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Jan 21, 2013 02:12 PM

4 days in Chicago...with teens

We are headed to Chicago for President's Day weekend with our 2 daughters, 11 &15. I have looked at some of the threads in regard to eating out with children/teens & I am not overly thrilled with the options that were shared. While they are fairly adventurous eaters they tend to lean more toward simple, well done meals. We love a good breakfast, gastro pubs-(that have a great beer selection for mom & dad), ramen, BBQ, a decent pizza and for sure some Latin food. Really would like to stay away from chain restaurants. We are staying near downtown/lakefront area but are planning on seeing some sights Field Museum, Millenium Park, etc. so we are open to a few more options! Thanks!

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  1. Not sure what threads you were looking at but there are tons of options in the genres that mention. Rather than search for "teens" or "children," I'd recommend you search by the types of food that you are interested in. Here are a few thoughts:

    As to gastro pubs, the Gage on Michigan Ave. is directly across the street from Millenium Park and the Art Institute. Tons of other gastro pubs, especially if you go out to some of the funkier neighborhoods, like Wicker Park or Bucktown, which your daughters will probably enjoy for their boutiques and young vibe.

    Have you done a search for "breakfast" on this Board? I know that Nsxtasy and others will be responding to your post and will give you lots of suggestions. I don't personally eat out for breakfast that often in the city but know that The Bongo Room -- which is in the South Loop not far from the Field Museum -- is a perennial favorite.

    Pizza - There's a Lou Malnattis at State St. & 8th St. in the South Loop on your way towards the Field Museum. Or go to Pizzano's on Madison, not far from Millenium Park.

    For Ramen, try the Slurping Turtle in River West.

    We have lots of Latin food, both high end & neighborhood tacquerias. What did you have in mind? Carnivale, in the West Loop is pan-Latin, with a fun atmosphere and decent food.

    2 Replies
    1. re: masha

      >> Rather than search for "teens" or "children," I'd recommend you search by the types of food that you are interested in.

      I agree. Posts with recommendations for dining with children often assume that they may be noisy and ill-behaved. When children of any age are well-behaved, you can dine with them *anywhere*. So, assuming this applies to yours, concentrate on recommendations for the types of food you and your family would enjoy.

      The recommendations provided above by masha are all excellent. Note that some of them are not very specific geographically because the "downtown/lakefront" area you have mentioned covers a large area (three miles from the South Loop on the south to the Gold Coast on the north). So, for example, he/she recommends Lou Malnati's at 8th and State, but if it's more convenient, Lou Malnati's also has locations on Wells in River North and at State and Rush in the Gold Coast. Similarly, Pizano's also has a location on State near the Mag Mile in addition to its location on Madison in the Loop.

      The above-mentioned Bongo Room in the South Loop is indeed a great place for those who enjoy sweeter breakfast dishes (they specialize in creative pancakes). If you're further north, the Original Pancake House on East Bellevue in the Gold Coast is a good choice. These are the best breakfasts in the greater downtown area IMHO, but there are others, including Yolk, Lou Mitchell's, etc.

      I recommend trying our creative contemporary Mexican cuisine. Frontera Grill in River North is a great place; beware, waits to be seated are horrendous (often 90+ minutes) but they can be avoided by arriving 15-20 minutes before they open the doors. (For Latin fusion, masha's rec of Carnivale is excellent; so is Nacional 27.)

      I think our restaurants specializing in "small plates" are unique, creative local venues worth considering. These include Sable (contemporary American), GT Fish & Oyster (seafood), Mercat a la Planxa (tapas), and Quartino (Italian). All of these accept reservations including on and I recommend making them in advance, particularly for dinner. Also the Purple Pig (Mediterranean) which is best experienced for lunch or mid-afternoon; their no-reservations policy creates waits to be seated of 120+ minutes during dinner.

      Since you enjoy a great selection of beers, you might like Publican, in the West Loop. I'm not that wowed by the food but many others here love it. Note, half their seating consists of looooooong communal tables, so if you have a preference for your own private table for four, mention it when making your reservation and they will accommodate your request if they can. Also be forewarned, it's VERY VERY LOUD.

      1. re: nsxtasy

        I bet your girls will like watching the food prepared in front of you while seated at the bar at Sumi Robata Bar. That and the menu is so varied they will find things to like. Many cold and hot "appetizers" and a full selection of grilled proteins that range all the way to traditional Japanese. With only two drinking it will be "reasonable" but not at all cheap if you order lots of different items. I had a good time there and it's not even been open a week so hopefully what will be one of the cool new places when you're here. Not sure if the menu is posted yet, but they're on facebook.

        Another option that will be great with teens is Au Cheval. I will direct you to my recent post. I can't say enough about the place and the Bon Apetite folks agreed.

    2. If you venture to the Bucktown/Wicker Park area, as Masha suggested, I'd recommend checking out Hot Chocolate (aka Mindy's Hot Chocolate), by Beard-Award winner Mindy Segal. As a formerly 11- and 15-year-old girl, a restaurant specializing in chocolate would have been pretty cool. They do a great brunch, also lunch or dinner. Closed Mondays.

      In addition to gastropubs, we also have some modern diners, which would seemingly appeal to the whole family. They are casual, fun, non-threatening, filling, quite tasty, serve good booze and milkshakes (sometimes in the same glass). Two of the most popular, Little Goat and Au Cheval, are on the same block in the West Loop, probably a 1-2 mile (or Green or Pink Line train) from where you are staying. Neither takes reservations. As Little Goat is much newer, the waits are probably shorter at Au Cheval.

      Hot Chocolate
      1747 N Damen Ave

      Little Goat
      820 W Randolph St

      Au Cheval
      800 W Randolph St

      Edited to add: Oops, just realized jbontario mentioned Au Cheval, so yep, I second that! ;) Please also add me to the list of people that nxtasy referenced that love Publican, and while I know children who went, I think there are better options mentioned for your family.

      1. Ramen is not a Chicago strength, but you can get a decent bowl at Ginza.

        My son and his cousins enjoy a trip to Chinatown and a stop at Joy Yee for pan-Asian (not ramen). It's easily reachable from the Loop via the Red Line train.