Foodie Parent’s Guide: Where to Eat in Chicago with Kids
So much food, so little time: that was the theme of our latest Chicago trip.
Evelyn, with her voracious appetite for all kinds of adult foods, was a lot of fun to dine with this time around (I use the word “fun” loosely here, as dining with a baby is never really that “fun”). She tried everything from rillettes de porc to chilled lentil salad, and was always hungry for more.
I was kind of disappointed that for a city so friendly, we didn’t feel quite as welcome in some of the nicer restaurants we visited. We followed all of our usual rules (reservations, early dinner, etc.), but still felt ourselves getting some less than excited looks from servers. I guess most of the families in Chicago stick to the suburbs?
Those looks didn’t stop us from visiting some top foodie destinations, though, and we ate our hearts out in the Windy City! If you’re up for the challenge (and can deal with a little attitude), here’s a round up of where we ate in Chicago with our tiny traveler.
As it’s name implies, West Loop is directly west of The Loop (shocker, huh?) and easy to get to by the L train. The neighborhood has some of the best food of any Chicago neighborhood. There are a ton of great places to choose from, and child-friendliness will vary from restaurant to restaurant. Communal table seating, small dining rooms, and bar/restaurant combinations are some of the challenges that make finding the perfect restaurant for kids here tricky.
avec now takes lunch reservations and although the dining room is small with communal tables, they do offer high chairs and stroller storage. We did a reservation for right when they opened at 11:30, and were seated at the end of a long table. Their casual menu makes meal sharing pretty easy, so long as you have an adventurous eater. (i.e., Evelyn loved the lamb burger!)
Stephanie Izard’s famous Girl & the Goat is notoriously difficult to get a reservation at. While I’ve heard it is child-friendly, if you want to get a table, be prepared to make your reservation at least a couple of months in advance.
For procrastinators like myself, Izard’s spin-off Little Goat (just across the street), offers a more casual diner atmosphere and menu. We stopped in for an early morning breakfast and were not disappointed. If your little one is old enough for a booster, request a booth for extra privacy.
The Publican serves up food evoking inspiration from a mash up between fresh local ingredients and the local beer hall. Although mostly communal tables, they do have high chairs for babies, and we were once again set up at the end of a long table. While they don’t have booster seats, they do have booths with closing doors, which would have been awesome if Evelyn were a little older.
We went early (5 PM) and sampled dishes off their afternoon bar menu. There were plenty of options to choose from, and it got us in and out before the restaurant filled up with their dinner crowd.
River North is home to several corporate headquarters, art galleries, and a great nightlife scene. For us, it was a quick stop passing through to the Magnificent Mile.
Rick Bayless is one of Chicago’s most famous chefs, and his flagship restaurant Frontera Grill did not disappoint. Specializing in inventive Mexican food, Frontera Grill is busy and somewhat loud…which makes it perfect for kids! There’s nothing I love more than a restaurant that drowns out a noisy baby. 🙂
Eataly is a foodie destination in and of itself. Pair your visit with a stop for lunch and you’ll have your pick of fresh pizza or pasta, among a million other Italian specialties. Maybe even a treat yourself to something from the Nutella bar!
A little more eclectic and a bit of a trek from downtown, Wicker Park is home to a ton of great eateries as well. Most are concentrated around the blue line Damen Avenue station. Make at least one food stop here to experience the neighborhood for yourself.
The Bongo Room
The Bongo Room is famous for their over the top brunch menu (like the chocolate tower french toast!). While we didn’t make it there on our trip, it came highly recommended by our Wicker Park food tour host. It’s also a safe bet for kids.
Big Star might be part bourbon bar, but it also has one of the coolest patios in town (another plus for kids!). If you’re not up for trying to snag a table (they don’t take reservations), head to their to-go window (weather permitting) and pick up some street tacos for the road.
New to Wicker Park, we ordered delivery from 5411 Empanadas and were not disappointed. They have a few locations in town, including Wicker Park and The Loop. Be warned though, the empanadas are small. We ordered half the menu (no joke) and probably could have eaten more. But they are totally worth it at $2.50 a pop. These aren’t your grandma’s empanadas either. My favorite: the bacon, date and goat cheese.
Bucktown borders Wicker Park to the north and is a little more sophisticated, albeit still a haven for hipsters. With young families flocking here, you will find plenty of establishments prepared to see kids.
Goddess and Grocer
Goddess and Grocer was a stop on our Bucktown/Wicker Park Food Tour and is perfect for a quick grab-and-go lunch or dinner. They do have an upstairs patio, but seating on the main level is limited, which might make for a tough situation with kids. Instead of trying to dine in, take your food to go and do a picnic under the 606 at Churchill Field Park.
Mindy’s Hot Chocolate
While Hot Chocolate is a little bit of a smaller space, it shouldn’t be ruled out for an early lunch of afternoon treat. (They have a whole menu dedicated to desserts!)
And if you really want to eat your heart out in this neighborhood, consider joining one of Chicago Food Planet’s Walking Food Tours.
Al’s Italian Beef
Al’s is a Chicago staple, not to mention they make a pretty damn good sandwich. We ordered Italian beef sandwiches and chili cheese fries via Postmates on our first night in town, and my only regret is we didn’t have another chance to visit again in person.
Interested in trying Postmates for yourself? Use promo code 1AYFU for a free delivery!
Lou Malnati’s or Giordano’s
People tell me that true Chicagoans don’t really eat deep dish pizza. Is this true?!? While we weren’t in Chicago long enough to get a slice, Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s are two solid choices I’ve heard over and over again.
I always love a good recommendation…what are some of your favorite Chicago eats?
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