Chicago with kids
Hi - we will be in Chicago for three nights this summer with another family - we both have kids so we are looking for kid friendly places with great food (tough, I know). We are staying at the Homewood Suites downtown and will be going to places like Navy Pier, the Aquarium, the zoo, the Lego Discovery Center, etc.. Could anyone recommend some great places for lunch and dinner? Thanks!
What are the ages of the children and how adventurous are they -- e.g., will they eat ethnic food?
Aside from the obvious kid-friendly Chicago eats -- i.e., deep dish pizza and hot dogs (Gino's, Uno, and Due are all close to your hotel pizza, and Portillos for hot dogs) -- there are plenty of restaurants that kid-friendly if their diet goes beyond chicken fingers and the like.
For example, Chinatown is not far from the Aquarium and the restaurants there are always welcoming to families. I favor Moon Palace but search the board for the views of other Chicago 'hounds as to the best places in Chinatown.
Greektown is another good family venue; again search the board for preferences, but I recommend Greek Islands.
Chicago also has good Thai and Vietnamese food, as well as plenty of "American," European, and Mexican food. Are any of these of interest?
Give us more idea of what kind of "good food" you are looking for and a price range, and we can give you more feedback. (Also where is the Lego Discovery Center?)
Hi! There will be 6 kids (ages 6, 6, almost 4, 17 months, and 16 month old twins) and 5 adults. My kids are pretty adventurous eaters - they definitely like chinese and mexican food with mexican being a favorite - but I'm not sure about the others. Everyone likes italian and pizza too. As far as price goes, I don't want to break the bank bc eating out with 6 kids is not a relaxing affair and not worth spending tons of money on! That being said, entrees up to $25 should be fine.
The Lego Discovery Center is new to Chicago and actually in Schaumburg near the Woodfield Mall (never been but that's what the website says!). Thank you again for your help - one of my favorite things about vacation is good food!
You might try Sun Wah (take Red Line to Argyle St., turn right, first restaurant you will see) which offers a full Beijing duck special for $30, with all the fixings. They thin-slice the duck breast at the table, which will interest the kids, then take the rest back and turn it into duck fried rice and duck soup. Meanwhile, you put the duck with some crispy vegetables and hoi sin sauce on soft buns.
They have some huge tables with lazy susans so everyone can help themselves. Two ducks will probably feed the whole gang. Very kid friendly.
Quartino on State & Ontario (about 2 blocks from your hotel) is one of my go-to spots when family comes to visit, especially with kids. It's tapas-style Italian. The kids can get as adventurous as they like or keep it simple, but it's a great way for everyone to sample a variety of dishes. Food's great and they have a large selection of wines for the adults.
So...3 VERY young ones I see and the others are pretty young as well. Here's some thoughts:
First of all, not sure where you are coming from, but Chicago is a great kid-friendly city for food and otherwise.
Entertainment-wise, Navy Pier will be great...and you can do boat tours right from there as well. Plenty of food options at Navy Pier as well. Navy Pier is also home (for now) of the Chicago Children's Museum. Both Brookfield Zoo and Lincoln Park Zoo are great. Shedd Aquarium is fantastic. Adler Planetarium maybe not at this age. Same with Field Museum, but a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry would be great. Same with a trip to the Hancock or Sears Tower Observatories.
Before I get to food, let me toss out one more idea to you. Chicago is a train town with excellent public transit. The CTA runs "L"/subway trains and buses, and Metra runs 11 commuter rail lines. Take a day and take the Metra BNSF line out to Naperville...steps from the train station is the DuPage Children's Museum. HIGHLY reccomended for all 6 of the kids. Plenty of good restaurants within 3-6 blocks walking in downtown Naperville. The only thing that would make it better is stopping in my old hometown, Downers Grove, on the way back. Dinner at Giordano's or one of the other good restaurants (a kid friendly favorite is 2 Toots just steps from the station), a movie at the Tivoli, one of the classic movie theaters in the country, and ice cream at Every Day's a Sundae...then hop on the train back to Chicago.
Ok, back to food. I'm not a big ethnic food guy...to me Chicago is mainly about the "American" favorites. That being said, adults and kids will find a lot of satisfation at any of the great pizza places (Uno, Due, Lou Manati's, Giordano's, Gino's East, Bacino's, etc.). Ultimately, I think your best bet is Portillo's...the flagship of this Chicago-area chain is downtown, and they are a "fast food" place that does a LOT of things very well...kid-friendly, good food, reasonable prices. Hot dogs, burgers, italian beef and sausage, salads, sandwiches...when I head back to Chicago, our "family" of 12-15 alsways has at least one meal there. I don't know of a place that can better satisfy young kids to grandparents and carnivores to vegetarians better food or atmosphere wise.
Have a great trip.
Thank you so much for your reply - it is SO helpful! I just wish we were there for longer! Only 3 nights. We are coming from the Boston area and it sounds like there are a lot more kid friendly places in Chicago - we have some good ones here but not too many! Any suggestions for casual/quick lunches (we'll do Portillo's for sure)?
For your trip to the zoo, may I suggest stopping first at Fox & Obel, very high-end gourmet grocery on W Illinois over by Navy Pier to pack a picnic lunch to eat there. They have a great cafe that has "to-go" but you could also be European/Napa Valleyian and get some baquettes, hams, some cheese and fruit. There are a bunch of great spots around the LIncoln Park Zoo area where you can enjoy--in side there are picnic areas, but outside you could sit in the formal garden (outside the Western gate, by the conservatory) or walk out of the zoo at the North end and cross under lakeshore drive at Fullerton and sit on the point over looking the lake. In the alternative, you can get a quick lunch at RJ Grunts, great for kids also outside the main Western gate and across a short walk across the street.