Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Kid-friendly feasts: Give the leftovers a rest and feed the family at one of these Chicago restaurants.

Feeding the whole family without cooking all day can be a serious challenge in this city. Sure, we've got some of the best restaurants and most lauded chefs in the nation, but they typically have an unofficial child ban. So instead of pleasing your palate with seasonal and local fare, you end up stuffing your face with greasy fries and reheated burgers at TGI Friday's or the next nearby chain. Because, let's face it, those national spots always have crayons and menus made for coloring. But no matter how much you love $5 frozen margaritas and microwaved spinach dip, it's time to try something new. After scouring the city for family-friendly spots, this is what we found.

Wishbone (Lakeview)
This Lakeview restaurant thrives from the nearby families who frequently visit. One thing that keeps them coming back is Wishbone's extensive kids' menu. With 15 items to choose from (and that's not even including side dishes), the little ones can be just as discerning with their dinner selections as mom and dad. For breakfast, your little angels can choose from frog toast, plain or fruit pancakes and sausage or bacon biscuits, among others. Lunch and dinner options offer just as many choices, with popular items like cheeseburgers, Muenster cheese quesadillas and four-cheese mac 'n' cheese. Wishbone also encourages the kids to branch out and try something from the adult menu, and invites the little ones to eat for free every Tuesday night.

Curio Cafe
If you've got a mini-gourmand running around the house, put his little palate to the test at Curio Cafe. Rather than your run-of-the-mill child choices like French fries, mac 'n' cheese and hot dogs, this place boasts a kids' menu designed with adults in mind. Mini-pancakes with whipped cream, gilled peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, berry banana yogurt and fruit with peanut butter dip are just a few items on that list. In addition to offering the tykes a gourmet experience, Curio Cafe keeps them entertained with toys and a "magic" chalkboard. After the meal is over, treat your little chef to a selection of Yummy Earth organic candy.

Brandy's (multiple locations)
The little ones get an entire menu for themselves here, featuring all their favorites from hot dogs and cheeseburgers to grilled cheese and chicken nuggets. Brandy's also makes a scaled-down version of its popular gyro, so the kids can emulate mom and dad's affinity for Greek fare. Both versions of Brandy's gyro are prepared with toasted pita and stuffed with seasoned meat, tomato, onion and tzatziki sauce, $7.65. All kids meals are served with fries and a small drink, prices range from $3.99 to $4.95.

@spot cafe
Kingsbury Park has seen an influx of families over the past couple years, but many of its nearby River North restaurants haven't. And they probably won't now that @spot Cafe is in the 'hood. The neighborhood coffeehouse and eatery is plenty kid-friendly with its collection of toys and games. The interior is even decked out with a sectioned-off space for little Suzie and her pals. While the kids enjoy @spot's play-area, mom and dad can cozy up in one of the cafe's work-nooks, complete with laptop outlets and free wi-fi. The cafe's upscale menu isn't as kid-friendly as the space itself, but it's never too early to push your epicurean ways on the little ones. Gourmet paninis like turkey pesto, BLT deluxe and tuna melt are good for sharing and a selection of seasonal salads provide a healthy out. Herb and cream cheese-stuffed pretzels are a fun pick for the kids and, for an extra $2, they come complete with a cup of soup. If little Suzie and Johnny play nice, you can treat 'em to a vanilla buttercream cupcake or one of @spot's chocolate-dipped sweets.

Uncle Julio's Hacienda
If you must succumb to the almighty chain, do it at Uncle Julio's. Kids 12 and under can relish in five of the restaurant's favorite dishes including nachos, enchiladas, crispy tacos, "kidsadillas" and fajitas. Finicky types will do well with the nino nachos, a simple preparation of four chips with their choice of cheese or cheese and beans. If they haven't yet eaten their daily dose of protein, the crispy taco with beef or chicken will take care of that. And if your little angels prefer a softer shell, Uncle Julio's will switch it out at no extra cost. When all else fails, go for the restaurant's version of the grilled cheese sandwich. This Mexican-twist on the American classic melts yellow cheese between flour tortilla triangles, making it a surefire finger food. There won't be any messes with this one, unless little Johnny has already developed a hankering for hot sauce.

This article was first published on Centerstage.
Photo: Wishbone in Lakeview, Stacy Warden

1 comment:

Brandon said...

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