The single you might not have understood kids in bars, but then you had one of your own and realized that judgment is for meanies. Fortunately, we found family-friendly bars in and around Chicago that let you kick back with suds and pub grub without getting the stink eye from strangers.
photo: The Squared Circle via Yelp
The Squared Circle
Owned by former WWE and TNA wrestler Lisa Marie Varon, this joint is packed with wrestling memorabilia and has a family-friendly menu. Indulge in stuffed burgers, salads, and milkshakes in flavors like toasted marshmallow, twinkie, and peanut butter banana. The kids will get a kick talking to real-life wrestler Varon who may come around to your table to chat them up. With specials like $1 well drinks and $1 Miller Light drafts on Thursdays, the experience, like Varon herself, is a total knockout.
2418 N. Ashland Ave.
The Bad Apple
There’s nothing rotten about this laidback hangout. Since it cares about what your kids put in their bodies almost as much as you do, they have kids’ menu options like PB& J on multigrain bread and homemade granola with yogurt and fruit, and they’ve even gone as far as to make their own ketchup. These guys love watching their regulars grow up over the years and welcome a friendly wave in the kitchen from little diners.
4300 N. Lincoln Ave.
photo: Silver Cloud Facebook page
Silver Cloud Bar & Grill
We have two words for you: tater tots. Imagine the whole family enjoying famous Sloppy Joes or grilled cheese sandwiches on thick Italian bread and tomato soup with a side of tots with s’mores for dessert. Try real s’mores for the kids and a s’mores martini for those over the drinking age. It’s comfort food just the way Mom would make it in retro-cool atmosphere that’s always bustling enough to drown out the sound of your kids yelping.
1700 N. Damen Ave.
Curious kids love this family-friendly German beer hall that has Bavarian cuisine like knockwurst, soft pretzels and rabbit. It’s casual, friendly and full of fun things to look at (custom-built clocks and a huge vintage wall mural). Although a kids’ menu is in development, the chef has two little ones of his own, so he’s more than happy to tailor his dishes to fit children’s needs, wants or likes. Throw in a signature cocktail like the Rye? Because We Love You made with rye, grapefruit and celery bitters, and Kummel, and all will be wünderbar!
2375 N. Milwaukee Ave.
photo: Crossing Facebook page
Officially Chicago’s home for University of Kansas Alum, this bar/restaurant shows love for future Jayhawks by providing a kids menu that includes favorites like mac ‘n’ cheese, mini cheeseburgers and dino-shaped chicken tenders. While kids enjoy drinks from spill-proof kids cups, parents can kick back and consider a pint from an extensive beer list, which includes a long list of draft beers, American craft bottles and even gluten-free beers. When the temperature heats up, spend a Chicago summer hanging out in the beer garden where kids can run around without getting scolded.
2548 N. Southport Ave.
Don’t let the backwoods-booze name scare you off. Moonshine is packed with Wicker Park families from the neighborhood who come by foot, kick scooters or SUVs to partake in delish bar food. The atmosphere is very anything-goes, but the kids’ menu-turned-coloring page comes complete with a packet of crayons. Kids’ drinks are served in a spill-proof lid, so happy hour is as relaxing for mom and dad as it was B.C.*
1824 W. Division St.
photo: Tommy Nevin’s via Yelp
Tommy Nevin’s Pub
Irish pubs are always a hit and this one — with outposts in Evanston & Naperville — is no different. Named after the owner’s grandfather, WWI hero Thomas Nevin, it offers daily drink specials (of the Guinness-kind) to the over 21 crowd, while kids can eat off of the menu that includes fresh peanut oil-free “pub grub” like corned beef and swiss sandwiches, loaded potato soup and shepherd’s pie.
1450-1458 Sherman Ave.
3032 English Rows
This Highland Park hangout is as kid-friendly as they come. Try one of the famous “Norton” burgers or delicious slab of baby back ribs — with smaller portions on the kids’ menu — and finish the whole meal off with a super-indulgent Tollhouse sundae. There are regular karaoke nights, if your American Idol-in-training feels like showing off his or her stuff.
1905 Sheridan Rd.
Is there a family-friendly neighborhood bar that you love? Let us know in the Comments section below.
— Jo Aaron