Saturday, January 18, 2014

Baby-Friendly Dining Spots in Chicago

This article of mine originally appeared at ChooseChicago.com, where I am a contributor. 

In breaking, earth-shattering Chicago news, a couple brought a cranky 8-month-old baby into Alinea, the other customers complained, and now Chef Grant Achatz is considering a baby ban. Yesterday Chef Achatz tweeted: "Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no,but.."
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Every city Mom and Dad knows that you can't shun restaurants with baby in tow entirely that first precious year, and while many of us wouldn't even think of taking our kids to an elegant, 5-star restaurant like Alinea, we all have our own baby-friendly go-to restaurants. These are places that are too loud for anyone to notice a crying baby, places that guarantee a hidden corner table, or those cherished dining spots where worn out parents tend to congregate with babes in carriers. Here are five Chicago spots where you can comfortably bring your baby and enjoy a well-deserved meal as a family.

Wishbone North (1001 W Washington Blvd)
Located in the family-filled Lincoln Square area of Chicago, Wishbone North is usually filled to the brim with families and kids of all ages. Serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner Southern style, the menu features comfort food including everyone's favorites: biscuits, BBQ and baked cobblers and seasonal pies. Settle into one of the comfy booths in the large dining area where you're certain to encounter friendly service and families aplenty. Those wishing for a more tranquil dining experience can tuck into the adults-only Bourbon Lounge.

Dave's Italian Kitchen (Evanston)
This homey Italian restaurant, located just north of Chicago in downtown Evanston (technically a city suburb of Chicago but also a dining destination easy to reach via CTA), promises real, healthful, homemade food at reasonable prices. Consistently family-friendly, the large dining space has booths where you can fit baby's carrier (and pray that he falls asleep so you can enjoy a moment of peace). Order a glass of wine from the extensive wine list and enjoy the selection of classic Italian-American dishes, including veal parmesean, stuffed zucchini, and lasagne con amore.

Irazu (1865 N Milwaukee Ave)   
In the summertime, Irazu is the place to be: It's lively patio is filled to the brim with singles, couples, kids and even babies. The music, conversation, and street sounds will not only drown out your baby's potential gurgles and cries but also serve as a soothing, white noise. And since you're on a patio, you can pull up your baby's buggy table side and even roll the buggy back and forth to calm your baby back to sleep. But the real draw here is the authentic Costa Rican cuisine: I recommend the Casado, a marinated rib-eye steak, chicken breast or tilapia served with rice, black beans, sweet plantains, cabbage salad and an over easy egg. Many come to Irazu solely for the shakes, and especially the Oatmeal shake, a healthier take on the common shake that both kids and adults love.

Scoozi (410 W Huron St) 
Scoozi is a River North's Italian trattoria specializing in a wide range of antipasti, brick-oven pizzas, and housemade pastas - all perfect for sharing family-style. Its 350 seat dining room pretty much guarantees that you'll be able tuck into a booth with baby. The kitchen-fresh gnocchi or ravioli are always a good pick, and Scoozi's Wine Spectator-award-winning wine list ranges from half-bottles to three-liter giants, with over 30 wines by the glass.

Reza's (Multiple Locations)
Reza's is one of the largest restaurants in Chicago and features award-winning Persian cuisine. It's one of those places where you can take your entire picky family and everyone will find a new favorite dish. The kebabs and rice with dill and fava beans that accompanies almost every meal is a kid-favorite; parents will enjoy the fresh seafood, steaks and chops. Multi-level, expansive seating welcomes families with babies and toddlers.

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