National Cheeseburger Day must-eats

To celebrate National Cheeseburger Day today, we’ve gathered up some of our favorite restaurants where a cheeseburger takes on the starring role.

Stanley’s Kitchen serves up comfort food in a family-friendly atmosphere

Known perhaps more for its nightly crowd of 20- and30-somethings looking to mingle than for family time, Stanley’s in Lincoln
Park is surprisingly kid-friendly for an early dinner in the back
dining room, which boasts a tot-sized picnic table-and the food is
the stuff kids dream of.

From toasted mac-n-cheese to cheeseburger sliders to Stanley’sfamous tater tots and mashed potatoes, there are dozens ofkid-friendly items on the expansivemenu. For dessert, children go nuts for the fried chocolate
chip cookies. Yes, fried cookies.

Stanley’s also serves dreamy comfort food for adults. Myfavorite is the southern fried chopped chicken salad, which Iaffectionately call “the world’s most fattening salad”-and it’salso quite possibly the world’s most delicious: an immenseconcoction of succulent chunks of fried chicken, cheddar andjalapeno jack cheeses, red onion, bacon, tomato and ranch dressingatop a mound of lettuce, technically making it a salad.

Grown-ups also will enjoy the platters served with mashedpotatoes such as the bacon-laced meatloaf or hot open-faced turkeysandwich. Every burger is a standout, especially the Elvis, deckedout with bacon, pimento cheese and country fried onions. And notonly kids deserve dessert-indulge in the homemade apple pie toppedwith cinnamon ice cream. One warning: food coma is inevitable, sodon’t plan anything too taxing after dinner.


Take your babies to Sweet Baby Ray’s

Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Elk Grove800 E. Higgins Road, Elk Grove(847) 437-9555www.sbrbbq.com

July means barbecue-ribs, chicken, baked beans and cornbread. Whynot let Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue restaurant do the work foryou?

Even their Kids Menu offers rib options, including a 1/3 slaband a boneless rib sandwich. My 6-year-old, a certified ribconnoisseur, declared the baby backs “awesome.” Themini-cheeseburgers were also a big hit.

At $5.95, children’s options come with a soda and a choice offries or a fruit cup. (My kids devoured the perfectly seasoned andcooked fries.) For a little extra, try one of the banana-strawberrysmoothies.

Even better than the food at Sweet Baby Ray’s is the familyatmosphere. The booths easily accommodated my family of five.Servers are friendly and helpful and service was timely.

Chef/owner Paul Papadopolous makes the rounds of tables to checkon customers. It quickly became clear that Papadopolous is a familyguy, as he talked to the kids first. In addition to Kids Eat FreeTuesdays (after 5 p.m. with a paid adult meal) and Sunday brunches,he plans to revamp the children’s menu and find more ways to usethe restaurant and outdoor patio for family-centered events.

Sweet Baby Ray’s is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.A separate location in Wood Dale also offers Kids Eat FreeTuesdays.


High Chairs in the Loop

The Chicago Loop isn’t just catering to businessmen and
high-powered workers anymore. It’s also trying to impress the itty
bitty set with kid-friendly restaurants. So whether you’re meeting
your kid for a quick power lunch or you’re spending the entire day
downtown with a hungry child, check out these spots that make sure
tots are satisfied.

Epic Burger

517 S. State St.
(312) 913-1373
epicburger.com

Kids will eat: They don’t have a separate kids’
menu, but everything they make is customizable-and what kid doesn’t
love a burger? Choose from beef, turkey, portabella, chicken or egg
burgers, and add toppings ranging from eggs to bacon to pickles.
Top it all off with a smoothie-peanut butter is our favorite-and
your child will be begging to come back.
Parents will love: All-natural meats, cage-free
organic eggs and nitrate-free bacon add to the experience. They
cater to allergies-organic, whole, skim and soy milk are
available.
Even better: Order your meal online so it’ll be
ready as soon as your hungry child arrives.

