Chicago Botanic Garden serves up healthy family meals

Living in Chicago, I think it’s especially important to get kids out in nature—skipping, exploring, creating and learning. From the beautiful Malott Japanese Garden to our favorite Model Railroad Garden, the Chicago Botanic Garden offers those opportunities to interact with the outdoor world. Taking my 3- and 5-year-old there, I hoped to feel refreshed and rejuvenated. I didn’t expect to share one of the most delectable, healthy and peaceful meals I’ve ever had alone with my children.

The Garden View Cafe was quite busy for a Tuesday, but for good reason. The new menu offers many colorful ingredients harvested from the garden’s own fresh fruits and vegetables.

Chef Michael Kingsley, who has worked in some of the top food institutions in Chicago, developed a plant-centric menu that rotates spring, summer and fall. My Superfood Salad was amazing with blueberries, mango, almonds and a honey-orange dressing. The kids’ choices were a lot healthier than what you would find in most restaurants. Their Top Secret Mac& Cheese is named due to (shhh…) the butternut squash that is incorporated into the sauce.

Since zucchini was in season when we visited, my son enjoyed some tasty zucchini bread. We were thrilled to discover the garden shares its recipes online—three season’s worth are available at

My sprouts and I agree that the new food at the Garden View Café is flavorful. The tranquility of the scenery also makes it a delightful place to share a meal.

Cortney Fries
Cortney Fries
An award-winning travel journalist, Cortney Fries (pronounced "freeze") has been writing about family travel for over a decade. She knows that parents planning trips are looking for all members to have fun and make lasting memories. Cortney believes that you should definitely try anything that makes you slightly nervous.
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