Affordable bungalows have drawn many to the northwest side of Chicago, making the slowly gentrifying Portage Park neighborhood a more economical Logan Square-esque spot for hipster adults with kids. As a result, plenty of new dining spots have opened in the past several years, many centered around Irving Park Road, which bisects the neighborhood that is bordered by Old Irving to its east, Jefferson Park to the north and Dunning Square to the west and Belmont Cragin to its south.
Before noshing, check out the 36.5 acre Portage Park which has six tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools, a large circular path for biking or walking, a dog park, football and soccer fields, five baseball fields, a nature garden and soft-surface ADA accessible playground.
Nearby is Anne’s Haven, a zen-like oasis that offers a mom-friendly communal space as a quiet retreat from city life. There’s an indoor fireplace to enjoy during the winter and an outdoor patio, hammock and fire pit for the summers. Moms can take a yoga classes or attend a workshop focused on art, knitting, writing and women’s empowerment or just bring their kids to relax if they want to get out of the house. Each Friday, at 1 p.m., there’s also a story time for tots. (Cost is $3 which includes coffee, tea or hot chocolate and snacks.)
There’s plenty of international flare here with a hodgepodge of food and drink in a kid-friendly environment. Get everything from Nutella milkshakes, bubble or loose leaf teas, Italian or Belgium style coffee, ice cream, sweet or savory crepes and empanadas that range from barbacoa, creamy chicken and ham and cheese to south Asian potato tsap, sweet corn chaat masala, spinach ricotta and a nangka blend made with jackfruit.
Originally called Leadbelly, this tiny burger haven loves its Rock ‘n Roll tunes and trivia as much as its house-ground beef and smoked pork belly burgers. Not a beef fan? It can be substituted out for portobello mushroom or chicken. Go simple or get creative with options like onion straws, eggs, buffalo bleu sauces and more. There are beers, wine and alcoholic (and kid-friendly) milkshakes as well as garlic parmesan fries.
Named after a 19th Century sea captain, visitors can get a hot or cold sandwich with smoked meats and house-made sauces, chips and a pickle. There’s the Charley-Q, a Maplewood Charlatan American Pale Ale-braised pulled Amish chicken sandwich, a croque madame called Mrs. Frog or a reuben named “The Irving” as well as veggie, vegan and gluten-free options. There are also options like grilled cheese for “little scallywags.”
This dinner or after 2 p.m. casual weekend spot offers upscale tacos a la carte and a $5 kids’ menu. Options include the pescado, a beer-battered fish with shaved carrots, chipotle mayo and cilantro, a steak taco with grilled onions, poblano peppers and Chihuahua cheese, short rib taco or pollo gringo variety which melds chicken with pico de gallo, cheese, black beans and sour cream. Plus there’s housemade churros, elotes and pineapple-and-jalapeno margarita for adults. This intimate spot doubles in size during the summer with its secluded, secret garden-feeling outdoor patio.
This French influenced boutique steakhouse is the brainchild of restaurateur Quay Tao (who also opened Cochinita.) With its small plates, prime beef, charcuterie and cheese boards, it’s more of a date night spot than typical kid spot, but on Sundays there’s $5 burgers at the bar and it does offer an upscale grilled cheese made with gruyere, fruit jam, smoked sea salt and arugula.
If you could transplant a Wisconsin-kitschy family-style cafe into Chicago this would be it. There’s plenty of great lunch and breakfast options including the raspberry white chocolate scones and cinnamon buns, but it’s the savory-and-sweet, all-you-can eat Sunday brunch for $15 for adults, $8 for kids that is an amazing deal and even includes live music.
This no frills, grab-and-go legacy has a counter for ordering fresh, smoked and fried wild-caught seafood. Think scallops, popcorn shrimp, shrimp and catfish po’boys, smoked salmon candy, trout, whitefish, sturgeon, lake perch, deep fried mushrooms, hushpuppies and tater tots. In the warmer months there are picnic tables outside but no inside dining.
Eat froyo, sorbet, Italian ice, fruit smoothies, milkshakes, pizza and waffle cone fortune cookies here. There’s something for everyone with 50 toppings, gluten-free, kosher, dairy-free, no sugar added and non-fat froyo options. Special Needs Day is every third Sunday of the month. Families of kids with physical or mental disabilities can enjoy food and games in an environment where special efforts are taken to reduce anxiety and sensory overload. There’s also a lending library that encourages kids to borrow or donate a book to read.
This Italian gastropub offers brunch, wood fired Neapolitan-style pizzas, pasta, burgers, ribs, lobster rolls, as well as adult beverages for parents who want to imbibe. There’s a private room that’s perfect for a baby shower or birthday party and an outdoor patio.
Go old school with this coffee shop that has a killer breakfast burrito, cute retro counter and story time for kids 9 a.m. every Wednesday in their small window-side play area. It’s connected to Sputnik, a funky resale book and record store that allows visitors to read (adult and kid) books or listen to music while they nosh or drink.
Tucked in next to XSport, this coffee house has a large glass windows, a fireplace and a conference room for those who need a change from the norm. There’s minimal food here besides a few baked goods but strong coffee, tea and hot chocolate make it a favorite for those who want a break after walking around Portage Park which is located across the street.
For all the nursing mommas or tea lovers out there, this easy-to-miss gem offers a bit of respite since most of the 300 teas are imported from Germany, which more heavily regulates its pesticide and chemical use than the US. There’s green, black, rooibos, herbal, white, oolong, chai and mate teas ranging from papaya orange to pistachio vanilla praline.
This Italian institution has been a Portage Park staple for over 50 years. Known for its large portions, options include thin crust and pan pizzas to pastas (that aren’t usually al dente) ranging from ravioli and spaghetti to stuffed gnocchi, tortellini and mostaccioli. There’s also paninis, including meatball and Italian sausage sandwiches as well as baby back ribs, chicken parmesan, seafood, risotto and veal.