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.