Readers share their favorites — plus a fabulous toy giveaway
For this special Kids and Teens Issue, we asked readers to tell us their families’ favorite places for dining and shopping in the greater Rockville/Potomac area. We heard from so many of you about the restaurants, stores and neighborhood gathering spots that keep your families coming back week after week, year after year. Scroll down to read about the winners — and when you get to the end, be sure to enter the giveaway for our fabulous basket of toys.
Dining out with kids & teens
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.
Sweet treats with kids & teens
After a sports game, dinner or an outdoor adventure, many families like to gather over something sweet and cold. For Store Reporter readers, there are five places that really take the cake… not to mention the candy, the gelato and the ice cream.
- CARMEN’S ITALIAN ICE & CAFE: This local favorite is packed every weekend after soccer, baseball, family outings and other occasions that call for a sweet ending. Crowds come for the homemade Italian ice, frozen custard and shakes that can be mashed together into all sorts of tasty combinations. “Carmen’s is the bomb diggety,” says reader Helene Dolan. “So many flavor combos, and everything is delicious.” Carmen’s Italian Ice & Cafe, 1115 Nelson Street in Rockville.
- SPRINKLES: There’s always a crowd at Sprinkles, a Potomac Village institution serving ice cream, birthday cakes, milkshakes and other freshly made sweets. In the evenings, it’s often one of the last businesses to close in the Village. “My kids have been going there for over 16 years,” says reader Karen Reyes Kuchins. “They will drive across town to bring home a Sprinkles homemade coffee Oreo ice cream pie.” Sprinkles, 10148 River Road in Potomac Village.
- LOLLI AND POPS: If you haven’t visited Lolli and Pops, which opened last fall at Westfield Montgomery Mall, you’re in for a real treat. Even adults get that “kid-in-a-candy-store” feeling from the dazzling selection of gourmet items, retro goodies, international sweets and oddball drinks (peanut-butter-and-jelly soda, anyone?) And the gummy bear selection is not to be missed. Lolli and Pops, Westfield Montgomery Mall and other D.C.-area locations.
- COLD STONE CREAMERY: This recent entry has won the hearts of shoppers at Westfield Montgomery Mall, where its prime spot in the Dining Terrace makes it the perfect place for after-dinner treats and quick shopping breaks. The custom mix-ins, from candy bars to graham cracker pie crust, are a big part of the appeal. “My son tells me their ice cream is much creamier than other places,” says reader Suzanne Borden. Cold Stone Creamery, Westfield Montgomery Mall and other area locations.
- BASKIN-ROBBINS: Sure it’s a chain, but the Baskin-Robbins at Cabin John Shopping Center is undoubtedly a neighborhood institution. If your kids go to school anywhere in the Potomac area, it’s unlikely they’ll leave Baskin-Robbins without spotting a friend or two. And much like the neighboring California Tortilla, the outside seating is a prime spot for socializing with other families. Baskin-Robbins, Cabin John Shopping Center and other area locations.
Shopping with kids & teens
Whether they’re buying clothes for fast-growing teens or trying to find just the right birthday present, our readers clearly gravitate toward small, locally owned businesses with staffers who really know their products.
- TOY CASTLE: A staple at Cabin John Mall since 1979, Toy Castle always has the latest and greatest — plus enough old favorites to put a smile on parents’ faces. Readers like the store for its vast selection, its laid-back staff, and the simple joy of walking out with a wrapped gift that’s ready to go. “Great customer service, cool toys, and stuff you just don’t find online or at a big-box store,” says reader Jeanne Adams. Toy Castle, Cabin John Mall, 11325 Seven Locks Road.
- BARSTONS CHILD’S PLAY: This toy store at bustling Congressional Plaza is a gathering place for the stroller set, offering a comfortable atmosphere for socializing after a trip to neighboring Bye Bye Baby. Parents of older kids say they also appreciate the staff’s infinite patience and guidance. “They don’t make you feel rushed,” says reader Sharon Morris. “You can tell that they really like their jobs and playing with toys. And they’re always willing to show you how things work.” Barstons Child’s Play, Congressional Plaza, 1661 Rockville Pike.
- ON CLOUD 9: This small boutique at the border of Potomac and Rockville is the go-to place for little fashionistas, keeping its customers in style from babyhood through the teen years — and sometimes dressing their moms too. “They have unique things that you wouldn’t find anywhere else — clothing, accessories and special things to take to sleepaway camp,” says reader Julie Mintz. “It’s also a great place to buy small gifts for special occasions, and they come in a box with a pretty blue ribbon.” On Cloud 9, Potomac Woods Plaza, 1085 Seven Locks Road.
- MY BEST FRIEND’S CLOSET: This Rockville shop is a favorite for on-trend girls and their budget-conscious moms. Prices tend to be reasonable — and some of the merchandise is gently used, having been recently recycled from other local kids and teens. “For my daughter, it’s easier and more attractive to shop than a large department store,” says reader Meredith Yentis. Reader Monika Woods says the store “never fails to come up with something great for my girls — every bar/bat mitzvah, homecoming and special occasion.” My Best Friend’s Closet, 9735 Traville Gateway Drive in Rockville.
- SHOE TRAIN: People travel from all over the D.C. area to visit Shoe Train, an institution at Cabin John Mall with a reputation for expertise in orthopedic and hard-to-fit issues. Readers say they don’t mind the long waits, as they know the service will be personalized when it’s their child’s turn for a fitting. And the store keeps records on all its customers, so it’s easy to track your kids’ growth and favorite styles. Shoe Train at Cabin John Mall, 11325 Seven Locks Road.
Enter to win this basket of toys
This week we’re giving away a fabulous basket of toys for kids from preschool through elementary school. Here are some of the goodies inside:
- YOGA SPINNER, a fun new game that teaches yoga poses to kids 5 and up, provided by the Alexandria-based toy company ThinkFun.
- SPOT IT games perfect for ages 3 and up, plus a DOODLE QUEST drawing game for ages 6 and up, both provided by Blue Orange Games.
- CRAZY AARON’S GLOW-IN-THE-DARK THINKING PUTTY for ages 3 and up, provided by Toy Castle at Cabin John Mall.
- MY GYM GIFT CERTIFICATE for classes and membership, good for either the Bethesda or Cabin John locations (and transferable to a friend).
There are three ways to enter this giveaway: 1) Click here to put your name in our hat online; 2) Click here to enter via our Facebook page, or 3) Stop by My Gym at Cabin John Mall any weekday in March to fill out an entry form. We’ll compile all your entries and draw the winning name in April.