Considering all of the restaurants popping up in and around Chicago this summer, ice cream isn’t the only thing your kids will be screaming for. While we have a new retro soda fountain shop to go wild for, there’s also barbecue, kid-friendly salads, teriyaki … and more barbecue. Your next family dinner date starts now.
photo: Piggyback Tavern
Summer is the season for barbecue. Which would explain all the new ‘cue spots popping up around here. Forest Park’s much-loved Piggyback Tavern is one, and it’s expanding to the Loop. The new Piggyback is a fast-casual riff of the original, showcasing the slow-cooked, hardwood-smoked meats it’s known for in a comfortable, quick-service environment. Kids and adults alike can go wild customizing their barbecue dishes for lunch. Options include pulled pork and brisket in the form of sandwich, bowl, plate or salad, bedecked with optional sauces like Zesty, Mustard or Smokey Sweet. For sides, there’s jalapeño cheddar cornbread, mac ’n’ cheese and collard greens. Another nice touch here is the barnyard motif, bringing a welcome taste of the countryside to the heart of the city via wood tables, barn wood walls, vintage lighting and pig-inspired artwork. Get ready to pig out!
176 N. Wells St.
Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill
Piggyback isn’t the only meat Mecca in expansion mode these days. Orlando-based Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill made its Chicagoland debut in Mount Prospect’s Randhurst Village, marking the company’s 66th location in the country. The new location showcases the hand-rubbed, house-smoked dishes the company has built an empire out of, so you can rest assured it will be delish. The menu covers a pretty impressive cross-section of America’s regional barbecue traditions, too, offering a little something for every craving. There’s St. Louis ribs, Texas-style beef brisket and Memphis dry rub, to name a few. Additionally, youngsters can feast on smoked wings, build-your-own burgers and other finger-licking delicacies. The restaurant is enormous, complete with a roaring fire pit, lending the feel of a boisterous backyard barbecue party.
164 Randhurst Village Dr.
photo: Be Leaf
All that barbecue calls for a little reprieve in the form of a wholesome salad or grain bowl. While not necessarily on the same scream-inducing levels as ice cream, kids will certainly take a liking to the vibrant chef-driven dishes on deck at Be Leaf, the Loop’s newest fast casual dining outlet. Working with local farmers to ensure the freshest in locality and seasonality, Be Leaf produces some of the best tasting greenery your kids will ever taste. It’s especially inviting with its build-your-own menu options and the quirky “Decision Tree,” a wall-mounted menu maze of sorts that takes guests on a tour of food options and descriptions. Diners young and old can accent their greens of choice — kale, arugula, mesclun, romaine, spinach, quinoa, farro — with add-ons like grapefruit, caramelized onions, bacon, tofu, sweet potato falafel and steak. So even if it starts off healthy and light, you can easily turn it into summery comfort food. The space is as green as the food, outfitted with planter walls, produce-packed baskets, flowers and other elements designed to echo a countryside farm.
29 N. Upper Wacker Dr.
In the heat of summer, the grill reigns supreme. It helps when said grill is manned by an alum of the Culinary Institute of America. Chef Dennis Lake leads the charge at GLAZE Teriyaki, a Seattle-style fast casual joint that’s heating up Lakeview with its first Chicago outpost. Using locally sourced, organic ingredients, Lake cooks up a menu befitting summertime cookout dreams, complete with char-grilled chicken, hanger steak, pork loin, wok sautéed vegetables and salmon. What helps sets GLAZE apart from the home grill is its signature teriyaki sauce, made fresh daily with an addictive mix of smoky, caramel-y flavors, and notes of garlic, ginger, pineapple and apple. Every entree also has a gluten-free version available, which is a nice touch. The casual restaurant has a laid back, homey feel with an open kitchen, communal tables, reclaimed wood benches, exposed brick walls and Japanese-style vintage fabrics.
3112 N. Broadway St.
photo: Fuller House
This family-friendly pub-style eatery in Hinsdale features a wide array of people-pleasing dishes that run the gamut from brick oven pizza to jumbo pretzels. The restaurant has family in its blood, owned and operated by siblings Sam Vlahos and Patricia Vlahos-Segretto, who worked to compile a comfortable, neighborhood-oriented pub that families could flock to on the regular. And flock they will when they get a taste of the house-brined pickles, the brisket tacos, the prime burgers, the roast chicken and the cookie skillets. The two-story restaurant is warm and inviting, featuring a facade of exposed brick, barrels from local distilleries, salvaged oak and refurbished wood beams sourced from a defunct Chicago church. High-tops and banquettes comprise seating on the main floor, while a curved staircase weaves to a lively balcony area with an illuminated wine wall and a second floor dining room packed with traditional tables.
33 E. 1st St.
What’s old is shiny and new again, thanks to the arrival of Humboldt Park’s eagerly awaited and highly scream-worthy Spinning J Bakery and Soda Fountain. Americana nostalgia is the name of the game at this corner spot, glistening with the type of comfy, glossy cushioned seats typically reserved for bygone diners and ice cream parlors. True to form, the dessert menu screams comfort, from the vibrant housemade soda drinks to the farm-fresh pies brimming with local, seasonal fruits like blueberries and cherries. This is the ice cream shop we’ve all been yearning for this summer.
1000 N. California Ave.
Where do you like to take the kids out for dinner? Let us know in the Comments below!
— Matt Kirouac