On my trail around the world I love to eat my gluten free way through each new city—especially one as vibrant and culturally diverse as Chicago. I spent just under a week there for the Global Lyme Alliance 3rd Annual SubLyme Soiree and also was featured on WGN-TV during their Lunchbreak segment with a recipe from my cookbook, Wandering Palate. The best thing about traveling in 2019 is that there are so many new and dedicated gluten free restaurants. In a big city like Chicago, I had no trouble finding delicious places to dine. Without further ado, here’s my guide for eating gluten free in Chicago.
Dedicated Gluten-Free Restaurants in Chicago
It’s been so exciting to witness such a shift toward 100% dedicated gluten free options across the U.S. and beyond. There were so many delicious options to choose from in Chicago, so here’s my round-up of gluten free restaurants I tried on my last visit to the Windy City.
Little Beet Table
Little Beet Table is one of my favorite restaurants in NYC, so naturally I was excited to try their Chicago location! This restaurant is 100% gluten free with an emphasis on vegetable driven dishes that can appeal to anyone’s dietary needs. Little Beet Table incorporates local and sustainably sourced ingredients whenever possible. Additionally, they source gluten free products that legitimately taste just as good as their glutenous counterparts, not that I have eaten gluten since 2012.
Having eaten at two of their locations now, I can honestly say that I am in love with the food! Every item I tried was served super fresh and flavorful. Bonus point: you feel so healthy eating here because everything is so fresh. On my last visit I tried the sunflower seed hummus as an appetizer, which was accompanied by savory gluten free pita and whipped ricotta and was absolutely delicious. We also had the roasted beet salad, carnitas tacos and crispy salmon as our entrees. I am so excited to watch Little Beet Table expanding to new locations in Greenwich, CT and soon in Maryland. Delicious gluten free restaurants deserve national expansion, and I hope they keep moving west to California, because I’ll definitely be eating there!
I’m always keen to try new gluten free restaurants, and Brightwok was a lovely new find! This Mongolian Style Grill goes above and beyond to make sure every single patron, no matter their diet, can eat something from their menu, which is 100% gluten free, dairy free, peanut free and shellfish free!
This progressive and inclusive culinary concept shapes the dining experience, as everyone can eat here. In addition to the restaurant, Brightwok does a lot of corporate catering because they wanted corporate employees to have peace of mind knowing the food they are eating is safe. This means that a vegan and a gluten free carnivore can both eat at the same spot without fear of cross contamination!
As a bonus to all this dietary inclusivity, Brightwok sources only local, organic and grass fed ingredients for all the food, and everything in the restaurant is all compostable and recyclable! I built my own bowl with veggies, grass fed steak, teriyaki sauce and grilled pineapple and it was seriously so good! It’s such a relief to have a tasty option for quick and healthy food! You really feel how much thought and planning goes into the menu and accommodating each customer. And beyond that—you don’t have to have food allergies or dietary restrictions to enjoy their food, because it’s straight up delicious. But the best part is that if you do, they’ve got you covered and its going to be great. There are two Brightwok locations in Chicago and the owners are hoping to expand to more. Maybe even to LA one day. Here’s to hoping! :)
If you want to start your day with superpowers, Hi Vibe is your spot! At first glance, Hi-Vibe is an organic superfood Juicery, but it is so much more than that! Their menu consists of delicious tonics to start your day like Keto coffee, mushroom teas or matchas that can all be upgraded to include amazing superfoods, healthy fats, MCTS, herbs and mushrooms to make sure you are ready to take on anything your day throws at you!
In addition to the delicious tonics, they also have superfood smoothies and açaí bowls. These are not your typical fruit packed sugary bowls that make you have a sugar-crash 30 minutes after eating them. These bowls are nutritional powerhouses full of superfoods, anti-inflammatories like turmeric, and healthy fats and superfood granolas to sustain you for hours. These are my people! They also have a variety of cold pressed juices that you can take to go, including their most popular “Kill Shot” which has a super punch for your immune system with ingredients like camu camu, oil of oregano, ginger, echinacea, raw honey and so much more. If we had this in LA I would probably be in trouble because I would go there every single day. It’s that good—and healthy!
