I am an omnivore, but my extended clan includes a vegetarian, a pescetarian and a vegan. In honor of Meatless Monday, I’d like to share my tips on enjoying The Chicago Diner, a meat-free and must-try city institution. If your family has diverse taste buds too, this restaurant rocks.
The original Chicago Diner is in Lakeview and there is a newer outpost in Logan Square. I have visited each one a few times and never been disappointed with the creative food. I had a pregnant mama feast at the Lakeview location, but now that I am in the era A.B. (After Baby), I recommend Logan Square, because it has more wiggle room for baby paraphernalia.
Get an early start
Recently, my dad invited me to a family meal at The Chicago Diner in Logan Square, so I packed up my toddler Isaiah and headed out into a snowy night. They don’t take reservations, but we opted for an early 6 p.m. dinner and did not have to do the whole waiting for a table with a toddler thing. Who wants to do that? I’ll tell you. Nobody! The restaurant did fill up, so I was glad we snagged a spot early.
More than one munchkin
It was my first visit to either Chicago Diner with my son, and I worried that he might be the only little guy and disturb the B.B. (Before Baby) hipsters with cool hats. Thankfully, there was another A.B. couple with an adorable daughter around Isaiah’s age. Isaiah happily made googly eyes at her. Yes, he is already a flirt! Chicago Diner might not seem like an obvious choice for kid-friendly dining, but don’t worry, other intrepid parents have gone before you.
Tips for tykes
Fortunately, they had a high chair for Isaiah. We played pass the toddler to save his limited high chair patience for actual eating. The restaurant was pretty noisy, which might have annoyed me B.B., but this time around, I thought, the noisier the better. Nobody even noticed when Isaiah let out a poignant yelp or three. If your kiddos are little but loud, this place could be a good fit for you too!
I opted for the Portobello Truffle Melt, because I felt like a tried and true veggie as opposed to a meat substitute. Earthy mushrooms melded with gooey cheese made for a rich, comforting sandwich. The Balsamic Brussels Sprouts had a hint of sweetness that I liked, but more crispiness would have put them over the top. If you want to feel like you are having meat, try the Special Recipe Wings as an appetizer. They are addictive! The Gyros and The Radical Reuben entrées are family favorites too.
There are a few items on the kids menu and Isaiah liked the Mac & Teese (vegan mozzarella). From forest green kale to deep orange sweet potatoes, Isaiah also tasted a rainbow of veggies from the grown up plates. This sampling got kind of sloppy, but the servers were helpful, so this place can join the ranks of places where it is OK to get messy.
Don’t let all of those healthy veggies and masquerading meats fill up your tank, because the vegan shakes are amazing. My family takes these shakes seriously. A parade of retro glasses filled with Mocha, Strawberry and Chocolate Peanut Butter goodness topped with whipped cream hit the table before the main dishes.
Whether you are a dedicated vegan or just a meatless Monday kind of mom, like me, Chicago Diner could hit the spot for your whole crew.
If you go
The Chicago Diner
Logan Square: 2333 N Milwaukee Ave.
Halsted: 3411 N Halsted St