Paleo & Gluten-Free Dining in Chicago

3578902950-millennium-park-architecture-tour.jpgThe Midwest isn’t exactly applauded as being a leader in heatlhy eating. Everytime I turn a corner, I run into a donut shop while getting hit in the face with a giant sausage. That may sound like a pleasant experience to some of you though, I don’t know. 

I moved here a year ago, and while I only eat out once a month since going AIP Paleo, I did my fair share of restaurant dining last summer. I seriously spent hours Yelping and Urbanspooning “gluten free Chicago” until I was satisfied with my list of must-try’s. Chicago’s a beautiful city full of art, shopping, handsome gentlemen, and architecture. Truly one of America’s greatest, so come on down (or up or to the side) for a visit and make sure you check out some of these Paleo/GF- friendly restaurants. 

1. Bavette’s

Hands down favorite. Make a reservation 3-4 weeks in advance so you have the time to mentally prepare yourself for the best meal of your life. Plus it’s a hard joint to get into, so reservations are a must.

Atmosphere: Romantic, Upscale, Speakeasy Vibe, Open Bar Seating

Menu Items: Oysters, Steak (a must) with steak salt, bernaise & roasted tomatoes, baked sweet potato, baked white potato with house thick-cut bacon

Accomodations: When you make your reservation, let Amy know at least 24 hours in advance of any food allergies/intolerances and they will ensure your meal is clean as Jewish grandmother’s bathroom sink.

2. Butcher & the Burger

THE place in Chicago for a lettuce-wrapped grassfed burger that will leave you satisfied (yet still wanting more because they’re that damn good). Offers grassfed beef and unique cuts on rotation like duck and elk. Fries are a must if you’re willing to sacrifice your soy-free diet for a day.

Atmosphere: Casual, Fun, Awesome 90’s music, BYOB, Best for small groups

Menu Items: Lettuce-wrapped grassfed burger w/ fried egg, avocado and caramelized onions. Pick up some local Two Brothers Prairie Path Ale (gluten-free) before heading over for lunch or dinner.

Accomodations: Ask them to clean the grill for you or cook your burger in a separate pan.

3. Smoque

You came to Chicago for some good arse BBQ, right? Probably not, but that’s what you’re gonna get. The line may be long but it goes quick and you get to chat with the friendliest Midwesterners at this humble BBQ hole in the wall.

Atmosphere: Casual, Indoor and Outdoor Seating, Counter Ordering

Menu Items: Rack of Ribs, Half Chicken, Bring your own BBQ sauce if you’re AIP

Accomodations: Email the Smoque guys 2 days before you plan to eat there. They will prepare your meat without the AIP-offending ingredients like red pepper and paprika and send it through the smoker without the sauce. 

4. Little Goat

Stephanie Izard is one of the most popular chefs in Chicago for good reason. Her focus on complex flavors and high quality ingredients makes you wish you had ordered one of everything. 

Atmosphere: Casual Diner, Bustling, Quirky Servers, Kid Friendly

Menu Items: Bunless Goat and Beef Burgers w/ kimchi, fried egg & avocado, Goat Cheese Hashbrowns (not AIP but a necessary order if you’re plain Paleo), Gluten-Free Sourdough Pancakes, Stumptown  Coffee

Accomodations: Stephanie is one of the most willing chefs in the area when adapting recipes for her customers. She will clean the grill, pan, etc for you and make any substitutions to your liking.

5. Green City Farmer’s Market

Saturday morning farmer’s market across from the Lincoln Park Zoo (7 am-1 pm). Fresh local produce, dog friendly, big oak trees to lay a blanket under with a big group of friends. 

Atmosphere: Open grassy park, Crowded, Social Event (arrive by 10 am for best picks)

Menu Items: Michigan apples, Paleo Soda, Bacon-fried pastured pork rinds, Fresh Grassfef Beef, Pastured Chicken, Lamb

Accomodations: The farmers are always more than helpful when answering your questions about farming practices and recipe suggestions for some of the more obscure items. 

