Kid-Friendly Restaurants

Our kids have been eating out at restaurants since…well…they were old enough to be out in public. It’s just always been a part of our lives. Ryan and I love eating at different spots and we have found many spots that have really good kids’ meals in addition to the meals for the adults. So, although this list will undoubtedly grow through the years, here are some places that we love and recommend:

The guidelines for my list? Suburban locations. Great kids meals and great meals for the grown-ups. Not a location that is obviously designed for kids – although we do, of course, love those locations, too.

In no particular order…….

Nandos. (Many locations)

Nandos is a chain but since it has only recently moved in at locations near us, it definitely doesn’t feel like a chain. And it doesn’t feel (or taste) like fast food. It is more like yummy food served fast – not fast food. (Nothing against fast food which we also eat just plenty.)

I love this spot because I love their food. I always get the same thing – chicken skewers, peas, fries, and perinaise (it’s mayo but, like, really yummy mayo.)….perhaps one day I’ll move beyond these and try something new but don’t expect that to happen anytime soon…

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Doesn’t that look yummy? It is!

Nando’s is great because the kid’s meals are really good, too. My girls usually get the same entree (chicken sandwich and grilled cheese) but they change up their side dishes almost every time. Corn on the cob. Garlic bread (yep….bread as a side to their bread). Fries. Apple slices (which is actually an entire apple sliced!).

Yep, we love Nando’s and might actually eat there several times throughout the month.

The Clubhouse  (Oak Brook and Schaumburg)

We’ve even here many times for lunch (actually haven’t gone for dinner yet) but the number one reason to hit up The Clubhouse is brunch. They’re brunch buffet is out of this world. This is a table filled with stuff for the kids – although they can eat whatever else they want too – including pb&j sandwiches, scrambled eggs, mac ‘n cheese, chicken fingers. There is a carving station (Ryan usually hits this one up). There are tables filled with pastas, pancakes, cheese, seafood, just pretty much whatever you might want to eat. And it’s all good. Really good. (Drinks are delicious, too). A lot of times, food on brunch buffets end up tasting bland and, well, cold. But everything here is freshly made and restocked throughout the brunch times.

Check out the girls’ plates:

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And my plate:

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And then…..there’s a dessert table with chocolate fountain, cakes, bars, and all kinds of yummy things to nibble on after you’ve finished off your second or third plate from the buffet.

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Mon Ami Gabi (Oak Brook and other locations around country)

French food is delicious. Wine. Cheese. Bread. Yum. The great thing about Mon Ami Gabi is that the food is delicious for the adults (who can get some truly classic French dishes) but also great for the kids who are able to order from a nice selection of meals.

Now, perhaps your six year old does not suggest that you order the mussels so that she can help you to eat them. Maybe…just maybe…that’s not something that your six year old enjoys.

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My six year old, however, loves mussels. And I’m perfectly ok with ordering a giant bowl of them so that she can have a couple and I can have the most.

Our girls almost always order the mac ‘n cheese when we’re eating at Mon Ami Gabi. And, honestly, I might consider ordering it as an adult because it’s really good.

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The mac ‘n cheese always comes with green beans (that baby girl absolutely loves), apple slices, and extra cheese. The girls like to mix the extra cheese into the already super cheesy mac ‘n cheese to get just the right ratio of cheese to other cheese. Yep. Perfect ration.

Steak + Vine (La Grange)

This is a new spot for us. After seeing many pics of the food (that’s pretty much how I decide whether or not I’ll eat somewhere) we gave their brunch a shot.

Check out our spread:

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There was plenty of yummy choices for Ryan and for me (Chicken and waffles, and shrimp and grits, and chilaquiles! All of my favorite brunchy foods!)

Plus, the girls were able to pick what they wanted and were able to customize their meals. In the pic below you can see baby girl adding more parmesan cheese to her pasta. Yum. Cheese. (Big girl is showing off the breakfast potatoes that came with her meal.)

The portion are a great size for the adults but are a really really great size for the kiddos. Yay for leftovers! One thing that really appeals to me at Steak + Vine is that they understand that young taste buds become adult taste buds. When you stalk the menu online (because everyone does that, right?…..), you will see that they refer to the kids menu as the “Future Adults Menu.” Perfect!

 

Where are your favorite places to take kids for brunch/lunch/dinner? Where do I need to try next?

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Simple Weeknight Dinners

We are busy. Ridiculously busy. Between events, dance classes, running errands, etc. it’s hard to just have a night of quiet. OK. Not hard. Nearly impossible it seems. So, I am on the lookout for easy weeknight dinners that don’t require a lot of prep work and can be done in little time….And that the girls will want to eat.

One of our go-to meals is mini pizzas made on English muffins. Spread some pasta sauce on the English muffins. Add some cheese. Throw it in the oven and you’ve got pizzas. I’ve been trying to use it as an easy way to get the girls to eat more veggies but they keep picking them off. Thankfully, they’ll both eat a handful of carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes if they won’t veggies on their pizza.

What are your favorite recipes for easy weeknight dinners?

