Maybe you’re coming off an aggressive weekend filled with too much food and booze. Maybe Gene from accounting brought donuts for the office this morning and you had one too many. Or maybe you’re trying to fit into that pair of pants you intentionally bought one size too small. Whatever the reason, you decided you’d like to eat something “kind of healthy” for dinner tonight.
There’s no need to embark on a sudden 365-day juice cleanse. What we’re talking about is potentially eating some greens and maybe a nice piece of fish, rather than a burger and fries. Here’s where to go.
Check out the rest of our Guide To Being A Little Healthier.
Little Beet is at the bottom of a high-end apartment building in the Gold Coast, and kind of feels like a gallery space, with large paintings all over the walls. The menu has light (but still filling) dishes like cauliflower steak and a roasted shrimp salad, which will help you power through whatever you may be doing in the neighborhood - probably shopping somewhere way too expensive.
This sit-down spot in River North is great for a dinner during the week, but also nice enough to be a weekend date-night option. Its menu is full of stuff like sweet potato grain bowls, sustainable salmon, and quinoa burgers. Many of the dishes here are gluten free as well as dairy free, and even the desserts (like chia seed pudding) could be classified as “not terrible for you.” So basically, just sitting in this place will make you healthier.
Beatrix now has several locations in Chicago (current count three, plus a grab-and-go market), which means there’s usually one pretty close to wherever we are. This is a very good thing. The well-rounded menu has solid options for brunch, lunch, and dinner, and was definitely put together with healthy eating in mind. It’s a good choice for dinner with your friend whose dietary restrictions have changed four times in the past year.
It’s easy to assume that if a restaurant is mostly vegetarian, it’s automatically healthy. But that isn’t necessarily the case, and Bad Hunter in the West Loop is a good example. This place falls firmly into the kind of healthy department. You’ll find not-so-healthy dishes like butter dumplings with corn and kimchi (and they also have add-on bacon lurking around the menu to really tip things over the edge), but also legitimately good-for-you things like chilled carrot noodles and a roasted cauliflower tartine. Keep this in mind when you order. Luckily, all the food (healthy or not) is delicious.
This place, on the other hand, is a vegetable-focused restaurant that makes it pretty hard to order something unhealthy. Most of the menu items are vegetarian or vegan, with lots of salads, cooked vegetable dishes, and a huge crudité platter that basically looks like a garden on your table. There are some meat and fish options too, and you’ll find a lot of things that are gluten and dairy free. Even the cocktails here, like the carrot margarita, feel like they’re good for you.
Everything on the menu at Left Coast sounds like something Gwyneth Paltrow eats. You’ll find stuff like miso marinated salmon, grain bowls, and tofu wraps - and a lot of avocado. They have two locations (one’s in River North), but we prefer the Lakeview space for its beach house feel and outdoor patio. Come for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Just don’t name your child after your favorite avocado toast here - that’s a little too Gwyneth.
We’re pretty sure there’s a California state law that says you have to eat kind of healthy, and since Ema does a Californian version of Mediterranean small plates, it’s a perfect kind-of-healthy dinner option. Most things on the menu, like a feta and olives appetizer, hummus and pita, or grilled octopus, are on the lighter side, and even protein options like the kebabs are reasonably portioned. If you’re looking for similar kind of food specifically for an on-the-go lunch, hit the attached counter, Rotisserie Ema.
Blue Door Kitchen used to be Table 52, a Southern restaurant serving heavier dishes like fried chicken, mac and cheese, and collard greens. Not healthy by any stretch of the imagination. But we have a little good news and a little bad news for you. Blue Door serves much lighter, healthier, and more seasonal dishes, like spaghetti squash and hazelnuts or celery root and apple stew - but you can still get fried chicken and mac and cheese here, too. We’ll let you decide which part of that is the good news.
If you’re looking for a quick and casual dinner in Wicker Park, En Hakkore is a good choice. The Korean-inspired menu is small, but you’re here for one of two things: either their take on bibimbap, which is lighter than usual (with 16 different veggies, rice, and your choice of protein), or the sashimi-bap, which is five different kinds of sashimi over a vegetable-filled salad. The food tastes great, and you’ll definitely feel good about yourself after eating it.
Not only is The Allis a great place to grab a sensible meal, but the people-watching here is also exceptionally good. It’s on the ground floor of Soho House and open to the public, and a recent expansion means there are plenty of tables and comfy couches for you to hang out on for a while. Grab a salad or a whole roasted fish and enjoy a glass of wine while you judge all the people coming in and out.
A staple in the “let’s go out to dinner but not be totally gross” department. Doc B’s has a lot of good healthy options, like delicious salads - our favorite being the #1 Tuna - or a wok bowl full of vegetables and quinoa, if you want something more substantial. Consider starting with the baked polenta fries, which aren’t that healthy, but definitely taste really good.
Shaw’s is basically a seafood version of a steakhouse, so keep it in mind when you want something kind of healthy that’s also more upscale. Just stick to basic seafood options, like plain shellfish, sushi, or the fresh fish section of the menu, and try not to get distracted by a side of mac and cheese or the desserts.
Eating here is cheaper than a plane ticket west, but will give you the same health-by-association glow you feel as soon as you get off a plane at LAX. The Amish chicken and wood-grilled mahi mahi tacos are great, as are the kale salads, and you’ll find something here for everyone, no matter how much or how little they actually like green things.
Lula is a neighborhood restaurant that’s slightly out of the way in Logan Square, but it definitely deserves a spot in your rotation. The ever-changing menu always as a strong selection of new and different vegetable options, so the best strategy is to go heavy on those, then mix in a salad or some light protein. You’ll still feel good about ordering dessert at the end - which you really should, because the pastries here are excellent.
Eataly is like a carnival funhouse where you constantly walk into mirrors, but instead of mirrors, you actually walk into some of the many strangers roaming around. Despite the whirlwind going on in here on a regular basis, we remain big fans. We love the pizza and pasta when carbs are in order, but hit up the seafood counter, Il Pesce, if you want to keep things a little healthier. Grilled swordfish with spaghetti squash and a side of daily vegetables isn’t pizza, but it is tasty.