I was so excited to discover Flip Crepes! I absolutely love crepes and thus far, “gluten free crepes” are commonly cooked in the same crepe pan with the same utensils as regular crepes. Hello, gluten cross contamination and no thanks because those crepes are not gluten free.
Enter Flip Crepes, where everything is gluten free. The owner’s wife discovered she was Type 1 diabetic and went on a gluten free diet to help manage her condition. After a lot of experimenting with flours, they had a breakthrough and created a gluten free flour that worked great for their crepes! Legitimately, their customers didn’t even know these crepes were gluten free.
I absolutely love hearing stories like this where people overcome adversity and illness and channel those circumstances into something good that helps others, similar to my own trail to health story. In addition to being a great story, the crepes are absolutely delicious! I went super classic with butter, lemon and fresh raspberries and took some of the crepe flour home with me, so stay tuned for a recipe coming soon to make your own gluten free crepes at home.
In the meantime you can find Flip Crepes in the adorable French Market and they are currently working on plans to franchise so we can all dream of having safe gluten free crepes in our city hopefully very soon.
Defloured Bakery is a charming little bakery that offers a variety of tasty gluten free treats. The entire bakery is 100% gluten free and many of their delicious treats are dairy free and corn free as well! This means you can walk in and order anything off the menu if you’re gluten free! I was happy to see that a large population of Chicago seems to be enjoying their gluten free delights because they also take orders and deliver them all week and lets just say, there were a lot of cakes going to happy homes.
Naturally, I had to sample a few items from the menu! I tried the cake pops, an Oreo cookie and an amazing cherry and almond bread. Verdict? It was all delicious even though I am not a huge fan of overly sweet baked goods. Defloured definitely hit the sweet spot (no pun intended), as all the treats were sweetened just right. You should definitely stop here on your gluten free trail through Chicago, but if you happen to miss Defloured, a lot of local restaurants like Lyfe Kitchen and even Whole Foods actually stock their delectable treats. This means that if you visit some of my other recommendations for gluten free restaurants in Chicago—you’ll likely be able to try a Defloured treat.
Wheat’s End Cafe
Wheat’s End Cafe is another amazing 100% gluten free restaurant that specializes in delicious brunch, baked goods and savory lunch items. I went for brunch and had Eggs Benedict, one of my all-time favorite brunch items. Unfortunately, this tasty breakfast staple is difficult to eat out because most restaurants add flour to the Hollandaise Sauce (which you don’t need to do). It was amazing to enjoy a 100% gluten free Eggs Benedict, complete with a proper gluten free English muffin. What a treat!
I was really hoping to try one of their “Popovers” which they are known for, but they were not quite ready yet so I opted for the Cheddar Chive biscuit which did not disappoint one bit. I was so full after my brunch but was told the chocolate donut is also one of their favorite treats so I took one to go and made room for it shortly after. Glad I did because it was DELICIOUS. The best part is that the donut was also vegan, so this is a safe treat for people with dietary restrictions to enjoy! Wheat’s End also sells a lot of their baked goods frozen which you can take to go, including English muffins, bagels, and challah. I was seriously tempted to take some home but was worried it would not last 20 hours until I made it home later that night. Instead, I opted to enjoy the food in the restaurant and dream about returning to try more of their delicious food. If you live in the Chicago area, I highly recommend taking some of these delicious items home to enjoy! I know I would if I lived close enough!
I was really really really bummed to not make it to Ajo during this trip, which is another 100% dedicated gluten free restaurant in Chicago that specializes in Caribbean inspired dishes. They have a variety of simple and clean bowls and salads that you can top with flavorful proteins and fresh veggies and then tie it all together with one of their gluten free sauces. I am definitely making this one of my first stops next time I head to Chicago! If you’re planning a trip to Chicago, you should definitely hit Ajo.
Safe Restaurant Options That Are Not Dedicated Gluten Free
While I got my fix of amazing dedicated gluten free restaurants in Chicago, I also had some tasty and safe meals at restaurants that aren’t 100% gluten free, but offer safe options for those with celiac or gluten sensitivity. I had no problems at these restaurants and I typically react to a microscopic crumb of gluten, so If I can eat here, you can, too.
