(credit: Kids Shows Chicago's facebook)

by Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Chicago’s northwest side is home to a small bar with one of the biggest line-ups for the way underager’s and their parents. Every weekend, the booster seats go on the bar stools and families come by to rock together. Beat Kitchen has excellent food on funky menus, sandwiched between vintage record album covers. Their eclectic, gourmet offerings far surpass standard bar fare, and their commitment to fresh ingredients and made to order meals ensure a quality dining experience.

(credit: Bonnie Kenaz-Mara)

Families often come early or stay late for brunch, which is served from 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Fri day through Sunday. The bar also features a kid friendly menu including the usual favorites from pancakes to pizza, in case your little ones won’t go for smoked salmon wraps or crab empanadas. Their Bloody Mary’s are some of the best in town, and drinks are welcome in the kids’ shows as long as those under 21 stick to juice boxes.

Gomez, the club owner, began Beat Kitchen’s popular Concerts for Kids Series about 4 years ago, when he started hearing from neighborhood families that they wanted to get out with their kids more often and hear live music. As a music-loving father of young children himself, he could relate. At the start, Gomez thought they’d be lucky to get a few families in at noon on a Sunday. But the wildly successful concert series sometimes has a packed house of around 150 people, and has become a welcome weekly ritual.

The series takes a hiatus each year for summer and resumes with a day-long, multi band, fall festival kick off. In 2011 the 5 hour kick off included fun, free activities provided by a number of local businesses and media partners including a rock star photo booth, fishing for prizes in a kiddy pool, paint and take canvases, temp tattoos, and face painting.

(credit: Bonnie Kenaz-Mara)

Beat Kitchen is a fabulously family-friendly space. The owner’s children are often at the shows, dancing and hanging out. Back in the fall, we even arrived for a show to find the sound guy working the boards with his newborn daughter in his arms! Concerts for kids welcome all ages and are geared toward newborns through elementary agers. Hearing protection recommended.

Parents planning a unique birthday party can rent the upstairs party room for private cake and present time and then treat their party guests to the public kids’ show downstairs. Aspiring little rock stars and their entourage have been seen sporting sunglasses and inflatable guitars. The rockin’ birthday theme has endless, fun possibilities.

Beat Kitchen’s Concerts for Kids bands vary widely from folk and bluegrass to Ramones-like kids’ punk, and every genre in between. Entertainers are now coming in from Michigan, Minnesota, and neighboring states. Acts have even come from as far as Texas and New York to play. Concerts frequently include snack samples and free art projects.

You can follow Concerts for Kids on Facebook for the latest updates on shows.

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara writes a photo filled music, theatre and events blog, which includes shows for kids and the 21+ crowd in Chi, IL. She explores adventures in urban-odd ball-off the wall-alternative-eco-punk parenting, including loads of giveaways, live show footage, interviews, reviews and more at www.chiilmama.com.