IMAGE VIA @SNAPKITCHEN
It’s all too common: you ask your waitress if any of their dishes are “paleo-friendly.” If the response is, “What’s Paleo?”, don’t fret.
Grass-fed beef, free-range eggs, Bulletproof coffee, and yes, even veggie-forward favorites are slowly becoming more readily available in the Chi. You may not be able to find it neatly labeled on your menu, but if you know where to look—and how to ask for it—Chicago’s restaurant scene might surprise you with its paleo prowess.
See for yourself with our round-up below!
Pony up to the black walnut bar at Farm Bar, and most likely, you’ll soon find out that it’s made from a tree grown on co-owner TJ Callahan’s farm in Wisconsin. Why? Because the bartender will tell you as he serves up a cocktail mixed with local honey and fresh herbs, also grown at Callahan’s Brown Dog Farm. One look at its reclaimed wood, barn-like exterior, and you know that this Lakeview gem takes sustainability seriously. While the menu in itself isn’t entirely paleo-friendly, the staff is and are very happy to accommodate your bun-removal and deconstructed-sandwich requests. There’s plenty of fresh veggies to be found in the Vegetable Farm Bowl (available with chicken or fish add-ins) and salads, and you can be sure that the animals that you’re eating were treated with respect and a whole lot of fresh air.
“When you wallk into Gather, you walk into home.” Or at least, so says Gather’s website. And, since you follow a paleo diet at home, you’ll able to do so here as well. Fresh meat and fish abounds in the form of roasted sturgeon dressed up with confit garlic and herbs, a seared half chicken, and so much more. And so you know, we’re talking REAL fresh — not only does gather source its ingredients from local farms like Spence, Chef Ken and his team will prepare you meal right in front of you at the Kitchen Counter thanks to its open design. Be sure to reserve your seat, however, as counter spots move quickly!
If Range doesn’t beckon paleo diners, we just don’t know what will: its signage is literally made of grass (well, AstroTurf). And its name is “Range,” as in “free-range”. According to the staff, it’s not uncommon for a customer to walk in and ask for the “paleo menu.” Though a separate menu doesn’t exist, it’s easy to spot gluten-free, grain-free, locally-raised options. Go for a solid, pasture-raised brunch (where duck eggs abound and flour-free fries are fried in bacon fat) or make a special trip for dinner for the lamb shoulder with spicy pumpkin sauce and rutabaga-and-tater-tot entree. Of course, this will all change every three months (seasonal and sensational).
No, HI-VIBE is not a restaurant. But it’s also more than just a juice bar! The menu features sexy, sought-after orders like the kale salad, Matcha Maca Blondie Truffles, the Photobomb elixir (complete with blue-green algae), the Keto smoothie bowl, and the ever-popular, MCT-filled Bulletproof Coffee. Fitt tip: Chicagoans line up around the block for this place, so get there in the morning — 2pm is too late! (CrossFitters get up eaaaarly.)
Thank goodness for Summer House Santa Monica in Lincoln Park, aka the next best thing to hopping a plane to La La Land. In true California fashion, its menu features local, market-driven ingredients. The restaurant’s “greens” are packed with veggies, so you won’t feel like you’re missing something by ordering “just” a salad. Not into lettuce? Try Summer House’s “simply wood grill” options — with the exception of the burger, they’re the perfect paleo equation of hormone-free, antibiotic-free meat and veggies. Fitt Tip: ask for the gluten-free menu. They’ve already removed items like sourdough croutons from the equation so you don’t have to.
Paleo Chicagoans are welcoming the newest food craze with open arms: poke bowls. It’s seafood. It’s veggies. It’s in-your-face flavorful toppings! And you can build them to your personal tastes. What’s not to like? One of the first poke cafes to break ground was Aloha Poke Co., and it’s all but taken over since: the chain boasts no less than 11 metro-land locales. By clearly marking which ingredients contain gluten (very few) and allowing “mixed greens” as a base option (as opposed to white or brown rice), Aloha has a leg up on the competition. Plus, all its seafood is super high-quality, sashimi-grade only. In short? It’s poke made paleo!
When a famous integrative medicine doctor opens a restaurant, the health-obsessed of the world pay attention. Dr. Andrew Weil founded True Food Kitchen in Phoenix, Arizona in 2008 with the intention of creating a restaurant with an entirely anti-inflammatory menu — unprocessed ingredients, low sugar, and lots of healthy, natural fats. That’s why paleo-inclined Chicagoans rejoiced when True Food expanded its reach to River North. Its rotating menu features items such as sustainable striped bass and Spaghetti Squash Casserole. And all dishes use local and organic ingredients as much as humanly possible. Even the wines are organic, biodynamic (everything is produced on-site), and/or sustainably-farmed — just how your ancestors would have wanted it.
This West Loop haunt may be largely “veg-forward” (seriously, take your pick of menu items, from the grilled Carrot Tartine to the charred string beans) but paleo diners seeking out meat won’t be disappointed: you’ll be able to get your protein in the form of wild coho salmon, chicken thigh kebab, and sirloin skewers. There’s also a broad range of fruit (did somebody say pickled watermelon and seared apples?) to round out your paleo-perfect meal. Talk about a trifecta!
**Updated by Nicole Briese, November 2018
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