The average, sensible parents know that they cannot take their children to every restaurant. While there’s a chance the kids might act up, there’s a number of other reasons why they might not want to trot out to the hot spot of the moment with little ones in tow.
Yet, you’ll still find plenty of Chicago restaurants relishing in the family-friendly concept. In fact, they roll out the red carpet for the 12-and-under crowd, wooing them with games, discounts and specialized menus. Here are some of the best in the city.
Barn & Company: Kids eat free every Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Lincoln Park smoke shop. A specially designed menu offers mini corn dogs, a “kiddie” burger, chicken nuggets and a sloppy pulled pork sandwich.
A family feasting at Little Goat. (Photos: Little Goat)
Big Bowl: While children wait for their food, they’re occupied with word puzzles and other stimulating games. Asian-focused dishes have been modified for picky palates and include teriyaki chicken stir-fried rice, chicken pad Thai and crispy orange chicken. All items are served with milk, juice or fountain soda.
Browntrout: Dine 5-7pm Wednesday through Sunday and your kids get to eat for free (requires one adult entrée purchase per child). There’s no special menu, but choices such as the Florida white shrimp cocktail, cheddar mac ‘n’ cheese, and pastas are fan favorites.
Ed Debevic’s: It’s dinner and somewhat of a show at the River North burger bar where servers engage customers in outrageous fashion. That’s part of the appeal, as well as the cheesy fries, “kitchen sink” nachos, chicken fingers, grilled cheese and hot dogs. The kids will be especially pleased with the fountain creations; it’s difficult to resist a double chocolate milkshake or ice cream soda in chocolate, strawberry or cherry.
Little Goat's gooey, house-made Cinnabun
John’s Place: The Lincoln Park eatery is pretty much kid central 24/7, but it goes into overdrive every Sunday. That’s because 5:30-7:30pm is “family night” time and guests get tableside magic and balloon making. The kids’ menu includes items like dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, burger sliders and mini corn dogs. Each order comes with a choice of apples, baby carrots, fries or mac ‘n’ cheese.
Little Goat: The contemporary West Loop diner’s open all day, and most kids will be thrilled that they can order breakfast at any time. The dark chocolate chip crunch pancakes with chocolate malt butter, Fat Elvis waffles with bananas, peanut butter and bacon maple syrup or gooey, house-made Cinnabuns should put them on happy street.
The Local Chicago: The low-key Streeterville sensation is located on the first level of the Hilton Suites. For children, the chef’s constructed a menu that’s simple, yet chef driven and using “local” ingredients. House-made pasta comes with butter and parmesan; chicken tenders are amped up with ranch dressing. Each dish comes with comped apple slices and carrots.
Shaw’s Crab House: Children under 12 dine for free during brunch, which is one of the best in the city. For $55 each, diners are treated to a massive buffet spread that is primarily filled with seafood. Some of the highlights include French-fried shrimp, caramelized smoked bacon, doughnuts and baked apple French toast. The kids are guaranteed to love the sweets table, particularly because of the mini cheesecakes, freshly spun cotton candy, chocolate-covered strawberries and assorted candies.
Toast: Open for breakfast and lunch only, the Lincoln Park location offers a nice selection of hearty fare to satisfy small tummies. There’s “junior size” French toast that comes with fresh berries; “kiddie” pancakes in buttermilk, blueberry or strawberry; and a BLT served on multi-grain toast. Order juice, soft drinks or milk and you get to take the cup home.