Welcome to Family Faves, our 5th annual reader survey — the survey formerly known as Columbus Parent’s Best of Columbus! New name (to help distinguish it from all the other “Best of” surveys out there), but the same goal: To find out what matters most to central Ohio families when it comes to spending their hard-earned money and precious time.
A few notes on how we conduct the survey: Our online ballot featured worthy nominees in each category (culled from staff picks and write-in votes from the previous year). If a nominee from a previous year received less than 5 percent of the vote in that category, the nominee was removed from the ballot (but could still be written in).
Votes were collected online during the months of June and July, then we tallied the votes and determined who our winners and runners-up were.
We publish not only our winners and next two runners-up, but we also feature Honorable Mention winners, who are candidates who received at least 5 percent of the vote in that category (and they’re listed in alphabetical order).
Now read on and enjoy your 2015 Family Faves!
HOW WE EAT
FAVORITE ASIAN-FOOD RESTAURANT
HOUSE OF JAPAN - DUBLIN
6153 Parkcenter Circle, Dublin 43017; 614-792-2445; houseofjapanohio.com
No doubt about it: Japanese steakhouses are the faves with central Ohio families. This year, it’s House of Japan’s Dublin location that takes top honors with its combination of great food and dazzling chef-entertainment!
RUNNERS-UP: Genji Japanese Steakhouse – Reynoldsburg; Molly Woo’s Asian Bistro
HONORABLE MENTION (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER): Akai Hana Japanese Restaurant; China Dynasty (Rt. 161); Genji Japanese Steakhouse – Dublin; Hunan Lion (Bethel Road); Lucky House (Westerville); Tai’s Asian Bistro; Thai Grille; Thai Orchid
4061 E. Livingston Ave. (Whitehall), Columbus 43227; 614-237-7421; reschbakery.com
Resch’s tops the field again, for the fifth year in a row (though it must be said, they got some stiff competition this year from Schneider’s in Westerville). Whether it’s their mouth-watering donuts or their traditional birthday sheet cakes, Resch’s is a fave with families!
RUNNERS-UP: Schneider’s Bakery; Pistacia Vera
HONORABLE MENTION: Cherbourg Bakery; Fantasy Cupcake, Froggy’s Sweets & More; La Chatelaine French Bakery & Bistro – Dublin; La Chatelaine French Bakery & Bistro – Upper Arlington; La Chatelaine French Bakery & Bistro – Worthington; Mozart’s Bakery and Piano Café; The Original Goodie Shop; Pattycake Bakery; The Suisse Shop
FAVORITE FANCY FAMILY DINING
CAP CITY FINE DINER AND BAR – GRANDVIEW HEIGHTS
1299 Olentangy River Road (Grandview Heights), Columbus 43212; 614-291-3663; capcityfinediner.com
When it’s time to celebrate a special family event, Cap City Fine Diner and Bar in Grandview Heights is the fave! They’ve topped this category before, but this is the first time we made them compete against themselves (and the Gahanna location still placed high as well).
RUNNERS-UP: Brio Tuscan Grille – Easton; The Melting Pot
HONORABLE MENTION: Bravo! Cucina Italiana – NW Columbus; Buca di Beppo – Arena District; Buca di Beppo – Worthington; Cap City Fine Diner and Bar – Gahanna; Giammarco’s; J. Liu Restaurant & Bar – Dublin; Lindey’s Restaurant & Bar; Marcella’s Italian Kitchen (Polaris)
FAVORITE FROZEN TREATS – MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
This is the first year we both combined all possible frozen treats (ice cream, custard, yogurt) into one category and also divided the candidates into those that operate out of multiple locations and those with single locations. Graeter’s scored a resounding victory among the multiples!
RUNNERS-UP: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams; Whit’s Frozen Custard
HONORABLE MENTION: Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt; Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt
FAVORITE FROZEN TREATS – SINGLE LOCATION
VELVET ICE CREAM’S ICE CREAM PARLOR
11324 Mt. Vernon Road, Utica 43080; 800-589-5000; velveticecream.com
While we saw lots of votes for various neighborhood ice-cream and fro-yo joints, it was longtime local Velvet Ice Cream’s Ice Cream parlor, a turn-of-the-19th-century place located near their Utica factory, that takes top honors. It’s open daily from April through October.
