Every year at this time, I brainstorm with my kids about where to go for “Take Your Kid To Work Day.” Rather than make them get me coffee and peruse the blogs at the office, I figure it’s more fun to try to find a place where we all can agree on the food and atmosphere. The days of saccharine “kid-friendly” places, featuring chicken fingers, mac & cheese and pizza are long gone (thankfully). Today, 12 year-old Madeline and nine year-old Max have much more advanced tastes, and for the purposes of this annual story, we try not to hit Chinatown and Argyle Street too much, since we spend so much time there already.
On a recent swing through Pilsen - where we did Simone’s, ironically, last year - we came upon Nightwood, the ever-evolving sophomore effort from Jason Hammel and Amalea Tshilds of Lula. I’ve always been a big fan of Monday lunch at Lula, and while my first two visits to Nightwood last summer were just o.k., a recent visit there completely changed my tune. Jason Vincent is Chef de Cuisine here, and just about everything we ordered there last month was supremely delicious. The kids loved the fried mozzarella (who doesn’t love fried cheese?) especially with a slightly chunky, vibrant marinara. We all fought over the crusty loaf of bread from Pamela Fitzpatrick, paired with some fresh strawberry-rhubarb jam and a dollop of Prairie Fruits Farm goat cheese; the side of mache greens was welcome, but the kids didn’t jump on it. Madeline ate just about every one of the homemade gnocchi, swimming as they were in a light pool of clarified butter and a handful of fresh herbs. I recommended the burger - which they both gave the thumbs up to (especially the perfectly-cooked fries) - but Max was all over the whole grilled trout, which rests on a bed of black beans and a drizzle of crème fraîche. At one point during his enthusiastic consumption of that dish, he turned to me and said, “dad, I think I want to be you when I grow up, because I like TV and I like food.” I realized then how lucky I was to have kids who enjoy going out “on the job” as much as I enjoy taking them.
If you want to see the story today on ABC 7, it will be up here after 11:30 a.m. Some of the other places we’ve visited over the past few years have been Glenn’s Diner in Ravenswood and Joy Yee’s Noodle Shop. Where would you take the kids today?