Tucked away on the north side is a fiercely adorable neighborhood packed to the walkable brim with restaurants, parks, activities, and, of course, families. Whenever I try to figure out what to do on the weekend but can’t quite decide, we inevitably end up hopping on the Brown Line to the Western stop and just getting off to see what strikes our fancy. Rain or shine, sleet or snow, we are never disappointed.
It’s nearly impossible not to be charmed by this little nook of the city. In fact, I would argue Lincoln Square feels more like its own village onto itself, with everything you need (including a Mariano’s right nearby!) at your fingertips. Not sure where to start? Well, friend, that’s what I’m here for!
Disclaimer: One of the great things about Lincoln Square is its vast amount of “slashies,” where an establishment can fit into multiple categories, like a restaurant-slash-movie theater, or a restaurant-slash-game room or book store-slash-wine-and-food-café (real examples). So be aware that many of the listings could easily fall in another category (or two!).
You can’t go wrong at Fork for brunch, which has a great kid’s menu, some of the top-ranked chicken and waffles in the city, and a vast selection of craft brews and cocktails. Across the street is Luella’s, a southern-style restaurant filled with kid-pleasing mac and cheese dishes and plenty of good chicken.
If you’re looking to spend a little more time at the restaurant, head over to Borelli’s Pizza, which has a large game room in the back with tons of old-school arcade games, pinball machines, etc. It’s BYOD and a guaranteed kid and inner-kid pleaser!
Play and Do
Need something to do inside? The Davis Theater is not only a fantastic independently-run theater that shows first-run movies, but also hosts cartoons and brunch on Saturday mornings, where the kiddos can go to and from the theater attached to its restaurant, the Carbon Arc Bar, as the rest of the family brunches. If you need less screen time but still find the weather just a bit too … Chicago-y … the Old Town School of Folk Music is right there and offers a variety of kids’ classes from music and dance to art and theater. The Sulzer Regional Library is another stop with a great kids’ reading area that offers multitudes of activities like storytimes, plus middle and high school activities as well. (Full schedule can be found here.)
When (if?) the weather cooperates, be sure to head to Welles Park across from the Sulzer Library. This play area has a water feature in the summer months, great structures for all ages, bathroom facilities, and is actually getting a natural playground structure upgrade as well. Shop
No trip to Lincoln Square with kids is complete without a stop in Timeless Toys. This independent shop has something to please anyone on your list, with knowledgeable and friendly employees to boot. The Book Cellar is another perpetual favorite, with a café (another one of those great slashies in Lincoln Square!) and passionate employees who will help handpick something inspiring for anyone from ages 0-100.
Refuel and Treat yourself
Full disclosure: Any of these establishments could sit in the confines of the “eat” category because they have wonderful full menu offerings. However, these gems need their own blissful category for their ultra-special re-caffeination and sugar craving-satisfaction efforts.
If you missed Pi(e) Day on March 14, don’t fret! Baker Miller has you covered. They have a rotating selection of homemade pies, baked goods, foodstuffs and everything in between.
When the weather is nice, their patio is, to put it mildly, aces. If you’re in the mood for something a wee (Or: Oui! Get it? Because #momjokes) bit more French in flair, Café Selmarie right on the Square is a perennial favorite. Whether you’re stopping in to grab a treat to go or sitting down for some coffee/cocoa and a bite to nosh on, you’ll be pleased with your selection.
If you haven’t had a romantic date night in a while and are stumped for where to go, book a sitter, make your reservations and head down to Bistro Campagne on Lincoln. This restaurant serves heavenly French country food in an intimate setting, yet somehow isn’t overwhelming or pretentious. In warmer months, I am convinced it has the single best patio in the city.
(Unfortunately patio seating is first-come, first-served, which isn’t always so wonderful for those with limited time, but if you can get there during “off” hours, you might have some luck. The main restaurant area takes reservations, however.) Go here and I am convinced you will not regret it, much like the neighborhood in which it so comfortably sits.
P.S. If you’re looking to see all the events and fun things going on, check out the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce!