Three Days in Chicago: A Gluten-Free Guide

A sunny day at Chicago’s Bean, July 2017

As someone with celiac who also values having memorable dining experiences when she travels, finding good restaurants can be . . . difficult for me. I can vacillate between being in total awe of the options/care taken at one restaurant and completely frustrated by the ineptitude of another, often in the same day. It’s hard to find up-to-date information about gluten-free options in any given city, because the restaurant scene is constantly evolving. I can also kind of be a picky customer — I don’t want to just eat a slice of gluten-free bread that I could eat at home, and I don’t really want to just “fuel” myself for the day. I want creative, interesting options.

So, with the mission of putting some more up-to-date information out there for food-savvy folks who also happen to be gluten-free, I thought I’d do a run-down of all the places I ate at and enjoyed during a recent visit to Chicago.

Y’all, Chicago takes care of its gluten-free eaters. Not only did I find a wide variety of options across the city, but I was also incredibly impressed by the city’s waitstaff. When you have celiac, you need waiters who are both kind and knowledgeable. In Chicago, multiple waiters immediately asked if I had celiac or not, and then went of their way to make sure the kitchen avoided cross-contamination. Even aside from their gluten-helpfulness, the waiters in Chicago all seemed lovely and genuinely interested in ensuring I and my family had the best meal possible. We talked about this phenomenon to a friend who just moved to Chicago from Austin and he’s had the same experience — the food culture in Chicago is one of real friendliness, information, and care, no matter your diet.

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Ginger-Garlic Fried Rice with Chicken and Greens {gluten-free, dairy-free}

Ginger-Garlic Fried Rice

There’s something so gratifying about using an entire vegetable.

A few months back, my boyfriend and I tried out several meal delivery services. While they didn’t end up being the right fit for us (I like coming up with my own recipes way too much to have them pre-determined for me), I did pick up one or two tricks that I’m still using. One tip from a Plated recipe was to use the stems of leafy greens like Swiss chard in your cooking, instead of throwing them out. You remove the stems from the greens, then finely dice the stems. Throw them in pan with some oil and maybe some garlic or onions. They’ll soften beautifully and add a unique flavor. Then add your greens, let ’em wilt, and voila. You just used a whole plant! This tip is also awesome for using up those so-often-wasted beet greens.

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