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, 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.
Any restaurant with a menu centered around housemade masa is good for someone avoiding gluten. This the case at Huaraches Dona Chio, which also happens to be one of the best Mexican restaurants in Chicago. The specialty here is huaraches, but everything on the menu is delicious - like the tacos, sopes, and gorditas. You get to pick your toppings (with options like pastor, steak, or calabaza), plus your salsa (red or green), and all of it is fantastic. This place only has six tables, but in the summer they also have a cute side patio which is right next to a park. Just come prepared, this place is cash-only.
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.
Aba is the sceney West Loop counterpart to Ema, and everything we just said about Ema applies to this place too. The only differences are that the menu here has more meat options (there’s a whole section devoted to steaks), there’s a rooftop patio, and this place feels like a club. So come here if you want to party and not eat a bunch of gluten.
We have excellent news: Monteverde, the best Italian restaurant in the city, has an entire gluten-free menu - including pasta. That’s it, that’s the news.
B’Gabs is a vegan cafe in Hyde Park that also has a lot of gluten-free options. It’s open for breakfast and lunch, and has the type of food that will make you feel good about your healthy decisions - things like smoothie bowls, breakfast scrambles made with chickpeas, and a zucchini noodle pad thai salad.
You might have forgotten all about Sunda. After all, this Asian fusion spot opened in River North way back in 2009, before gluten was even invented. We’re here to remind you that though this place feels like old news, it still has great food and a dedicated gluten-free menu that includes some of the best dishes - like over-the-top rolls (like the Tale of Two Tunas) and entrees like the miso-bronzed cod and panang chicken. Will you be eating those things next to Morningstar Mutual’s end-of-year team dinner? Probably.
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 city, and they’ll put it on an open-faced hash brown bun if you ask. Just in case you want something besides the burger, 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.
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.
The Berghoff Restaurant
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.
This is a great spot in River North to grab something kind-of-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 food after spin class.
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 fryer 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 restaurant is 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 afterward - during which you will probably dream about eating those pancakes again.
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. Yes, this place is 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 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, and always a good choice.