Eat Right Around Chicago

Restaurants Archives

Can You Eat Right Around Chicago?

Since the fall of 2009, I have been traipsing, tasting and touring the great city of Chicago.  I have wined and dined with an aim to eat right from Andersonville to Lakeview, the Pilsen and all around the Loop.  I can't possibly remember every location or each bite, but I know that I've had Polish near Midway; French by Maude, One Sixtyblue, Bistro Margot, Bistro Campagne, Red Rooster, Bistro 110, Kith and even Kin; Burger at Paramount, the Counter, Kumas, DMK and among Five Guys; Vegan with Karyn both cooked and just raw; all of Rick Bayless; had to "Go 4 Food" in Chinatown; went from farm to table with a Girl and a Goat, at a Gilt Bar, Nightwood and The Publican; watched the chefs at Avec and Davanti Enoteca; learned to fly at Blackbird and Bluebird; picked pasta at Tocco, Coco Pazzo, Spiaggia's, Rasta Pasta, Terragusto, Roseangelis and Francesca's; did prix fixe at Sola and Moto; ate with chopsticks all over town from iNG, Urban Belly, New Tokyo, Sunda, Joy's, Jeannie's, Pingpong, Shanghai Terrace to Le Colonial; loved Lou and Gino and Spacca Napoli pizza; got whimsical with Graham Elliot; pie and home brew at Piece and Nella Pizzeria; fell in love at Great Lakes; noshed on Chicago hot dogs and lobster rolls at Fish Bar; cruised the Mediterranean in Greektown, Casbah Cafe and A La Turka; chicken pot pie where ever I could find it; Hot Chocolate, a Green Zebra, Toast, Orange and a taste at the Kitchen; tried Rockit, Table Fifty-Two, The Drawing Room, Hugo's Frog Bar, Belly Shack, Carnivale and MK; tapas at Cafe Iberico and Cafe Ba Ba Reba; met Fred's at Barneys; south of the border at Big Star, Mi Tierra, Zapatista, Cesars, Cafe El Tapatio, Chilam Balam and even Chipotle, or New Mexican at Abiquiu Cafe; Indian at Marigold, Standard India and Hemas; Fat buns at Ann Sathers; cheese with my wine at Webster's, the D.O.C., The Tasting Room, Bin, Bin 36, Volo, 404, Eno, the Purple Pig and sipped champagne at Pops; BBQ at Chicago q, Smoque and Chicken Hut; bellied up to the bar at Jacks, the Gage, Schubas, Cooper's, Minibar, Mystic Celtic and Wilde; meat at ZED451, veggies at Spring, cold queso at Bandera and brunch at Gemini Bistro; hearty at Hearty and HB; BYOB'd when we could and we can't remember the rest!   
 
While I dined around for fun, my other objective during this two year quest was to eat right.  And now that I'm trading my residence in the City of Big Shoulders for an apartment in the Big Apple, it's time to give a final answer to the question:  can you eat right around Chicago?

The answer is...yes, but only sort of.  Chicago is packed with marvelous cuisine with amazing chefs cooking up remarkable food.  And I feel strongly that if you're going dine at their establishment and spend the $$$, you should eat what they are best at creating, the way they created it.  So, I'm not ever going to advocate trying to change a chef's recommendation to suit your diet, unless you're at a restaurant where your dinner was cooked, not prepared (you know what I mean) or if you have a dietary restriction.  I know that's hard to hear from a dietitian, but if you want a dish drastically changed, then you may want to make it at home.  Problem is, many chefs are making mouthwatering meals that are delicious, but high calorie and heavy in fat without being nutrient dense or very creative.  To my dismay, sometimes it's like they're not even trying, just tossing in more butter.  But rather than skip the top dishes across the country or request grilled chicken everywhere you go, here is what I - a person that dines out for dinner not just for special, wants to taste the tastiest menu options, is determined to remain a healthy body weight - has to say for you to eat right around:  

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Find Lots of Nutrients On the Side

Ever look at the main course options on a menu and cringe at how massive they sound?  Think to yourself, "is this for the week, or just this meal?"  I do.  In fact, I frequently find the side dishes more appealing and less overwhelming.  After all, instead of a side of a cow or a pork's butt, I'd rather have a side of vegetable fabulousness; I want a nutrient-rich mouthful, not a fried, fattening gut full.  In a recent visit to the amazingly awesome Gilt Bar on 230 W Kinzie St, I did just that - ordered it all on the side.  It proved that I could eat right (with a few watch outs), enjoy an assortment of tastes and pack in a variety of nutrients.    

