Top Ten Chicago Restaurants for Foodies with Kids!

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Recently, Ella and I jumped on an Amtrak and headed south to Chicago. We were going for two things: food and cupcakes. Er, I mean food and educational enrichment. (But also cupcakes.)

One of the best parts about travelling for me has to be getting to visit amazing restaurants and experiencing a variety of cuisine, so today I wanted to share my top ten Chicago restaurants for foodies with kids!

Top 10 Chicago Restaurants for Foodies with Kids - perfect foodie travel guide for Chicago!

Family Friendly Chicago Restaurants

Teaching my daughter how to behave in and enjoy restaurants has to have been one of my best parenting moves — it has given us so much freedom and opened up some amazing opportunities for her, including preparing her own desserts in two world-class restaurant kitchens.

I’m recommending these restaurants as “kid-friendly” in the sense that all of them welcomed us with open arms, but Ella was well-behaved and I was attentive to the experience of other patrons during our visits. Check out my tips for eating out when travelling with children if you want to set your kids up for success at your next restaurant meal.
Lunch at Naha - one of the Top Ten Chicago Restaurants for Foodies with Kids

1. Naha

Hands down, one of the best meals we ate in Chicago was at Naha. Would you just look at that plate?

A Michelin-starred restaurant, Naha specializes in American-Mediterranean cuisine that is fresh and authentic. We visited with a friend from Syria and she was blown away at their attention to detail.

We ate at lunchtime on a weekday and found the place quiet and welcoming to our small party, though I felt bad at how many times the server felt it was necessary to clean crumbs off of our table! They often have a prix fixe menu (3 set courses offered for a low price) at lunchtime that is worth considering.

What we ate: Naha Mezze: Hummus, Babaganoush, “Tel Baneer” Armenian String Cheese, Kalamata Olives, “Tabbooleh” Cracked Wheat & Greek Salad, Our Mom’s Feta Cheese Turnovers and “Basterma” Spiced Beef

Amazing dessert at Naha restaurant in Chicago - one of the Top Ten Chicago Restaurants for Foodies with Kids

2. Lou Malnati’s

We’re just going to get this one out of the way. You have to eat Chicago Deep Dish Pizza when you’re in the Windy City, right? We went with Lou Malnati’s because they took reservations (many Chicago pizza joints won’t), were close to where we were staying, and Bobby Flay lost to Lou Malnati in a deep dish pizza making contest.

We were able to get a comfortable booth and the restaurant was definitely family-oriented. While it wasn’t quiet, the kids were able to take a short nap in the booth so it wasn’t too noisy.

Tip: You want to check the menu out online before you head over so that you can order your pizza immediately, and plan to order an appetizer or two. A deep dish pizza takes awhile to cook, you don’t want to get into the hangry zone.

What we ate: Caesar Salad and the Malnati Chicago Classic Pizza: The Classic is made with lean sausage, extra cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce on their trade-marked Buttercrust.

Why we're naming GEBistro one of the Top Ten Chicago Restaurants for Foodies with Kids

3. Graham Elliot Bistro

I’m sad that I didn’t get a chance to visit Graham Elliot’s namesake restaurant before it closed, but we thoroughly enjoyed Graham Elliot Bistro (GEBistro) and Grahamwich (also now closed).

The bistro has a great atmosphere and an open kitchen, with small serving sizes and awesome staff. (Who actually sent us over some complimentary champagne to acknowledge how well behaved Ella was!) These were the actual serving sizes before Ella and I split them, so plan to order a couple of plates per person. (And would you look at how excited she was at “popping the egg!”)

If you forget to make a reservation and the restaurant is full, it’s in a great district for food and right down the street from an amazing Greek restaurant, Nia.

What we ate: Two types of pasta and Ella had some ice cream or gelato that she wouldn’t share

Sitting on the Skydeck in Chicago - and sharing our top Chicago restaurants for foodies with kids!

