To keep your booster seat buddy occupied at restaurants, you’ve started to BYOT (Bring Your Own Toys). Lighten your load and head to eateries that supply them for you. From board games to blocks to pizza dough used as play-doh, the diversions at these spots will make restless kids happy — at least until the ride home.
Red June Cafe
Breakfast and lunch is served at this darling little café — and your little darlings will be all smiles. Grab Julius Meinl coffee and head to the back to enjoy a child’s oasis of coloring books and crayons, puzzles, toys and even a pint-size dining table. The mini bagels topped with cream cheese, avocado and tomato are perfectly portioned for kids.
2020 N. Leavitt St.
Southport & Irving
Begin with Neiman Ranch bacon-scallion mac ‘n’ cheese and end with a fudge brownie stack. It’s nothing but smooth skating in between. That’s because this warm neighborhood restaurant keeps kids happy with a “treasure chest” full of toys and goodies. When the chest appears, kids can pillage it and pick something to play with at the table (on our recent visit, it had everything from funky sunglasses to notepads). Additionally, kids eat free every night from 5:00 pm-6:30 pm.
4000-4006 N. Southport Ave.
Cupcakes are exciting enough. But if want to make a family event out of eating sweet treats, go tot Molly’s. The tables at this bright, endearing spot are stacked with board games like Jenga and Scrabble. If you don’t feel like putting on your game face, grab a seat at the cupcake bar; the seats are made from actual swings.
2536 N. Clark St.
The Italian joint is known across the city and suburbs for being family friendly. Its Rogers Park location really goes above the call of duty. Attached to the main dining area is a special kids’ room with a large-screen TV that plays age-appropriate movies. Young diners can kick back with a flick, or fiddle with toys and video games while waiting for their food. Speaking of food, all kids under eight years old eat free every day.
6935 N. Sheridan Rd.
All Aboard Diner
Trains are everywhere at the Downers Grove favorite that Chicago families find worth the trip. A model train runs throughout (passing about every 30 seconds) and Thomas the Train appears looping on a TV screen. The menu items are simple: burgers, sandwiches, popcorn shrimp and the like. It’s all enough to whet your whistle — and by that we mean the train whistle that every little patron gets to take home.
Tom & Eddies
This gourmet burger joint has locations across the ‘burbs and all of them pay special attention to kids. While you wait for your Blue Chip Burger (topped with avocado, blue cheese cream and potato chips) or the healthier Ying and Yang Burger (a veggie option made from edamame) your sidekick can explore the “tower of toys.” It’s a shelf packed with wooden Melissa & Doug toys, including an abacus to sneak in a little math prep. Games and books are plentiful, too.
5 area locations, including:
40 N. Waukegan Rd.
Downtown Naperville’s Neapolitan restaurant serves brick-oven thin-crust pizza. It also serves heaping portions of pizza dough that kids can toy around with at their table. You’ll be willing to ignore your don’t-play-with-your-food rule when you realize you have enough silence to hold an adult conversation. And, who knows, you may have a future pizzaioli on your hands.
19 N. Washington St.
Maybe you’ve heard about the pan pizza at this North Shore landmark; it’s been locally famous for 43 years. Being around so long has allowed its employees to perfect the hardest part of being in business: keeping kiddos happy. Step inside and you’ll see they’ve succeeded. Two trains run on a track that’s suspended from the ceiling on the lower level, mesmerizing little eyes. When the novelty wears off, there are Etch A Sketches and handheld water games to bide the time until your pie arrives.
625 Rockland Rd.
What is your favorite restaurant to take the kids to? Let us know in the Comments section below.
— Samantha Lande