The Sightseeing Coeliac in Chicago

Why Chicago?

In May 2016 Paul and I started planning a return trip to Las Vegas with friends. This escalated from a short break to Vegas into a two week holiday in America very quickly! We decided we wanted to visit another city along with Vegas by ourselves before meeting our friends. Having already been to New York, San Francisco and Miami we settled on a five night trip to Chicago – not the most traditional twin centre holiday with Vegas.

Chicago was the place where I did the most research I’ve ever done before a holiday, pretty much planning everywhere I wanted to eat, too many places in fact to fit into my trip. I always did some research before travelling but the reason for my extensive research was due to another holiday I had planned – Japan in February 2016. Japan was at the top of Pauls bucketlist so we had booked a two week trip. I’ve always managed on holiday with eating gluten free and have never let it stop me travelling. However, as I started to do a bit of research on Japan it began to dawn on me just how difficult the trip would be as a coeliac. As a result every time I got frustrated about the lack of information I was finding for my Japan trip, I switched to researching Chicago and found myself with an ever growing list of places to try!

In Chicago I ate amazingly well due to this and now plan my travels much more. Yes, it means my trips have become more planned out and there’s the effort involved in finding the place I want to try whilst Paul moans about traipsing around the city for me but ultimately I am much happier having found great food and not going through the stress of finding a safe place wherever we happen to be, and ultimately he is too!

Virgin Hotel

http://www.virginhotels.com (203 N Wabash Avenue)

The first decision we had to make was where to stay! As with all large cities hotels are very expensive. We like to be central to the sights and also like a good hotel to relax in to get over the jet lag when we first arrive. We decided on the Virgin hotel as it met this criteria and to see what it was like! Quite a funky hotel, great location, comfy room and nice bar meant we would recommend this hotel and thoroughly enjoyed our stay.

Lou Malnatis Pizza

http://www.loumalnati.com (lots of locations around Chicago)

Chicago is famous for pizza so gluten free pizza was a must. During my research I found Lou Malnatis butter crust pizza to be recommended many times and they had a restaurant that was within walking distance from our hotel so we made this our first stop in Chicago. The restaurant was busy, the service was good as was my gluten free pizza and Paul enjoyed his butter crust pizza! The first meal after a long journey always tastes great but the fact it was Lou Malnati’s pizza made it even better!

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Meli Cafe

http://www.melicafe.com (540 N Wells St)

We tried breakfast at Meli Cafe which had a vast choice for gluten free. I had strawberry marscapone crepes and a smoothie. They were yummy although maybe a little sickly by the end of the plate! Paul really liked this place as it had a huge choice for breakfasts in general and he wasn’t restricted to gluten free products, although I was a bit worried about cross contamination here as the servers were so busy but I didn’t get sick.

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Do-rite Donuts and Chicken

http://www.doritedonuts.com (233 E. Erie St and 50 W. Randolph St)

I was so excited about the prospect of donuts in Chicago (I have a seriously sweet tooth!) so you can imagine my disappointment when I went to Do-rite donuts to see an empty stand where the gluten free donuts should have been! This was about 4pm and they had sold out for the day. Luckily I was there for a few more days so could go again another day, so make sure you don’t leave it too late in the day as these can’t be missed on a visit to Chicago! I had a cinnamon sugar and a lemon pistachio donut and oh my days they were totally amazing and the most donutty donut I’ve ever had gluten free! Most gluten free donuts are nice but still have more of a cake texture whereas these were much closer to the real thing and totally amazing, unmissable and worth a return trip to Chicago!! Paul still raves about his (normal) maple bacon donut he had from there!

Margaritaville

http://www.margaritavillechicago.com (Navy Pier)

On one of the days we wanted to get some lunch whilst at the Navy Pier. We recognised Margaritaville as that had catered for us for gluten free in Vegas and Orlando so we decided to get some food there. The service was shockingly slow although it was nice sitting out in the sun with a cocktail the wait for the food took what felt like forever! It’s a good chain for a margarita and nacho stop but the service on this day was terrible, it wasn’t even that friendly which was probably a first for us in America.

