Chicago's Family-friendly Restaurant Scene Appeals to Kids and Adults

Families dining in Chicago aren’t limited in options. Restaurants in this town offer kids flavorful dishes that adults would happily order for themselves in an environment that doesn’t include a playground.

Time-strapped families appreciate restaurants that go out of their way to include their children in the dining experience by taking their palates and interests into consideration. From Chinese to Greek, pizza to tapas, many restaurants still offer a kid’s menu but ordering off the regular menu is becoming all too common.

Families are more than welcome at Crosby’s Kitchen in Lakeview where kids can nosh on monkey bread while adults sip Bloody Mary’s. Café Ba-Ba-Reeba! makes it easy to try several dishes since it serves up tapas while the flaming cheese appetizer at Rodity’s in Greektown is always a hit.

Kid-favorite pizza plays a starring role in a pizza-loving town like Chicago. Pompei Bakery in Little Italy serves up its own version of pizza while Coalfire Pizza cranks out brick-oven pizza that has diners drooling as soon as they walk in.

For a bit more kitsch, families love SuperDawg for its drive-in and Ed Debevic’s for its retro music, décor and Ed’s Mom’s Meatloaf.

The key to family-friendly dining in Chicago is to find those places where everyone feels comfortable, from the tiniest diners to the adults. The hard part isn’t finding those restaurants in this city, it’s deciding which one to make reservations.


This cafeteria-style restaurant has a well-deserved reputation for putting out some of the area's best pizzas, breads and desserts. The menu includes appetizers, soups, salads, pizzas, sandwiches, pastas and desserts. Start with a Marie's Special salad which includes chunky hearts of romaine, red onions, fried prosciutto and blue cheese with their signature thick homemade vinaigrette. Continue with a stuffed pizza with names like "The Works" and "Beef Angelo" or a homemade pasta topped with savory Italian sausage or meatballs for times when only good old-fashioned Italian will do. Don't overlook the desserts. Order a slice of Italian chocolate sheet cake or try a chocolate-dipped cannoli. The place is pretty big and a garage door contraption opens up for al fresco dining during the warmer days but it gets crowded during lunch time so get in earlier during the weekdays.

Iron Horse Ale House
Photo courtesy of Megy Karydes

The northwest may not be known as a trendy neighborhood according to some Chicagoan's standards but those who live in Norwood Park don't mind. They benefit from being able to get in some of the best places to dine and imbibe without the hassle of long wait times and parking woes. Iron Horse Ale House is the latest to open on the busy Northwest Highway strip in a two-story brick building what was once a post office. While it boasts an impressive drink menu and 20 craft beers on tap, it also offers a separate gluten-free menu with appetizers and entrees. Even more impressive is that all of its pizzas and pastas can be made using gluten-free ingredients and can be enjoyed with a gluten-free beer. Towards the back is the exposed brick pizza oven which entertains the kids sitting on bar stools watching their pizzas being made to order.

Outstanding Mediterranean and Lebanese food consistently comes from the kitchen of this longtime Andersonville favorite. The large menu includes a mix of meat and vegetarian options (vegan options too). Roast lamb with couscous, Moroccan chicken with apricots, and Mediterranean eggplant are just a few of the goodies that await. The dining room's fireplace, high ceilings and large windows put diners at ease and provide a welcoming ambiance. It's more upscale than most Medterranean restaurants, yet doesn't boost the prices. Try the lunch buffet, which includes soups and endless thin-and-crispy pita bread, and allows you to sample a lot of different dishes.

Fulton Market

Don't come here for health food! Come for Southern-style soul food, full of flavor and served in a casual, relaxed environment. The quirky, funky warehouse-style space (abstract paintings of chickens and eggs adorn the walls) offers breakfast on weekdays and a popular weekend brunch. Try fluffy biscuits, French toast, salmon cakes with hollandaise, or a house specialty called Red Eggs, which consists of two eggs on corn tortillas with black beans, cheese, hot sauce, sour cream, and salsa. Something for everyone, including vegetarians. Buy a cool t-shirt on your way out. Don't be surprised if you happen to be dining next to former Chicago Bulls players like Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen. Both have been spotted at this popular restaurant not far from the United Center.

Caf� Ba Ba Reeba! may be Chicago's first tapas bar but that alone isn't what keeps people coming back. It's one of the best places to find authentic tapas and sangria (it's a bit on the sweeter side). Patatas bravas come with generous sized potato chunks and the bacon-wrapped dates arrive with apple chunks and vinegar to cut the sweetness. The dates literally melt in your mouth. If you're game to learn how to make paella at home, the executive chef invites you to his Paella Cooking Demo class once a month where you'll not only perfect your paella but enjoy a tapas lunch complete with wine. Expect to wait for a table, reservations are encouraged although not accepted for outdoor patio seating. Gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly, too.

The place is called Coalfire Pizza because its super thin crust style pizza is cooked in a brick oven at over 800 degrees. For those who prefer more of a traditional Neapolitan style pizza, Coalfire does the trick. It makes its dough fresh daily and its meats and vegetables are delivered every morning so it can include the freshest ingredients in every dish. While some prefer to load their pizzas with lots of toppings, Coalfire recommends adding just two or three toppings. Among fan favorites is the Nduja which includes calabrian salami (a soft salami that you can actually spread), sauce, fresh mozzarella and chopped basil.

Family-owned since 1948, this hot dog drive-in is a local institution, not only for its great menu but for its enormous, roof-top wiener mascots. An indoor dining room is available, but most folks take advantage of the retro carhop service. Hot dogs are the prize, nestled in poppy-seed buns and done up with relish, pickle spears, hot peppers, and pickled tomatoes. They come with hot, salt-sprinkled fries and make a great accompaniment to rich malts and shakes. Other possibilities: burgers, chicken breast sandwiches, Polish sausages, fish sandwiches, and ice cream. A kitschy classic that absolutely lives up to the hype.

Strollers are aplenty along Southport Avenue so it's no surprise that Crosby's Kitchen is a haven for tikes in this Lakeview neighborhood brimming with young families. The best part is that it's not just friendly for the young ones, it's also great for older kids and adults dining sans kids, complete with a wine menu. Order yourself a Bloody Mary and the table some monkey bread to start and choose from a kid's menu or the regular menu for brunch, lunch or dinner. The iron skillet cornbread served with hot maple butter is a specialty. Leave room for dessert because you'll need it when you order the warm skillet cookie topped with vanilla ice cream.

Vito & Nick's Pizzaria
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Vito & Nick's

A South Side institution, the old school Vito & Nick's restaurant has specialized in thin crust pizza for nearly a century. It's been featured on Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," among other shows.

Gayle's Best Ever Grilled Cheese
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Gayle Voss

The restaurant's name says it all. After massive popularity at local farmers markets, owner Gayle Voss now has a permanent home for her famous sandwiches. Located in the new Block Thirty Seven mall, right off the Red Line and near many major theaters, lunchtime lines snake around the building. But it's worth it for her amazing sandwiches made with farm-fresh ingredients.


Meet Megy Karydes

Megy Karydes has spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and most of her life in Chicago. While she’s traveled extensively internationally, visiting each of the 50 states is on her...  More About Megy