Wheat is having a tough decade. The gluten in it sickens the 1 percent of Americans with celiac disease, and many without the disease accuse it of making them fat, sapping their energy, and fogging up their minds.
Some establishments are run like veritable Fort Knoxes, proudly barring gluten from their premises. Others, unable to guarantee a totally gluten-free experience, do what they can. Tucking into a tasty pile of gluten-free pasta carbonara at RPM Italian, it’s nice to know that chefs have taken care (wearing gloves and working in a separate area of the kitchen to make and cook the pasta) to guard against gluten contamination.
The fact is, whether you really can’t eat gluten or simply choose not to, you can dine (and drink) delectably in Chicagoland. You just need to know where to look for what you crave.
Two Brothers Tap House
Most gluten-free beers have all the subtlety of a packet of sweet-and-sour sauce. Not so with Two Brothers’ Prairie Path, a crisp and mildly bitter ale. The secret? It’s made with malted barley instead of gluten-free sorghum. Barley contains gluten, you say? The brewing process has an unexpected, but fortuitous, enzymatic reaction: It obliterates the gluten.
30W315 Calumet Ave., Warrenville, 630-393-2337
Rose’s Café & Bakery*
Rose sure has a way with pita pockets. Using a combination of tapioca starch and rice flour, she bakes them up squishy, porous, gently flavored, and ideal for a runny egg sandwich or for dipping in hummus.
2901 Central St., Evanston, 847-859-2723; 478 Central Ave., Highland Park, 847-780-4673
The bars called “What Dreams May Come” are layered with gluten free oats, sweet caramel, and rich dark chocolate, and they happen to be egg-free.
Sold at multiple locations, see deflouredbakery.com
Quick-cooking polenta gives this cake doughnut, made with Valrhona chocolate, enrobed in ganache, and speckled with cocoa nibs, a pleasantly crumbly texture. Dunk. Eat. Repeat.
68 W. Hubbard St., 312-329-6500
Summer House Santa Monica
Nearly the size of hubcaps, the soft, buttery, chocolate-chip-flecked treats made with rice and tapioca flours are plenty big enough to share. But you won’t want to.
1954 N. Halsted St., 773-634-4100
A rice flour, cornstarch, and potato starch blend imported from Italy accounts for the al dente fettuccine—faintly creamy and the perfect vehicle for both meaty and minimalist sauces.
52 W. Illinois St., 312-222-1888
This quintessential neighborhood joint fashions its crust from a mixture of rice, protein-packed chickpea flour, and a healthy dose of butter. The flaky, yeasty-tasting result stands up to any wheat-flour-based pie. Bonus: You can order till 5 a.m.
3114 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-477-2777
What this casually chic spot lacks in gluten (not a speck in the place), it makes up for in sheer culinary whimsy, with dishes such as seared scallops with Hudson Valley foie gras, dried blueberries, granola, and oxalis. By day, Senza transforms into the gluten-free Wheat’s End Café.
2873 N. Broadway, 773-770-3527