Whining and Dining in Chicago (where to eat with kids, and where not to!)

“Whining” and Dining in Chicago!

Chicago has some of the BEST dining options in the country, and this fact alone was one big attraction to us when we were deciding where to settle and live. Chicago is rich in cultural diversity which is reflected quite well in its culinary array of restaurants. We have our favorite spots for all types of cuisine: Middle Eastern, Indian, Japanese fusion, sushi, Thai, Italian, dessert, breakfast, and American pub food. Here we hope to share all of our experiences, good and bad to help guide you where to go out with your family and children! So far we have successfully visited many and most places with our 3 year old toddler, and now also a 7 month old in tow. So have no fear! If you are well equipped and prepared (see my tips on the parent page of “Whining” and Dining) you too can enjoy excellent dining experiences at many of Chicago’s culinary gems! Below are listed most of the places we have visited and reviews will be posted for each and updated soon. So stay tuned!

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The scale:

  • 1) Food: (5 points) Clearly this is the most important! The taste, presentation, quantity, and  quality. When I say quality I am looking at whether it is locally sourced, organic, and fresh. I am not interested in canned foods, foods imported from China, and skipping over the hard working local farmers and producers just to get a slightly cheaper and less fresh product. So I try to learn about the quality and source of the food as much as possible and comment about this whenever possible.
  • 2) Service: (5 points) Parents do not have time to wait around and watch their kids’ good behavior and patience expire. Parents have nap times and bedtimes to meet. Even if you are not a parent, nobody likes to wait around just to ask for a glass of water. 
  • 3) Child friendly: (5 points) These are like bonus points; having adequate child friendly seating such as spacious tables and seats, booster and high chairs, having children’s activities and menu items, and just being friendly to kids are all welcome and important gestures to parents and families!
  • 4)Ambiance: (5 points) We critique the ambiance in general in terms of being clean, nice, fun, friendly, appropriate for children, the decor and being overall impressive. 
  • 5) Value: (5 points) The price of the food for the quantity and quality received. For us we use a median of $10-$15 for starters (including salads), and $15-$25 for an entree. This is neither on the low end of the scale or on the high end. For that price we would also expect a generous amount of food, not a tiny slither of meat garnished with parsley and hollandaise sauce. We think this is a fair and average expectation for dining in Chicago and other big cities. 

 Annotates a family favorite that we visit frequently, and I highly suggest you do as well!

River North/Hubbard

Public House (400 N State) 17/20 points, come here for the awesome brunch menu! Brunch, American pub food, burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads. I was fortunate to be a part of a special opening event with Chicago Food Bloggers introducing the new brunch menu here. So for now, my comments are specific to this menu and dining experience. 

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  • 1) Food: (5/5 points) Every food item on the brunch menu was impeccably prepared and tasted amazing! From the yogurt parfait to the egg breakfast sandwich everything was so flavorful and delicious. My most memorable bite was the sticky bun smothered with vanilla buttercream glaze and pecans! It is to die for! Seriously, its so good I want to go back JUST for that! 

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Another favorite was the crab cake Benedict which consisted of a delicious crab cake full of jumbo lump crab meat, garlicky spinach, a poached egg atop, and all of that smothered in a delicious hollandaise sauce.

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 The parfait pint which was as simple as greek yogurt, fresh fruit and granola was so decadent as well! Somehow my yogurt parfaits never turn out this delicious and rich!

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 I also was able to sample some chicken and waffles finally! This was a first for me, but I was definitely excited to try this awesome combination of two delicious foods: waffles and fried chicken! YUM! The waffles taste like a delicious malted/caramelized concoction and smothered in some sweet maple syrup they pair well with the crunchy southern fried chicken.

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 If you are looking for a good protein fix and love to have your eggs in the morning, I highly recommend the scrambled egg breakfast sandwich with turkey sausage. I believe they make the sausage in house (I will have to check on that) and rest assured there is no pork in it kosher and halal foodies! The eggs and turkey sausage are sandwiched in with some fresh arugula, tomato, and shaved red onion between a perfectly toasted sourdough boulet. I can’t wait to take my husband back to try this one! Finally was the creative invention of the doughnut fried french toast. Those words sound so wrong to my diet, yes, but the taste is divine. They use a cream cheese glaze, fresh jam, and delicious fresh fruit. The crispy french toast pairs perfectly with the bursts of fresh berries and seasonal freshly made jam!

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We will definitely be coming back to enjoy brunch with the family as well as lunch or dinner to check out the other menu items. Chef Jeremy was very cordial and pleasant to chat with, and the kitchen accommodated almost every dietary need. They make everything to order and even my vegan and vegetarian fellow bloggers were able to enjoy a special substitution and variation of the egg skillet. 

  • 2) Service: (5/5 points) This setting was unique in which the restaurant was presenting their new menu to our private party. So I imagine we did receive some special attention, but service was excellent. The chef personally came out to introduce the menu, chat with bloggers, and answer any questions or concerns. The waitstaff was excellent, and every detail was carefully tended to. It was very easy to make any specific requests and get additional drinks. 
  • 3) Child friendly: (NA) I cannot speak to this just yet as I went to a social event for adults, but will be sure to come back to discuss this after we visit with the kiddos!
  • 4) Ambiance: (3/5 points) The restaurant is large and spacious and they have a fantastic elevated level for private parties which is where we sat. They also had a nice buffet set up in a cozy library area to separate the traffic and allow plenty of smooth movement of diners. The front of the restaurant has huge floor to ceiling windows, which I am told can open up in the summer. This would make for a great view of the city and even better seating. The restaurant’s general decor reflects the bar and many many beer bottles, with green bottles lining the walls for decor and even taps installed into the walls and tables. We personally do not favor bar scenes nor like that kind of a setting for children, so for that purpose the score is a bit lower for child and family friendliness ambiance.

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Chef Jeremy chatting it up with fellow bloggers. You can see the restaurant setting is very casual and comfortable.

  • 5) Value: (4/5 points) The prices are very reasonable and quite average for breakfast fare. The portions are very large and filling, and many dishes are great for sharing with a large group. The  parfait for example comes in a pint size, and the sticky buns are a sizable amount appearing to be an entire loaf of bread! But I don’t doubt my abilities to down that on my own :D.

Reza’s (432 W Ontario Ave) Persian and Middle Eastern cuisine. 19/25 points: Best thing here is the food.

