Chicago has some of the greatest and most varied restaurants in the world. You can find restaurants that provide almost any type of cuisine you can imagine and everything from high-end fare to amazing cheap eats. When you are the parent of a preschooler though, one of your most important considerations when going out to eat as a family is how kid-friendly a restaurant is.
The good news is that the Windy City also offers a wide variety of restaurants where you can take your child without issue. These restaurants provide kid-friendly dining options, don’t make you feel bad about a little noise and extra activity around the table, and many even have some entertainment options to keep your child busy while you eat. Here are 10 kid-friendly Chicago restaurants for a preschooler.
Named one of the 21 best pizza spots in Chicago by Timeout, Reno’s has you covered for all three meals. On the weekdays, the restaurant opens at 4 pm and you and your kids can enjoy the moderately priced build-your-own wood-fire pizza option to suit any palate. On the weekends, hit them up for their kid-friendly brunch where they use the wood-fired oven to make some of the best bagels you’ll find west of the Big Apple.
2. Cheesie’s Pub & Grill
Kid-friendly menus are one of the most important features of kid-friendly restaurants. What’s more kid-friendly than grilled cheese? Cheesie’s offers a whole menu of grilled cheeses that will satisfy the taste buds of both kids and adults. For young ones, they offer half-portions of the sandwiches as well. You can find several locations around the Chicagoland area in Lakeview, Wicker Park, and Evanston. Go for lunch or an early dinner to hit the best, most accommodating times for families with kids.
Another restaurant that specializes in kid-approved food that parents will love too is Superdawg. The two 12-foot-tall hot dogs on top of the restaurant named Morrie and Flaurie should make your kids smile before you even step foot inside. Once there, you have the choice of eating inside or having your food delivered to your car–helpful if your preschooler is in a challenging mood! You can even teach your preschooler to respond to the servers’ trademark greeting, “Hiya!”
4. R.J. Grunts
After a long day at the Lincoln Park Zoo, step across the street for a meal at this kid-friendly spot. The menu is kid-centric with funny cartoons, and the meal comes with a sippy cup on a cafeteria tray. They‘ll even get zoo animal crackers to eat as dessert as a tie-in with the restaurant’s historic neighbor. Parents will like R.J. Grunts too as they are well-known for their fantastic salad bar.
5. Gino’s East
No child growing up in Chicago should go very long in life without experiencing what is perhaps Chicago’s greatest culinary creation: the deep-dish pizza. To start your kids young on this Second City staple, take them to the kid-friendly Gino’s East at the Magnificent Mile or in the South Loop. The restaurant has a laid-back vibe that it has been perfecting since its opening in 1966. And if your preschooler gets a little overzealous with the crayons and writes on the walls, they will join the many others who have done so as part of the Gino’s East tradition.
6. Old Irving Brewing Co.
Almost any parent of a preschooler will tell you, the dining out experience with a youngster is much more enjoyable with a cold glass of good beer. That makes kid-friendly brew pubs great places to eat with your kids. Especially during the day, the Old Irving Brewing Co. is loud, laidback, and fun. The dining room is away from the bar and can be found packed with families on the weekends. The food menu offers a lot of kid-friendly fare and the beer menu is just what adults need to kick back and relax while eating in a stress- and judgment-free atmosphere.
Most of the places on this list offer good food and a casual atmosphere. If you are looking for the best most exciting food Chicago has to offer though, you usually have to leave the kids at home. That isn’t the case at the Michelin-starred Parachute. This is high-end dining that actually has a kid’s menu. This won’t be your typical chicken fingers and fries but the Korean fare without the spice will be an amazing experience for kids that are showing a willingness to eat a little more adventurously than your average preschooler.
8. Little Goat
Another place for high-end food with a kid-friendly atmosphere is celebrity chef Stephanie Izard’s most casual restaurant, Little Goat Diner. Like a traditional diner, they serve breakfast all day and your preschooler can order pancakes or a crazy waffle creation for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You’ll also find some of the best chicken fingers you or your child have ever had and “hammie sammies” that your young one will love.
9. Sugar Factory
The name may strike fear in the hearts of preschool parents, but if you can deal with a little post-meal sugar high, this restaurant will provide an incredible experience. The food is very good here and there is plenty for kids, but that isn’t the main draw. The incredible, over-the-top desserts at Sugar Factory are the stuff of legend. Just be sure to keep your youngster’s hands away from the sundae or milkshake when it first comes out if you order one that comes with sparklers.
10. Smoque BBQ
Dining with a preschooler may prevent you from hitting many of the spots dubbed the “Best X in Chicago.” Luckily, the place many consider the Best BBQ in Chicago is a great place to take kids. The restaurant has a real neighborhood feel and you’ll find plenty of other families. The kids will love getting their hands (and probably faces and clothes and maybe even you) dirty digging into their mac n’ cheese and kid-sized pulled pork or brisket sandwiches.
Dining out with preschoolers can be difficult. These kid-friendly, kid-approved restaurants make it much easier though. You and your entire family deserve a night out, so make it as stress-free as possible while still getting a delicious meal at these Chicago haunts.
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.