We asked, and readers answered. During the nomination period in March and the voting period in May, parents in Northeast Ohio weighed in on everything family-friendly in the region for our third annual contest.
Here are this year’s winners and honorable mentions in the “Food & Shopping” theme.
View the complete 2018 Parent Choice Awards winners in our July issue, or click here for winners in the “Things to do with Kids” categories. Click here for winners in the “Health, Learning & More” categories.
Best family-friendly restaurant
Whole, boneless breasts of chicken with no hormones or fillers, plus fresh salads made daily and lemonade that’s hand-squeezed in the restaurants make Chick-fil-A better-for-you fast food. Parents feel good about the quality ingredients, while kids love the great-tasting food and indoor playground — and those mischievous cow mascots.
With an extensive kid’s menu that includes bottomless sides — plus healthy options — kids love Red Robin. Parents love it, too, for its affordable prices, quick service and family-friendly atmosphere. Don’t worry, adults can get bottomless fries, too, so it’s a win-win.
Melt Bar & Grilled
At its 10 Ohio locations, Melt takes a classic comfort food — the humble grilled cheese sandwich — to new heights (literally) with inventive combinations, a build-your-own option, hearty salads, sides and desserts, and more. And it’s all devoured amidst perfectly kitschy decor with great music as a backdrop. It’s also wallet-friendly for families, with a daily $4 children’s menu that drops to $2 on Tuesdays.
Family owned and operated Yours Truly has nine Cleveland-area locations and was founded by four siblings who were inspired by their parents’ hospitality. That feeling extends to kids, as coloring menus are given at all locations, while four of the restaurants have a train table, so children can play while they wait for their meal to arrive.
Best ice cream shop
Owned by two Cleveland-raised brothers, Mitchell’s ice cream is handcrafted one small batch at a time, using local grass-fed dairy and fresh seasonal ingredients. Mitchell’s operates nine area shops and can be found at dozens of local grocers — the company even offers branded merchandise to the delight of superfans everywhere.
East Coast Original Frozen Custard
Founded in Parma Heights in 1985, East Coast Original Frozen Custard pays homage to the frozen custard invented at New York’s Coney Island, while at the same time being reminiscent of a popular confection served at Cleveland’s famed Euclid Beach Park. The shop has since grown to five Northeast Ohio locations that all serve “a taste of the good old days.”
Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt
Founded in Youngstown and now with locations in several states (23 in Ohio), Handel’s dishes up dozens of scratch-made flavors daily for humans, plus some frozen treats for dogs. Catering, fundraising, and quarts and pints to go add to the family-friendly allure.
Started in a shoe repair shop-turned ice cream store by a husband and wife duo, Honey Hut is a local legend — particularly its signature Honey Pecan flavor, available at all five area locations. Don’t forget to try a Big Bee Bar or one of the weekly special flavors like Key Lime Pie or Dark Chocolate Cayenne.
Since 1936, this shop has been serving up “deliciously different” homemade ice cream that’s just as much confection as it is invention — during his years an as Akron Pure Milk employee, founder Bill Strickland developed his own recipe and created the custom batch freezer machines (still used today) that quickly freeze the ice cream, while limiting air whipped into the product. Five area locations offer vanilla, chocolate, two sherbet choices, and a rotating selection of two flavors of the day.
Best quick family dinner on the go
Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, this step up from the typical fast food spot will please parent and kid palates. If you’re really in a hurry, you can skip the line by ordering ahead using the One app.
For fast, fresh Mexican food without added colors, flavors, or preservatives, stop into any of the dozens of Chipotle restaurants that blanket Northeast Ohio. The Kid’s Menu offers quesadillas or a Build Your Own option.
For soups, salads, sandwiches and more that are sourced from responsible farms and free of artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors or colors, visit one of the area’s many Panera locations.
Best candy store
This third generation, family-owned confectionery is synonymous with Cleveland. Its 23 locations offer candies, nuts, popcorn and more, many of which are made with the same special-recipe milk and dark chocolate used since day one. For an extra cool treat, visit one of the locations that offers ice cream topped with Malley’s homemade hot fudge, caramel and marshmallows.
All City Candy
From traditional candy to novelty sweets and bulk items (more than 600 bins, to be exact), All City Candy offers it all, in addition to hosting special in-store events and providing candy buffets for any occasion. Satisfy your sweet tooth at two locations: Richmond Heights and Mentor.
b.a. Sweetie Candy Co.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for in this 40,000-square-foot candy superstore, chances are you don’t need it. When your family is done perusing the 4,500 items, including national and regional brands, hard-to-find candies, bulk bins and nostalgic selections, check out Sweeties Soda Shoppe, or head outside to test your mini golf skills at Sweeties Golfland.
