Best For Families: Dining + Destinations 2016
We can’t close out the year without highlighting our annual Best For Families, Dining + Destinations winners. You voted for your local favorites, and we tallied the results. Whether you’re looking to satisfy a Tex-Mex request from the kiddos or figuring out weekend plans for what to do and where to eat, this guide has it covered. Revisit tried-and-true picks (read: multi-time winners), or branch out to get a taste of some of the newbies to the winner’s circle.
DallasChild Winner: Breadwinners
Breadwinners tops Dallas’ best brunch spots according to parents. Choose from menu options including breakfast tacos or a jalapeño bacon BLT. Get the kids palate-pleasing pancakes (and ask the server to add in chocolate chips). Bring the kids — and the canine — when you visit the location at Inwood Village and have brunch on the patio.
FortWorthChild Winner: Blue Mesa Grill
Families can’t get enough of Blue Mesa Grill’s three-time award-winning brunch buffet. Let the kids watch the chefs create made-to-order waffles and tacos while you sip your two free (that’s right, free) mimosas every Sunday 9am–3pm. Kids ages 5 and younger eat free (children 6–11 cost $7 each). Can’t wait until Sunday? Meet your friends at the Arlington location on Wednesday for light bruncheon served 11am–2pm.
Fort Worth, 817/332-6372
NorthTexasChild Winner: Black Walnut Café
Whether your crew prefers a sweet or a savory brunch, Black Walnut Café has options — from chocolate chip pancakes drizzled with maple syrup (a kid favorite) to sirloin steak Benedict with cayenne citrus hollandaise (looking at you, Dad). Ask about their monthly specials, including the coffee and specialty gelato.
Flower Mound, 972/874-1625
BEST RESTAURANT FOR HEALTHY DINING
DallasChild Winner: True Food Kitchen
Eating out doesn’t have to mean sacrificing a meal made with wholesome, fresh ingredients. With rotating seasonal menus, True Food Kitchen boasts lots of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free pizzas, salads, sandwiches and more. Try one of the freshly squeezed juices, and order the kiddos an almond butter, banana and apple sandwich or a grass-fed burger, both served with carrots and tzatziki sauce on the side.
FortWorthChild Winner: Spiral Diner & Bakery
Committed to delicious vegan cuisine, Spiral Diner & Bakery offers taco salad filled with Mexican quinoa and avocado; wraps loaded with veggies; and burgers made with soy protein, cashews and quinoa or a Portobello mushroom cap — all served in a retro 1950s-style diner setting. Order the kids a pickle sandwich and a homemade banana shake or anything with a tofu scramble from the all-day breakfast menu.
Fort Worth, 817/332-8834
NorthTexasChild Winner (Tie): Modern Market
North Texans have fantastic options when it comes to healthy dining, so this vote ended in a tie. Modern Market, our repeat winner, serves preservative-free, whole food ingredients your kids can pronounce (apart maybe from “arugula”). The menu offers options for those with allergies, sensitivities and intolerances and families on meat-free diets. The kids' menu features better-for-them favorites like nitrate-free pepperoni pizza and hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken. Pair your meal with a glass of local Holy Kombucha or a craft beer from Revolver Brewing.
Flower Mound, 469/312-5180
NorthTexasChild Winner (Tie): Verts Mediterranean Grill
Start by picking a pita, quinoa or rice bowl or a salad, then choose meat or falafel and top it off with fresh veggies and sauce at this casual, build-your-own Mediterranean eatery. Pair chicken with carrot slaw and cucumbers, and add hummus or herb vinaigrette. Most entrees are less than 600 calories, and a small rice bowl is the perfect portion for kids.
BEST BURGER JOINT
DallasChild Winner and FortWorthChild Winner: Twisted Root Burger Company
Twisted Root recently added grilled cheese, flash-fried veggies — lightly fried and breaded green beans and carrots — and turkey nuggets to the four-time award-winning menu, which also includes several gluten-free selections. Opt for one of their fancy burgers made with beef, turkey, buffalo, vegan or seasonal game, which may include emu, gator or beaver, among others (meats vary by location and availability). Get the kids homemade root beer — add frozen custard to make it a decadent float — and treat yourself to an adult milkshake such as Oreo and amaretto or one of the craft cocktails on tap like the Twisted Mule.
NorthTexasChild Winner: MOOYAH
This joint dishes out traditional burgers, turkey burgers, black bean veggie patties and Iceburgers (a burger wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun); offers gluten-free buns and fries; and has 10 milkshake flavors, including mint chocolate chip and Oreo. And the kids’ menu features the usual suspects — burger, grilled cheese, chicken tenders and a hot dog — but lets you substitute applesauce for fries.
