Chicago with a baby
I'm going to be in Chicago for 4 nights over the 4th of July weekend. I don't know the city at all. We're staying at the Palmer House, and I'll have my 8 month old son with me. Can anyone suggest some low-key, not too expensive, but delicious places to eat that aren't pizza or pub-fare?
There are a few questions that would help with answering your query.
How well behaved is your son in restaurants? If he can sit quietly, he would be welcome anywhere; if not, there are some places I would not recommend.
Is this for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? How flexible are you in choosing your meal times (i.e. can you eat at off hours when restaurants are mostly empty)?
What is your ability to travel? Would you prefer places within a short walk, or can you take public transit or cabs elsewhere (or will you have a car)?
My first thought is the French Market, which isn't open on Sundays and holidays, but I'd like to hear more information before I go beyond that.
He's quite well behaved in restaurants, but can be squirmy and likes to make happy shrieking noises. We're all going to be happier somewhere lively and not too formal.
I'm looking for suggestions for dinner mostly, and we can eat off hours. I was thinking that casual bistro-type places might be best.
We're big walkers (could walk a couple of miles to get somewhere if it's a nice walk) and will have a car, although we'd rather not spend a lot of time in it.
Thanks so much for thinking about it!
I think going to our "small plates" places at an off hour would be an excellent way to have great food with your son in tow.
Mercat a la Planxa is perhaps our best tapas restaurant, and it's only a couple blocks from your hotel. It's fairly noisy so I don't think your son would be a problem. They're open for lunch till 3, and dinner service starts at 5. www.mercatchicago.com
The Purple Pig, on Michigan Avenue about 3/4 mile north of your hotel, is notorious for its long waits (2+ hours) at normal meal times, but between about 1:30 and 4:00 you can get immediate seating. Small and festive, again your son won't be a problem. www.thepurplepigchicago.com
GT Fish & Oyster does seafood in small plates and is open all day long. Very trendy, but go for a late lunch or early dinner and you'll be fine. About a mile northwest of your hotel. www.gtoyster.com
Another option for small plates is Quartino, which does Italian small plates about a mile north of your hotel. www.quartinochicago.com
With the exception of Purple Pig, all of these accept reservations. But they probably wouldn't be necessary if you're eating at an off hour (e.g. 4:30 pm).
Here are some more options.
Getting back to the French Market, which is about 3/4 mile northwest of your hotel, some of our very best restaurants have booths there, including Pastoral for cheese and sandwiches, Lillie's Q for barbecue, Fumare for Montreal-style meats, Saigon Sisters for banh mi and pho, Vanille Patisserie for pastry and baked goods, etc. Closed Sundays and holidays though. www.frenchmarketchicago.com
Along similar lines is Eataly, the enormous place for everything Italian, you can eat there or get food to go. In River North, 3/4 mile north of your hotel. www.eataly.com
Another Italian option is Italian Village, right near your hotel. The Village and the Cantina are red sauce type Italian places, casual, where your son would be welcome. www.italianvillage-chicago.com
Too bad you wouldn't consider pizza. Our local version, deep-dish pizza, is amazingly delicious, and your son wouldn't be a problem. If you'd like to try it, for lunch or dinner, Pizano's on Madison is right near your hotel. www.pizanoschicago.com
All of these options offer excellent food, and I don't think your son would be an issue at any of them. Enjoy!
Also the baby would love the final course where a chef literally finger paints with various sauces directly on your table. The course where liquid nitrogen is used to make a vase emit a cloud of smoke would also be really cool for an infant. And since Alinea does not charge for infants, the more I think of it the better it would be!
Other spots we frequent with our baby include Frontera Grill (with a reservation ahead of time) and Sienna Tavern- especially if it's nice and can sit outside. I personally wouldn't suggest Purple Pig with a baby as it's a very small space inside and depending on if you have a stroller etc- might be a tight squeeze.
Thanks for all the suggestions! These are great ideas . . . except, perhaps, Alinea ;-) . . . and we're so looking forward to the trip.
I just wanted to thank everyone for the recommendations. We went to Balena one night and to Mercat a la Planxa the next. They were both really wonderful, and the baby did well at both. We loved our dinner at Balena more, but the staff at Mercat were so sweet - one waiter brought my son his own plate of sliced French bread and apples, and he was happy for 45 minutes chewing on the pieces then dropping them off the side of the highchair.