Chicago's Best Kid-Friendly Restaurants
The Windy City dishes out plenty of quality adult fare, but it doesn’t leave out the little ones when it comes to stellar cuisine.
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Even in the depths of winter this Lincoln Park restaurant is full of sunshine and joy. Channeling its inner Cali, the food here is light and bright – ahi tuna and watermelon tostadas, handmade local burrata and fresh salads. The kids’ menu mirrors that with fresh berries accompanying most dishes. A portion of their bento-boxed meals goes to No Kid Hungry, which should be extra justification for a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie from the stellar bakery on the way out.
Ina Mae Tavern
Leave Chicago behind just momentarily for a true taste of New Orleans in the heart of Wicker Park at Ina Mae Tavern. Kids will love "Fanny" an old-school mechanical horse meant to giddy-up. Menu choices include typical kid-friendly options like gooey mac and cheese, along with mini shrimp po’ boys for something different and on theme. Frozen Sno-Ball treats are available for dining in or to grab from the to-go window to take to the park across the street. Oh, and kids under 10 eat free on Mondays.
Close to both the Lincoln Park zoo and Lincoln Park, RJ Grunts is the perfect restaurant to park your stroller at after a day of running around. They have a stroller valet (and regular valet if you have a car) to keep everything safe while you enjoy one of their famous burgers with chips. They think about the little things here — kids’ meals come with unspillable cups, animal crackers and crayons on old-style cafeteria trays.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken
What kid doesn’t love fried chicken and macaroni and cheese? At this Avondale spot, it’s made for kids and parents. The antibiotic-free fried chicken has the perfect amount of crisp and spice, while the spiraled macaroni gets a kick from pimento cheese. The kids’ meal comes with stickers and oh-so-cute honeycomb-shaped corn muffins. In the summer, the patio is the perfect spot to camp out or let off some steam.
Dutch and Docs
Dinner or lunch with a view — of iconic Wrigley Field — make Dutch and Docs a favorite of baseball aficionados young and old. Kids eat free and can also join their own Clean Plate club to get invited to special events and join in coloring contests, all while chowing down on riffed ballpark food like corn-dog bites and burgers, with soft serve, warm chocolate chip cookies or fruit with housemade cool whip.
Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea
Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea is more than just a coffee shop. It’s a place where families can hang out and relax with stellar drinks and good food. Kids aren’t an afterthought here – their own menu has fun options like Sadee’s Sliders — turkey and cheese on brioche buns — or Ruby’s Rollups, tortillas with sunflower butter and jelly. All of the meals come packaged in fun colorful lunch boxes with fruit, chips or veggies. The Fulton Market location is especially kid-enticing, with Skee-ball and life-size Jenga!
No frills needed here — the BBQ at Smoque is that good. Grab a tray of stellar 'cue to share as a family or let little ones pick from their own menu. The kids' menu offers up mini versions of barbecue favorites like pork or brisket sandwiches and, of course, their creamy mac and cheese.
JoJo’s Milk Bar
Bit of advice: Do not step foot in JoJo’s Milk Bar unless you plan to let your kids have dessert with their meal. Being a milk bar, their milkshakes are a highlight overflowing with other treats — marshmallows, cookies and candies. Parents can choose to make theirs boozy. They also do a milk-and-cookies flight with different-flavored housemade milks and cookies. Burn off the sugar with a life-size Lite Brite, old school Pac-Man, coin bowling, a "Got Milk" celebrity mustache wall and so much more to play and do. There’s a menu of savory staples as well.
Situated in the heart of Lincoln Park, Kennison is a great spot to hit before or after a visit to the zoo, a stroll through the Green City Market or playtime in the park. The restaurant is designed with park-facing windows and enough space to accommodate strollers. Kids eat free on Mondays, which is just another perk.
Each location of Antique Taco is cleverly decorated with cool, unique antiques, but even with the décor, the tacos stand out, with fillings of seasonal farmers’ market finds, like elote-style cauliflower. Kids are always warmly welcomed, and can order their own pork carnitas taco or quesadilla. A horchata milkshake to wash it down? Yes, please.
Big Star Wrigleyville
Dining out with kids shouldn’t mean giving up margarita-spiked taco nights — it just means limiting the pitchers. The Wrigleyville location of Big Star caters to the kiddos with coloring sheets and taco trivia with their very own menu. While parents chow down on al pastor tacos and queso fundido, the smaller set can indulge in ham-and-cheese Cubanos, quesadillas and pint-size horchatas.
