2016 Family Faves

Results Are In!

From the 09/2016 edition

Welcome to the sixth edition of Family Faves, our annual reader survey!

Each year, we set out to find the best family-friendly businesses, dining, activities and events in central Ohio. From June 2 to July 6, readers voted online for their top choices in 33 different categories. Each category had numerous nominees, all of whom earned at least 5 percent of the vote in last year’s balloting. Participants also had the option to write in their favorite establishment if it wasn’t already listed.

We tallied the votes and are excited to present the results in this issue. The top winner in each category is listed, as are the second- and third-place vote getters (the runners-up) and honorable mention showings. The latter received at least 5 percent of the vote in their category. Runners-up are listed in vote order, while honorable mentions are listed alphabetically.

Here are the winners:

How We Eat

Favorite Asian Restaurant

Genji Japanese Steakhouse - Reynoldsburg

2045 Brice Road, Reynoldsburg 43068; 614-864-7888; genjisteakhouse.com

Again this year, Japanese-style steakhouses take two of the top three spots. And why not: After all, it’s dinner and a chef-driven show. Genji Japanese Steakhouse’s Reynoldsburg-area location moved from a runner-up spot last year to win the category.

RUNNERS-UP: Molly Woo’s Asian Bistro; Genji Japanese Steakhouse - Northwest Columbus

HONORABLE MENTION: Akai Hana Japanese Restaurant; China Dynasty (Northland); House of Japan - Dublin; Hunan Lion Chinese Restaurant; Lucky House Chinese Restaurant; Tai’s Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar; Thai Grille; Thai Orchid

Favorite Bakery

Resch’s Bakery

4061 E. Livingston Ave., Columbus 43227; 614-237-7421; reschbakery.com

Resch’s Bakery has been preparing tasty treats for central Ohio families since 1912. Their offerings run the gamut from doughnuts to themed birthday cakes. This is the sixth straight category win for the family-owned business.

RUNNERS-UP: Schneider’s Bakery; Fantasy Cupcake

HONORABLE MENTION: Froggy’s Sweets & More; La Chatelaine French Bakery & Bistro - Worthington; Mozart’s Restaurant, Bakery and Piano Cafe; Pattycake Bakery; Pistacia Vera; the Suisse Shop Bakery

Favorite Fancy Family Dining

Brio Tuscan Grille - Easton

3993 Easton Station, Columbus 43219; 614-416-4745; brioitalian.com

Sometimes, even when you have kids, you need to treat yourself to a nice meal out. Readers chose Brio Tuscan Grille (a 2015 runner-up) as this year’s go-to. The kids’ menu has options such as pastas, pizza, chicken, salmon and even kid-size side salads. A Bambino Favorites section has smaller portions for more modest appetites.

RUNNERS-UP: Cap City Fine Diner and Bar - Grandview Heights; the Melting Pot

HONORABLE MENTION: Bravo! Cucina Italiana – Northwest Columbus; Buca di Beppo - Arena District; Buca di Beppo - Worthington; Cap City Fine Diner and Bar - Gahanna; Giammarco’s Italian Restaurant; J. Liu Restaurant & Bar - Dublin; Lindey’s Restaurant & Bar; Marcella’s Polaris

Favorite Frozen Treats - Multiple Locations



This business started small in Cincinnati in 1868, but when Graeter’s began franchising in the 1980s, it didn’t take long to become a hit in central Ohio. Today, there are 11 Columbus-area locations. Graeter’s also won the category in 2015.

RUNNERS-UP: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams; Whit’s Frozen Custard

HONORABLE MENTION: Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt

Favorite Frozen Treats - Single Location

Velvet Ice Cream’s Ice Cream Parlor

11324 Mount Vernon Road, Utica 43080; 800-589-5000; velveticecream.com

This Licking County institution was the cream of the crop for the second year. Velvet Ice Cream’s Ice Cream Parlor serves more than 150,000 visitors a year and is open seasonally, from April through October. While you’re there, Velvet offers free half-hour walking tours that explain the company’s history, which dates to 1914, and how it makes that fantastic frozen stuff.

