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*CHICAGO* Dining for a family - what is representative and classic?

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We are coming up for a medical appointment next week and are bringing a relative to care for our other children while we're occupied.

We'll have a couple evenings that we'd like to go out to eat. The kids were raised at the table of good restaurants and are, typically, very respectful diners. That said, we do not appreciate second hand smoke, so little jazzy bluesy places are often out for us.

That said, what is representative of Chicago - in a safe area - good parking that is convenient with five small children.

We're thinking we'll hit SuperDawg at some point just for kicks. :) It looks like a hoot and the girls will love it. (Comparable, perhaps, to Ardy & Eds in Wisconsin).

We love regional foods and consider it as much as a part of our travels as the scenery. Any insight appreciated.

Thanks!

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  1. Ed Debevics - A Chicago institution that kids love. It has kid-friendly food, including the world's smallest hot fudge sundae - my favorite as a kid. The waiters and waitresses are supposed to be rude and give you a hard time as part of the Shtick. The food diner-type food, I don't think I've ever had anything other than a burger and fries.

    Greektown - there are lots of good, moderately-priced restaurants all along Halsted between Randolph and Van Buren. Most have free valet parking. They are loud and bustling and great for large parties. Be sure to order saganaki, the flaming cheese appetizer. My favorite place in Greektown is Parthenon, but there are lots of good options.

    I hope that the medical appointment goes well. Where is it? We might be able to recommend good places nearby.

    1. I second SuzMiCo's suggestion of Greektown. Chinatown would also be perfect.

      In my opinion, Nuevo Leon in Pilsen is another possibility -- very family friendly, and it has a small parking lot. I think in some old thread when I suggested Nuevo Leon others responded that the neighborhood was too dangerous. That hasn't been my experience (we have gone there with our now 6 year old for years). Mexican food is certainly authentically Chicago, these days!

      ChasingChe, where are you all coming from? Perhaps we can suggest types of food that you wouldn't have a chance to enjoy back home. (Korean barbecue, for example?)

      By the way, only bar areas in Chicago restaurants are currently available for smokers, and even the bars are scheduled to become smoke free on January 1.

      1. We're coming up to Shriner's hospital - staying in Oak Brook.

        I saw that Gale Gands has a coffee shop up there, so we're making a side trip to head there.

        We're coming from the St. Louis metro area - where we have lots and lots of good food and lots of diversity. I was also raised in California, so we've eaten just about everything there is to eat.

        Oh - another consideration is our family size - we have five children and will be travelling with a total of three adults. So, sometimes small quaint places prove to be a challenge.

        Thanks for your input thus far.

        1. If you want to skip the trip downtown, both Ed Debevic's and Greek Islands (a Greektown favorite) have locations in Lombard - not far from Oak Brook. I've never been to either of these satellite locations, so I don't know if they are as good, but it's an option.

          1 Reply
          1. re: SuzMiCo

            The Lombard Greek Islands is very convenient to the Oak Brook area and has never disappointed our family. However, I would skip Ed Debevics. The Lombard location just hasn't gotten its act together. Service (although I know it is part of the entertainment) is awful. The food is edible, at best. You're better off driving up north to SuperDawg for a super casual experience.

          2. First of all, hope the medical stuff goes ok.

            Superdawg is a great throwback place with pretty good food as well...not exactly convenient to where you are staying or going but it may be worth the trip.

            Since you are staying in Oak Brook, I'll toss out a few places in the immediate vicinity...thinking kids/family I would immediately think of 2 places -- the first is Portillo's, a Chicago-area chain that does a LOT of things well...italian beef/sausage, hot dogs, burgers, salads, etc. There are a couple of them within a few miles N or W of Oak Brook. The other is pizza...wow, so many to choose from. There is a Giordano's in Oak Brook...great for thin or deep dish/stuffed. My personal favorite would be Home Run Inn in Darien, about 10 minutes from Oak Brook...fantastic thin crust pizza. Another good bet would be Uncle Bub's BBQ in Westmont, about 5 miles away. For more upscale, J Alexander's in Oak Brook and Claim Jumper in Lombard are both good for "American" food...the former a bit nicer the latter extremely family friendly with huge portions. The final suggestion is Weber Grill just W of Oak Brook...nice dining, pretty good steaks and such (better than Outback and Lone Star).

            1. If you are staying in Oak Brook and going to & from Shriners, you may want to search the board for suggestion in the "Western Suburbs." Although Shriners is within the city liimits, it is just north of the suburb of Oak Park. One suggestion would be Emilio's Tapas in Hillside, which is about 1/2 way between the 2. Good Thai food can be found at Amarind, which is on North Ave., just west of Oak Park Ave. on the Chicago/ Oak Park border, about 1/2 mile from the hospital. For lunches in the area, you might try Johnnies in Elmwood Park or Michael's Beef House in Oak Park for a taste of a local favorite, an Italian Beef sandwich.

              1 Reply
              1. re: masha

                Russell's is a another fun sort of casual family place in that neck of the woods

                Armands is right there too..

                -----
                Russell's Barbecue
                1621 N Thatcher Ave, Elmwood Park, IL 60707

                Armand's Restaurant & Lounge
                7402 W Grand Ave, Elmwood Park, IL 60707

              2. Thank you all - I'm taking lots of notes. Does anyone care to reply with specific dish recommendations for the following (or an expanded description of what we might find there)?