6. HB [Home Bistro]

It’s like if Alton Brown + George Bryant had a restaurant baby. Flavor bombs, redonk desserts, and they treat you like family. Plus another BYOB. This place is new school Chicago – make a reservation weeks out.

Atmosphere:Tiny, homey, perfection for escaping winter for a few hours w/ a bottle or 3 of wine

Menu Items: smoked chicken thighs w/ almond butter & shaved brussel sprouts, bacon-wrapped  and almond stuffed dates, pork belly anything

Accomodations: Takes great care to understand your allergies/intolerances and adapt menu items to suit your needs without compromising flavor. They’ll remember you next time too!

7. Raw

The only vegan food I’ve ever had that doesn’t make me miss my meat. Two locations downtown offer endless colorful and nutrient-dense clean eats. I can spend at least 30 minutes reading the brightly hued packages and trying to figure out how they made delicious as F lemon squares out of cashews and sea salt. 

Atmosphere: Grab & Go, Female Overload

Menu Items: Collard Greens Burrito with cashew cream cheese, fresh coconut water, Kombucha, sprouted sunflower seed & maca energy bars, gluten-free desserts

8. Au Cheval

Butcher and the Burger may be the best Paleo-style burger option, but it’s hard to beat the coolness of Au Cheval. Or the duck fat fries. Or the beer list. No reservations so don’t go in a big group. 

Atmosphere: Late Night/Happy Hour,  Sweet Beats, Pretty People

Menu Items: The single cheeseburger (actually 2 thin patties) on lettuce with a side of duck fat fries.

Accomodations: I wouldn’t get too picky here, or your hipster server may slap you with his suspenders, but you may want to ask them if any gluten-containing ingredients go in the fryer. 

9. Grange Hall Burger Bar

Grange takes farm-to-table to the next level by making you feel like you’re eating just-picked raddichio in a barn. Big ol’ grassfed burgers (get it on the house salad), homemade pies (not GF) and ice cream (do it), and the friendliest servers.

Atmosphere: City ho-down, Yupster Hang-out (Yuppies + Hipsters)

Menu Items:  Grassfed burgers & hotdogs with fried avocado and jalapeno jicama slaw

Accomodations: Well-versed in gluten-free & Paleo lingo. Be as demanding as you please.

10. Cassava

The ugly sister of Paleo starches gets a makeover at this Lakeview empanada joint. Everything is gluten-free and they feature nitrate-free bacon, grassfed beef, and use ONLY coconut and olive oil in their products. 

Atmosphere: Plain, Good for a quick lunch

Menu Items: Bacon, egg and cheese empanada, beef & cheddar empanada

Accomodations: You can’t do egg or dairy free here, so AIP need not apply.

BBQ Chicken Pizza (Paleo, AIP)

bbqchickenpizza2_edited.jpg

This BBQ pizza recipe was one of the first “meatzas” I made when I started AIP. Following a Paleo diet prior to AIP, I would occasionally order gluten-free pizzas on the weekend, but they were never good and the flavor was a mix between cardboard and tomato-flavored straw.

 

This BBQ Chicken Pizza’s base is actually made from ground chicken thighs! It’s pretty neat how baking protein into a thin patty makes a “crust” that holds up quite well to toppings and hand manipulation.

 

The BBQ sauce is equals parts sweet and tangy and even without the smokey flavor of peppers, it’ll still feel like you’re eating the real stuff.

 

Did you know that KC Naturals makes a legit nightshade-free BBQ Sauce!? You can buy it on Amazon now!

 

 

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Prep Time 00:15 Cook Time 00:25 Serves 2

Ingredients

  • Cherry-Thyme BBQ Sauce:
  • 1 1/4 cups pitted and halved cherries
  • 1 tsp finely chopped thyme
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt, to taste
  • 3 slices uncured bacon, chopped
  • BBQ Chicken Pizza:
  • 1 lb pastured, organic chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon each chopped oregano and parsley
  • Smoked sea salt to taste

Directions

For the sauce:

  1. Bring the cherries to a low simmer in a small pot over medium-low heat. Once they start to release some of their juices (3 minutes or so), stir in the chopped thyme, lemon zest.
  2. Let reduce for 5 more minutes and now add in your apple cider vinegar, coconut sugar, and salt (to taste).  Simmer for an additional 10 minutes periodically using a rubber spatula to break open the cherries. Transfer sauce to blender to cool.
  3. Cook the chopped bacon in the same saucepan until crispy. Set aside bacon pieces and pour leftover bacon fat into the blender with the cherries. Blend until pureed. Set aside sauce while you make the crust.

