South Sound Food + Dining
As our readers well know, it takes more than mac and cheese and a few crayons to make a restaurant truly family-friendly. So, where are those elusive family-welcoming spots with menus that adults love as much as kids? And where can we find the best sweet treats, food trucks, gluten-free pizza, global eats and — just in case we can ditch the kids now and then — date-night destinations? We asked, and our readers told us. Note: This is just a taste.
See our other regional winners:
South Sound 2015 Food + Dining — Winners + Finalists:
WINNER: Mod Pizza
Readers love many things about Mod Pizza, which has locations all over western Washington, but the key attraction might be the control factor: Individual wood-fired pizzas are custom-made, on the spot, with exactly what you want on them. As one reader says, “Build your own, pick what you like, good size, nice crust.”
Founded by a Neapolitan couple with a passion for authentic, perfectly crusted pizza, Vince’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria now has three popular restaurants in Renton, Federal Way and Burien.
South Sounders also love the take-and-bake model at Papa Murphy’s. Try the stuffed pizzas, or let the kids play pizza chef by buying them a Mini Murph pizza-making kit.
Another popular chain is Round Table Pizza, which slings freshly made pies with high-quality toppings and fresh flavors.
A small family of South Sound pizzerias, Farrelli’s Pizza, is know for its high-quality, thin-crusted wood-fired pies, welcoming ambiance, and other solid menu selections from calzones to salads and sandwiches.
South Sounders love Puyallup's Trackside Pizza for the traditional brick-oven pizza, as well as the fun option for kids where they can make their own pizza creation at their table and then get it fired up.
WINNER: Top Pot Doughnuts
Apple fritters, crinkly old-fashioned doughnuts, hand-roasted coffee, a clean, bright space: Top Pot Doughnuts was a welcome addition to Renton Landing, its one south location. Revered as having “the best doughnuts this side of the Mississippi,” Top Pot has been winning all over Puget Sound this year for its array of fresh, handmade offerings.
When they need a serious shot of sweetness, south Sounders head to Krispy Kreme's Tacoma shop; look for the "free" sign to get your glazed donut gratis.
With three South Sound locations, Legendary Doughnuts is becoming, well, legendary, not only for its creative variety of sweets (doughsants, maple bacon bars, celebrity-named doughnuts) but also for its doughnut cakes and towers that might make your next party epic.
Fans of Pao's Donute & Coffee Shop on Sixth Avenue in Tacoma swear by the maple bars and apple fritters (tip: they sell out quickly). Note: it's cash only.
More crazy (and delicious) flavors can be round at space-themed Epic Donuts in Puyallup, from Gilligan's Island to peanut butter and jelly and the Elvis.
For an incredible variety of donuts (and many other sweets), QFC has the goods.
⇐ Pizza | ⇑ South Sound Food + Dining | Ice Cream ⇒
Menchie’s frozen yogurt is also beloved by South Sounders. The draw? Dozens of flavors and toppings; options that include no added sugar, gluten-free, vegan and dairy-free; and dairy products free of artificial growth hormones. And smiles, of course.
Ice Cream Social, the ice creamery in Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue neighborhood, makes small-batch ice cream with locally sourced, all-natural ingredients (rBST-free milk, etc.). You can find its inventive flavors (buttered popcorn, grilled peach) at its scoop shop and local farmers markets.
Northwest chain LimeBerry Frozen Yogurt, with five South Sound locations, also lets families mix in as many toppings as they like: granola, fresh fruits, candies, cereals and more.
Half (or maybe most) of the fun at Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt in Federal Way and Puyallup is that kids — after choosing a base, flavor and ingredients to mix in — get to watch their ice cream being made on the spot with liquid nitrogen.
With two Tacoma shops (in Westgate and Stadium), Gibson’s Frozen Yogurt Shoppe offers a terrific variety of yogurt and toppings as well as a full lunch and dinner menu.
In Puyallup, Elements Frozen Yogurt is a favorite stop for both fro-yo and juice. Find tart variety of yogurt (gluten-free, no high-fructose corn syrup), as well as kosher-certified YoCream flavors.
⇐ Doughnuts | ⇑ South Sound Food + Dining | Treat Shops ⇒
WINNERS: Hello, Cupcake and Metropolitan Market
In a great location on Tacoma’s University of Washington campus, Hello, Cupcake is a friendly treat shop that serves up creative cupcake flavors and other fun sweets. The Proctor Metropolitan Market in North Tacoma is beloved for its miniature carts for kids and its spectacular bakery section.
In downtown Renton, homey Common Ground Coffee & Cupcakes serves up delish espresso along with its sweet cakes; kids can burn off the sugar playing with the rocking horses, toys and books.
Wanna Cupcake? keeps Puyallup stocked in cupcakes, more than a dozen flavors each day, with a winning formula that includes friendly staff, cute location and perks such as a reward program.
Beyond creating scrumptious cupcakes — dozens of options, including gluten-free — from its locations in Olympia and Lacey, Bonjour Cupcakes will deliver to your home (in the Lacey-Tumwater-Olympia area)!
Cinammon bread is the signature item at Wagner’s European Bakery and Cafe in Olympia, but you can also nosh on any number of pastries as well as sandwiches, salads and more.
