When our readers told us about their favorite family restaurants, they didn’t just focus on the food. Equally important were a welcoming atmosphere, affordable prices, relatively healthy menu options, and a good chance of running into friends. Here’s what else we found interesting: All the restaurants that got the most votes are not individually owned places, but small regional chains that were founded in the Maryland/D.C. area.

  • CAVA MEZZE GRILL: Since its 2014 debut at Westfield Montgomery Mall, the Greek-inspired menu at Cava Mezze Grill (photo above) has become a hands-down favorite for many Store Reporter readers. “It’s so healthy and fresh, with such great flavor, and there is nothing else like it,” says reader Monika Woods. “My kids pick it even for special occasions when they could go somewhere fancier.” Cava Mezze Grill, Westfield Montgomery Mall and other area locations.
  • LEBANESE TAVERNA: Here’s a Middle Eastern menu that appeals to even the pickiest eaters, from your basic pita and hummus to falafel, grape leaves and shawarma. Some readers like the cozy location at Congressional Plaza, but many prefer the spacious one at Rockville Town Square for its outdoor seating and proximity to the ice rink and concert stage. Lebanese Taverna, two locations in Rockville and others throughout the D.C. area.
  • SILVER DINER: The Rockville Pike location, where a typical evening starts with families and ends with milkshake-drinking teens, is the one that feels like home to many Store Reporter readers. Customers appreciate the unusually extensive kids’ menu with reasonably healthy options. “My two boys used to love getting those cardboard cars and a kids’ meal when they were little,” says reader Andrea Lewis. “Now we’ve moved on to bigger meals, and also meeting friends there on Saturday nights.” Silver Diner, 12276 Rockville Pike and other area locations.
  • CALIFORNIA TORTILLA: The Cabin John location is a major gathering place for local families, especially the sidewalk seating where people linger and chat with friends passing by. “Kids love the food, and we inevitably run into someone we know,” says reader Karen Moore. Others like the customizable menu, the snazzy soda machines and the “make your own” options for kids’ tacos and burritos. California Tortilla, Cabin John Shopping Center and other area locations. 
  • POTOMAC PIZZA: The Falls Road location, open since 1978, has a loyal following among Store Reporter readers who grew up in and around Potomac Village. The place is always packed with kids — often still in their soccer gear — and readers say they enjoy the family atmosphere and the chance to mingle with their neighbors. Potomac Pizza, 9812 Falls Road and other area locations.
  • ZIKI JAPANESE STEAK HOUSE: Located just outside Rio Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg, Ziki is a destination restaurant for local families celebrating birthdays and special occasions. The Benihana-style hibachi show is the big draw here, with long waits to watch the chefs turn sliced onions into choo-choo trains. “The food is good, you get to enjoy the show during dinner, and it’s louder than your typical restaurant — which is another bonus with my three boys,” says reader Peter Mallios. Ziki, 10009 Fields Road in Gaithersburg.