It’s no secret that Chicago’s food scene is one of the best. Okay, fine. We’ll just say it: THE best. But one of the (many) reasons it trumps other cities’ is because it’s not hard to eat out and still stay on track with your health goals.
Actually, it’s quite easy, regardless of which Chicago neighborhood you find yourself getting hungry in. And, no, you don’t have to waste any time on Yelp trying to find a restaurant that is most compatible with whatever you are (or aren’t) currently eating.
Instead, all you have to do is keep reading.
LYFE Kitchen’s lengthy menu includes a variety of health-conscious breakfast items, wraps, flatbreads, salads, tacos, sandwiches, craft cocktails, and more. And if that’s not enough, they have gluten-free and vegan menus as well. Our only complaint is they don’t have nearly enough locations throughout the city, but luckily, the two they do have are easily accessible in Streeterville, Gold Coast, River North.
Californians claim that the left coast is the best coast, and even though we technically aren’t allowed to take sides here in the Midwest, we certainly agree that Left Coast is one of our all-time favorite places to grab something healthy to eat (and drink) here in Chi-town. Between their refreshing variety of fresh-pressed juices, smoothies, and a food menu that lists each ingredient in every option, you’ll already be planning your next trip back to the Coast before you even leave. Head to River North, Lincoln Park, or The Loop for your very own taste of California, without worrying about your waistline.
Besides the rustic atmosphere, local art, and adjacent music venue, Uncommon Ground is known for their locally-sourced menu. So local, in fact, that the kitchen gets a lot of their produce from its very own rooftop. Actually, the first certified organic rooftop farm in the US belongs to Uncommon Ground’s Edgewater location. And their very popular Lakeview spot—where you can hear the Cubs hit homers from where you eat—is also an organic brewery.
If you haven’t already been to Chicago Raw, you’d be amazed at just how many meals you can choose from that are not actually cooked. In fact, everything sold at both locations (in River North and the West Loop) is completely, well… raw and entirely plant-based. Plus, all their menu items and juices are already packaged for you, so the hardest part about picking something up is choosing what you want most. Thank goodness for samples.
If you have a gluten allergy or are trying to avoid gluten altogether, then this upscale restaurant in the Gold Coast is about to become your new mecca. The menu is 100% gluten-free, and the options are so rich in taste that you’ll forget what gluten even is after your first bite. And don’t let the name full you — there is nothing little about the brunch, lunch, and dinner selections.
Come for the organic coffee, fresh juices, smoothies, and protein shakes (yes, really) — stay for the light eats and trendy, upbeat ambiance that you can only find in the heart of Wicker Park. Whether you’re in the mood for a quick bite or need to set up shop for a day’s worth of working “from home”, Brü Chicago is your new guiltless, go-to coffee shop.
Chicagoans love this vegetarian diner so much that both locations in Logan Square and Lakeview usually have a line out the door (on the weekends, at least). Their vegan and gluten-free options—especially the vegan bakery—also attract people from all over the city (and beyond). And don’t even think about leaving before trying their award-winning milkshakes.
With the only Illinois location conveniently planted right in River North, True Food Kitchen has an eclectic menu that accommodates nearly all healthy eating habits. Uniquely, the foundation of their menu is based on the “Anti-Inflammatory Diet” in an effort to reduce inflammation in the body. But if this doesn’t sound familiar, don’t worry — you’ll certainly recognize the items on the menu anyway (after all, there’s pizza).
When it comes to targeting city dwellers in search of something healthy in the midst of their hectic schedules, Goddess and the Baker nails it. Busy Chicagoans can stop at either the Loop, Wicker Park, or River North (open summer 2019) location for a quick but mindful bite to eat, some coffee or fresh juice, and a mouth-watering cupcake from the hard-to-pass-up bakery. But be warned: the vibrant decor, friendly staff, and extensive menu make it hard to leave — you might as well just stay for your next meal, too.
Wicker Park's Clever Rabbit is veggie-centric, meaning they do actually serve some meat. However, when they do, it's always the garnish to a full plate of vegetables (instead of the other way around). For instance, when the season is right, you can expect the likes of a hearty gnocchi with fava beans, pecorino calabrese, peppers, and a golden egg (that's an egg that has been craftily scrambled before it's boiled). Come back every change of season for a different taste of their delicious, veg-forward creations.
It’s hip, it’s healthy, it’s animal-free, and it’s a bar. If you didn’t think these four things could coexist, then check out Handlebar in Logan Square to erase any doubts. And if you’re thirsty, this bike-themed vegetarian and vegan bar and restaurant has a beer menu that’s just as long as its food menu. FYI: they don’t accept reservations, so be prepared to wait a little bit, or start biking there now to beat the crowds.
Beatrix neighborhood coffeehouse and restaurant in River North, Streeterville, Oakbrook, and Fulton Market is making all of your health food dreams come true. They’re putting a good-for-you spin on all of your favorite dishes. Cue Quinoa Cakes with Poached Eggs and Supernatural Chopped Salad. And with fresh-squeezed juices and an entire menu dedicated to gluten-free eats, you’ll have to be convinced not to stay for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
If the name sounds familiar, that’s because this place used to be Real Good Juice Co. But the local chain has revamped its brand, opening their biggest location yet in River North at the same time. The best part? The menu is loaded with even more delicious food options to complement your favorite smoothie and juice concoctions. And just like their beverages, everything is full of all-natural, fresh ingredients, which also means most options are paleo, vegan, and/or vegetarian friendly.
Support local farmers—and your taste buds—by dining at Range. As the name implies, this farm-to-table restaurant in Lincoln Park crafts every menu item using only locally-sourced, fresh ingredients. Whether you’re stopping in for bunch, dinner, or a cocktail, you’ll be glad you did.
Mediterranean food cooked California-style in Chicago... stick with us here. That's the premise behind River North's Ēma. Here, the spreads, dips, and small plates dazzle, including their Spicy Hummus, numerous kebabs, and Green Falafel with beet tzatziki. Brunch, lunch, or dinner, make sure you come with good friends with big appetites. Fitt Tip: Ēma shares a kitchen with its sistering fast-casual concept Rotisserie Ēma if you want their incredible food faster.
If you haven’t already, you’ll want to experience this Wicker Park restaurant that’s 100% vegan. The beach-themed hang out serves up expansive brunch (on weekends), lunch, and dinner menus that will make you forget you’re in Chicago, and not permanently at the beach. And if you’re soy- or gluten-free, they’ve got you.
If you’re in the Loop (and even if you aren’t) and are looking for something healthy, make your way to Wells Street Market, where you’ll find FARE. Whether you’re on-the-go, or have time to dine in, you’ll be ordering from a menu of innovative dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients you can actually pronounce. No secrets here, just sustainable food that’s just as tasty as it is good for you.
**Updated by Jill DiNucci, December 2018