Although Roots offers a kids’ menu, little ones will be just as happy to dig in alongside parents in the sweeter crust of Quad City-style pizzas and super stretchy housemade mozzarella sticks. The pizza-viewing window is always a hit and the backroom makes a great place for a birthday party.
Healthy, real food is the theme here, in clever preparations that are parent-approved, but put a wholesome spin on dishes kids love. Holy Meatballs are turkey balls with couscous, marinara and broccoli. Chicken Little presents grilled chicken with snow peas, carrots and quinoa. The Lakeview location has a colorful kids’ table and book nook in the corner, perfect for occupying the little ones while adults eat in peace.
It’s fun to eat with your hands as a kid, which makes dumplings a great choice. For a fun mashup, Urbanbelly’s kids’ menu has a cheeseburger dumpling, but there are also more adventurous options like pork-cilantro or chicken curry fillings. Kids can also snack on edamame, slurp noodle soup or practice their chopsticks skills with a rice bowl. Save room for dessert, including PB&J soft serve.
This ’40s-style steakhouse has something for everyone, with menu choices ranging from chopped salads to filets on the adult side. As for the kids, they can choose a rack of ribs, their own filet, spaghetti and meatballs or classic chicken tenders, and they can even start with a kids’ dinner salad. There’s a hot fudge sundae for dessert.
Sometimes fewer choices for kids are better, so the unfussy menu at Small Cheval leaves little room for argument. They’ll find one burger — similar to the famed Au Cheval burger — crispy fries and, if they are good, a delicious milkshake. The patio, when the weather allows, is a fun neighborhood hangout. If you have to sneak inside, it’s not a total bummer: There is always fun music playing and families abound at the Bucktown location.
Stephanie Izard’s West Loop diner was always family friendly, but it’s become especially welcoming since Izard since had her son, Ernie. There are plenty of kid-friendly dishes, but the kids’ menu calls out favorites like pancakes and grilled cheese with harvati and American cheeses.
This modern Mexican restaurant in Andersonville has one of the biggest selections of mezcal and tequila in the city, but also a stellar kids’ menu, making it ideal for all ages. While grown-up palates partake of lobster guacamole and snapper Veracruz, the kiddos can chow down on tacos, quesadillas and their very own rice bowl. Best of all, they eat free Monday through Friday, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm.
If you’re looking for a fun night with kids in tow, head for Oyster Bah. Their oyster happy hour features half-priced oysters for adults, while kids (12 and under) eat free. The kids’ menu contains good stuff, too, including New England clam chowder, fish and chips and, for the pickier kids, handmade chicken tenders and white-cheddar mac and cheese.
When Chicago Cubs coach Joe Maddon and acclaimed chef Tony Mantuano pair up to open a restaurant, people pay attention. The resulting Maddon’s Post is family-friendly, with childhood classics showing both Polish and Italian influences, as well as plenty of the pasta that Mantuano is known for. Kids will love the paczkis in flavors like peanut butter-banana or strawberry jam.
Old Irving Brewing Co.
Sometimes breweries are the best places to bring kids. The food is often very kid-friendly, and parents can kick back with a few craft beers. Old Irving is no exception. It’s bright and spacious with plenty of room for squirmy little ones. The food is scratch-made versions of bar favorites, like chicken wings, burgers and soft pretzels, and they even make their own ice cream. There is also a spot to play cornhole and other games while you wait.
Sure, table manners are important, but sometimes it’s even more fun to get down and dirty with your hands! This seafood-in-a-bag spot lets kids dig into buttery garlicky seafood with digits, at casual picnic tables. Popcorn chicken, buttermilk biscuits and deep-fried Oreos make this a place your kids will likely beg to come back to.
Prepare for Mission: Delicious at this spy-themed restaurant, an import from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You’ll need a password to enter the building, and once you do, it’s all about cracking codes. Come up with your own undercover alias, gear up with gadgets, solve puzzles and of course, indulge in things like goldfingers (aka Southern fried chicken strips) or their prized C4 Cheese Curds. Save room for the fat bastard, an explosion of brownie bites, chocolate cake and ice cream with a sparkler on top!
This restaurant was designed with kids in mind, namely the daughter, Crosby, of one of the owners. Her influence served them well — extra-wide doors accommodate strollers, and there’s a sink in the dining room, so kids can wash up. The kids’ menu is pretty standard, but adds a few different dishes like the chicken leg that comes straight off their signature rotisserie. Kids eat free Monday through Friday, from 4 to 6 p.m. as an added bonus. And a skillet cookie is the perfect prize for good behavior.