RUNNERS-UP: Johnson’s Real Ice Cream; Coppa Gelato

HONORABLE MENTION: Clown Cones & Confections; OH-YO! Frozen Yogurt

Favorite Gluten-Free Menu

Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern


For two years in a row, local families put Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern in the top spot. The company, which has 10 central Ohio locations, has gluten-free options such as chicken, seafood, pasta, salads and steak.

RUNNERS-UP: BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse; Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers

HONORABLE MENTION: Cap City Fine Diner and Bar; Local Roots; Marcella’s Polaris; Raisin Rack cafe

Favorite Grocery Store/Market

Trader Joe’s - Easton

3888 Townsfair Way, Columbus 43219; 614-473-0794; traderjoes.com

The honorees in this category include both newcomers and longtime favorites. Trader Joe’s Easton location was one of the runners-up last year. Fans like the store for its unique items and reasonable prices. Bollywood Popcorn anyone?

RUNNERS-UP: Whole Foods Market - Northwest Columbus; Carfagna’s Market

HONORABLE MENTION: Fresh Thyme Farmers Market - Northwest Columbus; Giant Eagle Market District - Kingsdale; Lucky’s Market; North Market; Trader Joe’s - Dublin; Weiland’s Market

Favorite Italian Restaurant

The Spaghetti Warehouse Restaurant

397 W. Broad St., Columbus 43215; 614-464-0143; meatballs.com

This perennial family favorite was the victor again this year. The Spaghetti Warehouse Restaurant has been dishing up Italian favorites locally for more than 40 years. Monday is Kids’ Day, with special meal prices.

RUNNERS-UP: Buca di Beppo - Arena District; Giammarco’s Italian Restaurant

HONORABLE MENTION: Buca di Beppo - Worthington; Carrabba’s Italian Grill; Carfagna’s Restaurant; Giuseppe’s Ritrovo; Marcella’s Polaris; Moretti’s of Arlington; Villa Nova Ristorante

Favorite Latin Restaurant

El Vaquero Mexican Restaurant - Dublin

9130 Dublin Road, Columbus 43065; 614-336-1128; vaquerorestaurant.com

While this restaurant operator has 10 central Ohio locations, the one on Dublin Road rose from honorable mention status to the top spot this year. El Vaquero also touts its philanthropic ties to Pelotonia and Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

RUNNERS-UP: Abuelo’s; La Fogata Grill

HONORABLE MENTION: Chile Verde Café - Northwest Columbus; Cuco’s Taqueria; Señor Antonio’s Mexicano Restaurante & Cantina

Favorite Pizza - Multiple Locations

Donatos Pizza


Hometown favorite Donatos, founded in 1963 by Jim Grote, made it a clean sweep—winning for the sixth year. The company has grown from one shop in south Columbus to 150 restaurants in six states.

RUNNERS-UP: Pizza Cottage; Jet’s Pizza

HONORABLE MENTION: Dewey’s Pizza; Harvest Pizzeria; Massey’s Pizza; Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers; Mikey’s Late Night Slice; Pies & Pints; Tommy’s Pizza

Favorite Pizza - Single Location

Kingy’s Pizza Pub

7470 Hill Road N., Canal Winchester 43110; 614-837-5664; kingyspizza.com

A runner-up last year, Kingy’s Pizza Pub has won several awards from local food competitions. The restaurant, which opened in 1980, also offers ribs, subs and wings.

RUNNERS-UP: Plank’s Cafe & Pizzeria (Parsons Avenue); Hounddog’s Pizza

HONORABLE MENTION: Amato’s Woodfired Pizza; Eagles Pizza; Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza; Pasquale’s Pizza & Pub; Pizza House; Rubino’s Pizza; Yellow Brick Pizza

Favorite Restaurant with Games and Activities

Dave & Buster’s - Polaris

1554 Polaris Parkway, Suite 206, Columbus 43240; 614-310-6800; daveandbusters.com

Dave & Buster’s - Polaris was the top-rated game in town again this year. The menu features appetizers, salads and entrees—not just bar-type munchies. Games include arcade consoles as well as skee-ball and other games where kids earn tickets to trade in for prizes.

