Parents know: A tired, hungry kid could implode publicly at any minute. While your parental GPS might lead you to whatever fast food joint is nearby, train your pint-sized people to taste outside the deep-dish pizza box at these kid-friendly restaurants.
With hour-plus wait times on the weekends and throwback tunes (Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Radiohead, Fiona Apple), Chicago’s most buzzworthy diner from “Top Chef” winner Stephanie Izard shouldn’t be conducive to family dining, but it is. Once seated, kids get a Little Goat coloring page and trifold menus with a word find, maze and cartoon illustrations of sandwiches. On the back: menu classics like pancakes and grilled cheese. Who says junior has to play it straight, though? Order a Sloppy Goat or Pork Belly Pancake, and he’ll be a happy “kid” indeed. 820 W. Randolph St., 312.888.3455, www.littlegoatchicago.com
Ramen. Sushi. Bincho grilled items. Could be date night, or could be family brunch in a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant. A chatty staff knows how to treat kids, so don’t be caught off guard if a server presents your little one with little chopsticks or strikes up a conversation about what grade he’s in. Wide booths are built for groups and make you feel like you’re sitting in an old Cadillac convertible—top down. 116 W. Hubbard St., 312.464.0466, www.slurpingturtle.com
It’s never too early to introduce healthy habits into a child’s diet. Enter two dishes that won’t wreck the family’s attempts to get healthy and stay that way: the Kiddie Bib Salad (which can be topped with chicken, steak or salmon) and the grilled chicken breast (bypass the pomme frites for fresh fruit or steamed veggies). 800 S. Michigan Ave., 312.431.1788, www.brasseriebylm.com
Sympathetic to parents' dining plight, this Southport Avenue restaurant offers free meals for kids between 4 pm and 6 pm. Go ahead - bring the whole fam. There's plenty of room to park your stroller and seat your group in the roomy booths. Keep crackiness at bay with a moist, cakelike cornbread or the meaty crabcakes before moving on to the juicy rotisserie chicken. The kids' dessert arrives as it should: one modest, calorie-saving scoop of vanilla ice cream, which should save you from a trip to nearby Candyality. 3455 N. Southport Ave., 773.883.2525, www.crosbyskitchenchicago.com