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Beyond The Salad: Great Gluten-Free Lunches Downtown

By Staff in Food on Oct 8, 2013 7:20PM

Hannah's Bretzel's White Bean + Kale Salad

Confession: All too often we walk out the door and leave our lunch bag sitting on the table. On good days we forget to take it out of the fridge altogether, so at least we can have it for dinner. Unfortunately for gluten-free eaters who don't pack it in, it can be hard to go into a quick-service or fast-food restaurant and find something to eat other than a nondescript garden salad. Luckily, there are plenty of tasty, fast, affordable and healthy gluten-free lunch options in downtown Chicago.

Hannah’s Bretzel

We have a hard time breaking out of our Thanksgiving 365 rut (the brie! the cranberry chutney!), but in addition to all of its other sustainable cred, Hannah’s has a full gluten-free menu from which you can choose. Try any of the sandwiches on a gluten-free baguette. Several of the salads and soups are also gluten free, and all of the sides are safe, thanks to the tamari-roasted almonds. Make sure to check the extensive chocolate and cookie aisle for some GF choices.

Be prepared for a little sighing and huffing from the counter guy who thinks it’s a hassle to change his gloves. We know how important it is to gluten-free eaters, and we thank Hannah’s for offering the gluten-free baguette all the time.

Protein Bar

With locations scattered throughout the Loop and River North, it’s easy to find a location where you can grab a quinoa bowl or salad. The salads are huge and can run a little on the pricey side, so save those for a hungry day. Sorry, no Bar-Ritos with a whole wheat wrap, but the quinoa bowls are a perfect quick lunch. Our favorite is the Buffalo Bowl, doused with Sriracha. Bonus for those with even more food restrictions, most items on the menu can be made vegetarian or vegan.

And if you’re really crunched for time, take advantage of the easy online ordering. Walk on by the suckers waiting in a long line at this popular lunch spot and pick up your order at the counter. Try not to look too smug as you’re cutting in line.

Saigon Sisters

Whether you’re hitting up the full restaurant, the French Market location, or the new Northwestern Hospital outpost, Saigon Sisters is a favorite. It’s not a full menu, but the gluten-free items are clearly marked, so there’s no confusion about what you’re ordering. Our favorite is the roasted pork shoulder, which can be very heavy for lunch. Consider ordering one of the fish or vegetarian dishes (Just make sure to eat it all and not torture your coworkers by microwaving fish the next day. Don’t be that guy.).

Roti Mediterranean Grill

Mediterranean food tends to be very gluten-free friendly as long as you avoid the pita, but Roti steps it up a notch and offers special gluten-free pita (for $2 extra). If you’re not willing to put up the extra cash, you can still eat from a large menu of chicken and steak roti, kabobs, rice, veggies and hummus. Plus, much of the menu is organic, if you care about that sort of thing. Several downtown locations mean you’re never very far from this gluten-free lunch.

By Jennifer A. Freeman