Yum Yum Sweet Shop
This Peninsula confectionary looks and plays the part of an old-fashioned sweets shop — with hard-to-find candies you’ll remember from your childhood — but it also stocks new candy, fresh salt water taffy, gourmet chocolates, popcorn, 20 flavors of locally made ice cream, and more than 80 kinds of glass bottle sodas.
Best thrift/consignment for children’s clothing
Once Upon a Child
With several locations in Northeast Ohio, Once Upon a Child carries brand name, gently used apparel, footwear, baby gear, furniture, toys and games, and more. You also can make some cash cleaning out your kids’ closets, as the company buys new inventory from area families.
Lil’ Frog Fashions
This Cuyahoga Falls children’s resale shop carries gently used brand name clothing, toys, books, videos, infant equipment, infant accessories and shoes, plus an attractive selection of maternity clothing.
Rhea Lana’s of Medina
This biannual consignment event takes place in the Akron area and features gently-used, name brand children’s clothing (newborn through teen sizes), toys, shoes, books, baby gear, plus maternity items and much more.
Best bike shop
Eddy’s Bike Shop
Ohio’s largest Trek and Specialized dealer, Eddy’s operates four locations in the greater Cleveland area that are staffed with knowledgeable employees who are also bike enthusiasts. In addition, the stores offer bike service and rentals, apparel and accessories, host special events, and more.
All Around Cyclery
From mountain bikes to high end race bikes and everything in between, this Hudson bike shop has a passion for getting everyone in the family out on a bike. Special orders, custom builds and any and all repairs are handled, as well.
Three Northeast Ohio stores — each in bike-friendly locales — serve cyclists of all ages and abilities with a focus on customer service, professional bike fitting and assembly, and supporting the community through local charities. An extensive online catalog makes researching and shopping from home a breeze.
Best place to go for children’s books
Cuyahoga County Public Library
Whether you’re seeking print or digital reading materials — or movies, music, toys, games and much more — Cuyahoga County Public Library’s 27 branches are conveniently located to serve families throughout 47 communities. Rated one of the top public library systems in the nation, it also offers a wealth of resources and programming for patrons of all ages.
Barnes & Noble
With a handful of locations in Northeast Ohio, this national chain bookstore offers a wide selection of children’s books, toys, games and more, plus lots of room to spread out and play or read. Most sites also feature a cafe, and each location guarantees thousands of both the latest and classic titles to explore.
Half Price Books
Part of America’s largest family-owned retailed for new and used books, two area locations offer a wide selection of books at a discount. They also are heavily involved in supporting the community through various charitable efforts, mainly those promoting literacy and environmental groups.
The Learned Owl
This locally-owned bookseller in Hudson offers three floors of books for all ages and interests. The store also hosts special events and offers several Wise Readers Club options, each of which provide newly-released books on a monthly subscription basis for club members.
Best place for a baby registry
Baby registries at Target are convenient for parents-to-be and their families and friends, due to the retailer’s plethora of locations. Stocking the shelves are baby products from major brands and Target-only brands like Up & Up and Cat & Jack — and an even more extensive lineup is available online. Those who register get a free welcome kit and a 15 percent registry completion discount.
Buy Buy Baby
Buy Buy Baby offers a wide selection at its Warrensville Heights location, and even more options online. Registry perks include a Goody Bag, a referral program, Free Shipping Rewards program, and more.
Best kid-friendly shopping area
Parents love the nearly 100 retail stores, while kids love the splash pad and wide open green spaces throughout this shopping destination in Westlake. When everyone’s worked up an appetite, choose from more than 30 eateries and restaurants that cater to every taste and price point. Frequent special events include kid-friendly activities, live music, a farmers market, outdoor movies, and more.
Aurora Farms Premium Outlets
Aurora Farms encompasses more than 70 designer and brand name stores, so families can find great bargains, then take a break to let kids feed the ducks or burn off some energy at the playground.
Great Northern Mall
Conveniently located in North Olmsted, Great Northern Mall encompasses 125 retailers, in addition to major department store brands, a 10-screen movie theater and dozens of dining options. The MallStars Kids Club offers exclusive kid-friendly events in a safe, community environment throughout the year.