RUNNERS-UP: Dave & Buster’s - Hilliard; Rule (3)

HONORABLE MENTION: Chuck E. Cheese’s - Northwest Columbus; KDB; Star Lanes Polaris

How We Spend Our Money

Favorite Art Instruction

Columbus Museum of Art

480 E. Broad St., Columbus 43215; 614-221-6801; columbusmuseum.org

A repeat winner, the Columbus Museum of Art offers loads of top-notch educational programs, including open studio time on Saturdays, the Museum on the Move! outreach program and workshops for homeschooled students and all students in grades preschool-8 during summer break.

RUNNERS-UP: Art & Clay on Main; Columbus College of Art & Design

HONORABLE MENTION: Delaware County Cultural Arts Center (better known as the Arts Castle); Elements Art Studio; Firefly Play Cafe

Favorite Birthday Party Venue

Sky Zone Trampoline Park

459 Orange Point Drive, Suite E, Lewis Center 43035; 740-548-4004; skyzone.com/columbus

It’s five wins in a row for Sky Zone Trampoline Park, which offers party packages with jump time, pizza and drinks. Best of all, your house stays clean!

RUNNERS-UP: Magic Mountain Fun Center - Polaris; Lazer Kraze

HONORABLE MENTION: Girls Glitter & Grace; the Glass Slipper; Rule (3); Star Lanes Polaris; Wild Child Salons & Spas

Favorite Bookstore

The Book Loft of German Village

631 S. Third St., Columbus 43206; 614-464-1774; bookloft.com

This charming German Village mainstay hung on to the top spot it earned in last year’s survey. The shop is housed in 32 rooms spread over two buildings that predate the Civil War.

RUNNERS-UP: Cover to Cover; Fundamentals - Children’s Books & More; Village Bookshop (tie at second runner-up)


Favorite Bowling

Star Lanes Polaris

8655 Lyra Drive, Columbus 43240; 614-468-4830; starlanespolaris.com

The third time’s the charm for Star Lanes Polaris, which won the category as many times in a row. The business offers 20 lanes, bowling suites, a game room and a full menu. It’s a favorite spot for many local families on snow days and other days off school.

RUNNERS-UP: Rule (3); Columbus Square Bowling Palace

HONORABLE MENTION: AMF Sawmill Lanes; 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

Parents are always looking for bargains on clothes since kids grow out of them so quickly. The Karric Square location of Once Upon a Child was readers’ choice again this year.

RUNNERS-UP: Once Upon A Child - Westerville; Once Upon A Child - Gahanna

HONORABLE MENTION: Columbus Mothers of Twins Club Clothing & Equipment Sale; Goodwill Columbus - Dublin; Three Bags Full consignment sales (various locations)

Favorite Children’s Clothes - New

Belles & Beaux Children’s Boutique

1249 N. Hamilton Road, Gahanna 43230; 614-473-2000

Belles & Beaux Children’s Boutique is celebrating its 15th year in business, providing a unique selection of clothing, accessories and more—including Ohio State University items. The business also took first place last year.

RUNNERS-UP: Nicole’s for Children; lilylimes

HONORABLE MENTION: Team Chipmunk; What the Rock?!

Favorite Children’s Shoes

Stride Rite - Easton

4012 Fenlon St., Columbus 43219; 614-428-2720; striderite.com

Stride Rite has been in business since 1919. This year, local parents singled out the company’s Easton store as their favorite place for kids’ shoes.

RUNNERS-UP: Stride Rite - Polaris; Walker’s Shoe Center

HONORABLE MENTION: Lucky Shoes; Stride Rite - Tuttle

Favorite Children’s Theater

Columbus Children’s Theatre

Most shows are at Park Street Theatre, 512 Park St., Columbus 43215; 614-224-6672; columbuschildrenstheatre.org

Columbus Children’s Theatre earned a sixth straight title for its ever-changing mix of programming for young patrons. The 2016-17 lineup includes Goodnight Moon, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Charlotte’s Web and Crash, a story about standing up for yourself and others. The first Sunday of each show features Grand Sundae, an event—with ice cream!—for grandparents and grandchildren.

RUNNERS-UP: CATCO is Kids; Wexner Center for the Arts

HONORABLE MENTION: Abbey Theater of Dublin; Wagnalls Community Theatre

Favorite Dance Instruction

Leap of Faith Dance Studio

1145 Chesapeake Ave., Unit R, Columbus 43212; 614-486-1533; lofdance.com

Leap of Faith Dance Studio, which started in a church in 2004, took top honors again this year. The school aims to provide a foundation for dance and life, according to its website. Classes are available for ages 3.5 through adult.

