Chefs’ Picks: Kid-Friendly Food: Chicago

Chefs share where they go out to eat with the tiniest of food critics... their kids.

Photo by: Kelly Peloza

Kelly Peloza

Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.

Chefs may have a reputation for being choosy when it comes to dining out, but it seems the pickiest palates actually belong to their children. Luckily in a city like Chicago, there are plenty of places that cater to those tiniest of food critics. Read on to find out where the pros go to score kid-friendly snacks.

The Sweetest Stack

One food that makes Executive Chef Bryan Allen’s daughter flip is pancakes, particularly the ones at Siena Tavern. The restaurant’s almond pancakes — served with lemon-cardamom cream and almond butter — are her current obsession (never mind that dad serves pancakes on his own brunch menu at The Windsor). “She always asks for extra almond butter and she loves citrus… the lemon cream is her favorite part,” Allen says. “I have no problems with helping her finish them — they are excellent!”

Mac and Cheese with a Kick

Chef Greg Biggers may spend his days crafting upscale dishes for Café de Architectes, but when he’s with his son, fancy food is not top of mind. “My seven year old has three basic food groups: macaroni and cheese, chicken legs and ice cream,” Biggers says. “After he found out that Honey Butter Fried Chicken had what he refers to as, ‘Epic Mac-N-Cheese!!!!’ that became our go-to spot in the city.” This menu mainstay is a pimento-laced version of mac and cheese, which has proven to be popular with both kids and adults. After the mac, Biggers and his son make a beeline for the Brookfield Zoo to score a sweet favorite. “Living out in Brookfield near the Brookfield Zoo, we are also now required to stop by ZOO City Treats to round out his meal with Superman Ice Cream on the way home,” Biggers says.

Hot Diggity Dog!

Between his Logan Square hot spot Giant and his newly opened City Mouse, Jason Vincent is a busy man. He is also a family man (in fact, he named both restaurants after books that his daughters love). When Vincent has time to kick back with his girls, he takes them to a classic Chicago drive-in: Superdawg. "My favorite thing to do with the girls is to go to Superdawg and get hot dogs, fries and some shakes and make a picnic in the way back of our station wagon… we just sit there and talk and watch the other people,” Vincent says.

Gotta Get That Gelato

Baker Ellen King’s impeccable pastries at Hewn in Evanston, Illinois, have satisfied many a sweet tooth… but surprisingly not her son’s. “Owning a bakery, you would think your kid would be in heaven eating cookies, croissants, etc.; however, my son does not really like to eat any of the sweets at the bakery,” she says. Instead, he ventures down the street to an Argentinian gelato shop called Frio Gelato. “The flavors constantly change and… [my son] is willing to try any flavor and venture out of the box, because they've all been amazing.” The recent favorite of this 10-year-old gelato aficionado? Malbec con Frutos Rojos (Malbec with Berries).

Surprise your favorite little eaters with a sweet treat of their own by putting together a gelato bar, like this one from Giada De Laurentiis.

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