Here’s a crazy thought: A restaurant doesn’t need a kids-eat-free night, paper tablecloths or even a kids’ menu to make it a great place for families. The proof is Vistro, a just-opened restaurant in Hinsdale that will change the way we think about eating out with kids. With sharable dishes from an award-winning chef, mocktails for all ages, and a vibe that’s hip and relaxed despite the sea of high chairs, you won’t miss those chicken nuggets one bit.

vistro-pizza

The Scoop
Vistro — which is nested on Hinsdale’s cute downtown strip, near the train station — is the latest venture from chef Paul Virant, who you might know for his upscale date-night spots: Vie in Western Springs and Perennial Virant in Lincoln Park. With Vistro, Paul appeals to families first (he’s a father of two himself).

Even if your tot is subject to meltdowns in public places, be reassured by the painted message on the exposed brick wall: It says, simply, “It’s all good.” It’s part of the way the 80-seat bistro-style spot puts everyone at ease. Even without crayons and coloring pages, there’s plenty to keep kids occupied. Check out the giant wood-burning oven (the pizza chef is super-friendly and happy to talk about the way it works), fiddle around with Wikki Stix (they’re given out to younger kids) or sit back and chit-chat.

vistro-dining-room

The Food
Who needs a kids’ menu when the regular menu has new and old favorites — many of them finger foods? A Snacks & Munchies section focuses on healthier selections for those must-eat-now moments (think crudités of seasonal veggies with housemade ranch, crispy Tuscan kale chips, string cheese made in house, and a crunchy mix of chickpeas and pecans).

Main courses can be shared, too. You’ll see dishes like seasonal quesadillas stuffed with Chihuahua cheese, pork shoulder, corn and salsa verde. Less adventurous little eaters will want to try the margarita pizza or macaroni and cheese made with good ol’ fashioned elbow mac. There are also surefire winners like fried chicken served with summer beans, biscuits and gravy.

For a sweet finish, pastry chef Elissa Narrow makes soft-serve ice cream from scratch. Top it off with Valrhona chocolate pearls, homemade sprinkles, cookie crumbs, butterscotch or hot fudge. The mini cookie monsters in your group may want to try the assorted cookie plate filled with the likes of macarons and more.

vistro-smiling

Cocktails for Kiddies (And You!)
Move over, Shirley Temple: Kids are welcome to choose from a menu of sophisticated mocktails dappled with house-made syrups. Try Summer Smash made with fresh melon and lime, chamomile tea syrup, soda and mint; or That’s My Jam crafted from black raspberry jam, fresh melon, thyme syrup and tonic. If Mom and Dad want one with a kick, the bartenders can add a spirit to it. Beyond mocktails, there are all-natural sodas sweetened with honey and made locally with seasonal flavors like Honeycrisp apple and heirloom watermelon.

downtown-hinsdale

Exploring Hinsdale
Extend your visit to Hinsdale and nose around town a bit. Right next door is School of Rock Hinsdale, where kids learn guitar, piano and more from bona fide rock ‘n’ roll musicians. One block south you’ll find the charming kids’ boutique, My Sister Kate, which sells wooden toys, books, games, designer clothes and more. Across the street, Toni Patisserie tempts with European-style pastries and cakes that are almost too pretty to eat. For thrills, check out Veeck Park Skate Park, where BMX bikers and skateboarders have the run of ramps, boxes and quarter pipes — it’s just fun to watch as to participate. Finally, just outside town, near Route 34 and I-294, Graue Mill & Museum is a historic water-powered grist mill and educational center fashioned in the style of Victorian and pioneer times.

Have fun and happy dining!

Vistro
Open Mon.-Thurs., 5-10:30 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 5-11:30 p.m.
112 S. Washington St.
Hinsdale
630-537-1459
Online: vistrorestaurant.com

Will you take your kids to this cool new spot? Let us know in the Comments!

— Samantha Lande