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Farm-Fresh by the Sea

It may be my New England roots, but whatever the case, I believe that lobster is an integral part of summer.  Throw in an ocean view and I can almost tolerate sun and heat (almost).  Because I live in the lovely lakeside city, Chicago, each year, I head home to the east coast for my seaside fix.  This year, my summer lovin' had me a blast at a new place:  The Market Restaurant on Lobster Cove in Gloucester, MA (and check out this link to their blog for gorgeous pics and detailed bios).  Recently opened by Nico Monday and Amelia O'Reilly from the brilliant and organic-acclaimed, Alice Waters', Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA, this adorable duo brought their friends and family (and my sister) to the east coast to create amazing meals with local produce and sensational seafood.  Oh my, lobster and farm-fresh by the sea - can you stand it?!?!   

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Chicago's Farm-Fresh Nightwood Restaurant

Last night, we headed to the Lower West Side of Chicago, called Pilsen, for a farm-to-table, mind-blowing dinner at Nightwood Restaurant. I had very high nutrition hopes and great food expectations.  So many restaurants leave me feeling lovelorn; I desperately wanted Nightwood (with its dance club sounding name) to be the one.  Like I was considering a prospective mate, they had everything I was looking for.  A menu that is updated daily, based on season and availability, makes the knees of my bees weak.  When they boast simplicity, I imagine varied and colorful, hand-cut veggies, fresh herbs and robust, unpretentious flavors so that you make that m-m-m-m-m-m face with each bite.  I fantasize about a nutrient dense, farm-fresh meal with the perfect wine pairing and all the vegetables I can eat...finished with a delicious dessert that can't be skipped.  After this birthday dinner for Mitch, I have very little to say about Nightwood Restaurant except:  I think I'm in love.  

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Chef says, You Choose to Eat Right!

With the Le Cordon Bleu Challenge slated for tomorrow night (it's not too late to get tickets!) at the venerated Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago, I was able to "sit down" (via email) with the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Student Services, Chef Marshall Shafkowitz, to get his POV on healthy dining out, teaching today's chefs, pork belly and his Chicago favorites.  He includes some great insights that we can take to the menu - like how much we order or what to ask about the food being offered.  He also assures us that chefs receive training in nutrition, but reminds us that we are the keepers of our food choices when we sit down to dine. 

Here is more detail about what he had to say in response to my burning questions and some not-so-serious gripes (e.g., pork belly and butter, ha-ha).  I've bolded the statements I really like and find useful.     
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Unwind at Near North Chicago Restaurant - Le Colonial

While I am certain that this Chicago restaurant in Near North is amazing year round, I'd like to recommend it as a "must-visit" this holiday season. Le Colonial's elegance, warmth and romantic ambiance creates a stunning dining experience on a cold, winter's eve.  Combined with their attentive staff and delectable, French-Vietnamese cuisine, Le Colonial is an ideal end to a bustling day of shopping, or a welcoming setting for a holiday celebration.  You'll find comfort in their space as well as in the their menu; you will also find it quite easy to eat right.  

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Chicago Burger - The Counter for the Calorie Counter

I took out-of-town visitors (my parents) to Lincoln Park's The Counter this past weekend.  People have been buzzing about their burgers (along with other Chicago burger joints) so I thought I'd give it a try even though famed burger spots are often greasy and cheesy with a side of fried belly fat.  Oh joy, oh yum, The Counter offers more than just diet destroying fat calories!  

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Rick Bayless Spices Up Chicago with Xoco!

Chicago's River North just got a little spicier, thanks to Rick Bayless, famed and acclaimed Iron Chef owner of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Frontera Fresco and five fabulous cookbooks.  I've dined at Frontera Grill (although I haven't told you about it, so I must return) but was looking forward to Xoco with a wee-bit of trepidation.  Yes, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to eat right at this quick-service, "hot-from-the-fryer" el restaurante.  Not to worry, Eat Right Around lectores, Rick Bayless did not disappoint my drive for good health.  

