It can be difficult to find kid friendly restaurants in Chicago, so sometimes I find myself scrambling for places to eat. Before I even leave the comforts of the suburbs, I’m scouting for the latest and greatest restaurant in the city, and I often ask friends to weigh in with their advice. Unfortunately, I have a picky audience that needs to satisfied, and it comes in the form of three hungry boys; one who will eat anything, one who is a picky eater, and one with a food allergy. We have found these to be the best restaurants for families in Chicago and would recommend them to anyone visiting the city.
Best Kid Friendly Restaurants in Chicago
*This post was updated in February 2019.
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Breakfast in Chicago Kids Will Love
1) Stan’s Donuts & Coffee – My mouth is honestly watering as I think about these donuts. Stan’s has several locations around the city, and my kids can’t get enough. I loved the orange creamsicle and my son thought the Strawberry Bismark was the best. One of their best sellers is the lemon pistachio, and they also offer gluten free and vegan options. Make time for a stop for breakfast or a snack and you won’t be disappointed.
2) Wildberry – This is a chain of restaurants that is very popular in the Chicago area that knows how to make breakfast. They use local farm fresh ingredients and the portions are generous and satisfying. They are known for their pancakes (can you say Banana Cream Pie and Tiramisu?) and Signature Berry Bliss crepes, but you won’t be disappointed by anything on the menu.
3) Yolk – Another favorite breakfast place for us, Yolk, also has some amazing breakfast choices. The kids love the Oreo Pancakes, but I like trying something new every time. They have a Tour de France French Toast Flight (one piece of each of the following: banana nut, sweet orange, and lemon poppyseed or all one flavor) that I highly recommend and their California Omelet is delicious too. Can you tell breakfast is our favorite meal of the day?
4) Lou Mitchell’s – This classic diner has been a Chicago staple for generations and families flock here for the fun atmosphere and the good food. Patrons are greeted with donut holes upon arrival and kids love the milk duds they get before their meal. Portions are on the large side, so families can share. Try the Meltaway pancakes or the fluffy omelettes, you won’t be disappointed.
5) The Bongo Room – The Bongo Room is a fun breakfast spot (that also serves lunch), with three locations in the downtown area. The place is vibrant and the food is delicious. Try the breakfast sandwiches and the specialty pancakes. The menu changes seasonally, but there’s always something good to enjoy!
Chicago Fast Food that Doesn’t Taste Like Fast Food
6) Shake Shack – One of the newer additions to the Chicago culinary scene, Shake Shack has brought their classic burgers, flat top dogs, crinkle cut fries, and frozen custard to the River North neighborhood. The restaurant has a fun vibe, quick service, and delicious food, which makes it a no brainer for families looking for a quick bite to eat!
7) Portillo’s Hot Dogs – Portillo’s is a Chicago institution. Portillo’s is known for their Chicago dogs and Italian beef, so I recommend you try one or both of those on your visit. The place is very family friendly. When you enter, you choose the “counter” you wish to order from, but it helps to look at the menu beforehand. Sometimes the experience can be overwhelming for kids because there are so many choices, but it is also a ton of fun, because they have great food and a fun diner vibe steeped in Chicago nostalgia.
8) Chicago French Market – This is my favorite place to explore near Union Station. This European style indoor market has over 30 vendors offering different types of food options year round. It’s like a gourmet food court and kids can eat their favorite cuisine. There are sandwiches, sushi, burritos and everything in between. Just save room for sweet treats afterwards because there are some good ones to choose from!
9) Xoco – If you’re a fan of Rick Bayless, you’ll want to stop at this quick service Mexican restaurant. Orders are placed at the front counter, and staff brings the meal out when it’s ready. Don’t miss the savory tortas, delicious tacos, and churros with chocolate for dessert.
Best Family Restaurants in Chicago for a Sit Down Meal
10) Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch – Located on the 7th floor of Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue, the restaurant is decked out in sports memorabilia and big screen tvs. The kids’ menu features your standard pizza, mac n’ cheese, and chicken tenders, but the adult menu has some delicious oven fired pizza and stick to your ribs food like meatloaf and chicken pot pie. The place has a lively atmosphere, so loud kids aren’t even given a second glance.