RUNNERS-UP: Johnson’s Real Ice Cream; OH-YO! Frozen Yogurt
HONORABLE MENTION: Clown Cone & Confections; Coppa Gelato; Ollie’s Fine Ice Cream; Tony’s Coneys
FAVORITE GLUTEN-FREE MENU
RUSTY BUCKET RESTAURANT AND TAVERN
Rusty Bucket wrests back the crown in this category from B.J.’s. It’s a tribute to all these candidates that central Ohio families know they can count on great meals without gluten worries when they need them!
RUNNERS-UP: B.J.’s Restaurant and Brewhouse; Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers
HONORABLE MENTION: Cap City Fine Diner and Bar; Local Roots; Marcella’s Italian Kitchen; Raisin Rack Café
FAVORITE GROCERY STORE/MARKET
GIANT EAGLE MARKET DISTRICT - KINGSDALE
3061 Kingsdale Center (Upper Arlington), Columbus 43221; 614-538-0762; marketdistrict.com
What’s not to love about a grocery store that’s open 24 hours? Whether it’s a diaper run or a prosciutto craving at midnight, locals know just where to go!
RUNNERS-UP: Whole Foods Market – Dublin; Trader Joe’s – Easton
HONORABLE MENTION: Carfagna’s Market; Fresh Thyme – Dublin; Lucky’s Market; North Market; Trader Joe’s – Dublin; Weiland’s Market
FAVORITE ITALIAN RESTAURANT
THE SPAGHETTI WAREHOUSE RESTAURANT
397 W. Broad St. (Franklinton), Columbus 43215; 614-463-0143; meatballs.com
For more than 40 years, the Spaghetti Warehouse has been a mainstay in central Ohio Italian dining! Whether you love them for their 15-layer lasagna or their active involvement in the community (they donate a lot of spaghetti to local foodbanks), they’re a family fave!
RUNNERS-UP: Marcella’s Italian Kitchen; Carrabba’s Italian Grill
HONORABLE MENTION: Buca di Beppo- Arena District; Buca di Beppo – Worthington; Carfagna’s Kitchen; Giammarco’s; Giuseppe’s Ritrovo; Moretti’s of Arlington; Villa Nova Ristorante
FAVORITE LATIN FOOD RESTAURANT
CHILE VERDE CAFÉ - SAWMILL
4852 Sawmill Road, Columbus 43235; 614-442-6630; childverdecafe.com
This was another category where we split the nominees into individual locations. El Vaquero (the previous winner) still fared well in the competition, but it was Chile Verde Café’s Sawmill location that rose to the top this year.
RUNNERS-UP: Abuelo’s; La Fogata Grill
HONORABLE MENTION: Cuco’s Taqueria & Grill; Senor Antonio’s Mexicano Restaurante; El Vaquero Mexican Restaurant – Dublin
FAVORITE PIZZA – MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
Hometown hero Donatos is another five-time champ (which means they’ve always been champ since this is the fifth year for our Best of Columbus/Family Faves reader survey). This year they competed against any pizza purveyor who operates more than one location.
RUNNERS-UP: Jet’s Pizza; Dewey’s Pizza
HONORABLE MENTION: Harvest Pizzeria; Massey’s Pizza; Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers; Mikey’s Late Night Slice; Pies & Pints; Pizza Cottage; Pizza House; Tommy’s Pizza and Subs
FAVORITE PIZZA – SINGLE LOCATION
PLANK’S CAFÉ & PIZZERIA
743 Parsons Ave., Columbus 43206; 614-443-6251; plankscafe.com
Before there was a part of town called German Village, there was Plank’s. First opened in 1939 at the corner of Sycamore and Parsons, it is now run by the third generation of the Plank family. Locals love their pizzas, subs and salads!