  • 1) Food: (5/5 points) If you want Middle Eastern or Persian food, come here. It is the best. I come from metro-Detroit area in MI, where we are saturated with REALLY good Middle Eastern cuisine, and I along with all my family agree this place trumps them all. Their kabobs are phenomenal. Our favorite is the beef chengeh (juicy charred filet mignon cuts), as well as the koubideh (ground beef skewers) along with the dill rice, which is a green rice generously fragranced and infused with dill and lima beans. MMMMMMM so delicious! Their traditional dishes of the lamb shanks simmered in tomato sauce and the “ghemeih bodemjan” which is split peas simmered in tomato sauce with beef and spices are also delectable and feature perfectly juicy and tender meat. Their sides of fresh raw vegetables and pita bread with feta cheese that come out as appetizers go along perfectly with their hummus. We also LOVE the red tomato lentil soup. I have catered their food for various parties and family events, and highly recommend them for such occasions! They do an excellent job with the catering service. 
  • 2) Service: (3/5 points) Service is spotty. They are always a very busy restaurant when we come in, and we have many good experiences, however the last time we were in I had to wait FOREVER just to get a glass of water (and it was during Ramadan and they are quite aware that Muslim patrons are fasting and coming to break the fast so I did not appreciate being parched!)We also had to wait for a very long time for any type of service. This was one of the only times we had experienced this poor service and it was during the Ramadan buffet, but it has greatly discouraged me from going back unfortunately! 
  • 3) Child friendly: (3/5) Although the restaurant is often very busy and full, they have a very large floor and we have never felt crammed. They have child seats to accommodate toddlers and children, but no kids menu items or crayons or activities for kids. The atmosphere is adequately loud so that your children can easily blend in if that matters to you, and there are also many other families dining with kids and babies in tow.
  • 4) Ambiance: (4/5 points) The restaurant is very large and spacious and has a nice outdoor seating area along the street and side of the building. They also have a large private party room to rent out which is closed off as well as an elevated floor to separate from the main floor. Dim orange lights hang over the tables and reddish brick flooring remind me of European or Moroccan streets (or perhaps Persian walkways in Iran but I have never been there!).
  • 5) Value: (4/5 points) The entrees are a bit pricey, especially compared to other Middle Eastern restaurants ($15 or $19 for 2 skewers), but you get a large amount of food and it is certainly high quality meats that are tender and juicy, so we think it is worth the money for sure! You also get a generous amount of rice and sides along with the entrees.

Hub 51

Paris Club

Sushi Samba

Hubbard Inn

Cantina Laredo

Gold Coast

Carmines (1043 N Rush) 21/25 points, best Italian food in town and beautiful ambiance. This is a great Italian restaurant in gold coast and an all time favorite of ours! 

  • 1) Food: (5/5 points) The food here will not disappoint. We have brought family, guests, and friends here on several occasions and everyone is always pleased! They have a wide variety of seafood, pasta, meat, poultry, and salads. Our absolute favorite thing to get here, hands down, is the GRILLED calamari (not fried). This is a dish that we have found to be unique to Carmines. We have not had it anywhere else and if so it is not prepared as delicious and with such care and precision. The calamari is tender and tastes like chicken (not chewy) and the balsamic sauce and roasted peppers complement the charred seafood so perfectly. Definitely try it out. We also love the clam linguine and veal meatballs with spaghetti. All the dishes are cooked to order and you can request substations to suit your dietary requirements as needed. This is a huge bonus for us because many Italian dishes are cooked with wine, which we do not eat and they are always able to remove the wine or substitute the sauces for something that tastes fantastic. We have also had brunch here and the french toasts and omelets are excellent as well!

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The zesty balsamic vinegar and roasted peppers drenche these tender char-grilled calamari pieces._DSC0807 _DSC0813

linguine and clams in a spicy red sauce

  • 2) Service: (4/5 points) We have always experienced excellent service here, with large spacious seating accommodations, despite the usual busy hours and long waits. 
  • 3) Child friendly: (4/5 points) They provide high chairs, and have always accommodated my request to sit at a larger table so that I can fit my car seat or stroller beside me. In the summer they have outdoor seating which is perfect fro rolling up with your stroller beside the table.
  • 4) Ambiance: (5/5 points) With spacious seating and large tables, an outdoor patio as well as a large semi-outdoor garden patio (which is closed off and heated in the winter) and garden lights hanging overhead, there is plenty of nice and romantic spots to sit. Inside the restaurant they also have jazz music playing. 

_DSC0809 Jumbo veal and beef meatballs entangled in delicious spaghetti noodles. A classic done big and done right.

  • 5) Value: (3/5 points) The quantities of food is quite generous, and we can never quite finish a dish. I did notice an increase in prices recently, which I did not favor at all. The spaghetti and meatballs for example will ring you up about $20! These are mighty delicious jumbo balls mind you, but still. 

Hugo’s Frog Bar

Gibson’s

Lou Malnati’s

Rosebud on Rush

Lincoln Park/Lakeview

Basil Leaf

Vapiano’s

Molly’s Cupcakes

Tandoor Char House

Kanela’s

Jam ‘n Honey  (958 W Webster) 18/25 points wholesome (but tiny) breakfast diner with excellent menu. Breakfast, lunch, and brunch with some innovative breakfast items such as duck bacon or the Mexican benedict.

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  • 1) Food: (4/5 points) Everything we had tasted fantastic. They tout serving fresh breakfast all day and this is indeed what we had when we stopped in at 1 pm in the afternoon. We ordered the lump crab benedict, the classic waffles with honey vanilla butter, the kid’s mac ‘n cheese, and the banana nut french toast. It was all absolutely delicious. We were pleasantly surprised as we were just expecting regular diner food at this cozy corner restaurant, but everything really was quite memorable and begs us to come back for more. The vanilla butter they use on the pancakes and waffles is so decadent and the french toast was the perfect banana nut combination I was craving. The eggs were also perfectly creamy and scrumptious! Unfortunately the eggs and produce are not organic or local, which keeps the rating from being a full 5. I also did not favor the crab meat used, although I was told it was fresh it sure seemed like it came out of a can. They have some delicious house made jams: orange marmalade and strawberry, as well as a huge jar of Nutella at each table. However I did not have any at first because I was curious who may have double dipped in the shared jars before me! If you ask for a fresh new batch in a jar, they will be happy to provide you with some, which I hope they start to do by default to stop the spread of illness and disease!

 

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  • 2) Service: (4/5 points) We were served out food quickly, and had no issues getting everything we needed.
  • 3) Child friendly: (2/5) While they were very cordial and had crayons and kid’s menus for our kids, there was just no space for our family! We had to wait until some people left and the dining room was almost empty to fit in with our stroller. We had a sleeping infant in tow which was why we could not fold it up and store it anywhere. They also do not have any spots to store your stroller and the entry way is extremely tight. I would probably not be able to come back unless we sit outdoors in their patio in the spring and summer. 
  • 4) Ambiance: (3/5 points) This is a very cozy restaurant. They seem to have great business and great food, so it would be nice if they could expand a bit. Even without children, it is a tight squeeze in the dining room. 

