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We’re not talking about McDonald’s. Support these local eateries and have a great time with the family.

By Sofia Legaspi Dickens

Hey, parents — we get it. Maybe you’re always wrangling a wriggly toddler or reasoning with a picky eater, but that doesn’t mean your family can’t enjoy a nice meal out on the town. We’ve rounded up some of the best family-friendly restaurants in the Des Moines area, in no particular order. Some offer discounts on kids meals; others simply boast a rockin’ kids menu. All of them provide casual, stress-free environments both you and your kids will love. So, next time you don’t feel like firing up the crockpot, check out these 13 establishments that are must-tries for families.

Zombie Burger
300 E. Grand Ave., Des Moines
101 Jordan Creek Parkway, No. 12514, West Des Moines

With two locations — in the East Village and Jordan Creek Mall food court — there’s no excuse not to try this central Iowa staple. If you’ve ever craved a burger topped with deep fried macaroni, bananas or a cheese croquette, look no further than the joint’s towering “Goremet Bashed Burgers” that might require you to dislocate your jaw. Their shakes are to die for — pun intended — and always hit with the kids. Parents, try them spiked. Kids, try a cereal shake: Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Reese’s Puffs or Fruity Pebbles. Sugar rush: initiated.

Wig & Pen
2005 S. Ankeny Blvd., Suite 300, Ankeny

Possibly the best value in the metro, multiple kids (12 and younger) can eat free on Wednesdays with the purchase of one adult entree. Order from salads, soups, sandwiches, calzones, pasta, fish and chips and other bar food. The star of the show, however, is Wig & Pen’s pizza that comes either Chicago style, thin crust or flying tomato — a deep dish version of thin crust pizza. A seeming oxymoron, we know, but so tasty.

Smash Park
6625 Coachlight Drive, West Des Moines

Pickleball, arcade games, bags (or cornhole or bean bag toss), foosball, giant board games, shuffleboard, bocce ball, ping pong and loads of fun. Oh, and there’s food. The kids menu includes all the classics the little ones love, but they’ll want to explore the grown-up side of the menu that includes crunchy flatbreads, savory handhelds and beefy burgers. A long list of shareables are begging for families to order them. Try the “sheet ton of nachos” or pull-apart Hawaiian garlic bread.

Smokey D’s
5055 N.W. Second St., Des Moines

BBQ comes in epic proportions at Smokey D’s. Order an entire rack of ribs or a family platter of smoked meat, garlic bread and sides that might include tater chips, jalapeno corn and baked beans, just to name a few. If your family doesn’t feel like sharing, you can each order just-right portions of BBQ, sandwiches or other Iowan comfort food — all enjoyed in a casual, family-friendly atmosphere.

Destination Grille
2491 E. First St., Grimes

Designed to inspire thoughts of travel and global destinations, this recently opened contemporary restaurant offers three different levels of ambiance. The main level serves a full menu of American food with unique twists. An upstairs terrace offers a lighter menu with shareable items perfect for families, and the rooftop offers panoramic views of Grimes. Kids menu includes chicken strips, mac and cheese, pasta, a cheeseburger and pizza. Featured specials change frequently, so come back often!

Machine Shed
11151 Hickman Road, Urbandale

Serving up good, old fashioned comfort food, even the pickiest eaters will find something to love at Machine Shed. Their “Future Farmers” menu includes breakfast, lunch and dinner favorites. Kids younger than age 5 eat free during their weekend brunch buffets, Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Plus, their overalls-wearing servers are the friendliest around.

Chuck’s Restaurant
3610 Sixth Ave., Des Moines

They may have recently renovated, but Chuck’s has been serving up their famous thin-crust pizzas since 1956, claiming to have the oldest pizza ovens in town. Kids younger than 12 eat free on Tuesdays with any paying adult. Don’t forget to try their award-winning onion rings and homemade Italian specialties. Thursday nights feature music that sometimes includes kid-friendly karaoke. Finally, if you need a place to host your kid’s next birthday party, Chuck’s offers three party rooms at no charge.

Spaghetti Works
310 Court Ave., Des Moines

Who doesn’t love spaghetti? And furthermore, who doesn’t love all-you-can-eat spaghetti? That’s right — all pasta menu items are refillable. And if that isn’t your thing, try Italian specialties like chicken parmesan, hot Italian pie or Tuscan-style pizza. On Mondays, ages 11 and younger eat free from the kids menu that includes — get this — a peanut butter and jelly pizza!

The Hall DSM
111 S. 11th St., West Des Moines

For the parents, The Hall serves more than 50 varieties of beer and wine on tap. For the kids, the place includes board games, frequent live music events and wide open indoor and outdoor spaces in a reclaimed 1890s railcar barn and iron foundry. “The Kitchen” offers rotating menus of unique meals from the Justice League of Food, fighting to reduce homelessness in Iowa by providing food industry experience.

Z’Mariks Noodle Cafe
12655 University Ave., Clive

Fresh and healthy bowls of noodles, rice, soup and salad. “Z’Mariks” comes from the Greek word for pasta, “zimarika.” Besides being fun to say, it’s just plain fun to eat! Stick with the classics like z’alfredo and z’pesto, or challenge your adventurous side with z’udon and z’spicy peanut. Kids 12 and younger eat free every Saturday — all day — with each adult meal purchased. Favorites for the little ones include z’mac n cheese, z’buttered penne and z’marinara.

Social - Eats & Crafts
655 N.E. 56th St., Pleasant Hill

Social is located in Great Escape, which includes bowling, an arcade, laser tag, virtual reality and endless family fun — voted the best place to host a kids birthday party and the best place to bowl in CITYVIEW’s annual Best Of Des Moines readers’ poll. At Social, kids 12 and younger eat free with a paid adult on Tuesday nights from 5 to 9 p.m., but you’ll want to come back more than once a week for its flavorful menu and dozens of brews on tap.

ShortE’s BBQ
8805 Chambery Blvd., Suite 250, Johnston

The menu at ShortE’s is anything but short, with jaw-dropping offerings like ShortE’s Bacon Bomb: ground sausage wrapped in smoked bacon and filled with jalapenos and cheese. Have a big family? Try the Texas Family Feast. It feeds up to 10 people and includes 3 pounds of meat, a full rack of ribs, 3 quarts of sides and eight pieces of cornbread or Texas toast. Wowza.

Gilroy’s Kitchen + Pub + Patio
1238 Eighth St., West Des Moines

All-you-care-to-eat brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Loaded scrambled eggs, crispy potatoes, cinnamon roll bread pudding, corn flake French toast and more — all served family-style to your table. Adults cost $21.99, kids ages 7-12 cost $11.99 and little ones younger than age 6 eat free. Plus, if you’re a redhead, you’ll receive star treatment and 10% off.