 

For the pizza:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a pizza pan on top of a baking sheet. If you do not have a pizza pan, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place chicken thighs and oregano in blender and puree until a paste forms.
  3. Using your hands, spread the mixture into a round-shaped pizza crust on the pan. Sprinkle lightly with smoked sea salt (or regular sea salt). Bake for 15 minutes on middle rack.
  4. Remove from oven. Using a paper towel, pat dry the extra fat that has risen to the top of the crust. This will help ensure a crispier crust. Spread Cherry Thyme BBQ sauce on crust (leaving an empty ½ inch border).
  5. Top with crumbled bacon and return to oven for additional 5 minutes.
  6. Let cool a couple minutes, garnish with parsley, and slice into wedges. Serve with a large salad!

 

 

 

 

 

Cherry-Thyme BBQ Sauce

Makes enough for 1 pizza | 25 minutes

1 ¼ cups pitted and halved cherries

1 tsp finely chopped thyme

1 tsp lemon zest

1 T ACV

1 T honey

Salt, to taste

3 slices uncured bacon, chopped

 

  1. Bring the cherries to a low simmer in a small pot over medium-low heat. Once they start to release some of their juices (3 minutes or so), stir in the chopped thyme, lemon zest.
  2. Let reduce for 5 more minutes and now add in your apple cider vinegar, coconut sugar, and salt (to taste).  Simmer for an additional 10 minutes periodically using a rubber spatula to break open the cherries. Transfer sauce to blender to cool.
  3. Cook the chopped bacon in the same saucepan until crispy. Set aside bacon pieces and pour leftover bacon fat into the blender with the cherries. Blend until pureed. Set aside sauce while you make the crust.

 

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Serves 3-4 | 25 minutes

1 lb pastured, organic chicken thighs

1 T chopped oregano

1 T chopped parsley

Smoked sea salt to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a pizza pan on top of a baking sheet. If you do not have a pizza pan, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place chicken thighs and oregano in blender and puree until a paste forms.
  3. Using your hands, spread the mixture into a round-shaped pizza crust on the pan. Sprinkle lightly with smoked sea salt (or regular sea salt). Bake for 15 minutes on middle rack.
  4. Remove from oven. Using a paper towel, pat dry the extra fat that has risen to the top of the crust. This will help ensure a crispier crust. Spread Cherry Thyme BBQ sauce on crust (leaving an empty ½ inch border).
  5. Top with crumbled bacon and return to oven for additional 5 minutes.
  6. Let cool a couple minutes, garnish with parsley, and slice into wedges. Serve with a large salad!

Note: If you don’t follow AIP, I suggest adding tomato slices, and grassfed/raw cheese!

Mini Blackberry Tarts (Paleo, AIP, Vegan)

 

paleo blackberry mini tarts vegan

 

These are ah-mazing with an emphasis on the “ah”… open your mouth real wide for these babies. I adapted the lovely Jessica Flanigan’s recipe over at AIP Lifestyle. She makes incredible AIP-only recipes and takes consistently beautiful photos, unlike mine. Frankly, when I took this shot, it was rainy and I wanted to eat the dang dessert. Anyways, I decreased the sugar & time from her original recipe. Bonus.

So we went to the Blues Fest this weekend. Always the best people watching. Two highlights: a drunk adult male in a safari hat with a pouty baby face because we didn’t want to be friends with him. Mostly because he was 2 sips of Budweiser away from vomiting on us. The second: My fiance forgot my fork at home (egregious, I know) and I couldn’t eat my beef & sweet potatoes, so he yelled ‘Does anybody have an extra fork!!!!?’ in a crowd of thousands of drunk festival goers. A family nearby donated me their baby’s two-prong tiny plastic fork, and I ate my meal with pride. Then wondered if I was swapping spit with a 3 month old. Anything for beef, right?

