Last week I was fortunate enough to visit Chicago during my spring break! Lucky for me, we were there on St. Patty’s Day and got to see the green river. Nevermind that the visit was to see a doctor and the weather in the city was drastically different from my 80* home: the food was amazing!
I planned this trip to a “T” including all reservations on open table for each meal prior to leaving. That way, I had looked up locations, menus, and reserved my times before getting too busy on the road. The plus to making reservations is you know there will be a table for you AND the table will most likely be a good one, like a booth or table on the outside. This is so important, when your dietary restrictions prevent you from just going across the street if they are booked.
Gluten Free in Chicago
Weber Grill Restaurant
GF Menu (upon request)
3 Locations in Chicago (I visited Chicago location)
This place is fantastic with food allergies! As soon as we sat down the waitress said “I noticed you have a gluten free menu” and asked if I had any other allergies.
She proceeded to tell me that they take food allergies very seriously and after she takes our order she will write it up on a separate red allergy alert card, which is then reviewed by the manager or chef and is sent through the kitchen with my order written on it. I didn’t even have to tell her about how serious it was, she just assumed!
When my mom (not gluten free) ordered the shrimp cocktail appetizer for us to share, the waitress asked if I would be eating it as well and wrote that order on another allergy alert card! We were fortunate enough to sit next to the kitchen and watch the whole process.
My meal was delivered with the red allergy card and confirmed gluten free by a chef. I ordered the beef brisket and pulled pork, without the bbq sauce to avoid sugar (which they planned to accommodate nicely). Unfortunately my meat did come out with BBQ sauce, and the message did not make it through to the kitchen. The waitress felt awful and went and spoke to them right away, but it just scraped it off, since I’m not allergic. Many restaurants were not able to make bbq entrees without the sauce when I called ahead. It was very reasonably priced (~$18) and came with two sides, I chose garlic mashed potatoes and for an up-charge, roasted spinach. Large portions all around! The mashed potatoes were absolutely amazing, and the meat was all very tender and flavorful, even without the sauce. The whipped sweet potatoes also looked amazing, but I went without due to sugar (maple).
The atmosphere was great – not too loud – and there are Weber grills decorating the whole place. As soon as you walk in the door you can smell the food cooking in the brick oven! It was super busy on a Monday, so I would definitely make a reservation.
Overall, I would dine here again and again without fear of getting sick AND for the amazing food. My mom said several times how good all the food was, so it’s not a place I would choose just because it was gluten free. It was truly great food and service.
Bull & Bear
GF Menu (options on normal menu)
431 N. Wells St. (River East area)
Bull & Bear has a very large gluten free menu which can be accommodated based on their main menu. It consists of soups, salads, tacos, burgers, and sandwiches. However, they do not have any gf bread options and could not accommodate even wrapping in lettuce. I ordered a kobe burger plain with sauteed spinach. Note: I brought my own mayo packet and designed my own burger. It had a bacon sauce normally. The meat was cooked well and was of great quality and flavor, though a little pricey, considering no bun.
Our server was not well-informed on gluten free and not eager to ask the kitchen the questions I wanted. I asked if the fries were made in a dedicated fryer and her response was that she thought they were separate. I asked her to confirm and she returned saying the were not separate and were shared in a fryer with onion rings, etc. My mom ordered the greek salad and it was pretty big.
I would probably go again and get the chicken tortilla soup, but I might try somewhere else first. Overall it was a large gf menu, which is nice, and I felt pretty safe with the food, but I wish they had gf bread and better staff training. It’s a small place, so, again I would make a reservation. We went for lunch on a Tuesday and got the last table.
GF Menu (upon request)
626 N. State St. 60654 (River East area)
I honestly don’t know if the food at this restaurant could have tasted any better. I did not give them a 10/10 because the food allergy awareness could have been more on par, especially in comparison to the amazing Weber Grill. However, they did have a gluten free menu and there were no issues with the food we were served.
Atmosphere was fairly noisy with tables close together, but a very nice vibe with gas lit candles at the table, lots of wood inside, dish towel napkins, and italian subtitle movies on in each corner.
The wine is served in an authentic fashion with a “juice cup.” The gluten free menu had pasta, meats, seafood, veggies, salads, cheese, and Italian meats (salami, prosciutto, etc). All dishes are served as small plates to share and come out as they are ready, not all at once. Don’t let the menu prices fool you; those are not full portions for one person. However, that being said, the prices are very reasonable and we got a large amount of food that averaged to be only $25 per person, allowing us to take 2 decent-sized dishes home for lunch the next day. Taking quality of food, location, and portion size into consideration, this was a good deal.
Beef Short Ribs with Salsa Verde:
Definitely have a kick to them! Perfectly tender, amazing flavor.
Garlic, red chili, pinot grigio, & lemon. Beautifully cooked & flavored.
Roasted potatoes with rosemary
Keep in mind, we had a reservation. By 6:30-6:45, the place was packed. I would absolutely visit Quartino every time I’m in Chicago. Amazing food, and it looks like they’ve been there forever, so I doubt they will be going anywhere anytime soon.
Overall, I was very impressed with Chicago’s gluten free options, knowledge, and quality of food. I can’t wait to visit again (in the warmer months) just for the food!