Halloween Cereal Taste Test

You can only get them once a year. You know exactly what I’m talking about.

Franken Berry. Boo Berry. Count Chocula. You know you love them! But, which one is your favorite? The kiddos and I decided to do a taste test for dinner. (Yep. I’m that mom. Cereal for dinner. Three kinds of cereal for dinner!)

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And here’s one of my assistant…….she’s so helpful……

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The plan: I added some of each flavor to some small cups (these are the same cups that I use for pudding like this Princess pudding). The kiddos and I each had a few bites of each flavor and then voiced our favorite.

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The final result of this very scientific taste test? Well, it’s a draw. Big girl’s favorite is Count Chocula. Baby girl’s favorite is Franken Berry. And I really like Boo Berry. So, now I turn to you.  What’s your favorite?

Dinner with Kids – Sometimes you win….Sometimes

After we went to the Country Fair at Kline Creek Farm, big girl was very interested in finding more ways to use honey. We had the chance to see honey being harvested straight from the hive. And we were able to taste the freshest honey possible – right off of the honeycomb. Well, we bought a container of honey when we went blueberry picking during our recent Michigan vacation. So, I started to plan. How about breakfast for dinner? (One of my favorite meals to make for myself.) I made cheesy scrambled eggs, opened a new container of canned peaches (we get them from Costco….and we go through them crazy fast), and I made some toast with butter and honey drizzled on it.

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Honestly, I was really happy with this meal. I thought that they would be excited about it. Look! Honey! And it tasted just as fresh as the honey that we had right off of the honeycomb at the Country Fair…..and guess what the girls ate for dinner?

Um.

Canned peaches. No cheesy scrambled eggs. No toast. I think they both licked the honey off of the toast. So, there’s that.

*sigh*

Dinner time. Sometimes you win. Sometimes. This just wasn’t one of those times.

Dinner and the Checklist

My girls are 5 and 3 years old. That means, of course, that Rainforest Cafe is one of their favorite places to eat. So, of course, it was on the summer checklist. Not only do they love the food, the girls also love walking around and trying to find all of the animals. Little girl seemed a little worried when the “storm” happened (there is a thunder sound and the lights flash off and on) but that was really the only issue.

The checklist thus far:

  • Make lemonade.
  • Eat at Big Bowl.
  • Go to Millennium Park.
  • Go to Adler Planetarium.
  • Get space ice cream.
  • Go to zoo.
  • Go to Shedd Aquarium.
  • Go bowling.
  • Make banana pudding.
  • Go to the splash pads downtown.
  • Play at Maggie Daley playground.
  • Go to Field Museum.
  • Go to Art Institute and do a JourneyMaker tour.
  • Go swimming.
  • Go to the Children’s Museum.
  • Play at playground.
  • Have a pajama day (with daddy.)
  • See a movie at the movie theater.
  • See a movie outside.
  • Go to the library.
  • Go to the Family Festival downtown Chicago.
  • Make cookies.
  • Read books at home.
  • Ride the train at the mall.
  • Go to the beach.
  • Have a picnic.
  • Go to American Girl Place.
  • Draw pictures and cut them out.
  • Play with legos.
  • Make muffins.
  • Make pasta salad.
  • Play with toys.
  • Go to a festival.
  • Try to go to a water park.
  • Go to the Disney store downtown Chicago.
  • Eat at Rainforest Cafe.
  • Eat at Labriola Cafe.
  • Bake an apple pie.
  • Play games on the iPad.
  • Play Mario game with daddy.
  • Go to the Morton Arboretum.
  • Go to Mimi and Pa’s house.
  • Go to Granny and Pa’s house.
  • Go on a hike.
  • Go to the Museum of Science and Industry.

Winning at Parenting

Now, I certainly don’t always feel this way but sometimes I really do feel like I’m winning at this parenting thing. Sometimes. Sometimes.

For example, sometimes, your girls find a new kind of mac ‘n cheese that they want to try and they help you make princess pudding for dessert. And the girls aren’t arguing while helping with the cooking. And they eat all of their dinner. And they clear their places after dinner without being reminded to.

Sometimes.

 

Has Anyone Ever Been Excited to Eat a Salad?

I am fairly certain that no one has ever been excited to eat a salad. I know for sure that I never have. Well, let me specify. The only salad I’ve ever been excited to eat was the Waldorf salad that my grandpa made. Although, it wasn’t until I was much older that I learned that it was called a Waldorf salad. We always called it apple salad. His was not a typical Waldorf salad. That salad taught me that marshmallows could and should be a salad ingredient.

But…..I have been trying to eat better. Grad school and other stresses have led to some (or a lot) of stress eating so I’ve been trying to eat more veggies and more salad. I have found a salad that I don’t mind eating. Fresh Express bag salads (specifically the chopped kits) are pretty good.  There are greens but also extra crunchy things and the included dressings are pretty good.

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But really…..the reason that I am trying to eat more salad? It’s so that I can eat more of the stuff that I want to eat. I tell myself that if I eat some veggies, then I can have some dessert.

Why do I eat salad?

So that I can eat a donut.

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