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Lyfe Kitchen

http://www.lyfekitchen.com (a few locations in Chicago)

Lyfe Kitchen repeatedly came up during my research and is a great spot for some lunch with a fabulous gluten free menu. They really take care of people with allergies with separate menus and allergy sticks on the food when it came out. I had an awesome chicken, goats cheese and grilled vegetable flatbread and Paul had a healthier salad after a couple of days of pizzas and donuts it all went down really well! I love places like this where it is just so easy to eat out despite being coeliac and where you aren’t made to feel like an inconvenience.

Days Inn North

http://www.daysinn.com (644 W. Diversey Parkway)

After two nights at the Virgin hotel we moved a bit further out to Days Inn North to bring our accommodation costs down a bit. The first night we did this we regretted the decision as the room there was ridiculously noisy. Turns out we were probably in the worst room as it was a corner room with windows on two sides both overlooking a busy street. After pretty much no sleep we requested to move and the next two nights were a lot better, and it was fine as a cheaper place to stay.

Wheats End Cafe

http://www.wheatsendcafe.com (2873 N. Broadway St)

The best thing about the Days Inn was that it was right near Wheats End, a lovely cafe that is 100% gluten free. I like staying near gluten free restaurants as then you always know that you can get something easily if all else fails and it particularly works for being able to grab a breakfast! We went here twice and both times the food was fantastic and the service so friendly and welcoming. I had chocolate chip pancakes which made me extremely happy! I can also recommend the spicy potatoes which we ordered as a random side order and they were fab, so tasty and just the right amount of spice! I took away several items over the few days here including a chocolate donut and a cheese and onion biscuit (English idea of a scone not a biscuit so wasn’t quite what I was expecting but really nice!) It also meant I got to try a cinnamon bun. I love finding 100% gluten free places when it allows you to eat things that you would otherwise miss out on in a city!

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba

http://www.babareeba.com (2024 N. Halsted St)

We walked to Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba one night for dinner. It was an easy walk from the Days Inn hotel but a bit further than we were expecting as the road was a bit never ending! Here they had a great gluten free menu and I had the best Spanish meal I’d had in a long time complete with starters, paella and sangria and we both left extremely full! A busy restaurant with a great vibe and we have fond memories of our evening here, although not too many photos as the restaurant was pretty dark!

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 Chicago Pizza

http://www.chicagos-pizza.com (three North Side locations)

One of the things I was most keen to try in Chicago was the famous Chicago style deep dish pizza and had researched that the best place to eat this gluten free was Chicago Pizza. We were going to go on out last night when a storm hit with the most torrential rain resulting in us not wanting to leave the hotel. I was so disappointed at the thought of missing out on such an iconic dish when I saw that they did takeaway! We called them and they were still delivering despite the storm and they would deliver to our hotel – amazing! My gluten free deep dish dreams were fulfilled when a hot deep dish pizza turned up not too much later! I hadn’t appreciated exactly how heavy a deep dish pizza was and without a knife or fork at the hotel eating this was quite a mission! It was so good though and something that can’t be missed in Chicago even though the size of it completely defeated me! In the case of woman v food in Chicago, in this instance food definitely won! I’m so grateful to Chicago Pizza for doing a gluten free version and for their delivery service bringing it to me!

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Baseball

I was very excited to be going to watch the baseball! The Chicago Cubs were playing away from home when we were there so we got tickets to a Whitesox game instead for about £6 each! I’d read online that gluten free hot dogs could be found at the ground, U.S. Cellular Field. It wasn’t long with hot dogs on my mind that I decided I was hungry and went off in search of some. I asked at stand 544 which is what was stated online for the location of the gluten free version but they looked totally confused as to why I would be asking for a hot dog that was gluten free and directed me to stand 522 where they actually were! On the menu  board they had gluten free items listed – pizza, sandwiches and beer but no hot dogs! When I asked they had hot dogs and the gluten free buns came individually packaged to prevent cross contamination so they made up a hot dog for me. Not the finest cuisine I’ll ever eat but seemed perfect for a ball game! I would never have known about them if it wasn’t for the research I’d done beforehand but it’s great to see the stadium providing gluten free options and made the day a lot more enjoyable.

