Grab-and-go health food continues to be all the rage in the Windy City—but now the gourmet game is catching up, with a series of openings and sophisticated pop-ups that show that Chicagoans want to have their quinoa and their cocktails, too.
True Food Kitchen shakes up “refreshers” like the Medicine Man—triple-brewed black tea, cranberry, pomegranate, honey, and sea buckthorn.
True Food Kitchen may have been born in Phoenix, but Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet destination is a perfect fit for Chicago’s newly health-conscious dining scene. From shiitake lettuce cups and edamame dumplings to a medley of bowls featuring curry, quinoa, and ancient grains, meatless Monday has never been more delicious. This spring, Dr. Weil is testing out a new ingredient: algae oil. “It has a neutral taste, very high smoke point, and very heart-healthy fatty acid profile,” he says. “I’ve also been doing more low-temperature cooking, especially steaming.” 1 W. Erie St., 312-204-6981
Bad Hunter beckons with veggie-centric fare like beet tartare, fry bread, and wood-grilled carrots.
“Everyone looks forward to peas each spring, and cocktail lovers should be no different,” says bar manager Josh Fossit of new veggie-centric hit Bad Hunter. Earthy spring peas and fresh lime find their way into the low-ABV Riesling Rickey, and peas star again in the Green Eyed Mutiny, a vegetal vodka cocktail with a touch of jalapeño heat. Even the desserts here have a verdant twist, as pastry chef Emily Spurlin serves a subtly sweet pea panna cotta with compressed rhubarb and yogurt. 802 W. Randolph St., 312-265-1745
Each week, adventurous health-conscious diners can try rotating off-menu vegan specials at Hub 51, including sweet potato chili with corn bread, hot pot with kombu broth, and carrot and sugar snap pea fried rice. “We weren’t getting a lot of vegan requests,” managing partner Jerrod Melman admits, “but the moment we put them on the menu, they became top sellers. This is the food we like to eat, in an atmosphere that we want to hang out in.” There’s even vegan poké with cubed, oven-roasted red and gold beets, avocado, edamame, cucumber, and pickled ginger. 51 W. Hubbard St., 312-828-0051
Fresh, healthy fare finds a new home in Lakeview with the debut of Ella Elli, whose menu offers the likes of crispy-grain salad with goat cheese and shaved vegetables.
“The days of stuffing yourself on heavy, gluttonous food are on their way out,” says chef Matt Eversman of Lakeview’s new Ella Elli, where he’s spicing up salt-roasted carrots with za’atar and harissa and toasting grains for a hearty salad. The vegetable-forward menu is lighter and healthier than anything 4 Star Restaurant Group (Frasca, Smoke Daddy, Crosby’s Kitchen) has done to date. 1349 W. Cornelia Ave., 773-935-3552