5 Restaurants I Love in the Chicago Area with Gluten-Free Options

Before I get to this post discussing the 5 restaurants I love in the Chicago area with gluten-free options, I just learned my link did not work for those who received my subscription email on Wednesday. Here is the link:  http://www.chicagonow.com/nancys-world/2013/11/second-chances-kidney-cancer/ which discusses my challenge of being told one minute that I was fine to 5 minutes later learning I actually had kidney cancer. Now to a passion of mine---Food!

I am a foodie. While I do love to cook, I also enjoy going out and eating dinner at various restaurants. This used to be very easy when I was not gluten-free because the only restrictions I had was with the types of food I did not like. Now I have to be aware of how the food is prepared which makes it a little more complicated. That being said, I typically can find something at any restaurant, it just may not be the food I want or the preparation I prefer.  Here is a list of restaurants that have gluten-free options which are tasty--even to a foodie like me.

Senza senzais a completely gluten-free restaurant which just received the Michelin star. It is located in the Lakeview neighborhood in Chicago at 2873 N. Broadway. The atmosphere is casual but elegant. They offer either four or nine course tasting menus which can be paired with wine or cocktails. The food is flavorful and the texture is not grainy or dry like many gluten-free foods. My husband surprised me on our wedding anniversary by taking me there so that I would not have to worry about what foods I could eat. Since my husband is not gluten-free, I was a bit worried that he would not enjoy the food since he believes gluten makes everything taste better. On the contrary, my husband enjoyed all the courses as much as I did and was shocked that gluten-free food could be this good. Since the menu is set, the cost will be $75 or $125 per person, more if you do the wine pairings, but it is well worth it.

Fire + Wine is located in Glen Ellyn on 433 Main Street. What I love about this place, aside from the fact that it is not a franchise, is that it radiates welcome from the moment you step in. Its casual rustic atmosphere immediately relaxes you and with the friendly staff you feel as if you are part of their family.  The ambiance is laid back, the food is fresh and healthy which will delight your palate, and its presentation will satisfy your eyes all at an affordable price. They also have an extensive wine list, various beers, and signature drinks.

There were 4 of us in our party, and I was the only gluten-free person. While they do not have a separate gluten-free menu, they have many gluten-free options which our waitress was very knowledgeable about. The menu consists of small plates, larger entrees, wood fired pizza (have a gluten-free crust option), and a nice selection of desserts. fire and wine dishEveryone shared all the dishes with only a couple that I could not have. The gluten-free wood fired pizza has many topping options with a really tasty crust and their gluten-free pasta is to die for. In fact, no one in my party could tell that our pasta dish was even gluten-free.   There was no dish we had that we did not like. In fact, for dessert, we had the panna cotta which is a vanilla bean Italian pudding. I typically do not like this type of dessert but it was so creamy and good, I could not stop eating it. My husband had the tiramisu and loved it and we all tried the homemade gelato which was so good. fire and wine dessertI did tell the chef, however, that he should also make a gluten-free chocolate dessert for all the gluten-free chocoholics like me. Even though I live in a northern suburb of Chicago, it took less time getting there than when we dine in the city. My friend recommended this place, and I can tell you this, I cannot wait to go back. I highly recommend this restaurant whether you are gluten-free or not, I promise you that you will not be disappointed.

Wildfire's macaroni and cheeseWildfire is a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant with an extensive gluten-free menu. They are located throughout the Chicago land area; in Eden Prairie, Minnesota; and McClean, Virginia. There are so many gluten-free options to choose from that I rarely have to grill the server on the foods I can eat. The food is also consistently good. While I can always get a good steak at any steakhouse, I typically cannot order french onion soup or main dishes such as macadamia encrusted fish and tuna steak teriyaki. I can even eat sides such as macaroni and cheese or au gratin potatoes which is a rarity at other steakhouses. Wildfire also has more than one gluten-free dessert option with my favorite being the flourless chocolate cake.

Cooper's Hawk Wineries and Restaurants are located throughout the Chicago area, in Florida, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Missouri. The restaurant is casual, they have their own handcrafted wines, and their gluten-free menu is extensive which includes desserts. The food is good, presentation nice, and reasonably priced.  My only complaint is that their gluten-free roll is only so so...but that doesn't stop me from eating it :).

Lou Malnati's Pizzeria is located throughout Chicago land. They make a gluten-free 9" thin pizza which is fantastic. This is not the one called "low carb" where their homemade sausage is the crust.  This pizza has a real crust that is crispy, flavorful, and does not leave a grainy after taste in your mouth. In fact, the first time I had it I thought they made a mistake and gave me the GLUTEN-FULL crust---it's that good. While they do make the crust in a sterile environment, the pizza is finished in the kitchen where there are wheat products.

I know there are many more restaurants with gluten-free options. Please comment on the ones you like so that all the gluten-free people, including me, can try new places in the Chicago area. In fact, since I have followers from all around the country, please add the ones you like in your area, thanks!

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    Nancy Chodash

    I am a nurse practitioner who not only treats patients, but has had chronic illnesses including cancer so I understand how frustrating medicine can be. But through all this, I have never lost my sense of humor and my ability to make people laugh. I love to cook, and since becoming gluten-free a year ago, I have recipes for everyone's tastes whether it be healthy, decadent, vegetarian, or gluten-free. My philosophy is all about health, food, laughter and life!

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