Chicago is a good place to be gluten-free. But while there are plenty of options, not all of them are worth your time. Nothing’s worse than eating a sandwich on bread that falls apart, or getting excited about a gluten-free dessert, only to discover it’s about as light and fluffy as a black hole. Use our guide to find restaurants where this won’t happen to you (and places your wheat-eating friends can also appreciate).
Note that these aren’t “gluten-free places.” These are places where you can eat gluten-free. As in, normal restaurants that just so happen to have food that works for people avoiding gluten. So if cross-contamination is a problem, some of these places may not be for you. We’re sorry about that, but we also don’t want you to get hurt because we’re friends and that’s what friends are for. Now that the sappy emotional bonding is over, on to the guide.
This Mediterranean restaurant in River North is great for avoiding gluten. Their regular menu is already close to gluten-free, but they have a separate gluten-free one just in case - the main difference in a side by side comparison is that spreads (like hummus and baba ghanoush) are served with gluten-free crackers instead of flatbread. And while the flatbread is really good, the crackers hold their own. They don’t end up feeling like a consolation prize, even if they totally are.
You want a sceney spot in River North with a celebrity chef and giant booths - and you’re gluten-free. Like Ema, Siena Tavern makes things easy with a separate menu. Most of their antipasti and entrees are easily modified, so you won’t have to miss out on the DJ-spinning experience you went to River North for in the first place.
For those who thought gluten-free had to be healthy, we’ll dispel those notions quickly. Au Cheval has the best burger in the world, and they’ll put it on an open-faced hash brown bun if you ask. Just in case you want something besides the burger (which is, contrary to popular belief, not the only thing they serve here) they have a separate menu of their other specialties that don’t include gluten. Like the foie gras and scrambled eggs, and the pork porterhouse. But really, you should get the burger.
This is one of those places where there are initials after each dish on the menu (like DF, V, and VG). And there are plenty of GFs to be found, next to vegetable-focused entrees like roasted cauliflower as well as other mains like the salmon and chicken. Come here for a weeknight dinner or weekend brunch, and when it’s nice out, you want to be on the patio.
While this brewery doesn’t (as of now) have any gluten-free beers or ciders, the food is a different story. There are tons of wheat-free menu items available, like salmon and duck tacos, and even desserts like an apple creme brulee. It’s an excellent place for large groups, and it also caters to other dietary restrictions (e.g. dairy-free). Just drink before coming here and you’ll be fine.
Pizza will usually please a crowd. But poorly-made gluten-free pizza is an affront to everything good in this world. Luckily, Spacca Napoli exists. The gluten-free Neapolitan pies they serve are fantastic - you can hardly tell the difference, thanks in large part to the high-quality toppings. Sure, the regular crust is slightly better, but the gluten-free pies are still pretty damn good.
Generally everyone and their cousin can find something to eat at Summer House. It’s a versatile restaurant with a wide-ranging menu of American food. So, unsurprisingly, this also goes for gluten-free cousins. Their gluten-free menu is long, and includes sandwiches and burgers made with gluten-free bread. There are also gluten-free cookies and other treats. For your cousin.
This German spot opened in 1898, and has an old-school bar/tavern feel. Expect to find businesspeople, tourists, and a menu with plenty of gluten-free dishes - from sauerbraten and whitefish to flourless chocolate cake. Come for lunch, or if you’re in the Loop and looking for something casual before a show.
It’s hard to be disappointed after a meal at Beatrix. It’s a quality restaurant mini-chain that has a lot of menu items for “alternative dining lifestyles” (we just made that up), including gluten-free. If you want to go healthy, have one of their salads. If you want something more substantial, go with one of their gluten-free sandwiches. And there are also gluten-free cookies and pastries available, too, for salad-offsetting purposes.
The bacon-wrapped dates at Avec are both gluten-free and incredibly delicious. There’s a lot of other stuff on the Mediterranean menu that works (like their steak or whole fish), but ordering 17 plates of the dates for dinner seems like a perfectly valid idea to us.
Almost all of the European pub food at this North Center cider bar can be made gluten-free. Plus, you can do gluten-free cider flights. Finally, a place where you can act like your annoying, beer-drinking friends and also eat shepherd’s pie. Cheers.
This is a great spot in River North to grab something healthy after working out at one of the many boutique studios nearby. Seriously, we have to hand it to True Food’s real estate agent, since about 71% of people who frequent the gyms within a few-block radius of this place are in the market for some gluten-free health food after spin class. And you know what, get the gluten-free blueberry muffin because you did extra tap-backs today, damnit.
If you’re looking for someplace to eat off the Magnificent Mile - or you’re just a big fan of Rick Bayless, Chicago’s culinary czar (understandable) - Frontera Grill in River North is a good spot for lunch or dinner. Get some tacos or enchiladas, and just make sure you order corn tortillas instead of flour. Rick will be disappointed if you forget to do that.
Little Beet is 100% gluten-free, so you won’t feel limited here. Come for a weekday lunch or dinner and order with impunity, whether you want a salad, squash cavatelli, or even a cheeseburger. It’s a good spot for a healthy, casual-ish meal in the Gold Coast.
BBQ places are meat-centric, but that doesn’t automatically mean they’re gluten-free. There’s often gluten in the sauces and rubs. However, almost everything at Smoque is OK. So order the brisket, pulled pork, and ribs, and just forgo the white bread. They even have a dedicated frier to reduce cross-contamination if you’re really sensitive. And you should know that the barbecue here is very good, even if you really really like gluten.
This Lakeview is restaurant one of our favorite weekday breakfast/brunch spots. You’ll find typical egg dishes, and also some not-so-typical gluten-free cupcake pancakes. Make sure you schedule a nap for afterwards - during which you will probably dream about eating those pancakes again. Eat, nap, dream, repeat.
For obvious reasons, pasta might not be your go-to. But RPM’s extensive gluten-free menu has fettuccine you can substitute for the regular stuff (and it actually tastes good), in addition to dishes you might not think of, like bruschetta made with gluten-free bread. This place is trendy and expensive, but for a nice night out, RPM Italian can safely go in your rotation.
If you’re living the gluten-free life and a steakhouse isn’t at the top of your list, you’re making a real mistake. Get a perfectly cooked piece of meat (or fish) with a vegetable on the side and you’ll be good to go. There are obviously tons of options around, but Gibsons is a classic. So make it yours.