20 spots that won’t make you give a PowerPoint presentation on what you can’t eat.
We’ve reached a point where most restaurants ask about food allergies at the start of your meal. And that’s great. But just because they ask doesn’t mean they’re equipped to handle the answer. Sometimes after explaining what you can’t (or don’t, or won’t) eat, you’re met with a blank stare, and/or the realization that water might be the only thing you can consume with confidence. To help avoid this situation, we’ve made a list of restaurants great for a variety of dietary restrictions – whether you’re pregnant, or avoiding gluten, meat, dairy, or the color yellow. These places either have separate menus available, menus that are clearly marked, or genuinely helpful service when questions come up (and often all three).
Note: These restaurants are not guaranteed to have 100% gluten-free, nut-free, or any other completely “free” kitchens. Make sure to discuss your specific restrictions with your server (hopefully only once).
This Mediterranean small plates restaurant in River North has a very flexible menu, and it’s particularly good if you’re avoiding gluten. Their regular menu is already close to gluten-free, but there’s also a separate, entirely gluten-free one. Plus, a lot of dishes here are adaptable, with plenty of meat- and/or dairy-free options (like falafel, salads, and spreads) available. And the servers are great about answering questions and helping you navigate the menu. So basically, you’re only going to have trouble eating here if you have a problem with sharing.
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 stuff you don’t want to eat.
Beatrix has several locations in Chicago (current count three, plus a grab-and-go market), which makes it a very convenient meet-up spot for groups. The well-rounded menu has solid options for brunch, lunch, and dinner, and was definitely put together with people who pay attention to what they eat in mind. This means there are a lot of healthy, gluten-free, and dairy-free options on the menu (like a roasted cauliflower salad, vegan tomato soup, and roasted sea bass). It’s a good choice for dinner with a group when everyone’s restrictions (or lack thereof) are different.
RPM Italian’s servers are very good about asking questions, and making sure you know they actually listened to your answers. This spot also has a long gluten-free menu (with fettuccine you can substitute for the regular stuff, and bruschetta made with gluten-free bread). Yes, it’s trendy and expensive, but for a nice night out, RPM Italian is a good choice.
Like RPM Italian, this restaurant seems like it’s just waiting to honor your restrictions. We’ve found the servers to be very good about knowing exactly how each dish is cooked, and making sure that specific menu items are prepared the way you need them to be. Plus, this place also has a dedicated gluten-free menu. In other words, it won’t just let RPM Italian do its own thing.
Summer House Santa Monica
Generally everyone and their cousin can find something to eat at Summer House, and the staff here appears to have endless patience when asked for explanations about what’s on the menu. The wide-ranging American menu makes it versatile, and there’s a long list of gluten-free options that includes sandwiches and burgers made with gluten-free bread. There are also vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free treats in the bakery case near the entrance.