11) Lou Malnati’s – This is my husband’s favorite Chicago deep dish pizza and thankfully they have a location in the suburbs or we would be in the city every weekend! Keep in mind, it does take longer to cook a deep dish pizza, so bring something to entertain the kids. We love the deep dish sausage pizza, but you should know that one piece is very filling!
12) Grand Lux Cafe – Everyone will find something to eat at Grand Lux Cafe because the menu is huge. Burgers, sandwiches, salads, steaks, they have it all! The location overlooks Michigan Avenue, so kids can entertain themselves by looking out the window or people watching inside.
13) Eataly – Eataly is more of an experience than anything. This massive complex is worth a visit even if you don’t eat at one of their 23 eateries. Throughout the building you will find a mixture of market counters and sit down dining restaurants. Some of our favorite stops include La Pasticceria with fresh baked pastries and the gelato counter downstairs. All the restaurants serve Italian food (of course) that is prepared just feet from your table. What kid doesn’t like pizza or pasta? If you prefer, grab some bread, prosciutto, mozzarella, tomatoes, and fresh fruit, and you have a picnic to take to Millennium Park.
14) Summer House Santa Monica – One of the best restaurants to visit on a gray day is Summer House. The restaurant oozes California chic, without being over the top fancy. Decorated like a beach house, they focus on market fresh ingredients. Kids and adults alike will love the vibe and the sandwiches, salads, and burgers are all delicious. Grab a cookie or two for dessert, if you still have room.
15) DMK Burger – This is hands down our favorite place to visit for burgers in the city. The restaurant is loud and lively, and the waitstaff is always friendly. There is a set menu of burgers, fries, and a couple of salads. You choose the burger you want, the toppings, and whether or not you want any add ons, like french fries or a salad. They also offer turkey, lamb, bison, veggie, and portobello burgers if you prefer those to grass-fed beef. While you’re there, try the milkshakes, you won’t be disappointed!
16) Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder – Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company has some of the best pizza in the city. It’s cash only, and reservations aren’t accepted, but it’s worth the wait! Try the pizza pot pie, the grinder sandwiches, or the salad dinners. There’s plenty of food for everyone.
17) Little Goat Diner – Located in the West Loop, this is celebrity chef Stephanie Izard’s sibling restaurant to Girl & the Goat. This place is part bakery, part diner, part sandwich shop, and it couldn’t be a better place to take kids. They can go simple with a bagel and schmear, or take it up a notch and order the fish tostadas or veggie quesadilla. Try this place with kids and sample some of the best food Chicago has to offer.
18) Doc B’s Restaurant and Bar – Doc B’s has two centrally located restaurants downtown, one in the Gold Coast, the other in River North. We’re a fan of the welcoming family atmosphere, sports games on the televisions (but not so loud that it detracts from the ambiance), and delicious food. We love the Tennessee Hot Chicken and Wedge Burger, but know that most entrees are large enough to split between kids.
Best Places for Dessert in Chicago
18) Bobtail Ice Cream – Bobtail has been making ice cream since 1950, and they know how to make it right. Kids love the make your own sundae option, I love the salted caramel chocolate pretzel, but all the flavors are delicious. This old fashioned ice cream parlor is the perfect stop on a warm summer day.
19) Sweet Mandy B’s – Another one of those “must stop” destinations when we head to the city. Sweet Mandy B’s has the best cupcakes I have tasted in a long time. There are other options too: cakes, pies, cookies. Try their “double doozies” (frosting stuffed between two cookies), the kids won’t be disappointed, and you can always sneak a bite or two.
20) Garrett Popcorn – When everyone says, “You have to have the best popcorn in Chicago”, they’re talking about Garrett’s, and more specifically their cheese and caramel popcorn mix. Personally, I’m a fan of the Pecan Caramel Crisp. There are several shops around downtown and one at O’Hare Airport if you are traveling. Do yourself a favor, buy one for now, save one for later. You can send me a thank you note in the mail.
Looking for more Chicago posts? Check out: Best Chicago Attractions for Families, The Best Things to Do in Chicago in the Summer, and 7 Chicago Gems You’ll Want to Visit on Your Next Trip
*This article originally appeared in April 2017, but was updated in April 2018.