South Water Kitchen

225 N. Wabash Ave.
(312) 236-9300
southwaterkitchen.com

Kids will eat: At dinnertime, South Water
Kitchen pulls out its fabulous kids’ menu, where children get a
complete TV dinner on their own TV tray for . Choices include
white cheddar mac & cheese, chicken fingers and a grilled
chicken breast. The meal also comes with milk, juice or soda,
fries, green beans and a homemade cookie.
Parents will love: The grownup food is just as
appealing. South Water Kitchen focuses on regional American
cuisine, so you can get homecooked braised beef short ribs, brick
oven mussels and other crave-worthy items.
Even better: This kid-friendly place also has an
adult-friendly drink menu with a host of cocktails and beer
selections.

Ed Debevic’s

640 N. Wells St.
(312) 664-1707
eddebevics.com

Kids will eat: This is to kids what Alinea is
to adults: Pure heaven. Burgers and shakes are just the icing on
the cake. At Ed Debevic’s, the kids will also be encouraged to have
food fights with their waiters, scream and insult each other and
order teeny tiny kid-sized ice cream sundaes.
Parents will love: If your child can’t sit still,
or is tempted to have a crying fit through your meal, you won’t be
embarrassed here. Craziness is encouraged.
Even better: Skip your kid’s sugar-high by
ordering him the World’s Smallest Sundae, which is the size of a
shot glass. Everyone will go home happy.

Roy’s

720 N. State St.
(312) 787-7599
roysrestaurant.com

Kids will eat: They’ve got a kids’ menu filled
with kiddie specialties: Chicken fingers, pasta and even fish with
rice and veggies.
Parents will love: It’s one of the top fish
restaurants in the city, but Roy’s also caters to kids. This is one
of the only places where you can get dressed up for a meal
downtown, but your children will be welcomed with open arms.
Even better: When we took a 2-year-old here, she
was presented with crayons and some paper. But it didn’t stop
there. They also loaned her a mini-DVD player stocked with her
favorite videos so she could tune in whenever she wanted to tune
out of our adult conversation.

Heaven on Seven

111 N. Wabash Ave.
7th Floor
(312) 263-6443

Kids


Burger heaven at Tom & Eddie’s

Tom & Eddie’s is a place where old-fashioned burgers andshakes meet modern day décor and technology. After only one visit,my 10-year-old has declared it his new “favorite burger place,” andfor good reason. He built his own concoction with cheddar, avocado,onions and fried wontons. I stuck with one of the restaurant’ssignature burgers, the “Blue Chip” with blue cheese, avocado andhouse-made potato chips.

I thought we’d never finish these big burgers after thedelicious chicken strips we shared before our meal. But I waswrong. We devoured them, along with perfectly crispy onion rings(the “Haystack”) and sweet potato fries.

My younger sons were satisfied with delicious “Tykes &Toddlers” combos, where they could choose from a cheeseburger, hotdog, grilled cheese and chicken. Mostly they were excited tosubstitute the standard sodas or juice for amazing milk shakes.Truly old-fashioned, these are freshly blended ice cream, milk andflavored treats.

As if the delicious food weren’t enough, Tom & Eddie’soffers many family-friendly amenities. Kids can grab any number oftoys to take to the table-most of which are wooden andbrain-powered, a refreshing change. My sons also loved theelectronic pagers at each table, which allow customers to call foradditional table service. They found excuses to use the device,including a request for cookies for dessert.

Instead of falling into the mix of fast-food burger joints, Tom& Eddie’s does enough great things to elevate the restaurant toa notch above. I also like the company’s policy of trying to uselocal food sources.

With multiple Chicagoland locations, families can easily locatethis delicious spot for lunch or dinner.


2Toots combines a train theme with healthier food for Chicago families

We might as well admit it: the food isn’t reallythe focus at most of Chicagoland’s choo-choo restaurants. We go forthe ambiance, the transportation-inspired décor, the model trainsdelivering food to the tables. And for kids, that’s enough.

