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Apr 15, 2010 03:27 PM

Suggestions for Big Family with Kids in May

I'll be visiting Chicago in May for my nephew's graduation. I'm single but traveling with my family that includes about 10 people, two of which are under 3 years old. I'm looking for suggestions of casual but good food places in Chicago area that would be easy for a party our size.

We're staying at the Westin Michigan Avenue Chicago hotel (I think that's the North Side?). My nephew attends the Illinois Institute of Technology, which is in the South side. I assume will be in that area at least once during our stay for the actual graduation.

For your suggestions, if you can say whether the place will need reservations or if they might accommodate us if we just walk in (with a small infant, we may need to be flexible about dining times). Any suggestions in Chinatown or Asian food will be good too as they often can fit large parties.

Also, if there's any gourmet stuff I shouldn't miss (or that maybe I should try on my own by sneaking away from the pack), let me know!

Thanks in advance for the help!

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  1. I think Chinatown, little Italy or Greektown will fit your needs. In Chinatown, Evergreen is our favorite and is very casual. Phoenix is also quite popular, althought mainly for dim sum. In Little Italy, Francesca's on Taylor is great and they are always happy to accomodate large parties with some notice. Finally, in Greektown, Greek Islands is a good bet with lots of room for large parties. Enjoy the celebration!

    Francesca's on Taylor
    1400 West Taylor, Chicago, IL 60607

    2 Replies
    1. re: vrollings

      thanks! Dim sum is always a good idea for us!

      1. re: singleguychef

        Furama (Just S. of Chinatown) is a great location for Dim Sum with large parties including kids. I think you may have a real problem getting a table at Phoenix with 10 ppl. I do like the food at Phoenix better, but the wait time and close quarters can be a killer with kids.

        Zapatista (Mexican) in the S. Loop is good for large groups with kids - although the kids menu burrito is nearly the same size as the adult version (a little intimidating for a 3 year old - but in a good way).

        1307 S Wabash Ave Ste Lobby, Chicago, IL 60605

    2. Quartino on State is one of our favorites (Italian) for when family comes to visit. Smaller plates so there's something for everyone and it's fun to share.

      626 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60654

      5 Replies
      1. re: ferret

        Thanks! I was planning to check out a couple of places for deep dish pizza, so wondering if this place is known for that as well? I noticed pizza on their Web site.

        1. re: singleguychef

          Their pizza is the weakest part of their menu. Fairly straightforward thin crust.

          1. re: ferret

            I actually really love their meatball pizza, without the giardiniara, but no- it's not deep dish.

          2. re: singleguychef

            The Westin Michigan Avenue is near the north end of the "Magnificent Mile", the one mile stretch of North Michigan Avenue between Oak Street (near the Westin) and the Chicago River (at the northeast corner of the Loop). That area is often called the Gold Coast, although the term River North is also used to extend from the Chicago River northward to around that point. Generally speaking, most folks would refer to it as "downtown Chicago" rather than the North Side, although technically it's north of the Loop.

            For authentic, delicious Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, the hotel is only a couple of blocks from Pizano's on State ( ), which serves the single-crust "pizza in the pan" style of deep-dish. If you'd like to try the double-crust "stuffed pizza", Giordano's on Rush ( ) is also just a few blocks from the hotel. At either place, phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake.

            Chinatown is about four miles south of the hotel; you can take a cab or CTA bus or the el (Red Line subway from Chicago and State to Cermak/Chinatown). My favorite is Double Li, which is Szechuan but has mild dishes on the menu as well as spicy ones.

            For moderately-priced Italian food near the hotel, I recommend Cafe Spiaggia ( ). But no, they don't have deep-dish pizza.

            1. re: nsxtasy

              Thanks nsxtasy for the recs and the background info about the neighborhood. I know that'll help me get my grounding while there!

        2. I wanted to circle back to let everyone (who cares) know about my trip to Chicago for my nephew's graduation. It was a fun trip but exhausting. I was really glad I didn't get any rain even though there were a few days with threats of it.

          I should say that I really failed on some ways to get the true Chicago cuisine. Not having a car and not knowing my way around the city, I wasn't adept in searching out the really good Chicago dog locations and I didn't even eat deep dish pizza once! (Although my family did go to Gino's East one night when I was out with another friend on my own. They seemed to like the pizza.)

          And I wanted to try a Rick Bayless restaurant but was so busy with the weekend that I didn't think about it until Sunday or Monday and his restaurants are closed on BOTH those days. That was annoying.

          Of course, I didn't even try Alinea because it was not that kind of trip traveling with my family (10 people with small kids) and all.

          So this is what I did try:

          Hugo Frog Bar: This place definitely was busy and had a fun feel to it. But that place is loud! Plus, kind of expensive for the quality of the food. I felt the ingredients were high quality but the preparation just failed. I got the frog legs and they were watery and not pan-fried like. Kind of disappointing. More pics of what we ate:

          While my family was out at Gino's East, that night I met a friend who lives in Chicago and he took me to his favorite neighborhood joint called BITE. It was a cute, funky spot. The menu changes and I had the braised pork and it was delicious. Everything was fresh and interesting, but it does lean on the fried stuff, kind of like pub food. I really liked the vibe of the place!

          Our main graduation celebration dinner turned out to be at Mado based on you guys' recommendations. It was perfect, I thought, for our group because it was nice but casual for the kids. They were very accommodating and I liked the menu. Some of my family members didn't like the simplicity, which I guess is a common Chicago criticism. But coming from the San Francisco Bay Area, this is all I eat! So I felt very at home with the seasonal local ingredients. I tried their beef heart and it was good and different. I like trying new things. A lot of their small plate starters were beautiful and good. The desserts, however, were average.

          BTW, Wicker Park where you can find Mado seems to be a happening place! I went to try I Cream while there and saw a lot of people eating at Bongo Place. Looks like a fun neighborhood.

          Also, I was able to try Sugar Bliss cupcakes and I have to say they are really good! I loved it!

          I also visited the French Market. It was fun, but a little drabby in some parts. I liked the vendors and what they were trying to do, but seems like it needs more customers. I wonder what it's like on Saturdays? And why isn't it open on Sundays?

          Anyway, I felt like I didn't really get to try everything I should so I guess I have to come back again without the family!! Thanks again everyone for your suggestions in my pre-planning.

          1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

          Mado Restaurant
          1647 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

          French Market Cafe
          1973 W 111th St, Chicago, IL 60643

          Gino's East
          8725 W Higgins Rd Ste 100, Chicago, IL 60631

          1 Reply
          1. re: singleguychef

            >> Some of my family members didn't like the simplicity, which I guess is a common Chicago criticism.

            I've never heard that before; it's a new one on me. I'm sure anyone who has been to Alinea wouldn't say that. :)

            >> I also visited the French Market. It was fun, but a little drabby in some parts. I liked the vendors and what they were trying to do, but seems like it needs more customers. I wonder what it's like on Saturdays? And why isn't it open on Sundays?

            Because of its location in the commuter train station downtown, it's very busy when people are passing through at the start and end of the work day, as well as during lunch hours. At other hours it's less busy (which makes those a better time to visit for those not working on that particular day). It's not open Sundays because people need a day off, and that particular day there are very few people (especially commuters) downtown anyway.

            Hopefully they will improve the decor there in the coming months; it's very new and I'm sure they were concentrating on getting everything up and running first.