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Veggie Pusher in Lakeview Italian Restaurant

I recently experienced a restaurant first - the server in a small, Lakeview Italian restaurant called Angelina Ristorante pushed vegetables on me!  I nearly fell off my chair and I may have teared up a bit.  You know I love a nutrient-rich meal and the best way to do that is to eat veggies galore. 

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Chicago Restaurant M-m-m-m-m Otom!

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Amidst the warehouses of Chicago's West Loop sit some spectacular dining spots.  On Fulton Market you will find Moto and its more casual sibling, Otom (see, it's spelled backwards?).  While Moto is now on my "must-eat" list, Otom has a big check mark...been there, loved it, ate right.

Otom has an understated but elegant interior, and the staff is warm and friendly.  I think it's so wonderful when restaurants have a knowledgeable and approachable staff.  I think that being able to describe the menu and comment on specific dishes is a real value-add.  And a kind, approachable demeanor makes the meal.  (Note to restaurant managers/Chefs:  please let your staff try the food they are serving; we need their advice.)  Sorry for the tangent, it's been on my mind.  Thankfully, at Otom, the server smiled easily, knew what he was talking about and didn't look sideways when I asked for some details.  Off to a great start!   

  

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LuxeHome Chill Benefit

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Mercat a la Planxa

As you may have read, I attended the LuxeHome Chill Wine & Culinary Event last night.  Amidst the world's largest collection of luxury boutiques for home building and renovation, we wandered from suite to suite, dined, wined and tasted sweet and savory dishes from over 30 top Chicago Chefs paired with wines from all over.  The event and silent auction was held in cooperation with Wine Spectator and sponsored by the Tribune Media Group to benefit the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.  
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Looking for something to do tonight?

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Tonight is the LuxeHome Chill International Wine & Culinary Event!  If you're looking for something to do tonight, for a good cause, and to taste wine and dishes from top Chicago chefs, join me at the LuxeHome Chill Event! 

Visit LuxeHome Chill for your tickets! 

Check out my previous post for more information! 

Light Lunch or Gut Bomb?

I live across from a Chipotle (don't we all?) and up until the other day, haven't tried it.  I typically avoid fast food restaurants or chains, but with so many patrons, so many positive stories about their food and farming practices, and so many questions about how to eat right there, I decided it was time I join the millions and eat Chipotle.  
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Eat, Drink Chicago for a Good Cause

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http://luxehome.mmart.com/attendevent/purchasetickets/

Chicago offers some of the best dining in the world - I've said this before - so I am super excited to taste an assortment of Chicago's best fixins in one night at the LuxeHome Chill event on November 12th.  It is an efficient use of my time, taste buds and most importantly, it's for good cause.  
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Chicago Restaurants - Everyone Loves Bacon

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Cured meat with friends.

I've noticed that so many Chicago restaurants, from fine dining to diner or deli love bacon and all members of the pig family.  With pork belly making so many menus, I started to read-around.  I discovered an article in the Chicago Tribune's food section:  Bacon reaches new heights of popularity from October 28, 2009. So I knew that I must talk about this pig craze.   

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Omega 3 for Dinner, Mood and Heart

Omega 3 has made headlines and scientific studies for several years due to it's potential benefits for heart health and more recently, our mood and mental function.  Although I include salmon on my list of "don't like the taste of", I decided to give it a whirl at the Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm owned restaurant, Perennial.  
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Chicago Restaurant - Sunda New Asian

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Sunda New Asian of Chicago, a Rockit Ranch creation has received a fair amount of attention since it opened, so it's been on my list of "must eat" for some time.  I heard that Executive Chef, Rodelio Aglibot serves up a cornucopia of Asian cuisines, so I was looking forward to my visit, but as always, I wasn't 100% sure that I could eat right at this contemporary hotspot.  
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Chicago Brunch: Not-So-Scary!