But wouldn’t it be great if a choo-choo restaurantactually tried to provide healthier food along with thetrain-themed fun?

That’s the new emphasis at 2Toots Train Whistle Grill
(locations in Glen Ellyn and Bartlett), which recently introduced
hamburgers, hot dogs and chili made with meat from the Tallgrass
Beef Company. Tallgrass, founded by newsman Bill Kurtis, produces
beef that is 100 percent grass-fed, all-natural, and preservative
and hormone free.

I took my nephew, a choo-choo fanatic, to test out the newfood. In addition to his healthier hot dog, he was able to select afruit cup instead of the normal fries and organic milk to go alongwith it. Gluten-free buns also are on the menu.

My cheeseburger was perfectly grilled and crispy aroundthe edges, exactly what you’d expect from a place styled after a`50s lunch counter. But there also are several meatless options,like the spring garden salad, that sounded tempting to the moderngirl in me.

Of course the highlight of the visit was watching thetrain zip by with customers’ orders-every table is along thetrack-throughout the meal, although it kept my nephew toodistracted to completely clear his plate.

Of course, like any good aunt, I couldn’t forget aboutdessert. Aidan thoroughly enjoyed a train whistle cupcake (and blewthe whistle through the icing), while I indulged in one of thedelicious hand-dipped strawberry shakes. But those extra calorieswere probably counteracted by our healthier dinner…right??


Burgers, pizza and craft beer at The Lucky Monk

Who doesn’t want a good meal, with friendly service, in acomfortable atmosphere, all for a good price? Residents in SouthBarrington have all that and more at The Lucky Monk, a relativelynew establishment specializing in burgers, pizzas and home-brewedales.

With a multitude of large screen TVs, plush couches in itsbar/lounge area and the house brews, The Lucky Monk may seem moreaccommodating to a 20-something crowd. But its menu options, largebooths and friendly staff also make it a great family destination.Bring your appetites because the restaurant’s generous portions anddelicious desserts are sure to satisfy.

We started with appetizers to share. The Warm Pretzel Trio withthree different dipping sauces was an immediate hit as Idouble-dipped in the herbed butter, while my sons loved the pizzasauce. We also enjoyed a wood-fired margherita pizza before ourburgers arrived.

In addition to a great selection of toppings, The Lucky Monkoffers its prime beef burgers in two sizes (6 oz. and 9 oz.),making it easier to order to all ages and appetites. TheBourbon Stout with cheddar, braised onions and tomato was juicy andcooked exactly to order. Burgers are served with thin-cut andperfectly seasoned fries. Definitely not health food, butcertainly delicious.

Young children might prefer to order from the Kids’ Menu, withchoices such as pizza, chicken fingers or mac & cheese. Choosefries or fresh veggies for a healthier option. Priced at $4.95,including drink, these meals are a hit for mom and dad, too. Infact, prices on the main menu are also affordable, especiallyconsidering the portions. Even the 9 oz. burgers are under $11.

You can definitely afford the desserts, which is lucky becausethey’re well-made and served to share. From the warm and gooeyplate of chocolate chip cookies to the Skillet S’mores, chocolatelovers will find much to make them happy. The house-made key limepie is also a winner.

The Lucky Monk is a great addition to the northwest suburbs andworth the drive for those of us a little farther away.


Bad Apple: Not your average burger joint

At first glance, The BadApple restaurant in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood might notstrike a parent as kid friendly. This hip venue, famous for itsgourmet burgers and fries, offers patrons more than 100 beers fromwhich to choose and turns into a lively bar scene mostevenings.

But take a closer look at theall-fresh ingredients and the clever kids’ menu, and it’s clearthis eatery is perfect for parents and children alike.

One of the main reasonsparents love to dine here is The Bad Apple’s philosophy on healthyeating.

“There are no chemicals,pesticides or hormones in any of our products,” says owner and chefCraig Fass. “… The problem lies in the fillers and additives. Butwhen the beef is free-range, grass-fed, ‘happy meat’ and thepotatoes are all natural, then the food is clean anddelicious.”