National chain IHOP is beloved by kids and grandparents alike generations for family-friendly pancake stacks that are fun (try the chocolate chip) and have a minimal impact on your wallet — and check out the latest on IHOP’s “Kids Eat Free” deal.
If homey ambiance and huge portions are your breakfast game, you’ll love the Black Bear Diner, a popular chain with locations in Federal Way and Olympia serving classics such as corned beef hash, Portuguese sausage and sweet cream pancakes.
Sumner staple The Buttered Biscuit proudly serves “authentic gramma food” (house-made biscuits and gravy, “thick messy Reubens”), but you can also find 21st-century options, such as gluten-free crêpes.
Kent families love the Wild Wheat Bakery Café & Restaurant for its everything-from-scratch motto, big portions and a menu that pleases everyone, with items ranging from portobello mushroom omelets to nutty toasts and pastries.
Located in Old Town Tacoma above Commencement Bay, The Spar is Tacoma's oldest restaurant, a saloon that serves up all the favorites you'd expect for breakfast, lunch and dinner, from eggs and hashbrowns to fried chicken and homemade potato chips.
“If you're looking for a great breakfast restaurant with huge portions and low prices, this is the place!”, says one Yelper of Auburn's very popular Sun Break Cafe. Fans particularly rave about the banana bread.
A 6-year-old outpost of the Uwajimaya family of international stores, the Renton Village location boasts 30,000 square feet and the full array of Asian groceries, gifts, produce, specialty meats, seafood and Asian-food eateries that you'd expect. Kids will also love bubble tea shop, Oasis Tea Zone.
Reviewers cite the "great selection of food, exotic décor" at Indochine Asian Dining Lounge in Tacoma and Federal Way.
We hear you: Good parenting depends (at least in part) on caffeine, and nobody does caffeine in all its variations — from straight-up Americanos to seasonal drinks such as eggnog lattes — more dependably than Starbucks. Plus, when you’ve got sleeping or cranky kids in the back, a drive-through is a lifesaver.
With amenities such as toys and books to keep kids busy (not to mention glorious cupcakes), Common Ground Coffee & Cupcakes in downtown Renton seems designed to let parents relax and enjoy their espresso.
From the moment Frog n Kiwi Café opened its doors in University Place, it’s earned kudos from local parents with its large, separated play area and a varied menu of espresso drinks, snacks and sandwiches.
Offering coffee, tea, even beer, if it’s been that kind of a day, Anthem Coffee & Tea in Puyallup is a hip meeting place for families.
WINNER: Rainforest Cafe
Located at Westfield Southcenter, the Rainforest Cafe is all jungle-themed entertainment: from its animatronic animals to the waterfall, sound effects, special lighting and more. The menu is varied, with some tropical-themed items to burgers and exotic salads, and — of course — a sparkling volcano dessert.
With burgers, birthday ballads and bottomless mac ‘n’ cheese, Red Robin continues to draw in families for special occasions, birthdays, and the odd night out. Local parents love the “friendly service and atmosphere,” the menu choices that work for both kids and parents and of course, getting the chance to meet Red, the dancing big bird behind the name
Founded in Portland, The Old Spaghetti Factory’s Tacoma outpost is also a popular destination for South Sound families, who cite its fresh ingredients and complete meals (including the scoop of spumoni at the end).
Green is the color at I.talia Pizziera in Olympia, which builds its from-scratch pies from organic ingredients, utilizes green power and recycles produce waste.
WINNER: Stone Creek Wood Fired Pizza
Stone Creek Wood Fired Pizza — a mobile pizza truck in the Olympia area — draws in families for creative pizza pies fired up in an oven designed and built by the owners themselves, as well as wood-fired cinnamon rolls.
The fact that Taquería Los Amigos en Tacoma cranks out its signature Mexican street food from a bus is part of its kid appeal, as well as solid renditions of tacos, burritos and other platos — and speedy service.
WINNER: Trader Joe’s
What's not love about Trader Joe's, the funky chain that also won in other regions. Gourmet food and wine, much of organic, at affordable prices; free samples (and coffee); friendly service.
Metropolitan Market, with a location in Tacoma's hip Proctor neighborhood, is adored for its incredibly fresh and varied produce section (lots of organic items), pro bakery and cafe, and fantastic deli section.
Open Thursday–Sunday in a standout location by the waterfront, Olympia Farmers Market is a place to shop, nosh, hang out and say hello. Beyond all the produce and prepared food items, from oysters to fruits, meats and flowers, you'll also find arts and crafts and live music.
Not surprisingly, farmers markets pull in the rest of the South Sound fresh food votes. Tacoma farmers markets receive raves for all its locations. The independent Proctor market (Saturdays) also wins reader raves.
At Puyallup's Pioneer Park (which also has a new spray park), Puyallup Farmers Market is another South Sound staple for its produce, prepared foods and artisan crafts.
WINNER: AMC Theatres
We agree: It's hard to beat a night at the movies with your beloved (or friend), and AMC Theatres does a particularly good job of helping you escape, amid your popcorn and Milk Duds. AMC has theaters in Lakewood, Kent and Tukwila.
Can't choose between Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese? At the Lemon Grass Restaurant & Lounge, with three South Sound locations, you don't have to choose. Reviewers especially like the generous portions and specialties such as crispy chicken.