BEST PIZZA PLACE
DallasChild Winner (Tie): Campisi’s
Families never seem to tire of the pizzas at Campisi’s, which this four-time winner has been serving since 1946. Maybe it’s the famous cheese pizza (which is also available with a gluten-free crust) or maybe it’s the homey atmosphere: Kids can go into the kitchen to build their own pizzas — just ask your server. While the little chefs cook, order from the full bar and toast to Campisi’s 70th anniversary in Dallas this year.
DallasChild Winner (Tie): Cane Rosso
This year, best pizza came in at a tie. And it’s really no surprise. Dallas families head to one of Cane Rosso’s four Dallas and Collin county locations to pick from the more than 20 Neapolitan pies on the menu (there are some “secret” ones too; ask your server), many baked with house-made mozzarella. Let kids watch the chefs stretch the dough, slide the pizza into the wood-burning oven and cook it in less than 90 seconds. And leave room for dessert: The s’mores calzone or pizza (also not on the menu) is a slice of heaven.
FortWorthChild and NorthTexasChild Winner: Mellow Mushroom
Moms recognize Mellow Mushroom again (it’s a multi-time winner) for the tasty pizzas and calzones — and the unique artwork that lends itself to a laid-back dining atmosphere. Try the Kosmic Karma with red sauce, feta, mozzarella, tomatoes and a pesto swirl or another specialty pie with a gluten-free or vegan crust. Get the kids a French bread pizza with apples or steamed broccoli on the side, and don’t leave without trying the homemade pretzels with cinnamon sugar for dessert.
BEST TACO JOINT
DallasChild Winner: Torchy’s Tacos
Celebrating 10 years of deliciously unique tacos, Torchy’s once again takes first place. Begin with the famous green chile queso, a delectable combination of guacamole, queso fresco and hot sauce. In the spirit of election year, order the Independent filled with hand-battered and fried mushrooms, the Republican, a spicy jalapeño sausage taco, or the Democrat, loaded with shredded beef, avocado and queso fresco. The kids' menu includes riffs on adult-menu favorites, including the Little Wrecker, chicken tenders served with friend avocado bites.
BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT
DallasChild Winner: Mi Cocina
Veteran winner Mi Cocina has a family-friendly vibe and an assortment of options, including spinach enchiladas, pork tamales, fish tacos and more traditional fare such as fajitas. Plus, the gluten-free menu offers everything from queso and soup to tacos and flan. Parents love the specialty margaritas like cucumber, jalapeño-agave and the 150-calorie skinny margarita, and kids can’t get enough of the crispy tacos, quesadillas, flautitas and chips and salsa, of course.
FortWorthChild Winner: Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant
The iconic cash-only Tex-Mex establishment, known for its sizzling fajitas and lines out the door, once again tops the list for family-friendly Mexican dining. Go when the weather is nice to take advantage of the enormous garden (read: plenty of space to let kids roam before dinner arrives), and try the family-style dinner, which comes with cheese nachos, enchiladas and beef tacos.
Fort Worth, 817/626-4356
NorthTexasChild Winner: Chuy’s
Submerge one chip into the creamy jalapeño ranch dip, and you’ll want to eat the whole bowl, but save room for Tex-Mex favorites like tacos al carbon, tortilla soup, and Southwestern enchiladas. The kids’ menu offers pint-size quesadillas, burritos, crispy tacos and enchiladas, as well as burgers and chicken nuggets for those who prefer the Tex to the Mex. Plus, kiddos get a free dessert (as long as Mom and Dad say it’s OK).
DallasChild Winner: Pecan Lodge
When a restaurant posts store hours with the disclaimer “or until we’ve sold out,” you know it’s got to be good. At Pecan Lodge, order smoked brisket or ribs by the pound, then select from sides such as mac and cheese (read: happy kiddos), fried okra, and coleslaw. Or indulge in brisket-loaded sweet potatoes and southern fried chicken. We suggest going on a weekend to catch live music on the patio.
FortWorthChild and NorthTexasChild Winner: Hard Eight BBQ
This family-owned and -operated barbecue hotspot wins again. Why? Perhaps it’s the indoor-outdoor, laid-back atmosphere, the fact that pitmasters serve the fare or maybe it’s the live music on the patio (check the schedule online). Order brisket, kabobs, pork chops, ham and more by the pound to share an array of sides that include mac and cheese, onion rings, fresh fruit and free pinto beans (dine-in only).