And delicious it is. Thosewith adventurous palates should try Elvis’ Last Supper, a burgertopped with peanut butter and bacon (“trust us, it’s good,” themenu promises) or The Hangover, a burger lavished with house-glazedham, over-easy egg, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, ketchup,mayo, mustard, provolone and fries served on a pretzel bun. Kidscan choose a more basic burger or play chef themselves by orderinga “Creat-ables” sandwich where they make their own.

And the fries-oh, the fries!These award-winning creations come in a variety of tantalizingflavors: truffle oil, firecracker, old bay, curry, minced garlic,sweet and spicy chipotle, creole and, for the less daring,plain.

Fass even makes his ownketchup. “When we are feeding some kids twice a week, we feelmorally obligated to give them the best food we can.”



Take your babies to Sweet Baby Ray’s

Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Elk Grove800 E. Higgins Road, Elk Grove(847) 437-9555www.sbrbbq.com

July means barbecue-ribs, chicken, baked beans and cornbread. Whynot let Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue restaurant do the work foryou?

Even their Kids Menu offers rib options, including a 1/3 slaband a boneless rib sandwich. My 6-year-old, a certified ribconnoisseur, declared the baby backs “awesome.” Themini-cheeseburgers were also a big hit.

At $5.95, children’s options come with a soda and a choice offries or a fruit cup. (My kids devoured the perfectly seasoned andcooked fries.) For a little extra, try one of the banana-strawberrysmoothies.

Even better than the food at Sweet Baby Ray’s is the familyatmosphere. The booths easily accommodated my family of five.Servers are friendly and helpful and service was timely.

Chef/owner Paul Papadopolous makes the rounds of tables to checkon customers. It quickly became clear that Papadopolous is a familyguy, as he talked to the kids first. In addition to Kids Eat FreeTuesdays (after 5 p.m. with a paid adult meal) and Sunday brunches,he plans to revamp the children’s menu and find more ways to usethe restaurant and outdoor patio for family-centered events.

Sweet Baby Ray’s is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.A separate location in Wood Dale also offers Kids Eat FreeTuesdays.


Finding a healthier burger in Chicago and the suburbs

Want to indulge in burgers and fries without theguilt? Head north to Glencoe, where the newly opened EverestBurgers serves up hormone-free, steroid-free beef, vegetarian
burgers and the healthiest version of French fries around.

Owners Mark and Margarita Challenger are adamant aboutfeeding their four children only organic, locally produced foodwhenever possible. They decided they wouldn’t offer their customersanything less. So both of their Glencoe restaurants, GuanajuatoMexican and the new Everest Burger, serve food that’s organic,antibiotic free and locally sourced whenever possible.

“The burger and fries are a comfortable American staple,”Margarita says. “We wanted to make sure that it’s also wholesomeand you know what you’re eating.”

To that end, meat is freshly ground at the restaurant eachday. Wild Alaskan salmon is shipped in since they didn’t want touse farm-raised salmon. Three vegetarian burgers-portabellamushroom, walnut and black bean-are served. And fries are made fromorganic potatoes cooked in rice bran oil. Even the ketchup isorganic, and nothing has high-fructose corn syrup. The Challengersprepare freshly made frozen yogurt on-site, using their own familyrecipe.

To accommodate families who need to avoid gluten, anon-site bakery makes the hamburger buns each day using agluten-free recipe.

“This is very much for families,” Mark says of the menuitems. “The concept was, we raised our kids eating organic,healthy, hormone-free food. So we wanted a healthy restaurant whereyou still get nice flavor.”

And don’t think you have to eat and run. The Challengersremember those days when their four children were very young andrestaurant managers would be eyeing their table, hoping the familywould eat quickly and leave.

“We’d always get looks when we walked in with kids, andyou’d feel rushed to leave the restaurant,” Mark says. “We wantedto create a restaurant where families feel comfortable.”


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