Must we trade brunch dates and Bloody Mary’s for barely edible pancakes and sippy cups once we have kids? Hardly. Chicago restaurateurs, many of whom now claim the title of parents themselves, know how to host a good brunch which welcomes us and our progeny.
Unlike some downtown areas which only offer chains, Chicago has a host of brunch ideas and family friendly restaurants to dine in the Loop and nearby neighborhoods.
Rockit Burger Bar welcomes kids and its outdoor patio is dog-friendly, too, which allows you to bring your whole family along for the ride.
“We love hosting children at Rockit Burger Bar and we keep it kid-friendly with a special menu full of fresh entrees sized especially for smaller appetites,” says Joshua Hauer, Operating Partner, Rockit Ranch Productions. “We also offer venue amenities like stroller parking, a dining room separate from the bar and tasteful music selections that adds to the family-friendly feel.”
Its weekend-only brunch menu lets you make an omelet your way by choosing your ingredients and its popular breakfast burrito features favorite ingredients such as scrambled eggs, chorizo, avocado, cheddar jack, diced tomatoes and chipotle mayo in a warm tortilla served with home fries. We’re getting hungry just typing this.
If you’re heading to Rockit during the weekday, The MacDaddy, a Black Angus patty, braised beef short rib, mac & cheese, caramelized onions, served with French fries is popular among both the younger and older set. This place also serves killer drinks (it is also a bar, after all).
A place known for its fish and oysters may not immediately smack of the best place to take kids for brunch but Oz Truong is undeterred, often bringing her three children to dine alongside her and her husband. She loves GT Fish and Oyster anytime of the day, including brunch.
The restaurant caters to the younger set, too. “Our Pastry Chef Sarah Jordan has developed a few brunch dishes that are favorites among our youngest diners including her shareable Monkey Bread with orange cream cheese glaze ($7), Sarah’s French Toast made with yuzu curd and mascarpone ($11) (shown in photo; photo credit: Eric Kleinberg Photography) and our savory Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese made with sourdough and Wisconsin cheddar,” says GT Fish & Oyster Executive Chef Giuseppe Tentori. “We also offer a plate especially for kids under 12 which includes two Pancakes, Fried Chicken and Fruit Salad for $10.”
Ritu Nemani Reimer who works at Lutheran Social Services of Illinois feels Chicago has no shortage of great brunch places to take kids but two in particular stand out for her.
One of her favorites is Brunch (yes, that’s the name of the place – it’s a brunch place). “It’s casual but a brunch-themed place. They serve alcohol and cater to children.
Maura Hernandez lived down the street from Brunch and considered it her favorite brunch place in the city before her work took her to the West Coast. “It can be noisy in the later brunch hours so we’d try to go earlier, but the food is great,” she says.
West Loop & Greektown
Chicago native Angel West considers Wishbone in the West Loop as her go-to place for brunch. Why? “It’s really loud on the weekends. The food is outstanding (I recommend the crawfish cakes and cheese grits). The drinks are awesome (THE perfect Bloody Mary). And if you’re really lucky you might catch a celebrity or two (we once spotted Jesse Jackson and his family there),” West says. Wishbone also has a northside location.
Oak Parker Linda Stolz enjoys Meli in Greektown. Although it doesn’t have a specific brunch menu, the place (which means honey in Greek) features a ridiculously long menu of mouth-watering dishes from waffles, pancakes, crepes, eggs benedict, frittatas and skillets. The restaurant also includes seven dishes that are vegan and gluten-free which makes this place a great choice for those who have diners with food intolerances or allergies or want a really large menu of options.
The Local Chicago, one block east of the Magnificent Mile, is another perfect spot for family brunch. The Gold Coast restaurant offers an extensive buffet featuring a selection of scrambled eggs, pastries, pancakes, French toast, smoked bacon, pork sausage, homemade breakfast potatoes, seasonal fruit, cereal, yogurt, pastries, steel cut oatmeal, fresh baked bread, juice and more. To boot, the restaurant has a decadent Vanilla Brioche French Toast served with seasonal berries and pure maple syrup and a Belgian Waffle with Devonshire cream and pure maple syrup.
PS – That Bloody Mary in the picture is from The Local Chicago. That’s the drink the big kids have while the young ones enjoy their orange juice.
Bucktown has so many great places to dine, it’s pretty unbelievable. There are actually too many places to list but one stands out because of its service to my kids and I when we visited without my husband: Birchwood Kitchen. The decor is contemporary yet warm. You order your meals at the checkout counter and given a number to place at your table. Once the dishes are prepared, a server brings them to you. We snagged a seat outside in the back and it felt like we were in someone’s backyard. See the picture of my daughter and I in the outdoor area. The menu changes by season but make sure to ask for the oatmeal butterscotch cookie ~ trust me, it’s that good.
While Hash House A Go Go isn’t unique to Chicago, there are only a few places you can find it throughout the country and its Lincoln Park location has become a Chicago dining destination for kids and parents alike. Hash House A Go Go’s menu is huge, allowing for even the pickiest of eaters to find something appealing.
The “twisted farm food” eatery is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner and offers kids menus for all meal periods. Not only do kids enjoy the food, but they seem to love the funky farm atmosphere filled with toy tractors and other classic touches. The children’s menu features tasty treats like housemade meatloaf, bacon waffles, and fried chicken. There’s even a cute line that says “In Case of Emergency: Snickers Bar $1.”
