A Gold Coast staple, Le Colonial attracts tourists and locals alike for French-Vietnamese cuisine. Now it's luring guests who appreciate the gluten-free lunch and dinner menus chock-full of traditional favorites with minor modifications. An entire section is devoted to appetizers, including the Boa Bia salad rolls (sans dipping sauce), pho, and steamed Vietnamese chicken ravioli in a rice paper wrapper. The entrée list doesn't skimp on options, from stir-fried vegetables and tofu to cellophane noodles topped with crab meat to a bouillabaisse in coconut saffron lemongrass broth. Servers are informed and knowledgeable about gluten issues so you can focus solely on the food.
Saigon Sisters, tucked under the train at Jefferson and Lake and sandwiched between a Dunkin Donuts and a 7-11, could easily slip by unnoticed. Don't make that mistake. Authentic Vietnamese cuisine is served in a cozy room filled with small tables and a chalkboard wall of handwritten daily specials. While many restaurants keep gluten-free menus separate and available upon request, Saigon Sisters blends the selections into one, a small touch that simplifies the process. Gluten-free dishes are noted as "gf" and run the gamut from a flavorful quinoa salad with Hen of the Wood mushrooms, roasted baby eggplant and garlic shallot purée, to a spicy red curry of sweet potatoes, Thai eggplant and bamboo shoots over rice. Even diners who can eat gluten order the Chap Chae, a hearty entrée of sweet potato starch noodles tossed in gluten-free soy sauce, topped with seasonal greens and wild mushrooms.
You might not run into Giuliana and Bill Rancic on every visit to RPM Italian, but you can always count on an upscale gluten-free meal. The spotlight on this River North hotspot borders on glaring, but the payoff comes from something almost impossible to find in Chicago: house made gluten-free pasta. Culinary magic is transpiring in the kitchen to create noodles that could easily be mistaken for the original. Whether they're lightly tossed in Mama DePandi's pomodoro sauce with basil or wrapped around savory wild boar sausage, the fettuccine strands are a gluten-free discovery worth a repeat visit. The specialty menu also offers a creative twist on a shredded Brussels sprouts salad with avocado, hot and cold antipasti plates, crudos, steaks and seafood entrees. Add a Lower Door cocktail to the mix—an intoxicating blend of Broker's London Dry Gin, St. Germain and Cocchi Americano—and raise a glass to one of the city's best gluten-free menus.
Girl & the Goat
Who would expect a carnivore's paradise to also be food-allergy heaven? Whether you're gluten-intolerant or unable to stomach dairy, Girl & the Goat offers separate menus full of options. Highlights include the kohlrabi salad studded with blueberries, roasted cauliflower with pine nuts, grilled baby octopus, diver scallops and the signature wood oven roasted pig face. If you have the dual misfortune, as I do, of being lactose and gluten intolerant, they will even blend the menus together for a customized meal. Although you might need to make a reservation months in advance, the gluten-free dining experience is worth the wait.
A dim, inviting den known for craft cocktails and indulgent American fare, Gilt Bar also caters to gluten-free guests. You'll have to skip their signature cornbread or pasta dishes, but they still offer a range of worthy options, including crispy fries, blackened cauliflower, flavorful whitefish and a roasted chicken entrée that defies you not finish every last morsel. While the chocolate cream pie and brownie are off-limits, a tart raspberry sorbet provides a sweetly satisfying finish.
Grange Hall Burger Bar
For gluten-free eaters, burgers pose a particular problem. You want to sink your teeth into a grilled patty sandwiched between a toasted bun, and instead you're stuck cutting the meat with a fork and knife while enviously eyeballing other diners. At Grange Hall Burger Bar in the West Loop, salvation comes in the form of a gluten-free bun. It's a close substitute to the real thing and a welcome opportunity to hold a burger with two hands. The restaurant's farmhouse-chic décor and country cocktail list make the experience even more enjoyable.
Gemini Bistro is the neighborhood restaurant that's far better than most neighborhoods' corner spot. Even if you don't live in Lincoln Park, it's worth the trek for a gluten-free menu filled with many of Chef Jason Paskewitz's French-influenced signature dishes. Aside from a few slight omissions (Caesar salad sans brioche croutons, Gemini burger without the potato bun), most dishes remain intact without sacrificing flavor. Start with a baby beet and chevre salad, indulge with a creamy roasted mushroom risotto, and finish with one of the hearty large plates. From roasted salmon to braised short rib, the absence of gluten will go happily unnoticed.
Tavern on Rush
In the heart of the Gold Coast, Tavern on Rush is a mecca for business men, well-heeled women and tourists, but it's also an unexpected oasis for gluten-free diners. Peer closely at the menu, beneath the columns of prime aged beef and seafood, and you'll find it: gluten-free pizza and pasta. There's a $3 surcharge for the specialty crust, but it's worth every penny. The dough doesn't disappoint, especially when covered in goat cheese and mounds of mushrooms. Pair the pizza with a Tipsy Pear martini, a deceptively strong blend of Grey Goose Pear Vodka, St. Germain and Champagne, for unexpectedly tasty combination.