RUNNERS-UP: Hounddog’s Pizza; Kingy’s Pizza Pub
HONORABLE MENTION: Amato’s Woodfired Pizza; Brooklyn Pizza; Eagles Pizza; Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza; Pasquale’s Italian Restaurant; Rubino’s Pizza; Yellow Brick Pizza
FAVORITE RESTAURANT WITH GAMES AND ACTIVITIES
DAVE & BUSTER’S - POLARIS
1554 Polaris Parkway, Suite 206 (Polaris), Columbus 43240; 614-310-6800; daveandbusters.com
Here’s another category where splitting up multiple-location operations like Dave & Buster’s might have ended their perennial perch atop the standings. Nope, they just took first and second in the results!
RUNNERS-UP: Dave & Buster’s – Hilliard; Rule (3)
HONORABLE MENTION: Chuck E. Cheese’s – Dublin; KDB Easton; Star Lanes Polaris
HOW WE SPEND OUR MONEY
FAVORITE ART INSTRUCTION
COLUMBUS MUSEUM OF ART
480 E. Broad St. (Downtown), Columbus 43215; 614221-6801; columbusmuseum.org
Even as the Columbus Museum of Art revs up for the opening of its new wing, it never lost sight of its commitment to quality art education. Whether it’s the open studios for teens or families, the community outreach programs or the homeschooler and summer workshops, they’ve earned their Family Fave status!
RUNNERS-UP: Columbus College of Art & Design; Columbus Music and Art Academy
HONORABLE MENTION: Art & Clay on Main; The Arts Castle; Elements Art Studio; Firefly Play Café; Ohio Craft Museum
FAVORITE BIRTHDAY PARTY VENUE
SKY ZONE INDOOR TRAMPOLINE PARK
459 Orange Point Drive, Suite E, Lewis Center 43035; 740-548-4004, columbus.skyzonesports.com
The winner and still champion in this hotly contested category is Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park. Central Ohio families just can’t get enough of the bouncing for their birthday parties! Congrats on their fourth win in a row!
RUNNERS-UP: Magic Mountain Fun Centers – Polaris; Lazer Kraze
HONORABLE MENTION: Girls, Glitter and Grace; The Glass Slipper; Rule (3); Star Lanes Polaris; Super Games; Wild Child Salons; World of Bounce – Grove City
FAVORITE BOOK STORE
THE BOOK LOFT OF GERMAN VILLAGE
631 S. Third St. (German Village), Columbus 43206; 614-464-1774; bookloft.com
With our renewed focus on locally owned and operated businesses in this year’s reader survey, The Book Loft (along with other indie bookstores) returns to the top of the book pile! And there’s no better way to get kids excited about books than with a visit to this excitingly eccentric treasure of a bookstore!
RUNNERS-UP: Village Bookshop; Cover to Cover
HONORABLE MENTION: Acorn Bookshop; Fundamentals Parent-Teacher Store
STAR LANES POLARIS
8655 Lyra Drive (Polaris), Columbus 43240; 614-468-4830, starlanespolaris.com
Star Lanes Polaris has made bowling a high-end, family-fun event and central Ohio families have rewarded them, for the second year in a row. Also appreciated: their snow-day and school-holiday specials!
RUNNERS-UP: AMF Sawmill Lanes; Rule (3)
HONORABLE MENTION: Columbus Square Bowling Palace; Gahanna Lanes; Ten Pin Alley
FAVORITE CHILDREN’S CLOTHES – GENTLY USED
ONCE UPON A CHILD – DUBLIN
5777 Karric Square Drive, Dublin 43016; 614-761-8488; onceuponachildcolumbus.com
Local parents know that this branch of the Once Upon a Child empire, tucked into the Karric Square shopping plaza, has long been one of the biggest and best-stocked locations. It’s a family fave destination when it comes time to replenish that back-to-school wardrobe!
RUNNERS-UP: Once Upon a Child – Westerville; Three Bags Full sales
HONORABLE MENTION: Columbus Mothers of Twins Sale; Goodwill Columbus – Dublin; Once Upon a Child - Gahanna
FAVORITE CHILDREN’S CLOTHES - NEW
BELLES & BEAUX CHILDREN’S BOUTIQUE
1249 N. Hamilton Road, Gahanna 43230; 614-473-2000, belles-beaux.com
Now in its 14th year, with a creatively curated collection of beautiful and well-made children’s clothing and accessories, Belles & Beaux finds itself at the front of the closet when families are looking for new children’s clothes.
