KIDS CROWN AWARDS: FAMILY EATING

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From eating free to wholesome fast food, the judges find the best in South Florida.



Best Groovy Gourmet Pizza
Peace a Pizza
Readers love to debate who has the best fancy slice in town, and this year, Peace a Pizza gets top honors for its tasty crust, imaginative topping selections and family-friendly restaurants. Choose from 32 far-out taste combinations such as Artichoke Avocado, Mac-n-Cheese and, ahem, Sexy Chicken. Peace a Pizza offers a children's section with pint-sized booths featuring flat-screen TVs showing kids movies, plus toys and balloons. Here, kids can create their own custom pizza, and Tuesday night is Kids Night when families get two free kids' pizzas with the purchase of a large gourmet pie. Twelve premium salads are also available, and be sure to save room for a Hope's freshly baked cookie. 1200 Yamato Road, Boca Raton 561-998-2378. www.ilovepizza.com


Best Place To Bring a Picky Eater
Stir Crazy
If your choosy child is making you a little bonkers at mealtime, this may be justthe place for you. This popular Asian chain features a "Market Bar," an ingredient buffet, of sorts, which gives even the fussiest eaters a chance to indulge. Select from an array of freshly prepared meats, tofu, seafood, rice, noodles, veggies and fruits, and then top your creation with one of Stir Crazy's famous tasty sauces. Then it's off to the wok chef to stir it crazy, keeping mom sane. 6000 Glades Road, #1015 Boca Raton, 561-338-7500. Shops at Pembroke Gardens, southeast corner of Interstate 75 and Pines Boulevard, Pembroke Pines, 954-919-4900. www.stircrazy.com


Best Burrito
San Francisco Burrito
Burritos are to San Francisco as pizza is to New York and Chicago. Like a pizza, it's a meal you can hold in your hand with most, and sometimes all, the major food groups represented. Outrageously fat, the foil-wrapper close to bursting with freshly prepared Southwestern goodness, these burritos have become a local favorite for good reason. The kids' menu offers a thoughtful selection of items that can be customized with meats and veggies of choice and includes a drink and a cookie. Don't miss out on the house-made soups. And for a complete family night out, bring Fido along, as the patio is pet-friendly. 5187 S. University Drive, Davie. 954-680-4040. www.sanfranciscoburrito.net


Best Ice Cream Cupcakes
Maggie Moos
Combine two of the greatest desserts ever: ice cream and cupcakes. Brilliant! The "Classic" version of these delectable little treats (which look just like a Hostess cupcake) features dark-chocolate ice cream with a marshmallow filling atop a layer of chocolate cake and frosted with chocolate ganache. Maggie Moos can also make cupcake versions of its delicious Dream Cakes that include flavors such as Cotton Candy Carnival, Strawberry Cheesecream and Maggie S'mores, or, with a little notice, the "treatery" will customize cupcakes for you with the Maggie Moos ice cream flavor and toppings of your choice. 2124 S. University Drive Davie, 2422 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. 954-537-0100. www.maggiemoos.com


Best Vanilla: Because Everything Starts With Vanilla
Siciliano's Frozen Custard
Even if you crave chocolate, swoon for strawberry or pine for peanut butter, it all begins with a very, very good vanilla. As owner of Siciliano's, Don Drybread feels that it is the mastery this all-important flavor that makes his custard (his great-grandfather's recipe) the best in town. However, he says the reason families are loyal to his creamy concoctions is the service they receive – it's his employees that make a big difference. 5917 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. 954-985-8050.


Best Restaurant That Feels Like Eating at Home
Buca di Beppo
That is, if your home is a little noisy, a little crowded and a little quirky (sounds about right). Buca is famous for its large family-style meals – think giant layered lasagnas dripping with cheese and sauce, trays of manicotti and baked ravioli, and sides such as wheels of garlic bread, green beans and broccoli. The kitschy décor can keep an I Spy game going for hours, and there are few places where a family can dine around a bust of Pope John Paul II (though he was the first non-Italian pope since the 1500s – go figure). www.bucadibeppo.com
2025 Wellington Green Drive, Wellington; 561-790-3287
3355 S. University Drive, Davie; 954-577-3287
5975 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale; 954-229-0922
15251 NW 67th Ave., Miami Lakes; 305-231-3100


