It’s okay to just say “no” to chicken nuggets. In fact, some restaurants encourage it! With more and more chefs paying attention to their youngest clientele, you can find kids’ menus that go way beyond the basics. For a place the whole family will love, try one of these local restaurants, where choices for little ones are thoughtfully designed to be approachable and delicious. Who says four-year-olds can’t appreciate burrata?

sushi-mom

photo: eyeliam via flickr

Pop a Pot Sticker … at Urbanbelly
Instead of a burger, try the burger dumplings for kids at Chef Bill Kim’s Asian fusion spot. The beef and cheddar pot stickers are familiar flavors to ease kids into eating with chopsticks. The chicken noodle soup with thick udon noodles, crispy chicken and mild broth is another dish both adults and kids will appreciate. Maple-glazed mini donuts and PB&J soft serve are sure hits for dessert. Head there early (right when it opens at 11 a.m. for lunch, and around 5 p.m. for dinner) for the best chance at a table and a relaxed family dinner before things really get bustling.

1400 W. Randolph St.
West Loop
773-583-0500
Online: urbanbellychicago.com
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Frog Legs for First-Timers … at Moe Joe’s
It’s Mardi Gras every day at this festive Cajun and Caribbean restaurant that pushes kids to explore new meat options — of the amphibian variety. Frog legs and cheesy mashed potatoes or alligator nuggets expand the palate from plain chicken, although those are available too. A Krabby Patty sandwich is made from a secret recipe straight from the Bayou. Reward members of the clean plate club with Mardi Gras beads. Maybe a family trip to New Orleans is in the cards?

24033 W. Lockport St.
Plainfield
815-230-2790
Online: eatmoejoes.com
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An Intro to Charcuterie … at Bread & Wine
This neighborhood gem welcomes kids with a “nibbles for little ones” menu — and a coloring book and crayons, to boot. Two of the options are named for the owner’s daughters’ favorite foods: Stella’s penne with house-made red sauce and Parmesan, and salad à la Lily with a selection of seasonal veggies and vinaigrette. Kiddies can try charcuterie too, with the pork, garlic and coriander house-made kielbasa, adapted from the adult menu.

3732 W. Irving Park Rd.
Irving Park
773-866-5266
Online: breadandwinechicago.com

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photo: Creperie Saint Germain

Ooh, La, Crêpes for Junior … at Crêperie Saint Germain
Kids can build their own organic whole wheat crepes here — both savory and sweet. Pick three ingredients of your choice from a list that includes Nutella, Chantilly cream, bananas, ham, mixed vegetables, shredded cheese, tomato fondue and more. You might want to institute a eat-what-you-order rule if anybody gets the bright idea of mixing ham and whipped cream. This authentic French joint has live music on Saturdays and encourages patrons to show up wearing berets (cute photo opp alert!).

1512 Sherman Ave.
Evanston
847-859-2647
Online: creperiestgermain.com
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Brunch That’s Way Beyond … at Allium
The Four Seasons has always been known for catering to its youngest clientele, and that extends to the food and beverage options. Kids get their own menus along with crayons and a colorful activity book and parents will be thrilled with the nutritious options. There’s steamed edamame and fruit kebabs with yogurt dip along with an epicurean mac and cheese with Wisconsin white cheddar and house-made macaroni. For brunch, kids eat a three-course meal just like grownups, starting with root beer or a kiddie cocktail, crudité and yogurt push-pops, and a selection of entrees including brioche French toast bites and breakfast sliders.

120 E. Delaware Pl.
Gold Coast
312-799-4900
Online: alliumchicago.com
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Salads They’ll Dare to Eat … at Freshii
A kids’ menu just debuted the fast-casual chain with six options for $4.99, including a kung fu brown rice or rice noodle teriyaki bowl with chicken, broccoli, edamame, carrots and crisp wontons. There are also cheesy chicken quesadillas, a strawberry banana smoothie with low-fat frozen yogurt and a super kids salad with broccoli, romaine, spinach, aged cheddar and ranch dressing. With more than 16 locations in the city and suburbs (including Oakbrook and Rosemont), this is a great alternative to fast food when you’re on the go.

Downtown location:
835 N. Michigan Ave.
Gold Coast
312-202-9009
For additional locations, go to freshii.com

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photo: Frontera Grill

Not Your Everyday Tacos … at Frontera Grill
Kids can have chips here, but they will be house-made tortilla chips served with guacamole or salsa for dipping. A lighter appetizer might be a little gem lettuce salad with fresh cheese or jicama, pineapple and cucumber with fresh lime. Just like adults, this menu for guests eight years and under encourages children to try multiple courses. Young foodies might not be satisfied with frozen quesadillas and taquitos after tasting the Mexico City-style quesadillas oozing with Chihuahua cheese and crispy taquitos filled with smoked chicken and topped with sour cream and Mexican cheese.

445 N. Clark St.
River North
312-661-1434
Online: rickbayless.com
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Graham Cracker Pancakes? Yep … at Max’s Wine Dive
A place with “wine” in the name doesn’t sound like a kid-friendly spot for brunch. But don’t be fooled. Saturdays mean cartoon-themed brunch with items like a s’mores-inspired Scooby stack of graham cracker pancakes and pepperoni pizza bagels. Kids can dress up their orange juice with colorful candy instead of champagne and the whole family can play games like Hungry Hungry Hippos, Connect Four and Rock’em Sock’em Robots.

1482 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Wicker Park
773-661-6581
Online: maxswinedive.com
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Walleye Pike for Wee Ones … at Inovasi
Head to downtown Lake Bluff for gourmet cuisine at an affordable price. The kids’ menu here is divided into little kids and big kids, for smaller and larger appetites. Toddlers can eat wok-fried rice with chicken and soy sauce or walleye pike with whipped potatoes. Older kids can try steak and slow-cooked BBQ pork. To reward good behavior and clean plates, everyone can have warm chocolate chip cookies for dessert. To discourage electronics at the table, the restaurant gives kids plastic Link ‘n’ Locks assembly kits to make cars, planes and other scenes while they wait patiently for their food.

28 E. Center Ave.
Lake Bluff
847-295-1000
Online: inovasi.us

What’s the most adventurous thing your kiddo has ever eaten? Let us know in the Comments!

— Amber Gibson