6 spots to chow down with kids for less than $6

Pretend it’s Wednesday at 5 p.m. Or Sunday at noon. Or whichever day, whichever time you typically don’t feel like cooking––but would prefer not to spend more on a meal out than the cost of those shoes you’ve been eyeing.

My “can’t cook, won’t cook” clock chimes at 6 p.m. on Saturdays. After a busy week of work for me, school for the kiddo and endless errands for everyone, cobbling together a Saturday dinner can feel like solving a 1,000-piece puzzle.

Since Saturdays are for relaxing anyway, I’m constantly taking note of north suburban spots where families can chow down without ponying up. Here are six favorites to get a great kid’s meal for under $6 (even without the drive-through).

The Works

2676 Golf Road, Glenview

A hot dog for less than $3––say what?! This casual, counter-serve must-try specializes in gyros and other Greek standbys, offering adults something other than standard burger fare. For the kiddos, though, we’re talking cheddar dogs, chili dogs and cheeseburgers, all for less than $5 each. My favorite “no, seriously” meal is the restaurant’s namesake, The Works: two hot dogs on French bread with cheese and a choice of condiments for … wait for it … $4.60.

Fitness Cafe

2532 Waukegan Road, Glenview

Fresh-to-order eats made with no saturated fat are the heart and soul of Fitness Cafe, bucking the notion that inexpensive food inherently equals greasy. Adults can choose from robust salads, wraps, quinoa bowls and sandwiches. Little ones will love the kids’ meal names alone: Karate Chop (PB&J with a special dessert), Jumping Jax (grilled cheese with a special dessert), Homerun (organic quinoa with grilled chicken, marinara sauce and parmesan) or Penalty Box (noodles and cheese with a special dessert). Each meal clocks in at $3.99––proving healthy food can be affordable.

Meatheads Burgers & Fries

1036 Willow Road, Northbrook

(+ multiple locations)

When the hankering hits for a burger and fries, everyone needs a no-fail, go-to spot. Ours is Meatheads in Northbrook, where I’m usually too busy inhaling my own burger, fries and super-duper shake to notice my little one making good on his $5.50 kids’ meal. Choose from a kid-sized burger, chicken tenders, a hot dog or grilled cheese, then pick a side: fries, veggies or applesauce.

Egg Harbor Cafe

2350 Lehigh Avenue, Glenview

(+ multiple locations)

Rainbow Pancakes, French Toast Fingers, Captain Mac––this menu is tailor-made for kids. While parents heartily fill their weekend brunch quota, pint-size diners can choose from a varied menu that includes a waffle sampler, chicken tenders, mini cheeseburgers, or green eggs and ham (yep, the eggs really are green). The priciest meal on the kids’ menu? $5.99.

Pita Inn

122 S. Elmhurst Road, Wheeling

9854 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Glenview

(+ multiple locations)

If you’re a Mediterranean food-loving family like ours, cozy up at Pita Inn. Order a table of appetizers to share, from hummus and pita bread to fresh cucumbers in yogurt dressing, each for less than $5. A variety of sandwiches come in at under $6, including the chicken tender sandwich for $4.99.

Little Louie’s

1342 Shermer Road, Northbrook

The perfect place to end a walk through downtown Northbrook, Little Louie’s is an institution (and almost 50 years old). Dogs of the chili, chili cheese and corn variety range from $3.50 to $4.75. If Mexican food is the order of the evening, try a chicken taco or cheese quesadilla for $3.50 each.

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