                Also, if we go to Shedd, where should we go for dinner that would be nearby? Gimmicky is fine - but interesting - no chains, nothing we have at home. We like GOOD food that is interesting - ethnic is great, but tasty is key. Also, can you clue me in to attire for the list below? We're looking for somewhere the kids would be appropriately dressed in dresses, versus a little hole in the wall or picnic table place for our dinners. :)
                Thanks again!

                Lou Malnati's pizza
                Greek Islands in Lombard
                Portillo's
                Giordano's pizza
                Uncle Bub's BBQ in westmont
                Emilio's Tapas in Hillside
                Johnnie's in Elmwood Park

                4 Replies
                1. re: ChasingChe

                  Ill chime in on a couple I have been to:

                  Portillos: probably the best chain "fast food" place around. Above average Italian Beef, or Beef and sausage combos, good chili dogs, and hot dogs. Probably the best of the "fast food" burgers, they actually char broil. Casual Dress

                  Uncle Bubs: Proabably the best BBQ in the suburbs, its not Honey 1 in Chicago, or what a person(myslef) may be able to do at home on their smoker, but it is ok. The pulled pork is decent, the ribs are above average, and the brisket is ok as well. Casual Dress

                  www.unclebubs.com

                  Johnnies: In my opinion the best Italian Beef in the City or suburbs, and I have tried the top challengers, but like Johnnies. This is a hole in the wall spot with a couple of picnic tables, or a counter to stand and lean on while consuming a sandwich.

                  I have eaten both Giordanos, and Malnatis, and even though I am a lifelong Chicago guy, I still prefer thin crust pizza, so i will not offer up my opinion on these places

                  Greek Islands: I have eaten here a few times, as well as their location in Greektown, it never really impressed me at all. My favorite favorite greek food is at Pegasus in Greektown.

                  Some not on your list:

                  Westmont brat stop: a decent place for a quick brat, they also have an beer garden. It is just north of Uncle Bubs on Cass Ave. Causal Dress

                  www.westmontbrathouse.com

                  Katys Dumplings: some very good dumplings, and noodles at this small chinese restaurant also in Westmont. A small/clean little storefront with maybe 8 tables.

                  Katys Dumpling House
                  665 N. Cass
                  Westmont, IL.

                  Lao Sze Chuan: in Downers Grove, this is a suburban version of their top notch spot in China Town. Excellent, spicy food.

                  www.laoszechuan.com

                  There are alos many chain restaurants in the Oak Brook/Lombard/Yorktown area to choose from

                  I also wouldnt reccomend Ed Debevicks, I dont see the allure of smart alleck servers, and staff. Maybe its just me.

                  1. re: ChasingChe

                    Shedd Aquarium is just south of the Loop. You might search the Board for "South Loop" or Printers Row (or "Chicago Hilton" which is in the area, so often there are inquiries from people staying there will center on South Loop suggestions). Oysy, which is a Japanese restaurant (sushi & other choices) is only a few blocks from the Shedd. Also, it is close to Chinatown too, which is where I'd go if I were looking for dinner after a trip to the Shedd. Lot's of discussion on the Board about Chinatown favorites- my personal is Moon Palace, but a case can be made for Lao Sze Chuan and others.

                    As to attire for your list, with the exception of Emilios, you could probably go to any in shorts & a t-shirt, although I'd probably dress a little nicer than that for Greek Islands (but I've seen people there in shorts & t's). Certainly, none are jacket or tie places.

                    1. re: masha

                      Fantastic.

                      Now, does anyone know a good place to get real chow fun? We don't get it down in these parts and I crave it like mad - especially with black bean sauce. Or, how about char sui bao? (pork buns)

                      1. re: ChasingChe

                        For chow fun, I'd go to Chinatown. There are some decent Chinese places outside Chinatown, but since you're going to be at the Shedd anyway (terrific place, btw) I'd just head there and "chow" down. I've heard there are some poor restaurants in Chinatown, but I've never had a bad meal there. The problem is always what to order; the menus are enormous.

                        Until I saw the size of your party I was going to recommend Margie's Candies, a very small ice cream/burger/candy joint that's been around in the same spot since the 20s. My daughter was completely charmed by it. It's like going back in time, and they have the best sundaes I've ever had, each served with a little gravy boat of hot fudge or caramel or whatever you ordered. The problem is, there are only a few booths and a few tables and some stools at the counter. They could probably put some tables together, but it is really a tiny place.

                        I really enjoyed their sandwiches too, particularly the chicken salad.

                  2. Johnny's Beef 7500 W North Ave Elmwood Park, IL 60707 (708) 452-6000
                    Have a beef wet and hot and don't leave without an Italian iced Lemonade
                    Al's #1 Italian beef 1079 W Taylor St, Chicago, IL - (312) 226-4017 The original and best.
                    Superdawg Drive In N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL - (773) 478-7800
                    Cannot be missed for a great Chicago Dog also really fun for the kids.
                    Gino's East 633 N Wells St, Chicago, IL - (312) 943-1124 for the deep dish Chicago Pizza is the best atmosphere and fun for the family.
                    Ghandi BBQ is probably the best Indian on Devon at Western. The best tandoori chicken in town.
                    Don't miss the dim sum at Phoenix Restaurant in Chinatown 2131 S Archer Ave # 2, Chicago, IL - (312) 328-0848