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  • 5) Value: (4/5 points) Excellent value here, most menu items are $10 or less and are a good portion to share or be a complete meal. The food is not local or organic so that is the only thing keeping me from giving them a 5!

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Magnificent Mile

♥Pierrot Gourmet (108 E Superior, attached to the west side of the Peninsula Hotel) 22/25 points. Come here for the pastries and very child friendly service! French pastry cafe, lunch, dinner. 

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  • 1) Food: (5/5 points) This is one my absolute favorite spots to grab a bite and the best place to indulge in French pastry, particularly for macarons! If you are shopping downtown on or near Michigan Ave, this place is a must! The breakfasts, the coffee, the macarons, and shrimp (which is only available certain days) are to die for! If you ever need to take desserts to a host, stop here and pick up a lovely array of pastries, they are GORGEOUS! We have had the tuna melt and the flatbreads as well and it is all delicious! They know what they are doing in this kitchen. And they have THE BEST macarons I have ever tasted. I  have had delicious macarons in NYC, from Paris, and these are definitely my favorite. Many will agree! 

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  • 2) Service: (4/5 points) We always receive excellent service! 
  • 3) Child friendly: (5/5) This is one of the most child-friendly places I have visited in the city! Not only do they have awesome crayons and coloring activities fro kids, its an adorable little coloring book complete with stickers. I love stickers because they keep my toddlers fingers busy for quite a while! They also have great kiddie cups with a lid and straw as well as a great kids menu. My daughters kids meal for breakfast included a sophisticated platter of scrambled eggs, bread pudding, and fresh fruit. I was quite happy! On another visit the door man handed my daughter a stuffed teddy bear who happens to be the hotel’s mascot for children. The fact that they have a mascot for children who’s the attention they give to their littlest guests. I would love to stay in this hotel if I were a visitor to the city and encourage you to check it out if you are!

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  • 4) Ambiance: (4/5 points) Unfortunately this cafe is quite small in size, and I just have to walk away or wait awhile when I see it full because there is no way to fit in with a stroller. They do have a large vestibule in the entrance in which you can fold and store your stroller and be seated with your kids in highchairs, which works out fine as long as they are not asleep! When it is warm enough outside they open their outdoor seating, and even into the cool autumn days they still keep a heater overhead to allow wonderful ambient seating out on the downtown city walkways. One really does begin to feel transported into a European cafe when eating here and I just love it.

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  • 5) Value: (4/5 points) You get high quality, gourmet food here, in reasonable quantities. But again, prices are a little higher than average. Macarons at $2.50 and $7 for this jumbo beauty!

Sixteen (401 N Wabash Trump Hotel) 15/25 points, come here for the ambiance and first class, fine dining experience. Modern American cuisine, with a unique and engaging epicurean dining experience. 

  • 1) Food: (4/5 points) This is high end dining at its finest. And when I say high end I do mean a tiny but beautiful sliver of food on your plate, garnished as ornately at the view you get out the windows. The food is absolutely fantastic and you know you are tasting the artistic work of a persnickety chef. The flavors are different, unusual and exciting. You frequently receive chef’s compliments to try samples and nibbles of soup, fish, or even foam. This is a unique dining experience, and it is wonderful to see the use of the finest ingredients sourced from the best local and fresh farms and fisheries. The only thing lacking here is the quantity. Come here to experience flavor and food, not if you are really hungry!

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The menu was based on Chicago history and take you through a timeline of events, with each course reflecting the event or cultural influence of that time period. Excellent history lesson for those who learn by eating!16sugarandgarlic2014-316sugarandgarlic2014-416sugarandgarlic2014-6

This was a favorite. A spiced rice, crispy black eyed peas, okra, and juicy chicken dish reflecting the important influence of African Americans in Chicago.16sugarandgarlic2014

  • 2) Service: (5/5 points) Best service in town. Something you should expect when  you are paying well over $50 a person. Chairs are pulled out for you, napkins are constantly reappearing on your lap or table, and your glass never goes empty–even for a thirsty nursing mom constantly sipping away like me. Two thumbs up!
  • 3) Child friendly: (1/5) We came for my birthday, so it was a special occasion and the restaurant is very quiet. We also came in with our newborn simply because I am unable to leave her anywhere (she breastfeeds exclusively so thrives on me alone), and I was worried about facing a similar Alinea incident. Any single squeak my baby made was well heard, and we were a bit self conscious, but nobody gave us any awkward looks or feelings and I was able to step out into the lobby to nurse my baby and calm her back down. But this is definitely not a setting intended for children, and I would not bring my toddler or a non nursing baby if I did not have to. It is a place to come and enjoy quiet and peaceful culinary moments and fantastic flavors in your mouth. 
  • 4) Ambiance: (4/5 points) The windows soar from floor to ceiling, and offer a spectacular view of the city skyline and river. The interior is modern decor, large gorgeous flowers that scent the air with their sweet fragrance, and the seating is incredibly comfortable. This is a place where you want to come and relax and unwind and have long conversations.

FOODsugarandgarlic2014-12 16sugarandgarlic2014-5 16sugarandgarlic2014-7A portion of the final course:dessert. This was meant to reflect the well known “lemon heads” and was a juicy lemony burst of celery and citrus juices in a white chocolate candy shell. Very interesting flavors in your mouth happen with this bite!

  • 5) Value: (1/5 points) The menu is far too expensive to make me comfortable to ever come here outside of a (VERY) special occasion, and you should definitely check if they have a fixed menu. When we came in once, it was a fixed menu reflecting the history of Chicago with the “blue line ” menu of $150/person or “red line” for $210 a person! Brunch is more of a bargain at $70 a person, and breakfast is a “steal” at $20 per entree (e.g. scrambled eggs). Just keep in mind you are also paying for the view, the service, and the experience. Something we should all experience once in a while 😀

 

Streeterville

Wolfgang Puck (catering at Gleacher Center and restaurant in the Museum of Contemporary Art) Outstanding food, tastes, and impeccable service. The catering services here are always outstanding!

 

1) Food: (5/5 points) The food was some of the best I have ever tasted. Every time I eat here, I am not disappointed. I was ecstatic to see they follow a “farm to table” approach and get their produce from “Chef’s garden” which is a local top grower in Huron, Ohio of artisanal produce for chefs. The farming is sustainable and nurtures excellent tasting produce which was quite evident in the dishes we sampled today at the #techmunch conference! My absolute favorite was the Caesar salad of romaine rosettes, which was topped with a flavorful and zesty heirloom tomato relish, perfectly salty aged gouda, and big crispy sardines (and I never eat sardines!). The presentation was fantastic as well! The lettuces were set in faux dirt which was essentially crumbled brown/black bread!  So creative and so beautiful!