Scared you can't eat right at a weekend brunch?  Don't be...pull up a chair at Orange. I did this past weekend, with Chicago marathon finisher, elite runner and registered dietitian of Swim, Bike, Run, Eat!, Pamela Nisevich.   
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Chicago Restaurant - Boystown Neighborhood Bistro

In the eclectic Chicago district affectionately called Boystown, sits Executive Chef Joncarl Lachman's brick-walled, bustling bistro, Home Bistro.  This BYOB (no cork charge) is known for its home cooking, comfortable but urban atmosphere and yummy, generously portioned dishes - but I wasn't sure if this bistro would be all buttery and bacon, or if I would be able to eat right.  
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Chicago Food Favs - Diet Delicacy or Diet Derailer?

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I've been talking to some people about what to do when you'd like to try a Chicago food fav, but know that it's not the most nutritious choice.  How do you eat right when you just want a taste of Lou Malnati's, Giordano's, Renaldi's, Piece, Kuma's Corner, Hot Doug's, Sweet Mandy B's or even Five Guys?  
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Worst dining trends that are making us fat!

The Chicago Tribune published 10 Worst Dining Trends of the Last Decade and it got me thinking...not only do I agree that foam is weird (looks like spit) and the fried onion blossom is ridiculous (should be called fried blossom as the onion seems like an after thought), I think that we could devise a list of worst dining trends that are making us fat.  Some are not trends, they have been around for a while.  Either way, here it goes:   
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I Heart Lou Malnati's Chicago Pizza

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Mindy from Lou Malnati's was nice enough to supply some photos!

After spending five days with registered dietitians and session after session focused on some aspect of good nutrition, I landed in Chicago with one thing on my mind:  Chicago-style deep dish pizza (hotly debated by food critics on RedEye - thin or thick - I say both, but tonight, it's deep all the way!).  
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Mad About Breakfast

As I've mentioned, I'm traveling this week for the American Dietetic Association Food and Nutrition Convention and Expo in Denver.  During this educational, nutrition and food based event, I have grown more and more irritated with ridiculously large portions, stupid size meals and for this entry, the bulging breakfast options.
 
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Tweet, Friend and Follow me Around!

Follow me around...I invite you to comment, post recommendations for restaurants and keep track of my eats via Facebook and Twitter!  Search Eat Right Around Chicago on Facebook and find more pics from my dining experiences and of course, share with your hungry friends!  
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Mediterranean Chicago Restaurant in Lakeview: Eat Right at the Casbah!

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Eat right in the neighborhood...Chicago Mediterranean restaurant, Casbah Cafe!  With the plethora of roaming cabs, bus stops and train depots, or for those with a parking spot and vault full of quarters, any neighborhood's gem is for the food picking.  And this great find is in the neighborhood of Lakeview (more on the East side).   

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Chicago Italian Restaurant Tocco Pizza e Arte

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Bruno Abata, proud owner of Tocco.

Italian food and service done well so you can eat right at the Chicago restaurant, Tocco Pizza e Arte!  I was seeking perfectly stewed tomatoes with fresh pasta so after checking on Metromix Chicago, I made my OpenTable reservation.  
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Eat Right Around Chicago

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Along with being a Registered Dietitian with a PhD in Exercise Science, I am a hungry Chicagoan continuously searching for my next great meal.

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How to Eat Right Around Chicago Restaurants

Eating around Chicago?  From top chefs to sausage superstores to international fare, Chicago's culinary community is tempting, tasty and bursting at the seams.  So how do you enjoy the amazing cuisine this city has to offer without bursting your own seams?  Follow me each day, check out my restaurant reviews and see what I ordered to eat right around Chicago! 
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Chicago Restaurant-Feed my Urban Belly

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Housed next to a laundromat, in what the burbs would call a "strip mall", Urban Belly's minimalist, but elegant dining room serves up flavorful noodles and dumplings in this Chicago restaurant.  

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Size Matters at Graham Elliot Chicago Restaurant

Chef Graham Elliot Bowles is on fire.  When I heard that he served up lobster corndogs and truffle popcorn for Lollapalooza this past summer, I figured if he was feeding Jane's Addiction, he could feed mine.  I knew about the "bistronomic" concept and flare for the fun and creative, but would I be able to eat right?
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