Let's face it. Dietary restrictions are a part of dining out. But rather than a cumbersome burden, restaurants in Chicago have risen to the occasion in recent years to assuage restrictions and offer exciting options for vegans, individuals with gluten sensitivity, and more. No better time to explore these options than Chicago Restaurant Week, kicking off its two-week run January 30, featuring more than 300 restaurants throughout Chicagoland.
Hospitality and meeting customers' needs is a proud asset for the Chicago restaurant community, a community famously welcoming, supportive, and amenable to diners of all sorts. This renowned hospitality is on full display in the coming weeks, as the city shines the spotlight on restaurants and their unique capabilities. Under the tutelage of dexterous chefs, a key component in hospitality is thinking outside the box to meet and exceed dietary restrictions in bold new ways. Here are some spots to take note of when making CRW reservations with dietary restrictions in mind.
When perusing the restaurant listings on the Choose Chicago website, note restaurants with a single leaf are vegetarian-friendly, double leaves denote vegan-friendly and a "K" is for Kosher. The image of a grain with a slash through it means gluten-free diners can eat there easily with bountiful options.
Blackbird's (above) lunch menu is a nice choice for those with celiac disease, with menu options like steak tartare with rye berries, spicy radish, oxalis, and lemon; lima bean soup with carrot cream, celery-apple slaw, orange, and tarragon; duck sausage with dried parsley root, Brussels sprouts, buttermilk, and mustard seeds; and dark rum cheesecake with pineapple shaved ice, kinako, caramelized puffed rice, and mustard.
BOKA is another one that gets creative with gluten-free options, like marinated fluke with persimmon, radish, and pickled watermelon; crispy pork belly with chestnuts, raisins, and ginger; seared scallops with cauliflower, apples, morcilla, and sea urchin broth; and frozen yogurt with pineapple, passion fruit, and buckwheat, which is not actually a wheat.
If you're looking for a contemporary Asian experience sans gluten, head to Embeya for their lunch or dinner menu. Dishes include octopus with confit eggplant, peanuts, and coconut; garlic chicken with confit scallion; a green papaya salad with culantro, crispy shallots and beef jerky (above); and creme puffs with matcha and vanilla.
Despite its meaty moniker, Grange Hall Burger Bar is actually a solid option for vegans and vegetarians too, with options like Miss May's seasonal salad; "Fruitarian" vegan burgers made with spinach and chickpeas; and citrus sorbet. Osteria La Madia is another solid bet for vegan dining, with a menu boasting fire-roasted crispy artichokes; arugula salad with walnut vinaigrette; and smoked spaghetti.
Then there's Roka Akor (pictured at top), which excels on all cylinders across the vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free spectrums with dishes like forest mushroom salad, robata grilled vegetables, and fresh fruit sorbet.
And there's lots more where these came from. Just check out the restaurant listing for yourselves.
Photos: Roka Akor; Blackbird; Embeya