While kids are busy tackling their over-the-top brunch dishes, Mom and Dad can take some time to enjoy a massive BLT Bloody Mary or Mimosa. Hash House offers a huge variety of brunch drinks to go along with its funky and fun menu. Diners can choose from Sage Fried Chicken & Waffles, massive FlapJacks and House Hashes in a variety of flavors.
Shari Schmidt, who blogs regularly about Chicago in Get Out and Have Fun Around Chicagoland, loves Northpond for its stunning location, great menu and fabulous servers. “It’s upscale and super kid-friendly at the same time,” she says. “Whenever we tell people we take our nine-year-old twin daughters there, people are surprised. It’s known as a fine dining restaurant. No one ever thinks of it for brunch with the family.”
Schmidt always takes her family through Lincoln Park and enjoy the zoo when they head to Northpond. “If we can walk through the Lily Pond gardens or the Lincoln Park Conservatory, it’s even better,” she adds.
Reimer’s second choice happens to be in Lincoln Park, too: Orange. “Orange is a contemporary and child friendly brunch chain in the city,” says Reimer. “It’s been mentioned on the Giada’s weekend getaways on the Food Network and is very child friendly. They have a fun menu and comfortable for parents traveling with children.”
Orange has two locations: one in Lincoln Park and one in Roscoe Village.
Truong thinks the Bloody Mary at Mad River Bar & Grille in Lincoln Park is one of the best she’s ever had. Although Mad River doesn’t serve brunch, per se, the manager says the place opens at 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and diners can order appetizers and entrees. If you want to try the killer Bloody Mary, ask for Scott Tran on Sundays to make one for you. Trust us. We’ve had it and it probably is the best Bloody Mary we’ve ever had.
KJ Hardy has several recommendations including Clarke’s Diner in Lincoln Park (Clarke’s Diner also has four additional locations: Hyde Park, Wicker Park, Wrigleville and Evanston) and Ann Sather (in addition to its Lincoln Park location, Ann Sather can be found in Lakeview, Granville and Andersonville).
Pastry Chef Jessica Ellington enjoys Bakin’ and Eggs which features an impressive weekend brunch menu of sweets and savories plus a menu for kids which includes a side of fresh fruit with every meal.
Lincoln Square / Roscoe Village / Avondale / Logan Square
Maureen Philben, a financial systems consultant, recommends Chief O’Neill’s. “While this is a traditional Irish pub, on Sundays they serve an excellent brunch with plenty of choices sure to please the fussiest eaters,” says Philben. “Chief O’Neill’s has a “beer garden” that is like sitting in your neighbor’s back yard. In fact there is plenty of grassy areas for the kids to get up and stretch while you enjoy the lovely setting!” It also has an great kids menu complete with fish and chips or shepherd’s pie among its options.
Heather Lalley is a big fan of gastropub Fork in Lincoln Square.
For a bit more upscale dining, we love JAM. We didn’t take our kids because Yelp reviews made it sound like the place wasn’t kid-friendly but when we visited there were plenty of kids. I think it depends on how well-behaved your kids are when you dine. Our kids are used to dining out so they would have had no problem behaving appropriately at JAM but if your kids tend to want to run around the place, JAM isn’t for you. It has a long and narrow layout that already makes it difficult for wait staff to maneveur. Be sure to leave room for dessert. This place is amazing. The photo of Foodie TravelingMom‘s husband is enjoying brunch at JAM.
M. Henrietta is a favorite of Naomi Czerwinskyj’s who was brave enough to visit during Mother’s Day weekend. “Yes, it’s kid-friendly,” she says. “I purposefully sat on the other side of the restaurant due to a very family-heavy brunch over mom’s day weekend.” It’s also BYOB which is nice for those who prefer to bring their own drinks.
M. Henry, its sister location in Andersonville, gets props from Hardy, too. Similarly to M. Henrietta, it’s BYOB.
“Is there a better option for parents and kids than Walker Brothers?” asks Michael Helfand. “What makes it so great is its consistency and quality. Theyserve an apple pancake which is like nothing you can get anywhere else. Thebacon is always crisp and perfectly cooked. The omelets are good sized andalways well made. Best pancakes too. Friendly staff, most of whom have beenthere forever. [Walker Brothers has] multiple locations, but [su]burbs only. Any time a friend comesto town I take them there and they are blown away.”
Truong also enjoys taking her family to Elly’s in Glenview when they went to head north of Chicago.
Some people only consider brunch during holidays like Mother’s Day. Margalit Sturm Francus wrote a great piece on where to take your mom for Mother’s Day brunch if you’re in southern California. Angela Tiffin notes that special brunches are prepared during Easter Sunday and the day after in Amsterdam. We think any day you can get out to enjoy brunch with your family and friends special occasion enough to go.
Many hotels offer brunch, too, but we always like to check out what’s happening in the neighborhoods of places we visit. Brunch often can be very affordable and have healthy meals, too, for families who want to stick to a budget during their family vacations.
Have we missed your favorite brunch place in Chicago or do you have a favorite where you live or often visit? Share it with us!
Megy Karydes is founder of Wandering Tastes, a travel and lifestyle website meant to inspire others to take more adventures. She often writes for both consumer and B2B media outlets on food, travel, fair trade and sustainability.