RUNNERS-UP: Nicole’s for Children; Blankets and Booties
HONORABLE MENTION: lilylimes; Team Chipmunk; What the Rock?!
FAVORITE CHILDREN’S SHOES
STRIDE RITE POLARIS
1500 Polaris Parkway, #1088 (Polaris), Columbus 43240; 614-888-9841; striderite.com
It’s a name that parents know and trust when it comes to children’s shoes — and now we know that the Polaris location is a Family Fave with central Ohio families!
RUNNERS-UP: Stride Rite Tuttle Crossing; Walker Shoe Center
HONORABLE MENTION: Lucky Shoes; Stride Rite Easton
FAVORITE CHILDREN’S THEATER
COLUMBUS CHILDREN’S THEATRE
512 Park St. (Arena District), Columbus 43215 for most shows; 614-224-6672, columbuschildrenstheatre.org
Five-time champion in this category, Columbus Children’s Theatre does not rest lightly on its laurels. Its programming continues to be a thoughtful mix of popular classics (like Pinkalicious and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever) and creative boundary-pushers (like next year’s Jackie & Me).
RUNNERS-UP: CATCO Is Kids; Abbey Theater of Dublin
HONORABLE MENTION: Wagnalls Community Theatre; Wexner Center for the Arts
FAVORITE DANCE INSTRUCTION
LEAP OF FAITH DANCE STUDIO
1145 Chesapeake Ave., Unit R (Upper Arlington), Columbus 43212 ; 614-486-1533, lofdance.com
It’s a repeat win in this category! With classes in a wide range of dance art forms AND a big commitment to community and faith, central Ohio families gave their votes of approval to Leap of Faith!
RUNNERS-UP: Dublin Dance Centre & Gymnastics; Columbus DanceArts Academy
HONORABLE MENTION: BalletMet Dance Academy; NorthPointe Dance Academy; Straub Dance Center
FAVORITE DROP-IN ART STUDIO
COLOR ME MINE
6375 Perimeter Drive, Dublin 43016; 614-761-1153, dublin.colormemine.com
It’s a repeat win for Color Me Mine. This Dublin studio is devoted to the fine and fun art of bisque pottery, whether it’s a creating a serving bowl that matches your dining-room décor or the perfect polka-dotted elephant figurine for Mother’s Day!
RUNNERS-UP: Clay Café; Marcy’s Clayground
HONORABLE MENTION: Art & Clay on Main; The Bare Bowl; Elements Arts Studio
FAVORITE GARDENING SUPPLIES
OAKLAND NURSERY - COLUMBUS
1156 Oakland Park Ave., Columbus 43224; 614-268-3511; oaklandnursery.com
The original Oakland Nursery was founded by Gustav Reiner in 1940, not too far from this Oakland Park Avenue location where it moved in 1950. The business is now run by the second and third generations of the Reiner family.
RUNNERS-UP: Oakland Nursery – Dublin; Strader’s Garden Center – Dublin
HONORABLE MENTION: Dill’s Greenhouse; Oakland Nursery – Delaware; Oakland Nursery – New Albany; Strader’s Garden Center – NW Columbus
FAVORITE MINIATURE GOLF
MAGIC MOUNTAIN FUN CENTER - POLARIS
8350 Lyra Drive (Polaris), Columbus 43240; 614-840-9600; magicmountainfuncenter.com
Whether your family calls it “miniature golf” or just “putt-putt,” Magic Mountain’s Polaris location is tops with central Ohio families. They’ve actually got two 18-hole courses at this site! All the better for those highly competitive family showdowns!
