With eight locations in Seattle and on the Eastside, PCC Natural Markets was the clear winner in our grocery store category. "Our child gets a free piece of fruit when we shop. When we drive by now, he calls out: 'Plum! Apricot! Apple!'" one reader wrote. Locations in Seattle's Fremont, Greenlake, Seward Park, View Ridge and West Seattle neighborhoods, plus Issaquah, Kirkland and Redmond. For addresses and phone numbers, visit www.pccnaturalmarkets.com. Runners up: Ballard Market (1400 N.W. 56th St., Seattle, 206-783-7922, www.townandcountrymarkets.com), Metropolitan Market (1908 Queen Anne Ave. N., Seattle, 206-284-2530, www.metropolitan-market.com) and Pike Place Market (First Avenue and Pike Street, Seattle, www.pikeplacemarket.com).
Kid-friendly coffee shop
When it comes to a caffeine fix with kids in tow, My Coffee House in Seattle's Madison Park is the hands-down favorite. A large children's play area keeps younger children occupied while parents sip and visit (2818 E. Madison St., Seattle, 206-568-7509). Runners up: Child's Play Cafe (10235 Main St., Bellevue, 425-453-6151, www.childsplaycafe.com), Coffee to a Tea with Sugar (4541 California Ave. S.W., Seattle, 206-937-1495) and Cafe Appassionato By the Bay (320 112th St. S.W., Everett, 425-353-6792).
Ice cream shop
Husky Deli in West Seattle has been serving up homemade ice cream since 1932, and it's still a frosty favorite among "Hidden Gems" voters (4721 California Ave. S.W., Seattle, 206-937-2810). Runners up: Mora Iced Creamery (Bellevue Square, Northeast 8th Street and Bellevue Way, 425-454-2073 and 139 Madrone Lane, Bainbridge Island, 206-855-1112), The Scoop at Walter's (6408 32nd Ave. N.W., Seattle, 206-782-3920) and Thenos Dairy (12248 156th Ave. N.E., Redmond, 425-885-2339).
Winner Tutta Bella features individually sized, soft-crust pizzas cooked in wood-burning ovens; kids will enjoy watching the pizza-assembly process visible from many of the tables. (Columbia City, 4918 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle, 206-721-3501; Wallingford, 4411 Stone Way N., Seattle, 206-633-3800, www.tuttabellapizza.com). Runners up: Zeeks Pizza (multiple locations, www.zeekspizza.com), Pagliacci Pizza (multiple locations, www.pagliacci.com), Flying Pie (30 Front St. S., Issaquah, 425-391-2407, www.flying-pie.com) and Vince's Italian Restaurant (locations in Burien, Federal Way, Renton and South Seattle; visit www.vincesitalian.com for addresses and phone numbers).
Restaurant or bar for a parents-only date night
Where do parents go when they want some time to relax and reconnect? Our readers chose the Matador, a 21-and-over tequila bar and Tex-Mex restaurant in Ballard that just opened a second location in West Seattle's Junction neighborhood. (2221 N.W. Market St., Seattle, 206-297-2855 or 4546 California Ave. S.W., Seattle, 206-932-9988, www.matadorseattle.com). Runners up: Dahlia Lounge (2001 4th Ave., Seattle, 206-682-4142, www.tomdouglas.com/dahlia) and Jak's Grill (14 Front St., Issaquah, 425-837-8834).
Families & Food: Writer's Picks
Hidden Gem for lunch with (really) big kids
Husky Den, the food court in the basement of the University of Washington's HUB, serves far better food than the average dining hall, is open to the public, and the excitement of having lunch with real live college students comes free. On the first warm day this year, I took my daughter Iris (age 2) for a pizza slice from Pagliacci and a chocolate shake from Pickles and Fries, and we ate outside on the grass. Nothing since then has impressed her half as much. Other stands include pan-Asian, salad bar and Mexican. Husky Union Building, UW Campus, most restaurants open 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. hfs.washington.edu/dining/location.aspx?id=210
Hidden Gem fast food
Forget the kid's meal at local Mexican chain Taqueria El Rinconsito and concentrate on the tacos and tortas (Mexican sandwiches). Prices are in line with other fast food (if not cheaper), and some locations sport a drive-thru, but the quality is something else. Nine locations (Auburn, Bellevue, Burien, Federal Way, Kent, Lynnwood, Renton, Tacoma and Tukwila). For addresses, visit www.elrinconsito.com. Open long hours (at least 10 a.m.-midnight) daily.
Hidden Gem food neighborhood
Discover Columbia City in South Seattle. Start at the Columbia City Bakery with a "doughnut muffin" (and grab a loaf of walnut levain for later). Stop in at Bookworm Exchange, a used bookstore with a great children's section, or Sweet Pea's consignment store. For lunch, there's Roy's BBQ (don't miss the Georgia Gold sandwich, with smoked pork shoulder and a tangy mustard sauce), Geraldine's Counter (breakfast items all day and one of the best burgers in town), or Tutta Bella Pizzeria. Also check out the farmers market every Wednesday from 3-7 p.m.
Note: All these Columbia City gems are on Rainier Avenue South between South Edmunds and South Hudson streets.
- Tutta Bella: 206-721-3501, www.tuttabellapizza.com Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 3 p.m.-10 p.m.
- Geraldine's Counter: 206-723-2080, www.geraldinescounter.com Tuesday-Thursday 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
- Roy's BBQ: 206-723-7697, www.royscolumbiacity.com, Monday-Tuesday 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Hidden Gem Pike Place Market treats
Belle's Buns serves up sticky buns in several savory and sweet flavors for $3.50 each. My favorite is the classic caramel-pecan; Iris prefers the fresh berry bun. Just outside the market entrance at 1st and Pike, Bottega Italiana makes the best gelato in town. Try the hazelnut.
- Belle's Buns: 93 Pike St., #2, www.belleepicurean.com. Open daily 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Bottega Italiana: 1425 First Ave., 206-343-0200 www.bottegaitaliana.com; hours vary -- call or check the Web site.
Hidden Gem place for spicy food
At Bellevue's Szechuan Chef, Iris loves to fill up on the flaky House Special Pancake, crispy fried dumplings and addictively spicy Ants on a Tree (stir-fried cellophane noodles with ground pork). Also don't miss the special chow mein, made with chewy hand-shaved noodles. 15015 Main St., Bellevue, 425-746-9008. Open daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
-- Matthew Amster-Burton