Health + Fitness

6 Chicago Restaurants for “Ingredient-Challenged” Foodies

Gluten-Free Ramen Noodles (Photo: Sphinx Wang/

Food is a really, really big deal in Chicago. From the city’s iconic deep dish pizza to Moto’s wonders of molecular gastronomy, there’s something here for every foodie — even if your cravings come with a few strings attached. Below, six of the city’s finest diet-savvy restaurants to add to your Chi-Town itinerary.

  1. Indulge in Gluten-Free Pizza (You Can Find It All Over the City!) So, you don’t eat gluten. Luckily, that’s no longer reason to miss out on Chicago’s most famous food! If you’re sticking close to downtown, try deep-dish mecca Lou Malnati’s crustless pizza — instead of dough, the cheese and toppings are baked onto a sausage patty. If you have time to venture to the North Side, you’ll be tastily rewarded: Chicago’s Pizza uses its own house-made, gluten-free dough to form three styles of crust: thin, stuffed and deep-dish. And in Ravenswood’s Spaca Napoli, one of the city’s most authentic and outstanding Italian-style pizzerias, the gluten-free pies taste as good as the real thing.
  2. Stop by Karyn’s for Raw and Vegan Delights. Karyn Calabrese, raw food enthusiast and Chicago’s queen of holistic living, became famous after talking about her youth-preserving lifestyle on Oprah. Karyn’s Lincoln Park restaurant, Karyn’s Raw, offers a raw salad bar and weekend buffet, as well as upscale, bistro-style dining options. Check out the attached spa and holistic therapy center when you’re done. Need a hot meal? Enjoy vegan comfort food at Karyn’s Cooked in River North.
  3. Try a Japanese Specialty at Slurping Turtle. Chef Takashi Yagahashi of this cute River North ramen joint has fielded so many dietary requests over the years that he created a special item to please everyone: the Kinoko Mochi. Yagahashi’s popular vegetarian and gluten-free dish is packed with fat rice cakes, a medley of Japanese mushrooms, broccolini, parsnip, sweet bell peppers, parmesan cheese and chili soy sauce. (Leave off the parm, and it can be vegan, too.)
  4. Do Date Night at Ada Street. Ada Street chef Zoe Schor’s brother keeps a strict gluten-free diet, so she’s used to making decadent dishes without it. Grab your date and order something delicious from her ever-changing menu (up right now: steak tartare, Denver lamb ribs, and kale salad with a fried duck egg). Ada’s Street’s chill, romantic atmosphere is just as compelling of a reason to go as the food: enjoy the mood lighting, music on vinyl and one of the best “secret” patios in the city.
  5. Get Your Pasta Fix at Osteria Via Stato. Centrally located in River North near the Magnificent Mile, this classic Italian restaurant features three gluten-free pastas on its menu: arrabiata with crushed tomatoes, olive oil and chilis; wild mushroom; and lamb sausage with roasted tomatoes. What more could a carb-challenged Italophile want?
  6. Kick Back at The Chicago Diner. To sample an endless parade of diet-friendly options, check out The Chicago Diner in Lakeview. Proudly proclaiming itself “Meat-free since ’83,” this beloved restaurant is a staple for local vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free eaters. Go for hearty dishes like quinoa chili, Thai basil stir fry, gluten-free chilquiles, vegan cheesecake, gluten-free milkshakes and more — this place can do it all.