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Caesar salad of romaine rosettes

Simply the best caesar salad EVER- topped with shaved carrots, a flavorful tomato relish, aged gouda, and crispy delicious sardines!

garden salad farm to table in faux dirt

Assemble your own Caesar salad from this “garden”! Faux dirt is crumbled bread!

 

The snapper was also FANTASTIC. I am salivating for it now. Diners had the option of three delicious vinaigrettes: a spicy Thai cashew pesto, a lime aioli, or a zesty and juicy tomato truffle vinaigrette.

red snapper

Thai cashew pesto, tomato truffle vinaigrette, and Yuzu Lime Aioli

Thai cashew pesto, tomato truffle vinaigrette, and Yuzu Lime Aioli to top off the snapper!

 

There were also juicy braised beef ribs, a grilled vegetable panini, a refreshing kale and quinoa salad with almonds and lemon tahini dressing, and the perfect truffled chicken pot pie.

braised beef short ribs

An Asian take of short ribs with ginger, coconut, and lemon grass. Accompanied by gold yukon potatoes, peppers, and garlic. YUM.

grilled vegetable panini

Truffled chicken pot pie

filled with garden vegetables and sweet spring peas

This was really one of the best meals I have ever had. I only wish I was able to get more in! And then there was dessert!!! Everything was incredible! I missed out on the Chocolate Pot de Creme, although I was told by many it was the best thing on the spread. 🙁 Tears… So absolutely outstanding quality! Can I give bonus points for the food?! +5 more!

chocolate covered strawberry, green tea, opera cake, petite apple pie

filled with a chocolate covered banana slice!

A chocolate covered banana slice sandwiched between a puff pastry.

 

  • 2) Service: (5/5 points) Service was impeccable. Staff and waiters were attending to all needs quickly. I would love to have them cater my next event!
  • 3) Child friendly: (5 points) NA  bc they are a catering service, not a restaurant.
  • 4)Ambiance: (5 points) The setting at the Gleacher center and at MCA is spectacular! At Gleacehr center there are fantastic and sunny views of Michigan Ave, the River, and the beautiful Chicago skyline. 
  • 5) Value: (5 points) Everytime I eat here, it has been a catered event so I cannot comment on this yet!

grilled vegetable panini

quinoa kale salad

Petite kale, quinoa, toasted almonds, orange segments, topped with a lemon tahini dressing.

 

Quay

Yolk

Niu

West Egg

Bubba Gump Shrimp

 

Whining and Dining in San Francisco (where to eat with kids, and where not to!)

“Whining” and Dining in the Bay

The scale:

  • 1) Food: (5 points) Clearly this is the most important! The taste, presentation, quantity, and  quality. When I say quality I am looking at whether it is locally sourced, organic, and fresh. I am not interested in canned foods, foods imported from China, and skipping over the hard working local farmers and producers just to get a slightly cheaper and less fresh product. So I try to learn about the quality and source of the food as much as possible and comment about this whenever possible.
  • 2) Service: (5 points) Parents do not have time to wait around and watch their kids’ good behavior and patience expire. Parents have nap times and bedtimes to meet. Even if you are not a parent, nobody likes to wait around just to ask for a glass of water. 
  • 3) Child friendly: (5 points) These are like bonus points; having adequate child friendly seating such as spacious tables and seats, booster and high chairs, having children’s activities and menu items, and just being friendly to kids are all welcome and important gestures to parents and families!
  • 4) Ambiance: (5 points) We critique the ambiance in general in terms of being clean, nice, fun, friendly, appropriate for children, the decor and being overall impressive. 
  • 5) Value: (5 points) The price of the food for the quantity and quality received. For us we use a median of $10-$15 for starters (including salads), and $15-$25 for an entree. This is neither on the low end of the scale or on the high end. For that price we would also expect a generous amount of food, not a tiny slither of meat garnished with parsley and hollandaise sauce. We think this is a fair and average expectation for dining in Chicago and other big cities. 

Annotates a family favorite that we visit frequently, and I highly suggest you do as well!

I didn’t even get to the skim the surface of all the awesome culinary experiences here during my last visit, as it was very short. But here are some favorites that we hit up!

The Embarcadero Farmer’s Market 21/25 points Walk around, touch, try, feel, and see where local foods and produce come from! A great learning experience for kids and adults! Amazing foods to enjoy as well!

The farmer’s market at Embarcadero was a full day adventure. We strolled the tents appreciating all the variety and colors of the fresh produce, tasted some food, then heading into the ferry building for more food once the rain started pouring too hard on my stroller and toddler.2014-02-08sugarandgarlic2014-28 2014-02-08sugarandgarlic2014-29 2014-02-08sugarandgarlic2014-15

You can hop onto a cable car or the “f line” (fun antique busses) to get here from most downtown locations. Inside the ferry plaza there are many shops and markets, while outside is a Farmer’s market Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays it is a smaller market in the front of the Ferry building, and on Saturdays is a much larger market in front and in the back, alongside the bay. It really is lovely scenery. Unfortunately for us it rained our entire weekend, but we still ventured out. I bought fresh tulips for my sister who lives there and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for us to chow on throughout our stay. The mandarins were so sweet and juicy! We sat on a damp bench by the bay and ate about 10 mandarins before continuing the day 😀 I highly recommend making this stop so that you can  stock up on some fresh healthy snacks and produce to eat even while on vacation.

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Baby girl and I enjoyed picking and then eating some juicy sweet mandarins while sitting by the bay!

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Crunchy carrots make for an excellent and healthy snack on the go!

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Check out these gorgeous colors! Those artichokes look amazing! Wishing I had a kitchen to go cook up something fresh and tasty!

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Broccoli stems also made a perfect to go snack to have on hand. I also did not mind buying some fresh produce for my sister who lives in the Bay; who can pass up on these lovely fresh veggies grown and sold the way they should be!?

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My little cupcake picking out the tulips for her aunty.

Inside the ferry building:

*most of the vendors cannot really claim points for service due to the fact that these are vendors where you stand in line and grab your food to go*. Often, you will stand in a long line and have to search for a corner to squat in to enjoy your culinary finds! For complete ambiance, plan ahead and take everything to go and enjoy a picnic at nearby Golden Gate Park!

Cow Girl Creamery: 20/25 points (Perfectly creamy and delicious cheeses and dairy! Don’t expect much service though at the long lines at these grab and go vendors. (fresh made organic cheeses, sandwiches, fresh organic milk, and hot sizzling cheese on crackers!)

