Rainforest Café is a fun restaurant for kids, with its dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and jungle-like special effects. But, like every chain restaurant, you can find them all over and the experience is all the same. Why not go for kid friendly restaurants that make great family memories while serving unique and yummy food? Here are 10 places that ooze with personality.
Fun Kid Friendly Restaurants in the Midwest
My kids and I like searching out local eats when we travel and we’ve found some amazing places over the years, including these 10 in the Midwest. There are places older kids will like (Safe House in Milwaukee, Wisconsin). And places aimed at young kids (The Choo-Choo Restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois). All of them are worth the trip. A lot of them are retro and kooky, but they’re all budget-friendly and delicious.
Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban SheBuysTravel
Kids review their mission while dining at Safe House, a spy-themed restaurant and museum in downtown Milwaukee.
1. Safe House, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (also known as International Exports, Ltd.)
Kids love the puzzle-solving that’s part of the dining experience at this combination restaurant/spy museum. Just getting in and out of the restaurant is a trip. So is walking around to see all of the spy exhibits in the different rooms. My review of the restaurant is here.
2. Superdawg, Chicago
Hiya! That’s the greeting on the box you’ll get, with your Superdawg (hot dog), fries and pickle all smashed in. I think it’s one of the best hot dogs in Chicago. You’ll easily spot this retro drive-in restaurant, because it has two huge hot dog statues on the roof.
Tip: when you’re ordering, they’re not hot dogs. They’re Superdawgs. And remember, real Chicagoans don’t put ketchup on their hot dogs.
3. American Girl Café in Chicago, Ill
If your daughter is an American Girl Doll fan, then meals with their dolls at these cafes will be everything. Doll chairs and doll “meals” are part of the experience. Similar experiences are at the American Girl Bistros in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Columbus, Ohio, or St. Louis, Missouri.
4. Betty Danger’s Country Club, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Described as “a country club on crack,” this kooky, retro restaurant has a mini golf course and a ferris wheel with skyline views. You can go once around the ferris wheel (which they call a “vertically revolving patio”) with a drink, or go around five times while having your meal in a private car. Just remember – this is Minnesota. It can be kinda chilly up there.
5. Ella’s Deli and Ice Cream Parlor, Madison, Wisconsin
It’s difficult to describe this place. It’s filled with colorful, moving paper mache characters, including its landmark carousel. While we ate dinner there in January, Batman slowly flew overhead, puppets manically swung on a nearby pole, and a solar system moved beneath the glass on our table. The Jewish deli food includes an 11-page dessert menu. A more detailed review is within this post of mine about fun things to do in Madison.
6. Choo-Choo Restaurant, Des Plaines, Illinois
This suburb northwest of Chicago and near O’Hare airport is a tiny retro diner where the food is delivered by electric train car. Wait to get one of the booths along the track, and no matter what, tell them it’s your birthday. That’ll give you a special train-delivered cupcake with a candle, and a song that fills the whole restaurant, “Happy birthday, woot woot!”
7. Charlie Parker’s, Springfield, Illinois
The pancakes here are bigger than the plate they’re served on, which makes kids’ faces light up. Featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” this restaurant is housed inside a World War II Quonset hut. The interior is a 50s styled diner.
If your arteries can take it, try a Springfield specialty known as “horseshoes.” Charlie Parker’s Breakfast Shoe, for example, has eggs, hash browns and your choice of meat smothered in cheese sauce AND gravy. It’s so wrong, it’s right.
Warning: it’s only open for breakfast and lunch. They usually close at 2 p.m.
8. Cozy Dog Drive In, Springfield, Illinois
Freshly dipped corn dogs and Route 66 root beer are the specialties at this throwback, memorabilia-covered spot right off I-55 (also the legendary Route 66), between Chicago and St. Louis. The place is filled with Route 66 memorabilia.
9. Ed Debevic’s, Chicago
This popular burgers-and-shakes joint is currently closed, because it’s relocating to a new downtown location, but should reopen in the summer of 2016. Tweens and teens love to tussle with the restaurant’s famous sassy-mouthed and dancing servers.