Best Hip and Healthy Lunch for Kids: The Bento Box Lunch
Sushi Maki
Grownups love the sushi at Sushi Maki, and while this restaurant does offer a children's menu, it has something even cooler: Bento Box Lunches. In Japan, Bento is a meal, generally consisting of fish, meat or tofu, rice and a vegetable, served in a sectioned tray or box, perfect for kids who don't want their food touching! Sushi Maki's Bento Box Lunch includes a choice of a meat, fish or spring rolls, miso soup or salad, two chicken dumplings, edamame, four pieces of California roll and lo mein noodles all for less than $10. It's healthy, appealing to the eye, and kids can eat most of it with their hands or work on their chopstick skills. www.sushimakirestaurants.com
5812 Sunset Drive, Miami; 305-667-7677
2334 Ponce de León Blvd., Coral Gables; 305-443-1884
14491 S. Dixie Highway, Miami; 305- 232-6636


Best Eco-Friendly Cookie Creations
Mio's Confections
Whether it's your best friend's baby shower, your little pumpkin's first birthday, or a first communion celebration, Mio's Confections offers a way to make any gathering that much more special. The cookies are handmade to your exacting specifications with organic ingredients, topped with a decadent fondant or royal icing and wrapped in an eco-friendly cellophane bag, tied with a raffia ribbon. Just be sure to plan ahead, notes owner and baker Mio Vasakaris, as she requires at least two weeks lead time to create your unique order. 305-450-1719. www.miosconfections.com


Best All-around Philanthropic Kids Programs
California Pizza Kitchen
This family favorite doesn't just offer a great kids' menu with selections such as cheese pizza, grilled chicken and broccoli, and salad topped with cheddar Goldfish crackers. California Pizza Kitchen goes the extra mile with its CPKids Programs for schools and other nonprofit organizations. There are fundraising programs in which an organization has an event at CPK and receives 20 percent of the profit from their purchases. Adventures in Pizza offers free tours of the restaurant for children age 10 and younger complete with a pizza-making class, an activity book and pencil, and a free CPKids meal on their next visit. Finally, there is a CPK VIP Pass, an educational incentive in which kids receive vouchers from their teachers to use toward free CPKids meals for a month. Multiple Locations Throughout Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties www.cpk.com


Best Place To Feed Your Family While Filling a Need
Chili's Grill and Bar
Did you know that Chili's, a perennial family favorite for a casual night out, is also a partner of St. Jude's Children's Hospitals? Furthermore, did you know that Chili's has pledged to raise $50 million for helping St. Jude's fight pediatric cancer? While you are tucking in to a steaming pile of fajita's, burgers or ribs, you could talk about the work that Chili's does for St. Jude's. It's a terrific, low-key way to introduce the idea of charitable giving. With a donation, kids can "Create a Pepper" to be displayed in the restaurant that represents their gift. Donations (and peppers) can also be made online at www.createapepper.com. Multiple locations in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dad counties


Best Smoothies
Froots
Yum! Kids (and their moms and dads) love smoothies. It's like a milkshake but better for you. Strawberries, bananas, blueberries, mangos, peaches, pineapples, chocolate and frozen yogurt, oh my! The flavor combinations are seemingly endless. There's certainly something for everyone, including shakes for the fitness buffs that offer protein powder, and energy, and fat burning blend-ins. Little sleepy from a night with your toddler in your bed? Froots has a selection of Red Bull smoothies with a full can mixed right in – regular or sugar free. Throw in a shot of wheat grass, and you just might make it through that afternoon slump. www.froots.com
2571 S. University Drive, Davie; 954-236-6565
4933 Sheridan St., Hollywood; 954-983-8688
1893 N. Pine Island Road, Plantation; 954-423-8553
2001 N. Federal Highway, Suite 111, Pompano Beach; 954-786-8383


Best Place Where Kids Eat Free on Weekends
Steak and Shake
What's better than french fries and milkshakes? Free french fries and milkshakes! That's right; this American institution founded in 1934 offers a free kids' meal with the purchase of an adult meal (with a value of $8 or more) on Saturdays and Sundays. Kids can choose from several favorites such as the kid's version of their famous "Steakburger," a turkey and cheese sandwich, a grilled-cheese sandwich, and macaroni and cheese. Multiple locations throughout Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. www.steakandshake.com


Best Place To Watch Candy Making – and Get a Sample!
Kilwin's
There is something really soothing about watching an employee at Kilwin's make fudge. Is it the way they spread the rich and velvety confection over the slab of chilled marble, or is it that we know that there's a piece of that bit of heaven coming to us in the form of free sample? Perhaps it's the smell of the freshly pressed waffle cones, the creamy tubs of ice cream or the rows of confections to choose from lined up prettily in the glass front displays. Whatever it is, families love to come to this old-school sweet shop to watch the magic being made. Nine locations in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. www.kilwins.com