If you have been following along for awhile now, you know I absolutely LOVE Spanish tapas. Sometimes I can be really indecisive about what I want to eat and tapas are such a great concept to be able to try a lot of dishes and experience an abundance of flavors.
If you’re like me then you’ve got to try Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, which is part of the Lettuce Entertain You Group. This restaurant goes above and beyond to accommodate Celiacs and gluten allergies. They had an extensive dedicated gluten free menu filled with options that did not make you feel like your options were limited. Even though the restaurant is not 100% gluten free, I felt very safe eating there with how knowledgeable the staff and kitchen was. Plus, I had zero reactions to the food I ate, so I knew it was truly gluten free.
There’s also a Paella which they made gluten free, so we sampled a few tapas and ordered the paella and it was all delicious. It’s so nice to visit restaurants that are able to safely accommodate Celiacs and gluten allergies by taking the time to be inclusive with their menu. I really appreciated seeing so much thought and care applied to the gluten free menu and also educating their staff on how to safely accommodate various dietary restrictions.
Lyfe Kitchen was another great gluten free find in Chicago! The majority of their menu is gluten free, including ALL of their flatbreads which were amazing! They definitely know how to accommodate Celiacs and avoid cross contamination. The food is extremely fresh and their chef goes out of his way to make sure he is using locally sourced, clean ingredients. His effort really shines through in the food, which is vibrant, fresh and simply delicious. I paired my flatbread with the vegan kale caesar and also had a side of grilled halloumi, because I love Greek cheese. In addition to all the delicious food, there’s an amazing beverage selection including adoptogenic lattes, fresh juice and a variety of tonics. The food was so good, so fresh and so affordable that if this existed in LA I would definitely be eating here all the time.
Summer House Santa Monica
Summer House Santa Monica made me feel like I was back home. The restaurant is all about California inspired cuisine and the space was absolutely gorgeous! They had a lovely sun drenched atrium where we got to sit and enjoy our delicious food.
Summer House Santa Monica is also part of the Lettuce Entertain You Group and so I knew that the food was going to be safe, delicious and that they were going to have an epic gluten free menu. After eating there, I can confirm that all of the above are correct! We had the grilled artichoke and shaved Brussels Sprouts salad which was delicious! I also had the Chicken Paillard with a green olive tapenade and it was perfection. With the gorgeous space, delicious food and a nice white wine to top it off, you can’t go wrong with eating at Summer House Santa Monica, especially during brunch or lunch hours to enjoy that glorious sunshine!
Atwood is the gorgeous restaurant located in the hotel I stayed at, StayPineapple Chicago. The restaurant specializes in cooking their menu items with local seasonal ingredients. As you can imagine—everything was super fresh! In the mornings they have breakfast and brunch to start your day and then serve lunch and dinner. All of the gluten free menu items were clearly marked on the menu, which made it easy to know exactly what was safe to order, and what to avoid.
Where Can I Find Truly Gluten-Free Pizza In Chicago?
The only thing missing from this trip was having a chance to have a true deep dish Chicago pizza that is gluten free. To be 100% gluten free, precautions must be considered to address cross contamination by using a separate oven, separate condiments, etc. Pizza is usually off the table for me because even a crumb of cross contamination makes me sick for a week. So, if you have a suggestion for where to find safe gluten free pizza in Chicago next time I am in town, give me a shout!
Are You A Chicago Gluten-Free Restaurant And Want To Be Featured Next Time I Am In Town?
I am always on the hunt to find amazing gluten-free food when I’m traveling. Please don’t hesitate to reach out and tell me a little about your restaurant and I will let you know when I am back in the city!
Need The Ultimate Guide For What to Do In Chicago?
Your gluten-free food needs should be covered by now, so what about all the other things you should see and do while you are in Chicago? I’ve got you covered there, too! Make sure to check out my Chicago City Guide For Best Spots to See, Eat, Drink and Stay!, where I cover all the best things to do and see in Chicago!
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