RUNNERS-UP: BalletMet Dance Academy; NorthPointe Dance Academy

HONORABLE MENTION: Columbus DanceArts Academy; Dublin Dance Centre & Gymnastics; Straub Dance Center

Favorite Drop-in Art Studio

Art & Clay on Main

150 W. Main St., Lancaster 43130; 740-653-1755; artandclayonmain.com

Rising from honorable mention last year, Art & Clay on Main offers customers the chance to paint their own pottery and work with glass, canvas and clay. The studio also offers classes and is owned and operated by the Fairfield County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

RUNNERS-UP: Color Me Mine; Clay Cafe

HONORABLE MENTION: The Bare Bowl; Marcy’s Clayground

Favorite Gardening Supplies

Dill’s Greenhouse

5800 Rager Road, Groveport 43125; 614-836-3700; dillsgreenhouse.net

Dill’s Greenhouse, which received an honorable mention in 2015, staked out a win this year. In addition to the usual gardening plants and products, the family-owned business also offers classes as well as online educational articles.

RUNNERS-UP: Oakland Nursery - Columbus; Oakland Nursery - Dublin

HONORABLE MENTION: Oakland Nursery - Delaware; Oakland Nursery - New Albany; Strader’s Garden Center - Dublin; Strader’s Garden Center - Northwest Columbus

Favorite Miniature Golf

Magic Mountain Fun Center - Polaris

8350 Lyra Drive, Columbus 43240; 614-840-9600; magicmountainfuncenter.com/polaris

Kids of all ages love mini golf, and Magic Mountain Fun Center - Polaris was again parents’ top destination. The venue offers two 18-hole courses for maximum family fun.

RUNNERS-UP: Westerville Golf Center; Glow Putt Mini Golf

HONORABLE MENTION: Galaxy Games & Golf; Magic Mountain Fun Center - East; Putt N Play; SportsOhio

Favorite Music Instruction

Columbus Children’s Choir

760 E. Broad St., Columbus 43205; 614-220-5555; columbuschildrenschoir.org

This year, readers voiced their support for Columbus Children’s Choir, which rose to the top from honorable mention status. The nonprofit, which teaches students in kindergarten through 12th grade, is supported by a number of central Ohio organizations. It actually has several different choirs for different ages and experience levels.

RUNNERS-UP: Columbus Music and Art Academy; Musicologie

HONORABLE MENTION: Guitar Center; Vaughan Music Studios; WeJoySing

Favorite Sports Instruction

Buckeye Gymnastics

10562 Sawmill Road, Powell 43065, 614-793-1936; 7159 Northgate Way, Westerville 43082, 614-895-1611; buckeyegymnastics.com

Even before Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas landed here to train, Buckeye Gymnastics has been a major player in central Ohio sports. Buckeye, in business since 1982, now has two facilities to serve local families and two category wins.

RUNNERS-UP: Gym X-Treme; SportsOhio

HONORABLE MENTION: AmeriCheer; Columbus Gymnastics Academy; Locker Soccer Academy; Pickerington ATA Black Belt Academy; the Little Gym of Polaris; Wendy’s Gymnastics & Fitness; Westerville Golf Center

Favorite Toys, Games and Learning Products

Lakeshore Learning Materials

2148 Polaris Parkway, Columbus 43240; 614-846-1710; lakeshorelearning.com

This Polaris business was the top choice again this year. Lakeshore Learning Materials is frequented by teachers and parents alike, and offers items such as art supplies, puzzles and educational toys. Special product guides are available for special needs students, and there are items targeted to common core topics, reading intervention, English language learners and more. The store also offers a free weekly craft on Saturdays.

RUNNERS-UP: Naturally Curious Kids; the Train Station

HONORABLE MENTION: Fundamentals - Children’s Books & More; Learning Express Toys of New Albany; Learning Express Toys of Worthington; Oh, Know! The Knowing Place

Favorite Tutoring Center

Sylvan Learning Center - Lewis Center

225 Green Meadows Drive, Suite C, Lewis Center 43035; 740-548-5663; sylvanlearning.com

One of last year’s runners-up, Sylvan Learning Center - Lewis Center came out on top this time. Sylvan offers tutoring in basics such as math, reading and writing as well as programs in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and college test preparation.