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This place has flavorful organic cheeses, many from their local creamery and many others from distinguished European sources. I’ve been to France and Italy and our most memorable culinary experiences there had to do with cheese! You get that experience here. The shop oozes such  wonderfully flavorful cheeses.We grabbed a couple of different grilled cheese sandwiches as well as the awesome snack cheese off the wheel! They display a huge wheel of cheese sizzling under a hot lamp, which they scrape off onto your bread and hand off hot and fresh. This shop is a must try! I am drooling reminiscing about it right now…

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BeeKind: 20/25 points A variety of pure and raw honeys. This shop sources their honey from their own hives as well as other local hives. They do not treat their hives with pesticides or antibiotics. You can sample the many flavors that actually smell and taste differently depending on the type of flower the pollen was collected from! We loved the raspberry flower honey and the buckwheat was perfect for the incessant cough we all seem to have this winter (thanks Chicago!) They also have perfectly delicious flavor infused honey made with natural ingredients and spices such as the chai honey ( I can’t recall the exact name but it was delicious!) I love honey with my tea, in smoothies, and as a daily remedy for good health so this place really got our attention. Check it out! They also sell beeswax candles, honeycombs, and honey jars. I would love one of their cute honey jars to serve honey in!

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La Boulange: 17/25 points. Excellent variety of pastries, hot drinks, and hot sandwiches and soups. (various locations, we stopped at Market St & 3rd) A bakery and cafe carrying pastries, sandwiches, and hot soups. Perfect for the cold rainy weather we were in!

 

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  • 1) Food: 3.5/5 We had tea, chocolate croissant, a lot of macarons, mushroom soup, open face chicken and mushroom panini, fresh fruit, and potatoes. My rating is between a 3 and a 4 because I love how hot and fresh everything was. The meat is ethically raised and without antibiotics, fruit and grains are organic. The flavors were exquisite, but they just were not what I was expecting. I have heard a lot about La Boulange, and tried their treats served in Starbucks so was excited to come to the source in the bay. The macarons were not as decadent as I was expecting. They were still incredibly delicious, and maybe I am becoming a macaron snob but I definitely have had better. They were a little too soggy in the center than I expected. The sandwich however tasted perfect. I loved the flavor of the mushrooms, the sauce, and chives all smothering the chicken. I did not care for the potatoes at all- which probably brought down my rating the most. They were boiled and then partially warmed/toasted. Seemed like a recipe mess I would make in my kitchen. The croissant was also okay- I was expecting it to be flakier and more chocolate to ooze out.
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  • 2) Service: 4/5 Service is fast, and they give what you want. I was being very particular about how I wanted my sandwich and my order and they had no issues with it. I love when that happens and you get the good service you expect and pay for. You order at a cashier and wait for your food or drink then sit or carry away.
  • 3) Child friendly: 4/5 They only had outdoor seating and it was raining, but after being cooped up in the midwest negative temperatures, I did not care. I sat outside under the awning and was able to seat my toddler beside me and my baby stayed in the stroller. It would be tight I would imagine if it were a sunny day and there were  more people out, but we were the only ones other than two people sitting out. My three year old was a bit scared of all the wandering pigeons hawking at the crumbs of food she kept dropping, which made it difficult to keep her seated, but encouraged her to eat a little neater, haha! They did not have a kids menu when I asked, so I had to buy my toddler an overpriced jumbo fruit bowl for $6, but online I see a kids menu with fruit and granola for $3…hmmm
  • 4) Ambiance: 3/5 Again, we sat outside, which I love to do. The seating area is small and nothing spectacular, but the location is nice and clean and has a great city view of the business district. The outdoor area had a generous large awning and umbrellas to shelter us from the rain so we could enjoy people watching and cable car viewing. 

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  • 5) Value: 3/5 Prices are slightly higher than average. You pay a bit more for a sandwich or salad ($9-$10) but soups are about $3 and bakery items $2-$3. Macarons are $1.50 each.

♥Super Duper: 22/25 points. Come here for fast and DELICIOUS burgers, chicken, or egg sandwiches with a side of the best milkshakes ever! Organic and local produce, grassed beef, free range chicken, delicious burgers and super duper milkshakes!

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  • 1) Food: 5/5 Seriously good food. The burgers are so juicy and flavorful. The buns are hot and toasty. They also have a vegetarian burger served with hummus and cucumbers. The fries are delicious, they make their own pickles, and I think I was getting their milkshakes everyday like water. The milk they use is from Straus, a local and organic dairy source. I loved everything I got. We even went in for breakfast and had the egg sandwiches which were so delicious as well! Did I mention we loved the milkshakes! Drool. They also have pies and cookies and sundaes, all made in house. 

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  • 2) Service: 5/5 You get the food fast enough to know they are on top of it, but not too fast that you think you are at McDonald’s eating a frozen patty. The wait was short and it was easy to order food in the morning (10 am) and not so bad in the evening (7pm weekday), but when I walked by later at lunch (contemplating a second shake!) the line was out the door on the street. Too much effort with a stroller and kids…and I did not really need to have another double chocolate shake.
  • 3) Child friendly: 4/5 There is plenty of seating to fit our entourage, and they have kid’s sized shakes and meals as well as highchairs. My daughter loved this place. Maybe because I let her have a milkshake each time. A cup of organic milk for the kids, with a dash of your shake does the trick 😉 Soon she will be older and realize what I am doing…They have a nice large single stall restroom in the back making it easy to fit my large double stroller easily.
  • 4) Ambiance: 4/5 Clean and spacious, loud music, and metal furnishings set the scene here.
  • 5) Value: 4/5 Excellent value for excellent food. You can get an entire combo meal for $9, or just the sandwich ranging from $5-$7, most toppings are free. Shakes are $5-$6, and $3 for kids. 

Boudin: (Fisherman’s Wharf) 21/25 points.  Amazing restaurant experience and menu complete with an onsite bakery and historical museum full of activities for the kids!  Serves seafood, pasta, and delicious soups in bread bowls! A

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  • 1) Food: 4/5 Food was well prepared, and great in presentation and flavor. Food is fresh, and they boast a “farm-to-table” philosophy sourcing local produce as well as meats and fish from local and small farms and fisheries. We sampled a large array from the menu: shrimp ceviche, the clam chowder, the bread bowl with crab bisque, fries, angel hair pasta with shrimp, the roasted brick chicken, and the Alaskan halibut. Everything tasted excellent, and the clam chowder was a favorite! The chowder is made without pork which is an excellent opportunity for those on a halal or Kosher diet to finally enjoy some clam chowder as it otherwise usually has bacon in it. 

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  • 2) Service: 4/5 We were seated right away even on a busy Saturday afternoon, and were accommodated easily with our stroller with infant and toddler in tow. We had quite a large table as well with 2 high chairs. The waiter was friendly and came often and quickly. 
  • 3) Child friendly: 5/5 This is an excellent place to bring your kids! Not only do they have a kids menu, coloring activity, walk through museum and tour, but kids can order the signature sourdough in the shape of a turtle, bear, or even an alligator! They also have a baking experience in which children can bake alongside a baker and shape their own bread. My daughter had a great time doing everything but unfortunately we missed the bread making interaction.

