Eating with the Grown-Ups

As far as family restaurant dining is concerned, there’s far more to life than the drive-thru window.  Of course, it isn’t always easy to wrangle a family of five out of the car and into a nice restaurant, but it’s well worth it.

Food is an integral part of the social experience. The best way for children to learn appropriate restaurant etiquette is to expose them to it. Not difficult to do here on the North Shore, where hundreds of restaurants await your business, and a good number of them cater to diners of all sizes.

And yes, while hamburgers, hot dogs and mac & cheese are undeniably tasty, we’re in search of those places that go above and beyond with their children’s menus to give kids a real feel for the cuisine of the individual restaurant in child-friendly portions – and prices.  And don’t forget to check out side dishes and bar food; these tend to be just the right size, too.

Here are a few places that fit the bill, and some of our recommended menu options for your budding gourmet:

Bravo Italiano, Evanston and Glenview

Italian is the name of the game here. Kids can even create their own 10” pizza with up to three toppings while mom and dad enjoy the wines by the glass or the killer Cosmos.

What’s Good? Ravioli Formaggio; Pasta Alfredo with Chicken; Pork Chop with Smashed Potatoes and Veggies; Junior Caesar Salad.

L. Woods Tap, Lincolnwood

Visit the North Woods without leaving the North Shore. Kids love the camp-like feel of L. Woods, where they even have their own Kid’s Club. All kid’s meals are served with homemade applesauce and a choice of mashed potatoes, fries, homemade potato chips or seasonal veggies.

What’s Good? Toasted Cheese on Whole Wheat; All-Natural, Farm-Raised BBQ Chicken; Filet Mignon Tail; Baby Back Ribs; Sima’s Pounded Chicken with Fresh Corn.

Orange, Glenview

This brunch bastion delivers the goods, or as they like to say, “Contemporary Brunch with A Peel!” The whole family will delight in the delicious options. Kids “Brunch ‘n’ Lunch” includes house potatoes, with the option of subbing organic salad greens, baby spinach or a fruit plate. Now that’s healthy!

What’s Good: Frushi (Fruit Sushi); Fruity Pebble BabyCakes; PB&J with Bananas; Kid’s Eggs, Chicken-Apple Sausage; Freshly-Squeezed Orange Juice.

Prairie Grass, Northbrook

Family-friendly chefs Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris are thrilled to see the little ones eating at their restaurant! While Mom and Dad feast on organic Tallgrass Beef and Green City Market produce, kids enjoy their own specialties.

What’s Good: Combo Plate (sliced fruit and veggies with cheese); Breaded Chicken Cutlet and Mashed Potatoes; Petite Filet with Twice-Baked Potato.

Sage Grille, Highwood

This comfortable Neighborhood spot happens to have terrific American Bistro food. So go ahead and nibble on your Pumpkin Risotto or Crispy Salmon while junior tucks into their meal. All Kids’ Entrees include a side (salad, mac & cheese, garlic bread, or veggies) and ice cream.

What’s Good: Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese; Chicken Fingers with Ranch and BBQ Sauce; Toasted Ham and Cheese; Loaded Cheeseburger.

Wildfire, Lincolnshire and Glenview

Known for their grilled steaks, chicken, and ribs, Wildfire happily accommodates little tummies with a diverse kids’ menu.

What’s Good? Along with the ubiquitous burgers, cheese pizza, and buttered noodles, kids can also try the House Salad; Chicken Parmesan and Corkscrew Pasta; BBQ Ribs and Chicken Finger Combo w/ Fries: or a Kid’s Filet and Mashed Potatoes.