my sister, who lives in brooklyn and is oh-so up to date and UpToTheMinute about so many things posh and handy, has made me aware of the gluten-free restaurant awareness program. this is a tremendous resource for anyone heading to the new york area, however, it just hasn't quite taken off in chicago just yet. i say this because my zip code search for GF restos within chicago resulted in only ONE listing, and it was for outback steakhouse. while i have nothing against a chain with decent recipes, this is really a sad showing.
chicago. where are you?
i have to hand it to the gluten intolerance group though. they've gone and done a lot of the work by making this sort of list available and checking on those GF menus to make sure that they meet certain requirements. but wait, that's not all. they will actually help a place become GF by providing the restaurant with info about GF dietary needs, how to maintain an allergen-controlled kitchen, and ways to train their staff so that they are aware and educated. furthermore, there are levels of GF recognition, and they list these with the participating restaurants and rank them by stars. how handy is that? i'm into handy. check it out.
now onto the next topic ~
i can dig some good chain dining every once in a while. if anything, knowing which places are good and suit your tastes always comes in handy if you're traveling. let's start out with a little moo-goo-no-gluten.
p.f. chang's. i'm sure you've seen it. walked past those faux foo dog statues guarding the front doors. maybe even climbed on top of one of the creatures and made yourself a little kodak moment. perhaps next time you should head inside. it's kind of fun to enjoy a little chinese, especially since it's just so difficult to find anything that is truly GF (or without MSG) unless you make it yourself. well, you already know that the home-cooking biz is not for me, so i opt for professionally done meals. and i must stay that i've had some good ones here.
GF menu breakdown:
starters/salads = 2 options
noodles = 1
entrees = 9
vegetarian entrees = 2
sides (also vegetarian) = 2
i have had 2 things off the menu on 2 different occasions. one was the buddha's feast, which is for the vegetarian sect or just for those that would like to detox and eat chinese at the same time. it's basically a little basket of steamed veggies that comes with the GF dipping sauce. it's bland. the sauce is kind of bland. and the veggies are, well, steamed and just steamed. but, if you're a health nut or just madly in love with your vegetables, you may enjoy it. i would not recommend this dish for the heartier eaters among us, but i like it.
the next item i tried was the singapore street noodles dish. this consists of super thin vermicelli rice noodles, made yellow with a nice, light curry sauce. nicely jullianed veggies are mixed in along with shrimp and chicken. i really like this one. the vegetables are crispy and the flavors are strong (beware of garlic! but you don't eat chinese and expect to chat it up without popping some altoids after). it's a big portion for me so i took 1/2 of it home for lunch the next day and then used what was left for a side with dinner. it reheated well, and made my whole apartment smell like it for the next 12 hours. which made me hungry all over again.
reservations: yeah, on a friday or saturday night if you're heading to the one downtown.
cost: $25-30 per person for dinner
p.f. chang's china bistro
530 n wabash ave
there are lots of other locations so check out the website if you're dining outside of downtown chicago.
let's go outback tonight.. doo doo doo (got that song in my head along with visions of boomerangs).
steak? shimp? hankering for that hearty feast at a reasonable price? then go outback tonight. it's decent. i'll give it that. but everything is incredibly salty-ish which gives me the feeling that it's been preserved to all heck so whatever you could possibly want will be ready at a moment's notice. but that's just me. i know lots of people that love this place and one person in particular that even calls this her favorite spot. i have to be honest and say that my tasting of the menu has been very limited, and so their steaks and pork and so forth may actually be quite good. the variety on their GF menu is certainly good. here's the breakdown:
starters = 3 options
salads = 3
steaks = 7 with various options to add stuff on like shrimp
grilled entrees = 4
fish = 6
"classics" = 4 (this is stuff like baby back ribs)
sides = 8
desserts = 3
burgers and sandwiches = 6 (but they suggest you order it without the bread and bring your own bun, building your burger at the table. to me this is cheating having it on the GF menu then! also, the "aussie fries" are not GF, so you're outta luck.)
kid's entrees = 5
cocktails = 8
reservations: eh. if you're so inclined.
cost: about $20 per person
8101 w higgins road
since this place is super duper chain-eriffic, there are TONS of locations. you can find another one here.
lastly, i have a double rule-breaker. bonefish grill is another place that i have not been and while it is in IL, it is not in chicago. but, i thought i'd list it since they (1) fall into the chain restaurant category, and (2) they have a separate and established GF menu. from what i gather about this place, it's basically a seafood joint (duh and, of course, duh) that touts freshness and so forth, but it also has some steak and pork and such on the menu. here's the GF breakdown:
starters = 2 options
salads = 3
(there are no listed GF soups)
sides = 1, and to add to that their usual entree add-on of seasonal veggies is GF, with the zucchini being the exception. this confuses me.)
grilled fish = 9 (plus 3 sauce options to go with that)
specialties = 3 (1 chicken and 2 steak)
alcoholic beverages = all wines and cocktails
reservations: can't say. never been.
cost: about $35 per person
no chicago locations, but there are a WHOLE BUNCH of others listed on the website.