Restaurants and Food - Chicago Children's Museum (and Navy Pier)

Food is pretty lackluster on Navy Pier, and healthy options in particular are few and far between.

Generally speaking, the restaurants can be divided into three categories: sit-down restaurants, mostly located in or near the family pavilion (the large open area that the museum is in), the food court (a couple of restaurants close to a large seating area in the family pavilion—McDonald's is the most prominent), and the smaller counter service restaurants along the long corridors of Navy Pier, with open seating across the hallway. It is usually very difficult to find highchairs along the open seating inlong corridor, and I'm not aware of any booster seats available for those.

If you're bringing your own food, you can usually find a table to sit at along the long corridor by the counter-service restaurants (turn right out of the children's museum and follow the path around a few corners until you get to a long hallway with windows and seating along the right side). Bringing your own food to the food court by McDonald's is not allowed, and you may be asked to move if you try, especially on busy days.

If there's any kind of crowd, I strongly encourage getting an early start to lunch (I always try to be at a restaurant at 11:30 to beat the rush).

See the More Information section to get more details on specific restaurants.


Sit-Down Restaurants

For sit-down restaurants, I prefer Harry Caray's, which is next door to the museum. The food is pretty good, though the menu is limited. The main downsides are limited healthy choices (there are no sides of fruit, though I will sometimes get a veggie hummus plate to share), and there are TVs everywhere (it's a sports bar, after all), which makes conversation with the kids pretty difficult. The kids menu includes chicken tenders, mac and cheese, a cheeseburger, and buttered noodles. I can't explain why they like Harry Caray's so much, but my kids adore their buttered noodles. I often get the Caesar salad with chicken for myself, and the sandwiches are also good.

I also like Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. The kids menu includes a cheeseburger, chicken bites, mac and cheese, or even a half rack of ribs. Their salads are pretty good for adults, and they have good burgers as well.

Giordano's is a great choice, especially for out-of-town visitors wanting to experience Chicago-style pizza. Be aware that pizza, especially Chicago-style pizza, can take a while to prepare, so it's not a good choice for active or hungry kids. Chicago-style pizza can be pretty difficult for young kids (thick and very gooey/cheesy makes it easy to choke on a little), but Giordano's does have regular pizza as part of the kids menu.

I do not recommend Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. I've tried it a few times, and neither the kids nor my meals have ever been very good.

Food Court

The food court is primarily seating for McDonalds. Take a right out of the children's museum, and look for the golden arches on the right. America's Dog & Burger has pretty good hot dogs, and of course McDonald's is good for burgers, chicken nuggets, etc. The other restaurants in that area just serve desserts.

Counter-Service Restaurants

Take a right out of the children's museum and follow the path around a few corners until you reach a long corridor that has a variety of restaurants on the left and open seating on the right. Unfortunately, these are spread out enough that it's difficult to split up and have different family members grab food from different restaurants. I haven't found any fruit cup or other healthy sides at these restaurants. There's a Potbelly's subs at the area between the Family Pavilian and the long corridor, and it is pretty good. A few of the other notable options are Big Bowl Chinese, Frankie's Pizza by the Slice, and Big City Chicken (fried chicken). I'm not a big fan of any, but the pizza by the slice is a pretty quick and easy way to feed a hungry group.