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Wilde Bar and Restaurant

http://www.wildechicago.com (3130 N. Broadway St)

Wilde Bar and Restaurant was on the must visit list after discovering they did gluten free mac n cheese! This was something I had not had eating out since being diagnosed as coeliac and I was very excited at the prospect! This was more of a pub location with great service. I opted for the small portion of mac n cheese as American portion sizes are so huge and this was enough for a lunch and really good! My only complaint would be that it had tomato in which wouldn’t be my first choice in this dish but that’s just personal preference. They had a great gluten free menu and worth the visit!

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Big Bowl

http://www.bigbowl.com (60 E.Ohio)

On our last day we were getting hungry when we walked past a Big Bowl. I recognised the name as somewhere that had gluten free options and we decided to give it a go. We shared two dishes, a yummy pad thai and a chicken stirfry dish with rice and both were pretty good and the waitress had excellent knowledge about coeliac disease. There was even gluten free soy sauce available and eating here was far easier than I ever thought it would be. Funnily enough a non gluten free colleague had recommended this place from his recent trip to Chicago and I had completely dismissed it as an option by the type of food and set up when it actually turned out to be a great experience!

Kind Bars

Although now available in the U.K. I couldn’t not mention them on this blog post as I ate so many of them whilst in America. They are available everywhere and were great as a snack on the go. I love them!

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Sightseeing in Chicago

One of my friends thought our choice of visiting Chicago in the summer was a strange one as she could only picture Chicago as a snowy and cold destination! We however had amazing weather – brilliant sunshine and blue skies that contributed to the awesome time that we had in this city. We went to the Millennium Park and saw The Bean (go really early as gets extremely busy!) We spent time on Navy Pier, went on a sailing trip and hired bikes to cycle along the lake. There’s lots to do such as the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum of History, The Art Institute of Chicago, Adler Planetarium and the Zoo and we did a sightseeing bus tour to get our bearings. We went up Willis Tour and did an architectural boat tour. Unlike places like New York and Las Vegas we didn’t really have any preconceived ideas of what Chicago would be like, but we really had the best five days exploring the city in the sun!

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Other recommendations we didn’t get to try

* Original Pancake House http://www.originalpancakehouse.com

*Cassava – gluten free empanadas! http://www.cassavachicago.com

*Summer House – has an amazing, extensive looking gluten free menu online www.summerhousesm.com

*The Berghoff – German restaurant with the menu clearly marking the gluten free items including a salted caramel cheesecake (can anything beat restaurants that offer gluten free cheesecake?!)

*PF Changs- this is a chain that I’ve eaten at in Vegas and highly recommend for Chinese food although I didn’t try any of the Chicago branches!

Gluten free in Chicago Resources

*#glutenfreechicago has lots of pictures on their instagram for gluten free food in Chicago and also check #glutenfreechicago tags as it brings up lots of photos of eating out gluten free in the city. Despite recommendations always check all places yourself when you go if you’re Coeliac for cross contamination controls as  staff and menus change and other people may not eat as strictly gluten free as another! However I found instagram a great resource for Chicago and one of the main reasons I decided to start my account to help people visiting London.

*One of my favourite instagram accounts is #breezygfreezy by Brianna who is based in Chicago so check out her instagram if you’re visiting the city! She also writes the ADSG blog as she is also egg free and diabetic so a great read especially if you have other dietary requirements for your visit. Her posts are so positive and inspiring to help people face the challenges that eating out with allergies brings! http://www.adifferentsurvivalguide.com

As I never intended on setting up this blog this post is written from my memory of Chicago which shows what food and experiences stood out whether it was for the right or wrong reasons! We loved Chicago, it’s a beautiful city on the water with plenty to see, do and eat gluten free! My favourite of the trip? It’s so hard to pick one! Pizza is a must and some places like Lyfe and Wheats End really make eating out in Chicago an enjoyable experience. However, I think the stand out items were the Do-rite donuts due to them being the closest thing to a gluteney donut I’ve had and that includes all the ones I’ve tried (and love) in London!

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