Best Kosher Chocolates
Jovial Chocolates
Meirav Shtaeinweis' kosher creations include truffles, chocolate-covered pretzels, chocolate-dipped dried fruit, brownies and her very popular chocolate-covered Oreos. Her business, based in Weston, is literally homegrown. She said she began making the chocolates for her children and then for family and friends. Shtaeinweis then began receiving requests from schools and local business. Now her handmade creations can be purchased online or over the phone. It's a business evolution as natural as the confections she produces. 954-663-1923, www.jovialchocolate.com


Best Barbecue With a Sense of Humor
Smokey Bones
Smokey Bones offers seriously good barbecue without taking itself too seriously. Pulled-pork sandwiches made from meat smoked for 11 hours, fire-grilled steaks and smoked racks of ribs are served up with a side of self-deprecating humor and a dash of sly wit. Of course, we know what the kids like about Smokey Bones: doughnuts and TV! That's right, you can tune your table in to one of the (many) televisions nearby if you so desire and finish up your visit with a bag of cinnamon-and-sugar-dusted, house-made cake doughnuts that come with a sidecar of strawberry jam for dipping. This summer, Smokey Bones will roll out a new menu and will offers its famous burgers for just $5.99. www.smokeybones.com
10260 Forest Hill Blvd., Wellington; 561-383-8240
21733 State Road 7, Boca Raton; 561-852-7870
809 S. University Drive, Plantation; 954-474-3833
6500 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale; 954-493-7779


Best Value
CiCi's Pizza
Some savvy individual knows that if kids could create their own restaurant that parents would be happy to take them to, it may look just like CiCi's Pizza. So many things are right about it: pay (a very fair amount) when you walk in the door, eat as much as you want of what you want, then maybe spend a little time in the arcade. Feel like being good? Dig into the salad and soup bar. Feel like being a little indulgent? Pizza and cinnamon buns! CiCi's also has a fundraising program for schools, churches and nonprofit organizations -- one more reason that keeps families coming back. Multiple Locations in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. www.cicispizza.com


Best Salads
Salad Creations
Why is it that when someone else makes you a salad (or a sandwich) it just tastes so much better? Even better, customers at Salad Creations can achieve lettuce-tossing nirvana by selecting their own ingredients. Choose from two sizes, four lettuces and a plethora of "throw-ins," and top it with a tasty dressing. Not feeling too creative? Or just plain tired of making decisions? Salad Creations offers ready-to-go salad combinations as well as a range of wraps and soups prepared fresh daily. Multiple locations in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. www.saladcreations.com


Best Place To Have Dinner and Shop for Groceries
Publix Greenwise Market
How many times have you returned home from the grocery store and have no idea what to make for dinner? Aside from the fact that the Publix Greenwise store is a treat to shop in, you can order food from the prepared-foods counter (pizza made with a whole-wheat crust, salads, stir fry, burgers, lasagna), receive a buzzer to carry and do your shopping while the food is being made. You'll be alerted when the order is ready, and viola! A full pantry, a stocked fridge and a healthy dinner on the table. This one-stop shop also features a nifty dining loft on the second floor as well as a curbside pickup option. Don't forget a dessert from the bakery; the peanut chocolate chip cookies are fantastic. www.publix.com/wellness/greenwise/Home.do
11231 Legacy Ave., Palm Beach Gardens; 561-514-5175
21230 St. Andrews Blvd., Boca Raton


Best Inexpensive Palm Beach Eats
Sandwiches by the Sea
If you are headed out for a day of fun in the sun at the beach or touring the famously ritzy island, Sandwiches by the Sea offers one of the few ways in Palm Beach to grab a bite without feeling like a shark has chomped on your wallet. A favorite lunch spot of local business people, this tightly run shop (very much like that of the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld) features a different sub specials daily, with piles of shaved meats, fresh veggies, and mysterious and delicious sauces. Bring cash and be prepared to picnic because there are only three seats in the whole place. 363 S. County Road, Palm Beach561-655-7911.


Best Breakfast on the Beach (For 33 Years!)
John G's
After all that time, there is still that line. The "line" of patrons waiting for a table at John G's – some say it with a dismissive groan, some with a wistful smile. It starts at the door and wraps its way around the antiquated building that houses this local shrine of ridiculously fantastic breakfasts. Favorites include Raisin Cream Cheese French Toast, Buttons and Bows (eggs, hash browns, and marinated mushrooms), and Eggs Casino (poached eggs, ham, and tomato on an English muffin with special sauce) with several specials on Sundays. John G's has been continuously owned and operated by John Giragos and his family, who sometimes pass out chocolate dipped strawberries to those waiting in the queue. They still serve customers as if it is day one - and that is really something special. 10 S. Ocean Blvd., Lake Worth. 561-585-9860

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