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Best After-School Hangout
Best All-Ages Gift Emporium
Best Birthday Party
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Best Catered-To-Kids Restaurant
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Best Outing (Other Than The Malls)
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Best Unusual Place To Feed The Kids

Chuck E. Cheese's
6130 E. Speedway

READERS' PICK: Okay, so it's probably not the food that gets kids through the front door at Chuck E. Cheese's. For all but the most hearty of eaters, the myriad of games, rides, ball pit and climbing tubes are a far more enticing use of kids' time. But once there, it's hard to imagine a menu that would appeal more to the juvenile gastronome--plenty of cheesy pizza with their favorite toppings, yeasty breadsticks with dipping sauces, sodas to refill to their heart's and bladder's content and, for the more health conscious, a sizable salad bar. Since the security is so tight (you have to leave with them that brung you), parents and other adult escorts can sit back and enjoy their meals without worrying about whether little Johnny has just slipped unnoticed out the front door. Very small children, however, will probably want Mom or Dad close by at all times as the din and the boundless activity can be overwhelming. The mostly young staff is quick to spot empty plates and spill mishaps and is available to offer assistance. Chuck E. and some of his friends circulate through the restaurant, "working" the crowds. Adults might leave the place with the same kind of ringing in their ears that they experienced after seeing Deep Purple in the '70s, but every tummy will be filled and the kids will lapse into a state of happy exhaustion.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Little Anthony's Diner, 7010 E. Broadway, and the Dinosaur McDonald's, 6900 E. Tanque Verde Road.

STAFF PICK: Sure, no one takes the kids to the Reid Park Zoo for the food. And we suspect some of the staffers who voted for this one were actually thinking we meant Best Place To Feed The Kids To The Animals. But the zoo is a convenient feeding/dining experience, and there's actually edible food there. After watching what the monkeys and elephants do to their own food, anything snack-bar-like looks appetizing. Soft pretzels and hot dogs are favorites. Nothing goes to waste; what the kids don't eat, they'll feed to the dozens of birds that wait around for the extra pieces of popcorn and buns. For dessert the concession stand across the way at the park has good Popsicles.

Case History

1998 Winner: Chuck E. Cheese's
1997 Winner: Chuck E. Cheese's
1996 Winner: Chuck E. Cheese's

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