Dine in style with the littles at these Windy City eateries that cater to kids, too.
Among its world-class museums, 28 miles of lakefront shoreline, and free public zoo, Chicago is a city built for families. But when hunger strikes, the hunt for kid-friendly spots isn’t as easy—especially when any number of modern-day dining conundrums play a part (no reservations policies, regimented table times, too-cramped two-tops).
Thankfully, there are some choice restaurants out there looking to cater to the little ones in big ways. Generous seating, special menu items, and “kids eat free” promos are just a few of the family-focused touches employed at these nine top Chicago eateries for kids—each of them bringing so much comfort, it will hardly feel like you left home (until that perfect entrée shows up).
From a fried-chicken fixture in Avondale to an all-day diner in the West Loop, these restaurants are revved to embrace every age (and picky eater) in your party.
Snag a booth and watch the magic unfold at this all-day diner. Kids will be captivated by the delightfully creative comfort-food menu concocted by Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard, including morning musts like Fat Elvis Waffles (the recipe, worthy of the King in his later years, tops the waffles with bacon and peanut butter, plus bacon-infused maple syrup) or chocolate-chip crunch pancakes. The kitchen’s decadent offerings during the rest of the day are tastier still: Nachos are served with cheddar and braised pork; stretchy Havarti and white bread make up Little Goat’s grilled cheese. Be sure to save room for dessert: The You Butta Believe It sundae—a mound of brown-butter pecan praline ice cream, apple cider caramel, and whipped cream—is one of Izard’s finest accomplishments. 820 W. Randolph St., West Loop; littlegoatchicago.com
Barbecue fanatics rejoice—this Gold Coast restaurant is a favorite for locals and visiting families alike, who pack the house for staples like pulled pork shoulder, smoked chicken, and prime brisket. While the food itself may be elevated (Oprah’s former chef, Art Smith, helms the kitchen), the environment is a comfortable and lively one, ensuring that diners can kick back, let loose, and get messy with the barbecue feast in front of them. If kids aren’t up for a smoked specialty, other approachable options might entice them, like brisket meatballs, buttermilk fried chicken, or quesadillas with avocado salsa. 1160 N. Dearborn St., Gold Coast; chicagoqrestaurant.com
You can tell kids are a priority at Crosby’s Kitchen: the Lakeview restaurant is named after owner Derek Rettell’s daughter. Thoughtful touches—like coloring books upon arrival and step stools at the bathroom sinks—further signal the kid-friendly focus. Between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m. daily, kids dine free on easy options like chicken fingers, grilled cheese, and buttered noodles (all alongside a drink and a scoop of ice cream). The restaurant’s main menu is also suitable for more adventurous appetites, too, thanks to comforting finds like braised beef rigatoni or iron-skillet corn bread. 3455 N. Southport Ave., Lakeview; crosbyschicago.com
Honey Butter Fried Chicken
Kids love this Avondale corner fixture, which is one of the city’s most popular spots for fried chicken, too. Crowds show up for the quality ingredients, fun atmosphere, and stand-up owners (partners Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp are big on employee perks, including paid parental leave). Everything on the main menu is fair game for youngsters, as is the “Honey Buddies Meal”—a $7 combo plate of boneless fried chicken strips, pimiento mac and cheese, corn muffins, and honey butter. For dessert, don’t miss a mini serving of the signature soft-serve ice cream, made in-house, with real honey. 3361 N. Elston Ave., Avondale; honeybutter.com
Lucky hotel guests ages five and under eat free at this fine-dining restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel. (Sorry, non-guests and parents, you'll have to pay for your meals.) Parents may want to sample the child-focused fare, too, with morning kid-kick-starters like brioche French toast or a Nutella “quesadilla” with bananas. Come dinnertime, those kid-menu selections only get more sophisticated with petite portions of chef Michael Zachman’s contemporary American cuisine: free-range chicken tenders, a four-ounce filet with heirloom carrots, or macaroni and cheese made with Wisconsin white cheddar. 20 E. Delaware Place in the Four Seasons Hotel, Gold Coast; alliumchicago.com
Dutch & Doc’s
Hungry Chicago Cubs fans would be wise to stop at this restaurant before heading over to nearby Wrigley Field. Chef Chris Pandel has devised a menu of upscale fare that will work for the whole family. Kids respond to options like corn dogs, cool-ranch chicken tenders, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The best part is kids ages 12 and under eat free every day of the week. That perk gets even better when area diners join the Clean Plate Club, a program providing special treats for kids on their birthdays, invites to kids-only events, and a chance to enter their coloring page in monthly competitions. Don’t worry, parents: You’re not forgotten. The dinner menu offers winning dishes that work well for adult tastes, too, like coffee-rubbed pork chops served with polenta, and a pasta with blistered tomatoes and rock shrimp. 3600 N. Clark St., Wrigleyville; dutchanddocs.com
Italian cuisine gets a global makeover in the hands of Top Chef and James Beard Award–winner Sarah Grueneberg, who offers plates like skate schnitzel, wok-fried tagliolini topped with shrimp and arrabbiata sauce, and grilled pork belly skewers. Still it’s her handcrafted pasta (made fresh daily at the on-site pastificio, or pasta factory) that serves as this destination’s biggest draw—and as a surefire way to delight diners of every age. Consider the cacio whey pepe (a rich, elevated version of mac and cheese) or the spaghetti al pomodoro that is a perfected version of the classic. Failing to find an option for smaller diners on the main menu does not spell disaster: The kids’ menu, printed on a coloring page, is as pretty as it is practical. 1020 W. Madison St., West Loop; monteverdechicago.com
Pizzas meet healthful attitudes at this Lincoln Park pie haven, where chef Jeff Mahin has developed recipes bolstered by fresh, sustainable ingredients sourced from local farmers. Families can pile into ample, group-ready seating areas before perusing a menu of shared plates, which include favorites like organic pork meatballs, burrata lasagna, and Italian chopped salad. Those with picky eaters in their party have come to the right place—on weekdays between 4 and 6 p.m., kids can create their very own pizzas alongside the chefs, ensuring those pies are made exactly to order. 1954 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park; stellabarra.com
Located within the luxe Langham Hotel, this restaurant specializes in a kind of seasonal U.S. cuisine that’s bound to satisfy even the fussiest of palates. Chef de cuisine Jeff Vucko is behind the crowd-pleasing favorites that show up in dishes like four-cheese mac and cheese, loaded crispy potatoes, and pepperoni flatbread. For something a bit more refined, reserve a table for the kids’ afternoon tea, a fancy fête of mini-sandwiches, scones, and sweets served with a thematic nod to Alice in Wonderland. It’s just a taste of the hotel’s family-first hospitality, which extends to an on-site cinema and a kids’ suite with video games, toys, and arts and crafts. 330 N. Wabash Ave. at The Langham, River North; travellechicago.com
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