RUNNERS-UP: Westerville Golf Center; Glow Putt Mini Golf
HONORABLE MENTION: Galaxy Golf & Games; Magic Mountain Fun Center – SE Columbus; Putt n Play; Sports Ohio
FAVORITE MUSIC INSTRUCTION
1400 W. Third Ave., Columbus 43212; 614-407-8740; musicologielessons.com
New to the central Ohio scene and already a fave, Musicologie offers private and group lessons in piano, voice, guitar/ukulele, drums, violin/viola and sax/oboe, as well as summer camps that provide pop-star or recording-producer experiences!
RUNNERS-UP: WeJoySing; Columbus Music and Art Academy
HONORABLE MENTION: Columbus Children’s Choir; Guitar Center; Vaughn Music Studios
FAVORITE SPORTS INSTRUCTION
10562 Sawmill Road, Powell 43065, 614-793-1936; 7159 Northgate Way, Westerville 43082, 614-895-1611; buckeyegymnastics.com
We expanded this category from just gymnastics to include all kinds of sports — but look who won again! Buckeye Gymnastics, which has been a huge part of the central Ohio sports scene since 1982, takes the trophy once more!
RUNNERS-UP: Sports Ohio; Locker Soccer Academy
HONORABLE MENTION: AmeriCheer; ATA Martial Arts – Pickerington; ATA Martial Arts – Powell; Columbus Gymnastics Academy; Gym X-Treme; Integrity Gymnastics; The Little Gym at Polaris; Wendy’s Gymnastics & Fitness; Westerville Golf Center
FAVORITE TOYS, GAMES AND LEARNING PRODUCTS
LAKESHORE LEARNING STORE
2148 Polaris Parkway (Polaris), Columbus 43240; 614-846-1710, lakeshorelearning.com
Lakeshore Learning Store has become an institution in this market, both for parents and teachers, looking for the latest and best in learning-oriented toys, games and more. We especially love their product guide that addresses children with unique learning and developmental needs.
RUNNERS-UP: Learning Express Toys - Worthington; Naturally Curious Kids
HONORABLE MENTION: Fundamentals Parent-Teacher Store; Learning Express Toys – New Albany; Oh Know! The Knowing Place; The Train Station
FAVORITE TUTORING CENTER
BRAIN BALANCE CENTER OF COLUMBUS
116 Dillmont Drive, Columbus 43235; 614-654-3399; brainbalancecenters.com
Brain Balance is a network of centers founded in 2006 by Dr. Robert Melillo, who developed a drug-free learning program for children who have ADHD, dyslexia, processing disorders and/or are on the autism spectrum. Columbus parents are very happy to have them here!
RUNNERS-UP: Kumon Math and Reading Center – Dublin/Commerce; Sylvan Learning – Lewis Center
HONORABLE MENTION: Kumon Math and Reading Center – Westerville; LearningRx; Math Plus Academy – Gahanna; Math Plus Academy – Powell; Sylvan Learning – Grove City; Tutoring Club – Gahanna; Tutoring Club - Hilliard
LOW- OR NO-COST FAMILY FUN
FAVORITE FESTIVAL OR FAIR
OHIO STATE FAIR
Central Ohio does not lack for great festivals and fairs, so it was no surprise to see so many different events get votes in this category. But the big winner this year is the Ohio State Fair, which just celebrated its 165th edition! It’s hard to top those butter sculptures.
RUNNERS-UP: Dublin Irish Festival; Columbus Arts Festival
HONORABLE MENTION: Circleville Pumpkin Show; Comfest; Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival; Delaware Arts Festival; Jazz & Rib Fest; Lancaster Festival; Ohio Renaissance Festival; Westerville Music & Arts Festival
FAVORITE INDOOR PLAY SPACE
POLARIS FASHION PLACE
1500 Polaris Pkwy., (Polaris), Columbus 43240; 614-846-1500, polarisfashionplace.com
The children’s play area at Polaris has long dominated the “indoor mall play area” category and when we combined all the various indoor-play categories this year (including play cafes), they still came out on top! Columbus parents love those comfy seats and nearby treats!
