August 23, 2009

Adventures on the Gluten Free Southside!

I was born and raised on the southside of the Chicago. I moved into the city a few years ago and through a mutual friend met Alexandra, another badass celiac chick living in the city who grew up on the north side of Chicago. We became great friends and it was very easy to get together and check out all the gluten free nooks and crannies of this fine city.

Fast-forward to February of this year. I moved back home to the southside and while we still get together all the time, we realized that we never checked out the gluten free southside together. I always talk about the great places I go, but she had never been! She hightailed it down here this weekend and I showed her the ropes of Chicago's gluten free southside.

First stop was Southtown Health Foods located at 2100 W. 95th Street in the Beverly neighborhood. Southtown Health Foods has been around forever and was the very first health food store I ever shopped at. They have a great selection of gluten free items as well as other health foods. They carry fresh produce, frozen and refrigerated items, vitamins and supplements, books and other media, essential oils and extracts, and I'm sure much more that I'm missing. They even have a smoothie bar. I ended up getting some Food for Life brown rice tortillas, a bottle of Omega-3 Pomegranate Chipotle salad dressing, and agave nectar.

Next, we were off to Beverly Bakery & Cafe located at 10528 S. Western Avenue. They carry Deerfield's Bakery gluten free products and Alexandra was looking for their baguettes. Unfortunately they were out. Those baguettes are just too popular!

Lil's Dietary located at 2738 W. 111th Street was our next stop and where we purchased the majority of our products. They carry a ton of baking mixes, crackers, pasta, cookies, breads...the list goes on. Alexandra stocked up! I just picked up a bag of Schar's shortbread cookies, a couple CLIF kids twisted fruit, and Let's Do Gluten Free ice cream cones.

We made our way out of the city and into the 'burbs for Pass Health Foods located at 7228 W. College Drive in Palos Hills, IL. I love this store! I hadn't been there in probably over a year and I'm sad I waited this long to return! They have a WONDERFUL selection of gluten free products. I was very impressed. In addition to gluten free, they have a LARGE selection of vitamins and supplements, sugar free and other special dietary and health foods. They even have a little "library" section with tables set up and a couple bookcases filled with books on special diets. They also carry a lot of beauty products, which I had a hard time resisting. I'm a total lip gloss junkie. I ended up purchasing Bhuja snack mix, which I had heard SO much about but never knew where to find it. Another great find was Wai Lana Yogi Chips which I had to get only because I lurve Wai Lana...I mean who doesn't? And who knew girl made yogi chips?! I'm excited! I also got some Dowd & Roger's almond flour and Kinnikinnick Brown sandwich bread. They filled my bag with a plethora of health magazines and send us on our way.

Next up was From From Market located at 14482 S. LaGrange Road in Orland Park, IL. They were hosting their special bread round up which was super fun! They had about 15-20 different breads to sample. They identified each bread with an animal and we were given a chart to rank the bread and add comments. The animal identifier made for not picking favorites if you had a bakery you already liked. Whichever bread got the highest rating, they plan on carrying it all the time in their store. I poured myself a glass of wine and set to work. Such hard work it was tasting all those breads! Some were just downright gross. When we finished, we were given the key with the bakeries of each animal. Turns out my favorite happened to be Andrea's Bakery with Meister's in a close second. We'll have to stay turned to see who they choose!

The bread tasting table!

I couldn't leave empty handed, so I picked up a bag of one of my favorite gluten free blondie cookies from Sun Flour Baking Co. I also found some Ian's CINNAMON cookie buttons and gluten free oat flour! I had never seen the cinnamon buttons and I'd been looking for a gluten free oat flour and was thrilled to finally find some!

All that shopping made us hungry, so we stopped at PF Chang's and indulged in some yummmmmy chinese food. I loved how they had their gluten free menu included with the regular menu. It's nice to not have to ask for a special menu and have them try and locate one somewhere in the restaurant. We got the Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps appetizer which was soooo good! We also split an order of chicken fried rice and the Moo Goo Gai Pan. We topped it off with the Flourless Chocolate Dome for dessert. Oh. Wow. Amazing.

We Pffff Chang'ed ourselves!

One more stop to New Vitality Health Foods located at 9177 W. 151st Street in Orland Park, IL. I had never been to this store, but recently found them online and figured I should check them out since I'd be in the area. Their website lead me to believe there weren't too many gluten free offerings, but when we got there I was shocked at how much they had! I found things there that I had never seen before. Hello, Tinkyada Brown Rice Spaghetti with Spinach? A four pack of mini one-cup servings of Pacific Organics broths? Their freezer section was filled with tons of goodies. I had already spent so much already, I just ended up grabbing a NuGo Free Carrot Cake bar with the promise to be back soon. This store was great! I also loved that they had a big selection of vitamins, supplements, and books. Plus the ladies that work there are certified nutritional consultants so they are great resources if you have questions or need help figuring out a speciality diet.

It was a whirlwind day, but so much fun! There are even a few places we missed, but that will have to wait for another day. If you're in the Chicagoland area, I highly recommend all of these stores. While they all carry a lot of the same products, each had products that were not available at the other stores, which I think is great! As I see it, why put all your eggs in one basket? Shop around and support these local mom and pop speciality stores!

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