BEST THEMED RESTAURANT
DallasChild and NorthTexasChild Winner: Medieval Times
Dinner and a show take on a whole new meaning at Medieval Times, a unique historical experience in which visitors dine and cheer on knights in an 11th-century castle. Watch the jousting matches, marvel at the weaponry, take in the falcon making his laps and ooh and ah as the royal horses display their agility. Oh, and don’t forget to feast on the tomato bisque, roasted chicken and sweet corn using nothing but your hands — utensils aren’t part of the experience.
BEST PLACE TO GRAB A FAMILY DINNER ON THE GO
DallasChild Winner: Eatzi’s
You could spend hours wandering through this everything market, but when it comes to a fast family dinner, Eatzi’s is local moms’ go-to. Head to the Chef’s Corner for made-daily, take-and-bake selections such as meat lasagna to feed your brood (portions feed up to five people). Round out the meal with options that include fruits, salads, soups and sides like mac and cheese.
FortWorthChild Winner: Central Market
Skip the grocery shopping and food prep altogether and get one of the chef-prepared meals. The Grab & Go section offers quick family-size meals, including salads and one-dish casseroles such as baked ziti, chicken Florentine, chicken pot pie, pizza and more, plus lots of sides.
Fort Worth 817/989-4700
NorthTexasChild Winner: Zoës Kitchen
Simplify dinner — meaning take out the grocery shopping and the prep work parts — and order a Mediterranean Family Meal from Zoës instead, with options for 3–5 and 4–6 people. Each dinner comes with a choice of entree and two sides to share, and meals for 4–6 also include a Greek salad and hummus with pita bread or cucumbers.
BEST ART MUSEUM
DallasChild and NorthTexasChild Winner: Dallas Museum of Art
Take the whole crew to the Dallas Museum of Art’s Center for Creative Connections (C3), which includes a newly redesigned gallery intended for ages 5–8. This updated space, which opened in May, allows littles to delve into art by creating original works, reading in specially designed nooks and building like an architect. While at the museum, check out one of the Art to Go Family Totes filled with activities to help you interactively explore exhibits together or attend one of the monthly family workshops such as the Material Mash-up program for kids ages 6–12 on Dec. 10.
FortWorthChild Winner: Kimbell Art Museum
Kimbell Art Museum has family-friendly fun down to a fine art. Stroll the museum with a Family Gallery Guide; the picture cards and interesting facts promote discovery and discussion. Or grab a free audio guide meant to engage visitors ages 7–12 with narration and sound effects. Before you leave, drop in to Studio A with tots 5 and younger to explore color, lines, shapes and textures with books, blocks and more. Check out the free family festivals (held several times a year) to participate in hands-on art activities, film programs and guest-artist performances. And register in advance for one of the museum’s upcoming Children’s Workshops for ages 6–12 and their caregivers — Monet’s Light: Acrylic Landscapes on Dec. 3 and In the Looking Glass: Mixed-Media Self-Portraits on Feb. 11.
Fort Worth 817/332-8541
BEST CHILDREN'S THEATER
DallasChild Winner: Dallas Children’s Theater
Get tickets for one (or more) of the nine remaining performances in the 2016–2017 season that are suitable for ages 5 and older. Shows include classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas now through Dec. 21 (kiddos can meet the characters after the show), Jack and the Beanstalk in March and James and the Giant Peach in May. Enroll kiddos comfortable in the spotlight in one of DCT’s academy classes, which are offered to preschoolers on up (some include a performance at the end of the season).
FortWorthChild Winner: Casa Mañana Theatre
Offering five children’s shows throughout the year, including Santa Claus – A New Musical, which runs through Dec. 23, and Rapunzel, Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale (opening in February), Casa Mañana Theatre provides opportunities for both entertainment and engagement. Sign 3- and 4-year-old kiddos up for Broadway Babies, a class that introduces music through song and dance. Enroll kids in grades two through five in Broadway Studio, a program that teaches beginners technique.
Fort Worth, 817/332-2272
NorthTexasChild Winner: Studio B Performing Arts Center
With 10 productions throughout the year, Studio B invites young and old, beginner and veteran performers to take the stage. This theater offers classes for ages 4 to adult, fostering self-esteem and confidence in all who participate. Get in on the fun by joining the Peter Pan Jr, workshop for ages 4–14, which also guarantees a spot in the February show (rehearsals start in January). If being in the spotlight gives you or the kids anxiety, grab tickets to simply see the show Feb. 10–19.
Highland Village, 972/966-2787
BEST PLACE TO EXPLORE SCIENCE & HISTORY
DallasChild and NorthTexasChild Winner: Perot Museum of Nature & Science
Spend the day exploring a myriad of exhibits — from dinosaurs to DNA. Visit the sports hall where kiddos can race a virtual T. rex, or wander to the innovation hall to build a model skyscraper. Let littles ages 5 and younger loose in the Moody Family Children’s Museum to climb a mini version of downtown Dallas, play at the water tables or sit around a child-size campsite. And as a bonus for working parents, the museum stays open until 9pm on the first Thursday of every month.
