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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Winter Checklist

It’s time for a new checklist. The winter checklist is full of winter-y but mostly Christmas-y things that we will hopefully be able to accomplish in the next coming weeks. Most of these things are ones that we have traditionally done each year. I hope that each of these things are things that our girls want to do for many more years to come.

Our list of winter must-dos:

When we do the summer checklist, we generally have about three months to get everything done and are able to do much of the list during the week since the girls and I are all home for the summer. For the winter checklist, however, we have to get it all done in just a few weekends (for the most part).

A couple of the to-do list items have already been accomplished. The Mag Mile Lights Festival was last weekend. It’s always one of our favorite events of the holiday season. It’s a great combination of two of our favorite things, Christmas and Disney.

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Mickey Mouse celebrating his birthday on the Mag Mile

We’ve also already accomplished taking a picture with Santa – a couple times already! At the tree lighting at Yorktown, the girls had a picture taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus. And then, once again, at a tree lighting – this time at the Shops at 900 North Michigan, the girls got to see Santa again and this time sit on his lap and let him know what their Christmas list consisted of.

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The tree at the Shops at 900 North Michigan is truly stunning!

So, all in all, I’m feeling pretty good about our list. Hopefully, there will be even more Christmas-y things that we are able to do, even if they aren’t on the initial list.

Our list thus far:

What are your Christmas must-dos?

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?

Seriously, Why Are Hotel Beds So Amazing?

Hotel beds are amazing. The mattresses always feel perfect. The sheets have some sort of spectacular thread count. But, perhaps my favorite part of staying in a hotel is that, well, it’s not your bed. Obviously. But, bear with me on this one. We recently had a staycation of sorts and stayed at Pheasant Run. Our hotel room was huge with lots of space for our family of four, even with the rollaway bed that was brought in for baby girl. The pools were nice. (The indoor/outdoor pool was a big hit.) And the workout facility was nice with lots of equipment to use.

But, perhaps my favorite part, was just climbing into bed at the end of the night, watching some Food Network and eating cookies. In bed.

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Yep. Now, will I eat cookies in bed at home? Goodness, no! Crumbs! Crumbs everywhere! But, when staying at a hotel, this is one of my favorite things to do. Climb into the comfy bed, watch a few shows, and eat some junk food. *sigh*

What’s your favorite part of a staycation?

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?

Bowling – Checklist Update

Summer is over but our summer checklist is still going strong. Saturday, we had our first bowling adventure. It was a lot of fun! We went to Pinstripes and had a lot of fun. It wasn’t very busy at all which was nice. I’m already looking forward to our next bowling adventure.

Check out our shoes!

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We are slowly but surely finishing everything (or as much as possible) on the list. Here’s hoping that we can get a few more things checked off of the list…..

The list 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.

 

Sometimes….I think about a well-balanced meal…..

Sometimes, I really try to think about ensuring that I have a well-balanced meal. Sometimes, I try to be sure that I am eating fruits and veggies with my meal. I do that for my girls. Why wouldn’t I do it for myself? Sometimes, my meal is a giant salad. (I’ve written before about my newfound love for bagged salads which is what I’ve done almost every day for my lunch now that school has started.)

Sometimes, I am very careful about what I’m eating for dinner.

But….sometimes….I’m exhausted and I have zero effort left in me and dinner is a bowl of cereal once the girls have gone to bed. I know the importance of eating a meal together but I also know that the girls need to eat, read, do homework, have a bath/shower, get in their jammies. While they are doing that, I need to get laundry done (started), load/unload the dishwasher, and get some miles completed on the treadmill. If there’s extra time, I would much rather have some extra snuggle time with my girlies while we read (for the 2,000,000th time) something by Mo Willems.

So, sometimes, I really try to make that effort to eat something that’s well-balanced.

And sometimes, dinner is cheese with a side of cheese.

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Manchego cheese with manchego cheese – why have a cheese board filled with things you might not like when you can have two giant cheeses that you know you will love? 🙂

To be honest, I am going to give myself credit for the hard apple cider that I drank along with this meal. That’s fruit! So, dairy, carbs and fruit. Not too bad.