RUNNERS-UP: Brain Balance Center of Columbus; Kumon Math and Reading Center of Dublin-Avery; Kumon Math and Reading Center of Westerville-North (tie at second runner-up)

HONORABLE MENTION: LearningRx Columbus-Dublin; Math Plus Academy - New Albany; Math Plus Academy - Powell; Tutoring Club - Gahanna

Low- or No-cost Family Fun

Favorite Festival

Ohio State Fair


Central Ohioans love a good festival, and there certainly are plenty to choose from. This year’s winner also was the 2015 champ. The Ohio State Fair, which just concluded its 163rd year, attracts more than 900,000 people annually. Fun fact: The Giant Slide, which has been a permanent attraction since 1969, is 45 feet tall and has 105 steps. Mark next year’s calendar for July 26 to Aug. 6.

RUNNERS-UP: Circleville Pumpkin Show; Columbus Arts Festival

HONORABLE MENTION: Comfest; Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival; Dublin Irish Festival; Jazz & Rib Fest; Lancaster Festival; Ohio Renaissance Festival; Westerville Music & Arts Festival

Favorite Indoor Play Space

Sky Zone Trampoline Park

459 Orange Point Drive, Suite E, Lewis Center 43035; 740-548-4004; skyzone.com/columbus

Also the Favorite Birthday Party Venue, Sky Zone Trampoline Park is this year’s only multiple category winner. Activities include open jump times, dodge ball and a cube-filled foam pit. The facility offers Sensory Nights for special needs students as well as events for different age groups.

RUNNERS-UP: Polaris Fashion Place; the Mall at Tuttle Crossing

HONORABLE MENTION: Firefly Play Cafe; Graeter’s - Bethel Road store; Recreations Outlet; ZenKidz Play Cafe

Favorite Library Children’s Area

Westerville Public Library

126 S. State St., Westerville 43081; 614-882-7277; westervillelibrary.org

Westerville Public Library chalked up a third category win this year. In addition to a welcoming area for young patrons and a well-rounded children’s collection, the library also offers early literacy kits, interactive displays and more. Staff members can help parents find books by Accelerated Reader, or AR, level as well as Common Core/Lexile rank.

RUNNERS-UP: Delaware County District Library, Orange Branch; Pickerington Public Library

HONORABLE MENTION: Bexley Public Library; Columbus Metropolitan Library, Driving Park Branch; Columbus Metropolitan Library, Dublin Branch; Columbus Metropolitan Library, Hilliard Branch; Columbus Metropolitan Library, New Albany Branch; Columbus Metropolitan Library, Whetstone Branch; Upper Arlington Public Library, Main Library; Wagnalls Memorial Library; Worthington Libraries, Old Worthington Library

Favorite Outdoor Municipal Pool

Groveport Aquatic Center

7370 Groveport Road, Groveport 43125; 614-836-2255 or 614-836-1000; groveportrec.com/aquatic-center

Groveport Aquatic Center finished in first place after a runner-up showing last year. The $3.5 million facility, which opened in 2003, includes two 30-foot water slides, a sprayground, zero-depth entry play area for little ones and a lazy river.

RUNNERS-UP: Highlands Park Aquatic Center; North Orange Park Aquatic Center

HONORABLE MENTION: Bexley Pool; Dublin Community Pool South; Heath City Water Park; Hilliard Family Aquatic Center; Reed Road Water Park; the Big Splash at Evans Park; Worthington Pools

Favorite Outdoor Play Space

Easton Town Center splash pad

3900 Easton Station, Columbus 43219; 614-337-2200; eastontowncenter.com

The Easton Town Center splash pad was the favorite choice for the second year. The splash pad is located in the South District’s Town Square, next to Brio Tuscan Grille. Hours are the same as the center, though it closes early on Wednesdays for a weekly concert series. Bonus: Free towel service is offered Saturday and Sunday afternoons from early June through late August.

RUNNERS-UP: Highbanks Metro Park; Columbus Commons

HONORABLE MENTION: Bicentennial Park in the Scioto Mile; Columbus Park of Roses; Homestead park; Millstone Creek Park