4. Skyhigh Cafe or Signature Room

You’re really coming here for the view but the coffee at both was some of the best I had in Chicago. Brunch at the Signature Lounge is a bit pricey (around $45 per adult), but again, you’re paying for the view and it’s all you can eat.

What we ate: Brunch: chilled seafood, fresh fruit, yogurt and granola parfaits, seasonal market salads, gourmet soups, artisan cheeses, assorted charcuterie, pancakes, bread pudding, eggs benedict, steak and eggs, braised goat, grilled pork loin, roasted chicken, and desserts!

Amazing food at Hot Doug's - one of the Top Ten Chicago Restaurants for Foodies with Kids

5. Hot Doug’s (now closed)

Long-time readers may remember, Ella has a slight obsession with celebrity chefs (she plans to be one someday), and among her favourite is Anthony Bourdain.

Hot Doug’s was featured in an episode of No Reservations, so we naturally had to order the exact same meal that Anthony Bourdain ordered and sit at the exact same table. It’s so funny to me now looking at how little Ella is in these pictures because her foodie personality is full-fledged.

I’m honestly so sad that this restaurant has closed – but I included it because you absolutely must have a Chicago-style hot dog if you’re planning on visiting Chicago, and you can buy the Hot Doug’s cookbook for a taste of Chicago!

What we ate: Chicago-style dog, Duck fat fries, and Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Fleur de Sel (or as I like to call it, the best $10 hot dog you will ever eat)

Sitting where Anthony Bourdain interviewed Doug of Hot Doug's - one of the Top Ten Chicago Restaurants for Foodies with Kids

6. Mon Ami Gabi

This classic French bistro is located close to Lincoln Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Zoo and boasts one of the best brunches in the city.

While I found entering the restaurant difficult with a stroller, they were happy to greet us and the atmosphere was relaxed and sophisticated. We tried to return again for supper, but weren’t able to on this trip. Cannot wait to visit here again.

What we ate: CRÈME BRÛLÉE FRENCH TOAST! (Yes, that needed to be all caps!)

7. Billy Goat Tavern

This is less a foodie destination than a cultural landmark. The Billy Goat Tavern was immortalized in the SNL skit and when planning our trip, I knew we’d have to stop in at one of their locations.

We went with the Navy Pier location – less authentic, but the location is better for families who can then pop into the Children’s Museum or ride one of the ships.

The story behind this picture is that Ella was being a bit of a ham out front, doing her best Bill Murray interpretation, when one of the cooks came out and gave her an authentic Billy Goat Tavern cap. My dad freaked out when we showed him the hat on our return home and is “keeping it safe” for her.

What we ate: “Cheezborger Cheezborger Cheezborger!”

8. Marketplace

While Marketplace had great food, it’s really being included in the list for having the best service out of any of the restaurants we visited and it is a great option for a foodie parent with a picky kid.

What we ate: Iceberg Lettuce Wedge, Mac and Cheese Gratin (apple wood smoked bacon; 7 year aged carr valley white cheddar), Pot Pie (artichoke, chanterelle mushrooms, asparagus, fingerling potato, celery root, truffle cream, crispy golden brown puff pastry)

9. La Sardine

In contrast to Marketplace, we probably received the worst, most condescending service at La Sardine, but that may have just been that particular waiter. La Sardine is across from Harpo Studios, so many patrons are there hoping to catch a celebrity sighting… maybe that waiter was, too!

The food was amazing — clearly, or it would have never made the list — and the atmosphere is really laidback.

What we ate: Battered blue crab salad, Cassoulet Toulousain (pork sausage, lamb, duck confit, smoked ham, bacon, white beans)

10. The Cheesecake Factory

We actually ate here twice during our week-long stay, and while I was prepared for it to be “just another chain restaurant,” I do have to say that the flagship Michigan Avenue location is pretty lush, but be prepared for a long wait no matter what time of day you stop by.