 

Mini Blackberry Tarts (makes 5 mini tarts)

Recipe adapted from Autoimmune Paleo Lifestyle Strawberry-Lemon Tart

Recipe can be easily doubled for a larger gathering

12 oz organic blackberries

1 T honey

1 T lemon juice

1 tsp lemon zest

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 c + 1 T sweet potato flour 

1 T + 2 tsp tapioca starch

2 T + 2 tsp coconut oil, melted

Whipped coconut cream for serving

1. Bring washed blackberries, lemon juice, and coconut sugar to a boil over medium heat in a small sauce pan. Let simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes until they thicken and become syrupy. Drain over a strainer to remove extra liquid and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 5 silicon muffin liners.

3. Combine sweet potato flour, tapioca starch and salt in a mixing bowl.Stir in lemon zest and melted coconut oil and mix well until fully combined and a moist (sorry) flour forms.Press 1 T evenly into the bottom of the silicon muffin liners. Bake on middle rack for 8-9 minutes until lightly golden brown.

4. Top the baked crusts with the strained blackberries. Place in freezer for 25 minutes to cool quickly or you can put in fridge for 1 hour, if you have time.Serve with whipped coconut cream.

Tartelette au Sucre (Refined-Sugar Free Tarts)

 

tarteausucre_edited.jpg

 

 

Looking for a refined-sugar free mini Paleo treat? Try these Paleo Tarts! Personal-size treats make portion control easy & this lifestyle sustainable!

 

I fell down the Paleo treat rabbit hole recently. A lot of them are still sugar-free in my household, but this one does have a little bit of sweetener in it. It’s probably my favorite Paleo dessert I’ve ever come up with on the fly. I was jonesing for some sugar pie, a French Canadian dessert that is literally sugar sauce in a pie crust.

 

Growing up, I spent time in Montreal visiting family every summer. We would always grab some tarte au sucre (essentially, sugar pie) always a meal of BBQ and fries. For some reason, BBQ is kind of a big deal up there. I mean, why wouldn’t it be? It’s friggin’ delicious.

 

“Sugar Pie” sounds like the least Paleo food in the world, but I’m not one to ignore an incessant craving. The crust is made from sweet potato flour which adds sweetness without adding a lot of sweetener. In fact, there’s only a few tablespoons of raw honey or coconut sugar in this recipe!

 

You’ll be able to stop at just one because they are nice and rich. The filling is thick, sweet and interestingly also made from sweet potato and coconut milk! Hey, real food treats are what I’m about!

 

Don’t be intimidated by the long-ish looking recipe by the way. It’s incredibly easy to put together!

 

 

Paleo Tartelette au Sucre (“Sugar Pie”) 

makes 5 tartelettes | 20 minutes

Ginger Graham Crust

1 T raw honey (for AIP) or coconut sugar

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1/8 tsp fine sea salt

¼ c + 1 T sweet potato flour

1 T + 2 tsp tapioca starch

3 T coconut oil, melted

1. Line a muffin pan with 5 silicon muffin liners. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine coconut sugar (or honey), sweet potato flour, tapioca starch and salt in a mixing bowl. Stir in ginger and melted coconut oil and mix well until fully combined and a moist flour forms.Press about 1 T flour into muffin cups creating a shallow “bowl”. Make sure the bottom and sides are even thickness to ensure proper/even baking.

3. Bake on 2nd lowest rack for 9 minutes until lightly golden brown. Make sure not to let it bake too long or they will crumble.Remove liners from pan (but not the crusts from the liners yet!). Set aside to cool while you prepare the pie filling below.

Sucre Filling

2 T cold water

2 T raw honey (for AIP) or coconut sugar

1 T coconut oil

¼ cup well-mashed sweet potato (orange variety)

2 T coconut cream (from top of coconut milk can), divided

Whipped coconut cream (optional)

1. In a small saucepan, bring water and coconut sugar/honey to a low boil. Let bubble for 2 minutes while whisking continuously.Now stir in coconut oil or ghee and only 1 T coconut cream and return to a low boil. Tilt pan towards you and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens to a melted caramel thickness (1-2 minutes).