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  • 4) Ambiance: 4/5 Clean, spacious, and lots of windows letting in sunlight and open to a great view of the wharf.
  • 5) Value: 4/5 Entrees are a little higher than average. But the quantity and quality of the food served is excellent. Portions are nice and large.

The Grove (301 Hayes St) 12/25 points. Come here for the AWESOME breakfast menu and fresh squeezed juice, but don’t expect to fit your stroller or entourage of kids easily, or get great service. Serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and they specialize in fresh squeezed orange juice and delicious breakfast items. 

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  • 1) Food: 5/5 Food was delicious. Not only did everything taste outstanding, the food choices are unique and are not dishes you can find at any breakfast joint. I got the Moroccan baked eggs which really hit the spot and were so tasty. It was a spicy tomato harissa sauce with roasted vegetables, olives, chickpeas, feta cheese and 2 poached eggs. My husband had an omelet and my daughter enjoyed some french toast. It was all very delicious! We finished with afogato which was a scoop of vanilla ice-cream drenched in espresso. My husband who is an avid coffee drinker enjoyed it-I would prefer it to be drenched in fudge but that wouldn’t be an afogato 🙂

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  • 2) Service: 1/5 Very poor service was experienced here, if any at all! I was very disappointed. We were not greeted at the door and instead rushed into a busy line, where you stand to first order your food. You then need to find your own seats and will have your food brought to you. It was a busy morning, but I felt like we were being pushed around with my 2 children which I did not appreciate at all. The restaurant has seating upstairs so before I hauled my 2 kids and stroller to the back of the restaurant to go up I asked if there were any available seats. The waiter seemed annoyed of my inquiry. When he informed there is space he asked another waiter to haul the elevator for me, who was also very rude. She called it down and the elevator closed before I could get in because she did not bother holding it for me, and merely said “oh it closed”. Annoyed, I just walked away and grabbed an open table that by the busy entry way ( I obviously would prefer not to sit there bc I do not want to  block the line or entry with my stroller and kids). A waiter came by at one point and asked me if I could move my stroller to the back of the restaurant by the kitchen, ignoring the fact that there was a sleeping infant inside. I told him I would have been happy to sit elsewhere had someone assisted me showing me where to go and that no I am not moving my sleeping baby to the back of the restaurant. He apologized and walked away. Nobody came to ask us if we needed anything, and when I returned to the cashier to ask for sugar and a spoon to stir my tea she acted annoyed and told me they were available at the back counter (which is located nowhere near the cashier, so how would anybody know?)
  • 3) Child friendly: 1/5 For the reasons mentioned above, I do not recommend coming here with kids, especially if you have a stroller. The place is small and cramped, and seating is difficult. My 3 year old was sitting at a bench with us on a backless stool that spins, so that was difficult to manage! I would not know if they had highchairs but there was no way we would be able to fit one by our table, they are all placed so close to one another and we would have just blocked movement even more. 
  • 4) Ambiance: 1/5 All I can recall was it being dark and cramped. The tables are all very close to one another. 
  • 5) Value: 4/5 Most entrees, omelets, sandwiches, and dishes are $8-$15 so it is very affordable and delicious food. Most items are made in house, and fresh daily.

 

 Sam’s Chowder House ( Half Moon Bay) Come here for the awesome views of cliffs, mountains (or hills are they?), and the ocean, as well as some great servings of lobster!

asparagus lobster salad

Asparagus lobster salad

Lobster ceviche with pineapple and passionfruit vinaigrette

Lobster ceviche with pineapple and passionfruit vinaigrette

  • 1) Food: 3/5 You can definitely get your fill of lobster here, without breaking the bank, and thats always a good thing. I enjoyed a fantastic grilled asparagus salad topped with lumps of lobster (this is only a special, I hope they add it permanently!), a large lobster roll with plenty of huge lumps of lobster meat, paella, cioppini seafood soup, a crab cake, as well as a lobster ceviche appetizer. Disclaimer:  I didn’t eat all of this alone, but I definitely sampled it all. The lobster salad was my favorite, with excellent flavors and textures. They serve sustainable seafood, and have some fresh selections. The crab was not my favorite at all, which is partly the reason we don’t have a score of 5 here. The crab meat was finely shredded pieces, rather than lump meat, and the crab shells were hairy, which just turned me off. The crab meat wasn’t as succulent and juicy as other places I have had crab. Now lets talk about the lobster roll which is an award winning sandwich (one of the best 5 sandwiches in America according to NBC’s Today show). You get a generous amount, about 3/4 cup, of lump lobster meat from the tail and claws sandwiched in a toasty brioche bun. There were slices of crunchy celery, which was a nice texture and flavor contrast. I do admit I asked for minimal butter due to my low cal diet, and so the sandwich was drier than I hoped, but I still expected some flavoring with it being an award winning sandwich! I thought it would be tossed with some flaring or, I don’t know, garlic 🙂 But overall it was great, for a lobster roll, and the brioche bun was an excellent bun to house the lobster. I also was not impressed with the fish and chips (not much fish inside the fried batter coating), or the kids’ meals. My daughter really wanted crab or a crab cake, so I had to order an adult serving since they do not have any seafood options aside from the fish and chips in the kids meals (which are mostly cliche items I am not fond of such as chicken fingers, hot dogs, spaghetti etc). 
seafood paella

seafood paella

Award winning lobster roll

Lobster Roll

  • 2) Service: 4/5  We had good service. The only irritating thing was that they didn’t bring out the kid’s food right away and instead thought it would be okay to wait until the paella was cooked (which takes quite some time). 
  • 3) Child friendly: (3/5 points) They  have a kids menu, child seats, crayons, and coloring sheets. The kids menu was not great in options or in taste however, and if you want to sit outside with a stroller it is pretty difficult because space is tight. 
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The crab cake I ordered for my 4 year old

  • 4) Ambiance: 5/5 I would come here for the scenery alone! The views, the outdoor seating with heat lamps, the indoor fireplace, the spectacular views of sunset are all wonderful reasons to come here, even if you’re justing having a bowl of chowder!
  • 5) Value: 4/5 The portions of food are reasonable, and of course price tags are a little higher because you are ordering fresh fish, lobster or crab. However, we felt the lobster roll was a great amount of lobster (more than I ever pick out of an expensive lobster tail) for $23. But the prices, independent of the fact your are buying seafood, are high and  your may spend more than you want when feeding a family of 4. Appetizers and salads average about $15, while entrees range from $20-$40. 

 

Whining and Dining in Miami (where to eat with kids, and where not to!)

