Saturday, July 24, 2010

Friday Night Dining

I had two really amazing restaurant experiences last night with my friend Eliot. Since we were still downtown after a long day of work and were browsing at a nearby store, I suggested Ed Debevic's, since Eliot has never been there. It is one of those Chicago traditions - you need to eat deep dish pizza, eat a Chicago-style hot dog, visit Navy Pier, go to Millennium Park and take a silly picture with the Bean and you need to go to Ed Debevic's. My suburban US History AP class went there for lunch during our field trip while I was in high school and I took my younger sister there (after taking a few silly pictures with the Bean, of course!). Since it was 7:00 on a Friday night, the restaurant was packed with lots of families and tourists. We went to the hostess station and asked about the wait time and what gluten and lactose free options there were. Without missing a beat, she said I could have the salad (I bit my tongue - I don't eat salad (yet)) or hamburger. I asked if they had a dedicated french fry fryer and she said they fry things like mozzarella sticks in there as well. We looked over the menu and decided we will go somewhere else and thanked her for her help. I knew exactly what I was going to be able to order without a long wait! Major props to the hostess!!! Even though we did not eat there and spent less than two minutes in the restaurant, it was really positive for me. I'm learning how to effectively and efficiently ask for what I need upfront!

So Eliot and I headed north on the Brown line to Belmont while we thought about some good dining options on more familiar turf. Then it dawned on us: The Chicago Diner. I knew it was a vegetarian restaurant and they seemed to be better than most about awareness of food allergies and sensitivities. When we looked at their menu, I was excited to see that dishes could either be vegetarian or vegan (vegan cheese!!! dairy-free!!!) and that they had gluten-free options. When reading their menu, I could not find anything that jumped out to me as gf. When our waitress first came to ask about drinks, I asked what they had that was gf. She came back with a gf menu! Yay! I had a few really good options and ultimately chose their Avocado Tostadas. It was so easy for me to order there. I am always a fan of menus that spell out what I CAN have, rather than seeing everything and knowing my options are small. When my food arrived, it was even announced as "Gluten Free Avocado Tostadas." My meal was super delicious and everything was very fresh. It was plated beautifully. I took a picture (please forgive the camera phone picture). Here's a sampling of the gf menu (note: some things were different from what I had when dining there, their menu changes.) Overall, I had an absolutely fantastic experience with The Chicago Diner and will probably turn into a repeat customer.

One of the downsides to dining out gf is that I can't sample other people's foods - Eliot's Reuben sandwich with sweet potato fries looked absolutely delicious and we decided to add the fries on our "things we should cook" mental list. He also ordered a peanut butter, chocolate and espresso shake. (This was one of those too-good-for-words drinks.) A good dairy-free "milk" shake is still on my list of things I should make since I haven't had any chocolate shake since February 2009 and those were my favorites. Thank you, restaurant, for inspiring me! Now I just need to dust off the blender on top of my fridge!

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