If the incessant television ads are any indication, summer vacation is nearing conclusion. Before school starts anew, visit one of Chicago's many kid-friendly restaurants to send your little ones back to class with smiles on their faces. Sure there are kid-centric restaurants, but we're talking esteemed restaurants that both kids and adults will love. Chicago's got plenty of those.
Nothing is as universally pleasing as a diner. There's just something about squishy vinyl booths and heaping sundaes that transcends ages. Currently the reigning champ of haute diners in Chicago is Little Goat. Kids and parents alike will swoon over the breakfast fare, sandwiches, and sundaes, but kids have their own crafty menus filled with items such as mini hot dogs, chicken fingers, waffles, and burgers, all made with the highest quality ingredients, because it's not every diner where a Top Chef winner is in the kitchen.
Another requisite diner to check out is Eleven City Diner and its sister spot Eleven Lincoln Park. Inspired by Jewish delis and diners of yore, they're the homey type of places where kids can order breakfast for dinner, dig into mile-high pastrami sandwiches, slurp shakes and floats, and even enjoy free Jell-O! The Lincoln Park location also boasts a wall of candy that would make Willy Wonka weep with jealousy.
True to its moniker, Uncommon Ground offers an uncommon dining experience for kids. The restaurant toes the middle ground between familiar kid fare and wholesome ingredients parents can feel good about. Breakfast is served until 3:00 p.m., featuring items such as organic cornflake-crusted French toast sticks with organic maple syrup and farm-fresh scrambled eggs with Cedar Grove cheese. Lunch and dinner selections include organic mac & cheese, Gunthorp Farm chicken tenders, and mini Dietzler Farm burgers.
Part of the mantra at Hearty, the Americana-drenched comfort food haven, is that keeping the kids happy means making the parents happy. Thus a portion of the nostalgia-inspired restaurant is devoted to kids' fare, though substantially more elevated than a Happy Meal. Kids may want to snack on their parents' "beefaroni" or tuna casserole, but they've got their own fried chicken legs with house-cut fries, fried mac & cheese, and buttered noodles with Parmesan. Sunday brunch is also a surefire bet for a kid-pleasing meal, packed with decadent dishes such as strawberries and cream waffles, cinnamon rolls with goat cheese icing, and a breakfast rendition of shepherd's pie.
It's not every day you find a kids' menu at a restaurant with its own farm. Such is the case at Big Bowl, raising the bar on Asian food in more ways than one. For starters, executive chef Marc Bernard mans suburban Rustic Road Farm, where he sources numerous ingredients for use at the restaurants. The chef ensures the highest quality ingredients for everything he cooks, including the exemplary kids' offerings: tamarind-glazed chicken satay, chicken pad Thai, crispy orange chicken, veggie stir-fry, and more.
A mighty nice way way to wind down summer is with a casual meal at Mity Nice. Kids are bound to love the thoughtful kids' menu, featuring items both common (mac & cheese, chicken tenders, grilled cheese), and atypical (turkey meatloaf, cedar-planked maple-glazed salmon). The hot dog is particularly wow-inducing, presented on a silver platter in a buttery bun, adjoined by fries and all the fixins. For dessert, a cup of dirt & worms will likely tug on some heartstrings.
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