“Whining” and Dining in Miami 

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The scale:

  • 1) Food: (5 points) Clearly this is the most important! The taste, presentation, quantity, and  quality. When I say quality I am looking at whether it is locally sourced, organic, and fresh. I am not interested in canned foods, foods imported from China, and skipping over the hard working local farmers and producers just to get a slightly cheaper and less fresh product. So I try to learn about the quality and source of the food as much as possible and comment about this whenever possible.
  • 2) Service: (5 points) Parents do not have time to wait around and watch their kids’ good behavior and patience expire. Parents have nap times and bedtimes to meet. Even if you are not a parent, nobody likes to wait around just to ask for a glass of water. 
  • 3) Child friendly: (5 points) These are like bonus points; having adequate child friendly seating such as spacious tables and seats, booster and high chairs, having children’s activities and menu items, and just being friendly to kids are all welcome and important gestures to parents and families!
  • 4) Ambiance: (5 points) We critique the ambiance in general in terms of being clean, nice, fun, friendly, appropriate for children, the decor and being overall impressive. 
  • 5) Value: (5 points) The price of the food for the quantity and quality received. For us we use a median of $10-$15 for starters (including salads), and $15-$25 for an entree. This is neither on the low end of the scale or on the high end. For that price we would also expect a generous amount of food, not a tiny slither of meat garnished with parsley and hollandaise sauce. We think this is a fair and average expectation for dining in Chicago and other big cities. 

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Trulucks (Seafood, Steak, Crab) 777 Brickell Ave. 19/25 Come here for the ambiance and service. A high end, fine dining experience. Costly seafood entrees range from $25-$50. We strolled here with our sleeping infant ( a common and useful strategy if you only have an infant in tow) so it was really still like a date night. 

  • 1) Food: 4/5 Food was well prepared, and great in flavor. Seafood was local with some awesome crab! If you come here you must try the stone crab, it is fresh, succulent, and generous in size. The menu and flavor options are plentiful. We both trued seafood and not the steak so no commentary on steak. 
  • 2) Service: 4/5 We were welcomed and seated right away (7 pm) even though we had no reservation. Waitress happily and swiftly brought me a mug of hot water to warm my baby’s bottle. 
  • 3) Child friendly: 4/5 Because we only had an infant we had limited experience with this aside from being brought hot water promptly. They also accommodated our request for a large booth just so we could place the baby bassinet beside me. 
  • 4) Ambiance: 4/5 Beautiful, clean, elegant. Comfortable seating with large booths available.
  • 5) Value: 3/5 It is costly seafood. Average entree costs $40, with the stone crabs being $15-$25 for each claw. It is however a good sized entree and a large claw, and the food is all fresh from their local and own fisheries. 

Smith & Wollensky (Steakhouse, Seafood) 1 Washington Ave, Miami Beach. 19/25 Come here for the view and outdoor waterfront seating. High end fine dining steakhouse with an amazing view and ambiance! Perfect for fine dining with children and not embarrassing yourself. Save this place for a special occasion (expensive!) and be sure to sit outdoors it is well worth it. 

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  • ) Food: 4/5 Good steaks and seafood, awesome desserts and drinks. Pictured above is my favorite, their molten chocolate cake oozing chocolate ganache. 
  • 2) Service: 4/5 Service is good. They come out enough to make sure you have everything. They did not mind me parking my stroller alongside our table we sat at outside. This is always a plus because I like to keep everything beside me and keep baby comfortably seated. The seating outside is spacious and pleasant. More on that under ambiance!
  • 3) Child friendly: 3/5 Service was good and wait staff was friendly. I did not see a kids a menu or any other special features to welcome or occupy kids but our baby was in the stroller and only 10 months so we could not adequately comment on that. They did seat us in a nice spacious area outdoors and we were very comfortable. 
  • 4) Ambiance: 5/5 We cannot comment on the indoor seating, although it looks very nice and clean and elegant. Great AC and that is based on a quick walk through to the restroom. The outdoors seating is the best and our favorite in Miami. It is waterside and there is a large walkway beach path in which the kids can go play (if they are old enough) or you can walk the toddlers in if they get restless. It is just a major bonus to be able to sit outdoors in the fresh air which catching an awesome view of the water! Definitely an enjoyable experience and must for anyone looking to enjoy try beachside  or waterside dining.

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  • 5) Value: 3/5 It is expensive steak and seafood, more expensive than Joe’s mentioned below, and even Trulucks. We only come here over the others simply because of the view and experience. For good and memorable seafood I would still say Joe’s is the place to go! Entrees start at $30 for chicken and $15 for a burger. But they are delicious, rest assured! As I mentioned above, come here for a special occasion. The experience, ambiance and food are all impressive and tie into the cost. If you include those things into the value, I would say it is a 5/5! It truly is a really beautiful area of Miami Beach!

 

♥Joe’s Stone Crab (Seafood, Crab) 11 Washington Ave, Miami Beach. 17/25 points. Come here for awesome crab, delicious entrees, and decadent desserts. Another high end seafood house. Always busy, be prepared to wait about 30 minutes to be seated if no reservations are made. 3 blocks from the beach and ocean front. This is a favorite. 

  • 1) Food: 5/5 Best tasting stone crab, seafood, sides, desserts, we loved it ALL! We have had stone crab, the sirloin burger, fried chicken, halibut, potatoes lyonnaise, crab cakes, salads, garlic spinach, sautéed mushrooms, and most of the dessert. It is all perfectly delicious. The apple pie a la mode and Key lime pie are to die for. The Key Lime is actually one of the best I’ve had. You must eat here! You could also do Joe’s take away which allows you to order what you want and take it to go which we LOVED doing and taking our food out on the beach 3 blocks east and enjoying the sun, sand, and ocean!

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  • 2) Service: 3/5 Service is average. They come frequently enough to not piss you off, bring the food promptly, and are professional. We have been “greeted” by an arrogant man a few times who first scoffed at my stroller informing me I could not bring it in, and then told us it would be a long wait. Other times we had a kind host who helped take my stroller aside and store it safely beside his stand as well as an excellent waitress whom I cannot remember her name, but will be back to post it if I do. In general, its fair service. That pompous host or manager just needs to relax a little bit.
  • 3) Child friendly: 2/5 Not too friendly based on the fact that I could not bring in my stroller, which I can understand for space limitations. They did have crayons and a coloring book for the kids. 
  • 4) Ambiance: 3/5 A rather crowded restaurant, and if you are seated at a table not a booth it is not too comfortable. Very clean interior and seafood themed decor. There is an outdoor seating option which is a slightly different menu, but this is a great option to enjoy the weather and not have to wait too long to be seated. We usually opted to pick up the food from the takeaway station and go eat it on the beach 3 blocks east!

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  • 5) Value: 4/5 It is costly seafood, but you definitely get what you pay for here. Stone crab is not cheap anywhere in general. The crab is LARGE and filling. The sides are large portions, enough to share with at least 3 adults. The entrees and desserts are also large. 