FortWorthChild Winner: Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
Interactive exhibits, dioramas, learning stations and a dig site that replicates a local paleontological field site are just a few of the reasons local families love to spend weekends at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. Visit the Hidden Treasures exhibit to see a collection of the museum’s favorite artifacts, a culmination of pieces that have been displayed at various points throughout the museum’s 75-year history. And take littles ages infant to 8 to the on-site Fort Worth Children’s Museum, where they can observe reptiles and amphibians inside or build outside in the outdoor construction exhibit.
Fort Worth, 817/255-9300
BEST PLACE TO GET OUTDOORS
DallasChild Winner: Dallas Arboretum
With 20 walkable gardens, including the interactive Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, the Dallas Arboretum is the perfect way to get some fresh air. Enjoy a family picnic inside the Pecan Grove. Visit from 6–9pm on any Wednesday–Sunday evening until Dec. 30 to see The 12 Days of Christmas outdoor exhibit and marvel at the gardens covered in 500,000 holiday lights. And reserve a spot for one of the springtime family overnights (dates in March–June), where parents and kids ages 5–12 take a night hike, make seed bombs and more.
FortWorthChild Winner: Fort Worth Botanic Gardens
With 16 different gardens, hours of exploration are right at your fingertips — or should we say green thumbs? Take advantage of hourlong Family Drop-In evening (6–7pm) programs and on Dec. 3, bring the kids and their homemade, biodegradable bird feeders (get recipes for feeders at the Garden Center’s information desk) to hang in the trees as gifts for their feathered friends. Rumor has it Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in attendance too.
Fort Worth, 817/392-5540
NorthTexasChild Winner: Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area
Hiking trails, kayaking tours and fishing spots are excuses to slip on a windbreaker and check out LLELA at Lewisville Lake. Trails vary in difficulty, so families pick based on the age and ability of their brood. Visit the historical Minor-Porter Log House, a furnished cabin filled with Christmas décor, on Dec. 17 to make holiday crafts such as candles and wreaths, listen to live music and eat festive food.
BEST PLACE FOR AN ANIMAL ENCOUNTER
DallasChild Winner: Dallas Zoo
Home to more than 2,000 animals (including the only koalas in Texas), the Dallas Zoo offers a host of ways to see and interact with critters, including the newly renovated Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari monorail tour, giraffe feeding and hands-on opportunities at the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo. Sign up for the Family Safari Night Hike, a three-hour journey that unveils the nightlife of various creatures, on Dec. 9 for kids ages 5 and older. And get ready for hippos to return to the zoo in 2017 with the opening of the 3.5-acre Simmons Hippo Outpost.
FortWorthChild and NorthTexasChild Winner: Fort Worth Zoo
Head to the Fort Worth Zoo to find elephant calves and Texas horned lizards (the Texas state reptile). Check out the Texas Wild petting corral, where kids interact with domestic goats and a Texas longhorn. And before you leave, stop by the gorilla habitat to wish “baby” Gus a happy birthday — he turns 1 this month. During the months of April through October, visit the Outdoor Learning Theater to get an up-close look at various mammals, birds and reptiles.
Fort Worth, 817/759-7555
BEST KID-FRIENDLY SHOPPING CENTER
DallasChild Winner: NorthPark Center
Little ones won’t complain about being dragged to the mall after a trip to the Disney Store, Fuzzwig’s Candy Factory or The Lego Store. Not in the mood to shop? NorthPark is still a destination for families. Stop by Bookmarks, a Dallas public library outpost, to participate in regular story times, yoga sessions and craft projects for infants on up throughout the week. On nice days, let littles run and play in the outdoor CenterPark Garden. Download a map and tour the center’s impressive art collection, including the towering, electric-motored Five Hammering Men by Jonathan Borofsky (a kid favorite). And this month, don’t miss Santa (the same one who has been here for more than two decades). He’s visiting from the North Pole until Dec. 24.
FortWorthChild and NorthTexasChild Winner: Grapevine Mills
With Sea Life Grapevine Aquarium, Legoland Discovery Center and AMC Theater all under one roof, it doesn’t take much coaxing to get the kids to accompany you to Grapevine Mills. Add to that, the mall will welcome Fieldhouse USA, a venue for year-round basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer and more, early in 2017. Sign up for the free Simon Kidgits Club to get kids exclusive invites to events, including visits from Santa, and coupons at some kid-focused stores.