and set designers and puppet makers for the theater’s 11 plays and musicals, several of which are written by a resident playwright. Dallas Children’s Theater’s 30thanniversary season is better than ever with an expanded design contest for kids. Don’t miss the opening night parties held for each professional production and the kids’ birthday sing-along at every show.
Dallas, 214/740-0051; dct.org
Best Place for a Family Staycation
Great Wolf Lodge
For a getaway anytime of the year, book a suite at this family resort with both indoor and outdoor water parks, a thrill-ride-meets-movie-theater, arcade and camping-inspired lodging. Nonstop entertainment continues with mani-pedis at Scooops Spa and bedtime stories in the lobby. Want to channel your inner Harry Potter? Wave an electronic wand over crystals, dragons and more found objects in ShadowQuest, a new, interactive game that sends you on a hotel-wide scavenger hunt.
Grapevine, 817/488-6510; greatwolf.com
Best Kid-friendly Bank
You only need $25 to get your child started on a savings plan with Chase. Open up a savings account under your kiddo’s name and the monthly service fee will be waived until he’s 18. Then use Chase’s online resources to teach your young one about money management and good saving habits – and start putting that piggy bank to good use.
Multiple locations; chase.com
Best Place to Take Energetic Kids
Pump It Up
With options like Adventure parties, Superhero parties and new Glow parties, Pump It Up is known for their fabulous indoor birthdays. But the three Dallas Pump It Up locations also have Pop-In Playtime 2–3 days per week throughout the school year and on select school holidays, when you can take your brood to burn some energy on the slides, bounce houses, obstacle courses and other inflatables.
Best Trampoline Park
Your kids will (literally) be bouncing off the walls at Jumpstreet, which has 20,000 square feet of trampolines, plus a foam pit, mechanical bull and separate inflatable area for the youngest jumpers. And select locations have dodgeball courts and basketball hoops, so your kids can spring their game to the next level. Perfect for parties or wearing them out before naptime.
Multiple locations; gotjump.com
Published December 2013