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Best After-School Hangout
Best All-Ages Gift Emporium
Best Birthday Party
Best Book Selection
Best Catered-To-Kids Restaurant
Best Cheap Chill
Best Clothes
Best Free Thrill
Best Indoor Playground
Best Outdoor Playground
Best Outing (Other Than The Malls)
Best Party Supplies
Best Snow Cones
Best Teen Scene
Best Toys
Best Upscale Kids' Clothes

Best Catered-To-Kids Restaurant

Chuck E. Cheese's Pizzeria
6130 E. Speedway Blvd.

READERS' PICK: Paradise for kids, and parents too. Chuck E. Cheese's has video games, arcade games, and an indoor plastic cylinder playground (à la McDonald's), not to mention an oversized robotic band, led by the big Cheese himself, on a loop tape that repeats every half-hour or so. For parents, there is the clever security system: an employee at the entrance stamps each patron's hand with glow-in-the-dark ink--using a different number for each group--so that no child can leave unless the stamp on their chubby little hand matches the accompanying adult's stamp. And food? The basic three food groups--pizza, soda, and birthday cake--are all well represented.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: McDonald's, 27 locations. Is this a joke? What kind of Happy Meals are you people on?!

CLUE IN: What makes a restaurant a great place for kids? Is it the McPlayground out back? The half-price dog 'n' chips menu? Bells, whistles, video mayhem, and an intolerably agitated atmosphere? Let's rephrase the rhetorical question: What is it that virtually every American parent spends untold hours of frustration trying to get their children not to do? "Would you please stop eating with your hands?!"

But this is de rigueur etiquette at Zemam's, 2731 E. Broadway Blvd. Casting aside Anglo-European fussiness for the more basic tactile method employed by most of the rest of the planet, Zemam's owner Ammanuel Gebremarium provides fabulous Ethiopian fare in a small, homey atmosphere. It's the best of all worlds: Both parents and kids love the food, as well as the elemental pleasure of eating sans utensils; and with only minimal damage to the pocketbook, everyone goes home sated, a little grubby, and very happy.

Case History

1997 Winner: Chuck E. Cheese's
1996 Winner: Chuck E. Cheese's
1995 Winner: Chuck E. Cheese's

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