RUNNERS-UP: The Mall at Tuttle Crossing, Recreations Outlet
HONORABLE MENTION: Firefly Play Café; Graeter’s at Bethel Road; Lattes & Lollipops (play café); Little Skipper’s Play Café; Piccadilly Modern Play & Creative Café; Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park; ZenKidz Play Cafe
FAVORITE LIBRARY CHILDREN’S AREA
WESTERVILLE PUBLIC LIBRARY
126 S. State St., Westerville 43081; 614-882-7277, wpl.lib.oh.us
After upsetting perennial champs Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Main Library last year, Westerville cruised to a second win this year. CML Main was out of the running this year because of their renovation, but plenty of other great local libraries have stepped up to fill the gap! All of these contenders are worth a visit.
RUNNERS-UP: Worthington Libraries, Old Worthington Library; Columbus Metropolitan Library, Dublin Branch
HONORABLE MENTION: Bexley Public Library; Columbus Metropolitan Library, Driving Park Branch; Columbus Metropolitan Library, Hilliard Branch; Columbus Metropolitan Library, New Albany Branch; Columbus Metropolitan Library, Whetstone Branch; Delaware County Orange Township Branch; Grandview Heights Public Library; Pickerington Public Library; Upper Arlington Public Library, Main Library; Wagnalls Memorial Library
FAVORITE OUTDOOR MUNICIPAL POOL
HIGHLANDS PARK AQUATIC CENTER
245 S. Spring Road, Westerville 43081; 614-901-7665, westerville.org
This was a battle this year, right down to the end, but Highlands Park took the prize again for its well-designed and obviously much-appreciated aquatic facility. It’s a great way to spend the day outdoors when you absolutely must spend it soaking wet!
RUNNERS-UP: Dublin Community Pool South; Groveport Aquatic Center
HONORABLE MENTION: Bexley Pool; Delaware Jack Florance Pool; Grove City Big Splash at Evans Park; Heath City Water Park; Hilliard Family Aquatic Center; North Orange Park Aquatic Center; Plain Township Aquatic Center; Reed Road Water Park; Worthington Pools
FAVORITE OUTDOOR PLAY SPACE
EASTON TOWN CENTER SPLASH PAD
160 Easton Town Center (Easton), Columbus 43219; 614-337-2200, eastontowncenter.com
This is another category where we combined all the usual suspects for outdoor fun and let them duke it out. From parks to playgrounds and everything in between, we wanted to know where families head for their fresh air and fun. The answer: everyone’s favorite splash pad at Easton!
RUNNERS-UP: Highbanks Metro Park; Bicentennial Park in the Scioto Mile
HONORABLE MENTION: Columbus Commons; Dublin Ballantrae Park; Fancyburg Park; Homestead Park; Millstone Creek Park; Powell Village Green Park; Whetstone Park of Roses
STAFF PICKS: FAVORITE HIDDEN GEMS
HAYDEN RUN FALLS (4326 Hayden Run Road, Dublin 43017; Columbus.gov/recreationandparks/parks/Hayden-Falls-Park) When you haven’t got the time to drive to Hocking Hills, head for the center of suburbia and enjoy the 35-foot waterfall hidden here!
THE GRANGE INSURANCE AUDUBON CENTER (505 W. Whittier St., Columbus 43215; grange.audubon.org) We love the play space and learning stations, but the view of downtown Columbus from the library (packed with cozy seats and kids’ books about nature) is what keeps us coming back!
SHALE HALLOW PRESERVE (6320 Artesian Run, Lewis Center 43035; preservationparks.com) The newest park in the Preservation Parks of Delaware County system is another hidden gem tucked into a suburban setting, with deep ravines, a wade-able creek and man-made trails.
STAFF PICKS: FAVORITE FAMILY TRADITIONS
BLOOMS & BUTTERFLIES (Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus 43203; fpconservatory.org) It’s not spring in central Ohio until the butterflies arrive!
BALLETMET’S THE NUTCRACKER (Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St., Columbus 43215; balletmet.org) Nothing says Christmas like a tree with a growth problem, a herd of ill-behaved mice and a beatific Sugar Plum Fairy restoring order to all.
THE SPRING GAME (Ohio Stadium, ohiostatebuckeyes.com) It can be hard to score tickets to a regular-season game, but the Spring Game, with its $5 seats, is a great and easy way to experience Buckeye Fever!