Big Pink (Breakfast, sandwiches)  157 Collins Ave, Miami Beach. 19/25 points. The best thing here is the fast and affordable delicious food . A casual joint in Miami Beach with great food, a fun atmosphere, and quick service. A great place to grab breakfast or lunch, take food to go, or grab a meal to picnic on the beach. 

  • 1) Food: 4/5 Great food, a variety of options ranging from breakfast waffles and omelets, to sandwiches, steaks, and seafood. We had the french toast, waffles, omelet, and salad and it was all great. The salad did not come off as the freshest ingredients however. But the breakfast foods were great and delicious! We hear that the chicken and waffles are amazing, and want to try that next time!
  • 2) Service: 4/5 Fast service, and they keep your glass full. 
  • 3) Child friendly: 3/5 They have a kids menu, even though I like to order regular food and allow my daughter to eat like us, crayons, and lots of kid friendly menu options to either bribe your child with or allow them to choose what they want. Whatever parenting option floats your boat! 
  • 4) Ambiance: 3/5 it is crowded, but it is a casual beach joint, so do not expect elegant seating or ambiance here. It is nice and clean and a fun vibe however. There is plenty of outdoor seating as well to enjoy the amazing Miami weather (in the winter at least).
  • 5) Value: 5/5 Great food, and cheap food! That is value! Most menu items are UNDER $11, and the only ones approaching $15 or $20 are the serious entrees, like the 8 oz filet mignon for $22- not a bad deal!

Perricones (Italian) 15 SE 10th St.: 20/25 points, come here for the excellent pasta dishes and romantic garden seating.This place is such a GEM in downtown/Brickell Miami. Funny thing is we lived ONE block away on 10th and Brickell and only discovered this place before we moved. We walked by it all the time and it never really caught our attention because it is almost hidden behind a jungle of palms, looks dark, and we just never though anything of it. But we were WRONG! Some of the BEST pasta dishes you will ever have! 

  • 1) Food: 4/5 Some of the best pasta dishes you will have! Dessert is wonderful too! We’ve had the Pasta pomodoro with succulent large shrimp and a perfect tomato sauce, the Spinach Ravioli with the pink sauce, the pasta with olives and feta, and the fettucine alfredo with sliced filet steak. Amazing! They also bring you delicious bruschetta, complimentary! They also have an indoor market and cafe in which you can browse or shop while waiting to be seated.
  • 2) Service: 4/5 Fast service, attentive, generous with the complementary bread and bruschetta! Very helpful and accommodating to seat us with our large clunky stroller and things.
  • 3) Child friendly: 4/5 Maybe it’s just the people but they are all so incredibly friendly! They don’t mind my stroller and babies and make sure to seat you so that you are comfortable. They offered a kids menu and were friendly with my daughter.
  • 4) Ambiance: 4/5 This place has such an elegant and cozy ambiance. They have outdoor seating under the palm trees, but it is enclosed in a tent so that you are away from the bugs and heat. Strings of lit bulbs hang over head make you feel like you are dining under the stars. Live music playing from interior dining hall.
  • 5) Value: 4/5 Great food, average prices, and large portions. I always had left overs to take home. 

Monty’s Sunset (Casual, bar food, seafood) 300 Alton Road. 17/25 points, come here for the outdoor atmosphere and cheap eats. Located off the docks, you can catch a boat or rent jet skis and eat here before or after. This is a nice casual beach restaurant. 

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  • 1) Food: 3/5 Nothing spectacular, just regular decent “beach food”. We got the mahi mahi and fried shrimp basket. 
  • 2) Service: 4/5 Fast service, friendly staff.
  • 3) Child friendly: 3/5 Friendly because there is plenty of space for strollers and kids when sitting outdoors (we cannot speak to the indoors). They have highchairs, but no kids menu or crayons.
  • 4) Ambiance: 3/5 Nice to sit outdoors on the dock and very casual. Reminds me of Bubba Gump Shrimp in Chicago, if you have been there before to compare.
  • 5) Value: 4/5 Average food quality and decent prices. A great place to go with friends or out of town visitors! On the water, good food, fun and loud atmosphere, and decent average prices starting at $15 for entrees, $7 appetizers and salads.

Nikki Beach   (1 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach). 14/25, come here for the beach ambiance; spend the day in the Sun and on the beach while lounging and being served food. Serves sushi, pizza, sandwiches. Check out that address. Yes, you read right. Located in the upscale area of South Beach, and right ON the beach. The only reason why we come here- to eat good food while sitting in comfortable loungers on the sand! This place is a nightclub and a restaurant. So I would not go here in the evening or at night. They have wonderful outdoor seating on the beach. Call ahead to reserve cabana. 

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  • 1) Food: 4/5 The food is very good! You can get awesome sushi,  sandwiches, or pizzas. We tried the pizzas and they were absolutely delicious. I did not know I like sushi at the time, but I wish I did, because it looked amazing! You can get some great drinks my favorite is the Miami Vice which is half piña colada and half strawberry daiquiri- perfect for those indecisive like myself.
  • 2) Service: 2/5 Service was slow. We do not order alcohol and maybe that is why nobody was interested in us? Each time we came here they looked annoyed that we did not want a drinks menu or champagne and wanted to roll in with our stroller. Maybe they dislike non-alcoholic drinkers? Not sure. Not everyone drinks, they should know that. Remember when it was illegal to drink in America? Gosh lets not go into that rant…but just saying!
  • 3) Child friendly: 1/5 Again, our baby was only 9 months at this time so we did not need food or much for her. She was asleep in the stroller. I did not see any families there with young children it. It seemed like we were the only ones, but I didn’t mind it and it didn’t seem like anyone else did either. I do not really feel like this is the place to go with kids. It’s all adults and some people are dressed in their nightclub attire already while some people are dressed in swim attire. So we did prefer sit far away from everyone else.  I don’t think I would come here with my children next time unless we are sitting on beach chairs on the on the sand, further from the crowd with my kids  playing in the sand which would actually be a very fun experience (the beach is huge and this part is exclusive so uncrowded).
  • 4) Ambiance: 4/5 Aside from the less desirable adult/nightclub atmosphere and vibe this place gives, I loved everything. You are eating amazing food, sipping pina coladas and being served your meal on a beach. That’s right- your toes are in the sand and your faces in the sun. You can reserve a cabana ($25) a bed ($10) or beach chairs ($10) and umbrella by calling them in advance while you get to enjoy your food right out there on the beach.
  • 5) Value: 3/5 Good food quality but a bit on the higher end of prices for sushi and specialty pizzas. Sushi rolls average $17, pizzas are also $15-20. Excellent selection of fresh seafood on the raw bar or hot appetizers!