2. Add in the mashed sweet potato and whisk vigorously to emulsify. There should be no clumps.Remove from heat and whisk in remaining 1 T coconut cream until smooth.

Assembly

  1. Place 1 T pie filling into cooked crusts and smooth it down with back of a spoon. Leave a little crust perimeter.
  2. Freeze for 30 minutes in the silicone liners. Remove from freezer and serve with fresh whipped coconut cream, if desired.

Pesto Pasta w/ Roasted Grapes+ Caramelized Leeks

Pasta_edited.jpg

I listen to  A LOT of “Paleo” /health podcasts (Balanced Bites, Fat Burning Man, Bulletproof Exec are my favorites) when I work out. I stopped listening to music because it seemed like 45 minutes of lost opportunity to learn something new. Recently, Stefani Ruper of the new book “Sexy by Nature” has been guesting on shows. I bought her book on Amazon after hearing her talk about revolutionizing how women see themselves. Most of us spend the day juding ourselves and others in purely superficial ways.

 

Guilty. It’s something I am working on and I think her book will give me the evidence needed to help me change my thought habits. It’s extremely dehumanizing that we live in a society that tells us our worth comes from the surface. The $13 billion pornography industry is one of our worst enemies, in my opinion. In college, I did a speech in my public speaking class about the consequences of pornography introduction in our male youth. I asked the class “How many of you know someone who is addicted to porn?”, 30 out of the 36 students raised their hands. I then asked “How many of you think Internet pornography should be regulated?” Nobody’s hand went up.

 

The sexualization of women in the media (including fashion magazines) is out of control. It’s hard not to feed into it when you’re inundated with sexy makeup ads starting at age 6. It’s in our 20’s and 30’s that I think, as women, we finally have the maturity and emotional intelligence to shed ourselves of these suffocating thoughts.

 

I have found that by eating real whole food, I have been able to let go of a lot of negative body images. I eat A LOT more calorie-wise than I used to, but I don’t EVER stress about food, quantity, or calories. I nourish from the inside and it shows on the outside. It’s really been freeing. It seems that’s what Stefani’s book is going to be about: letting go of self-judgment and realizing that we’re much more than crows feet + saddlebags. Can you imagine how absolutely boring we would be if we were just a shell?

 

On to food talk: this pasta recipe requires a spiralizer to get those perfect sweet potato noodles. I highly suggest buying one on Amazon; they are super affordable and so versatile. There’s a ton of flavor here. No meat – but if you’re looking to up the protein, some shredded chicken thighs or ground pork woudl go nice.

Pesto Pasta with Caramelized Leeks + Roasted Grapes 

2 servings | 40 minutes

1 cup red grapes

1 leek, thinly sliced, white part only

1 1/2 T coconut oil, divided

1 large sweet potato, scrubbed and peeled

Walnut Basil Pesto

1 cup basil leaves, tightly packed

¾ cup walnut halves

¼ cup olive oil

1 tsp lemon juice

1 garlic clove, crushed

¼ tsp salt

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roast grapes on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through the baking time. Set aside.
  2. While grapes are roasting, make the rest of the recipe to save time.
  3. Heat 1 T coconut oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add sliced leeks to pan and do not disturb for 3 minutes. Stir the leeks, turn heat to low, then cover with a lid for 10 -12 minutes. Stir periodically so they do not burn. Set aside.
  4. To make pesto: Combine all ingredients in food processor. Set aside.
  5. Run sweet potato through your spiralizer to make long noodles.
  6. Heat ½ T coconut oil in skillet over medium heat. Add sweet potato noodles and cook for 5-6 minutes, tossing often with tongs, until they are cooked through but not mushy.
  7. Remove skillet from stove and gently stir in grapes, leeks, and 3 T pesto.
  8. Serve with a dollop of pesto and a drizzle of olive oil.