I'm going to start by admitting that downtown Chicago was not the easiest spot to find gluten free, dairy free, AND mostly vegetarian eats. Further complicating the situation, I really don't like to eat out for Italian food - I always feel it's never better than anything I can make at home with higher quality ingredients. So with all these needs and preferences of mine, downtown Chicago was just not my cup of tea. However, I did manage to dig up a couple of good eats all within walking distance of my base at the Weston River North Hotel.
Before I get into my recommendations, I do want to note two important things for other travelers headed to the downtown Chicago area;
- Your options are going to be very limited at most places when you have more than one dietary restriction. Chicagoans do seem to like their dairy! Also, so you don't get your hopes up, Do-Rite Donut's gluten free varieties are not dairy free (I was crushed when they told me).
- Make reservations for dinner. We were greeted with several snobby scowls as we approached restaurants without reservations for late night dinners for two. This includes the Rick Bayless Restaurants - which were recommended to me but not really do-able with out reservations. I've heard XOCO is an exception, but I couldn't bring myself to go in after all those snobby scowls.
Thank goodness for LYFE Kitchen and their extraordinarily allergen friendly menu. With special menus for gluten free and vegan/vegetarian guests along with markers for items containing nuts - LYFE Kitchen makes an easy and reliable spot to fill up your tank. We ended up going twice and frankly, I could have gone here for each meal and came away extraordinarily happy and feeling great. Some of the menu items I sampled and loved included the sweet corn chowder, grilled chicken and avocado sandwich (with a gluten free bun!), baked sweet potato fries, chocolate budino (amazing!!), cucumber mint water, and the kale-banana smoothie. Everything was truly fantastic and left me wishing a LYFE Kitchen would open up in Seattle!
The next spot on my list of recommendations was an unexpected surprise. Cantina Laredo popped up in a few of my last minute searches and I quickly noticed their menu gives indications for gluten free and vegetarian dishes. I ended up with an an avocado and artichoke enchilada, my first in YEARS that I was able to order dairy free. The other plus of Cantina Laredo is the gluten free chips, not fried in a contaminated fryer, and the wonderful made-at-your-table guacamole. There were plenty of other options on the menu, so I'd highly recommend this spot.
Finally, Beatrix Restaurant was recommended by a couple of folks - but there were very few dishes which met both the gluten and dairy free criteria. I ended up with two appetizers, a spring pea soup and beet carpaccio. Both were delicious but also basically my only options for a vegetarian dish.