However, once you are seated the food comes quickly, and you can use that long wait time to browse their gigantic menu.

What we ate: Shrimp Scampy, Caesar Salad, Fish and Chips, and Cheesecake (of course!)

Top 10 Chicago Restaurants for Foodies with Kids! Where to Eat in Chicago when you love good food

Honourable Mentions:

There are also many amazing Chicago restaurants that are a bit inaccessible to those travelling with children. If you find yourself visiting a Chicago neighbourhood, seek out what the locals love — they usually won’t steer you wrong!

Here are some other restaurants that we enjoyed during our stay, or were not able to make it to and think would have made the list if we did:

  • Acadia
  • Topolobampo
  • Blackbird
  • Alinea (with older kids… or none at all)
  • Nia

 What are your favourite Chicago restaurants?

For more Chicago travel posts, check out our full Chicago Family Travel Section.

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17 Comments

    1. Nope, but definitely adding that to our next visit! Chicago is definitely one of my favourites now, I’m looking forward to escaping there again soon – just for the food! LOL Thanks for visiting, Kelly 🙂

  1. I agree hands down Lou Malnatti’s is my Fave! We have lived here for quite some time and I haven’t even tried some of these! Can’t wait to try them soon!

    1. Ooh, I bet you would have some amazing recommendations to add to this list!
      It is funny sometimes how we can cram so much in a trip and see so much of a city, and then completely neglect our own — or at least I know that’s the case with me. We live less than a mile from where penicillin was discovered, have never been there…

  2. We are heading to Chicago for a wedding in a few months and I’ve been looking for the perfect restaurant to go to. We only have one night. We aren’t bring our little girl with us but loved reading how accommodating these restaurants are. We are very lucky that we can take our daughter any where. She is quite a foodie now.

    1. Oh, I love that! I love being able to share an appreciation of good food with my daughter and it really makes vacation so much more enjoyable when I can take her to some nicer places and not be stuck choosing from only “family-style” restaurants. If money and time weren’t factors, and I was travelling kid-free, I’d totally consider Alinea. (Something tells me other patrons would not be happy to see a 3.5 year old bounce in!)

      1. I used to live in Chicago and went to Alinea a few times back when it first opened… I have to say, as well behaved as my kids are, I can’t see going there with my 3.5 year old, and my 22 month old would never last. Depending on if you go 8 course or 12 course, it’s a 2.5-3+ hour dining experience – and in a very quiet, subdued setting.

        And given what people are spending (easily $200-500 per person), I would imagine you are right – they most likely would not be thrilled to see a child at the table next to them. We eat out a lot, and my kids are always well-behaved, but not every place is child-appropriate.

        1. Absolutely. While I would definitely take my daughter (I’ve already taken her to the Canadian equivalent), I’d probably wait until she was a little older, mostly so she could appreciate it more. (I was tempted to put an age recommendation on the Alinea mention, but no matter what I put beside it I’ll get an objection, LOL.)

  3. This is a great list Jennifer. I live in downtown Chicago with two kids (3 and 1) and can attest that we’ve taken our boys to many of these. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great list! We lived in Chicago for a long time and you definitely hit a lot of the great eating spots! What a wonderful trip you were able to take with your daughter, Chicago is such an awesome city! Thanks for sharing!

    Visiting from the Thrifty Thursday blog hop.

  5. Umm Alinea with a child? Maybe when they are grown..as a graduation gift..from College. If I ever make it there, I would want to savor the experience, without kids nearby. I think your Chicago style hotdog recommendation would make everyone much happier. (From a mom of 2 under 5)

    1. Yup, don’t know if you saw my comment to Christie (above) but Alinea is definitely for an older, well-behaved kid — or none at all! LOL We had lunch at a similar 3 star Michelin restaurant last summer and it was perfect (the chef even came out to meet us), so I could see us trying Alinea within a couple of years. Everyone’s kids are different 🙂

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