A trio of tasty spots in Chicago where it’s OK to get messy

Ah, parenthood! It is a truly exhilarating and worthwhile adventure, but the journey will be filled with messy memories. Just take one look at my little guy covered in berries, and you’ll get a taste of what I am talking about. Before you give up on eating out with your kids in tow, let me share some of my top picks of where they can get messy.


2018 W. Chicago Ave.

My husband and I savored WHISK–a brunch and burger place–pre-baby, and we’re looking forward to returning with our toddler.

The Ukrainian Village spot gets playful right from the start with a massive version of its namesake kitchen gadget. Before we had our son, we cozied up and shared the Reese’s Pancakes out on the patio. (Yes, I just said Reese’s Pancakes, and this is the adult menu!) Our return won’t be as romantic, but I am looking forward to testing out the kids menu. I can just see our nugget devouring the Mickey Mouse Pancake.

WHISK switches from brunch to burgers at 5 p.m. so you can bring your mini crew along for dinner, too. Chef and co-owner Rick Rodriguez and his wife Rebecca are parents, so they get it. Rebecca recommends that parents come during the week for brunch or dinner to avoid a long wait with kids. If your kiddo knocks over (insert the object that has the potential to make the biggest mess), I promise you will not get any sneers at WHISK.

Rainforest Cafe

605 N. Clark St.

The kids’ choice award goes to one wet and wild spot: Rainforest Cafe! This fun chain has locations across the country and three in Chicagoland. The kids menu has plenty of enticing choices. Maybe you’ll get lucky and your little ones will share a Jurassic Chicken Tidbit with you. This place was designed with kids in mind. I remember how thankful I was for the cups with lids. Meanwhile, my husband recalls my niece and nephew marveling at the faux rain. We had a memorable time there, and I bet your family will, too!


7452 N. Western Ave.

Candlelite has been a family tradition on my husband’s side for many years. I still remember the night he introduced me to his grandma Helyn there. We are now carrying on the tradition with our son–this was his first restaurant visit!

You don’t have to worry about messes while you’re there; the Candlelite crew is more likely to jump in and lend a hand than give you a sideways glance. Our favorite night to visit is Tuesday, because it is 2 for 1 pizza night. The crispy thin crust is a definite crowd pleaser! If you are celebrating a special occasion, call ahead to ask if they will put a message up on the retro marquee sign. Finally, do not leave without trying the cookie skillet, but share at your own risk; it seems to mysteriously vanish if you look away for just a moment.

Are you a fan of one of these restaurants? What do you enjoy about them? What tips do you have on visiting any restaurants with kids? What are your top spots in Chicagoland for a tasty time and a side of messiness? Share it with the Chicago Parent community in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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