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Jul 13, 2008 08:14 PM


My husband and I are traveling to Chicago, and I am a bit concerned about finding places that will accommodate my special diet. I am unable to eat any dairy products, including cheese, butter, most margarines, etc. I love good food, and I know I will not want to eat salads every day while in Chicago. We live in Southern California, where it is easy for me to find restaurants that will help with my needs.

Any suggestions?

Thanks so much!


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  1. I am sure the retaurants that will work with you but another option you have there a few good kosher meat restaurants that will gaurantee no dairy - downtown there is the Metro Klub it is only open for Lunch ( and on michigan ave there is the Spertus Cafe ( which also has limited houws - if your have access to a car there is Taboun Grill in Rogers Park ( a neighborhood of Chicago as well as Shallot's Bistor and Hy Life Bistro which both are in SKokie -

    1 Reply
    1. re: weinstein5

      Thank you so much for the info!


    2. Green Zebra is a vegetable-focused restaurant and many of their entrees are vegan, and most are not dairy-based. They certainly would be able to accommodate you. They are an upscale, lovely place, open for dinner. They also do brunch on Sundays. In addition, Karyn's has two vegetarian restaurants with vegan options. One is a "raw food" oriented place, the other one makes sandwiches out of seitan, etc. Either should be able to easily deal with a dairy allergy. I've eaten at Kary's Cooked and Green Zebra and enjoyed both.

      Green Zebra
      1460 W Chicago, Chicago, IL 60622

      Karyn's Cooked
      738 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654

      Karyn's Fresh Corner
      1901 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL

      2 Replies
      1. re: leek

        Very much appreciate your help!

        1. re: leek

          Other vegetarian/vegan options - Chicago Diner and Blind Faith Cafe - both offer excellent and vegan options -

          Blind Faith Cafe
          525 Dempster, Evanston, IL 60201

          Chicago Diner
          3411 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60657

        2. Avoiding dairy in Chicago shouldn't be THAT difficult. I knew someone who was allergic to dairy. She didn't have any problems finding things on most menus in Chicago. You can always ask your server to accommodate you.

          I mean, you obviously want to avoid pizza (too bad). But I don't think you need to go out of your way to hit the strict kosher or vegan restaurants either. Do you do that where you are from?

          When in doubt, you can always go to an Asian restaurant.

          8 Replies
          1. re: rubinow

            "When in doubt, you can always go to an Asian restaurant."

            I agree: do you want recommendations for Chinese and Japanese places? (By the way, Opera, which is fusional Chinese, has a separate vegan menu.)

            You should also be able to eat most things on a Middle Eastern menu, and many items in a Mexican restaurant. Are you interested in those cuisines at all?

            1. re: Amata

              You might also want to check out Crofton on Wells, a new-American spot which always includes a few vegan selections on the menu:

              Crofton on Wells
              535 North Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60610

              1. re: Amata

                Funny you should ask....I LOVE Mexican food!!! Asian food is good, too. We have PF Chang's in So CA, and we like the food. But I really like authentic Mexican food the most. And we'll be here a week, so we have time to try a lot of places.


              2. re: rubinow

                We don't have many Kosher or vegan restaurants near us, unless we drive to Los Angeles, which is not all that close. But the truth is, it has been very easy for me to get great help from out local restaurants. I was hoping that Chicago restaurants would be as accommodating, and it sounds like they will. It was difficult for me when I went to New Orleans, and even NY.


                1. re: SharonLH

                  If you do go back to NYC there are number of excellent kosher meat restaurants - and not just steakhouses -

                2. re: rubinow

                  I sometimes order a loaded pizza with no cheese.
                  To the OP - You really shouldn't worry too much. Although I won't have any bad allergic reaction, I do have a small tolerance for lactose. I can generally find something at any restaurant I go to. If you have any doubts, you MUST ask very firmly if any ingredients in what you order will be any of the things you need to avoid. If you choose to not specify these things, then you have yourself to blame. It shouldn't be big deal at all if you make these things clear. I'd imagine you are very familiar with using common sense as well (ordering things that are generally NOT cooked with things you cannot eat.) I'd bet that the same rules you use where you are from would apply here as well. No dairy is NOT a big deal at all - you just need to speak up about your concerns wherever you go.

                  Make sure you get a beef sammich with hot peppers and fries when you're here.

                  Also, I highly suggest you try a few of our "best" taquerias for some late night grub - (tacos with cilantro, onion, and avocado, perhaps?)

                  Some of the better mexican restaurants - not the sombrero mexican joints that drown their plates in melted cheese - PLEASE. Gimme a break with that garbage - there is SO much more than that here.

                  You REALLY should not have any issues. I mean NONE. Anyplace you go to - you'll be able to find something substantial. I'm actually kinda surprised someone would think they wouldn't be able to. If no dairy is your only concern, then you really should have no issues.

                  Of course, if no dairy is just a starting point of your dietary concerns, then your choices will lessen as your dietary restrictions grow. But, if no dairy is all, then you have little to worry about.

                  1. re: gordeaux

                    There is a great pizza place near us (in Norco, CA) that makes pizza no cheese for me. AND their pizza dough does not contain dairy. They use water, so it's not a problem for me to eat there.

                    Since I had so much trouble in New Orleans, I wanted to CMA before I ventured out and about Chicago. Looks like I'll be fine. Everyone has been very helpful, and restaurants seem to be more than willing to help. It's been great.


                  2. re: rubinow

                    I ate a pizza from Lou Malrati's near Rosemont tonight. Of course, minus the cheese. But the manager promised that there was no butter in the thick crust pizza. Pizza was good. Marc liked his cheese and pepperoni, too.

                    If you are ever in Riverside County, CA, Crusty's on Hamner in Norco is the best. As for the better pizza, it's a toss-up! But at least we can say we ate a Chicago Pizza -- in Chicago.


                  3. Moose Chops Inn gets my vote.

                    1. I don't think you'll have any problem at all, and really no need to go to vegetarian/vegan restaurants unless that is your preference.

                      I'm curious that you list margarine. I thought that most were made of plant oils. Do they also contain some amount of dairy?

                      Asian restaurants are always a good bet - plenty of good sushi around (Mirai, Oysy, Japonais among many others.) There is a huge amount of traditional mexican where you could easily get a meal without dairy - a fish/meat in a mole with tortillas, guacamole, etc (Frontera, Salpicon - if you have a car Sol de Mexico, Mixteco, etc). Back to Asian, we have some outstanding local thai restaurants with special menus with real authentic dishes (Spoon Thai,(my favorite and close to the El) TAC Quick, Sticky Rice), a decent China Town (for VERY spicy - try Lao Szechuan), plenty of steak houses (Saloon, Gibsons, Keefers, Dave Burke), excellent Italian as long as you are careful about the cheese/butter (Cafe Spiaggia, Coco Pazzo, Merlo on Maple), plus some top contemporary American who could accomodate special menu requests (Blackbird, 160 Blue, Naha, Crofton, North Pond). Also some good middle eastern options, usually more casual - Kan Zaman, Old Jerusalem, etc.

                      I think (hope) you are suprised by the variety of options you will find.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: wak

                        There are many margarine's that contain dairy - whey, lactose, etc. I can think of only 2 in our stores that I can have. I have a rare condition (galactosemia) that makes it impossible for me to consume anything with dairy. I should not eat most flour tortillas because they, too, contain some dairy. I try to stick to corn tortillas. Many breads, and even gum contain some dairy. I've never been able to eat dairy, so for me it's not a big deal. I've always lived in Southern CA, and it's been easy. Travelling can sometimes be tough.