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Looking for Kid and 'Hound Friendly in Chicago

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I will be coming to Chicago on a spur of the moment trip this week with my sister and my two nieces (4 and 6). I am seeking a little Chowhound advice on places that the kids will enjoy, but that won't leave me wishing I had stayed home and had a sandwich. I know we'll be at the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Aquarium, the Art Institute, and American Girl over the three days and we're staying at the Embassy Suites on N. State St, so recs in any of those neighborhoods would be great. I have a few places on my list, such as Portillo's, Xoco, Lou Malnati's, Grand Lux, Heaven on Seven, but if anyone has more suggestions, I would really appreciate them! Thanks!

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  1. Big Bowl usually goes over well with kids, and it is convenient to your hotel location.
    For breakfast, you are close to Eggsperience and NYC Bagel Deli. And for little kids, Xoco might be better for breakfast than for lunch.
    Inside the Art Institute is a nice restaurant called Terza Piano.

    4 Replies
    1. re: camusman

      Thanks for the suggestions! I will definitely check them out!

      1. re: BetsyinKY

        Your hotel is directly across the street from Quartinos. Totally kid-friendly Italian small plates.

        1. re: ferret

          Just wanted to report back on where we ate last week and say thanks for the suggestions.

          We arrived on Wednesday, between 1pm and 2pm, and went straight to Hot Doug's. We only had to wait in line about 15 minutes, and once we placed our order, we had our food in less than 5 minutes. Everyone, from ages 4 to 42, enjoyed their Chicago style dogs and sausages. The only minor drawback was that the girls' "plain" dogs came on poppy seed rolls and the youngest didn't like the "black things" on her bun. However, a quick dusting with a napkin solved this, and I give Doug's two thumbs up for being kid friendly and adult delicious. I did not realize how large their menu is and I can't wait to go back and try more, especially off the specials board.

          Dinner was at Quartino and it worked out beautifully. With the Italian small plate concept, there was plenty of variety for everyone and the restaurant is very lively, so any noise from the children was covered by laughter, clanking of glassware, and sounds of general merriment from other guests. There were enough simple pastas (cavatelli with tomatoes) to keep the little ones happy, and we enjoyed some of the other dishes, such as the gnocchi and the veal with arugula, tomatoes, and balsamic. Everyone enjoyed the zeppole (Italian doughnuts) with honey and chocolate for dipping.

          On Thursday, the girls and my sister were going to American Girl for lunch with their dolls, so my brother and I went to Xoco. This was my favorite meal of the trip. I had the Pac Chuc torta, which had Yucatecan style seared pork, local tomatoes, Napa cabbage, avocado, and lime. It was easily one of the best sandwiches I've ever had! My brother had the seasonal caldo, and he said it was very good. We finished off the meal with fresh churros served with a shot of chocolate for dipping.

          Dinner that night was deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's. Although this was my 5th trip to Chicago, this was my first experience with deep dish and I have to say, I am now a fan! We had the "Lou" and it was quite tasty. The 4year old stuck with chicken nuggets and fruit, but the 6 year old loved the deep dish pizza, even with the spinach and mushrooms on it. We ordered the house salad and it more than fed the 5 of us. It wasn't super creative, but everything was very fresh and the kids enjoyed it.

          Friday was our last day. We started with breakfast at Yolk, which was a hit. I had the Berry Berry French Toast, which is a seasonal special and is brioche french toast topped with Greek yogurt, homemade granola, and fresh blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries. I was full until about 4pm! Yolk was very kid friendly and a better choice than our old favorite, the Bongo Room, because the dining area is much more spacious, at least at the N. Wells location. I've discovered that the more space between tables, the better, when you're dining with small ones!

          We spent most of the late morning/early afternoon at the Art Institute. Then, while the girls played in the fountain at Millennium Park, my brother and I walked up to Pastoral on E. Lake to pick up sandwiches. For $3 on top of the price of the sandwich, you can "Pastoralize" your sandwich by adding a drink, chips, and a cookie. We took advantage of this, which put everyone's meal right around the $10 mark, about the same as Panera, but sooo much better! My sister was worried that the menu was "too gourmet" for the little ones, but the helpful staff said they could make "plain" turkey and ham on wheat bread. The girls said their sandwiches were good, and my Bacon Lettuce Tomato Avocado sandwich with house made prosciutto bacon was pretty darn tasty! The cookies were good, too, and not the average tasteless sandwich shop cookie.

          All in all, I learned that it IS possible to eat at places that are both kid friendly and that don't cause my foodie toes to curl. Thanks again for all the helpful suggestions!

          1. re: BetsyinKY

            Thanks for the report. Nice to hear things worked out so well.