In a city with so many food options, the selections are endless – except (ironically) when it comes to healthy eating. Sure most lunch spots in the Loop have “healthy” alternatives. But are they really indeed healthy or clean? Most of them, no. With my hectic travel schedule lately, there have been a few times where I’ve come into work needing to buy lunch-from not being able to stock up on groceries. With my recent diet change (AIP) and in need of food, it’s forced me to hunt for clean spots to dine in the loop.
Although on the outer rim of the loop, Be Leaf is a salad/noodle or grain bowl mecca. Offering a ton of lunch options, BL’s ingredients for the most part, are local and clean. For non AIP/ Paleo eaters, your options are endless! One bowl in particular that is off the charts, so I hear, is the “chickpea of the sea.” Made with my beloved chickpeas, harissa shrimp, watermelon radishes, tomatoes, artichokes, fresh greens, and more, it was TORTURE watching my friend gobble up her lunch.
For health conscious people like myself-although there are no plain proteins to eat, there are a ton of extras toppings to load up on. I ordered a huge bowl of greens, avocado, cucumbers, carrots, dates, beets, jicama, watermelon radishes, and broccoli, drizzled with EVOO. Of course, my option doesn’t sound as filling as a soba noodle, black bean, or sweet potato falafel base, but if you want clean, BL has some great alternatives.
The Short & Sweet: If you’re located in the east side of the Loop, BL is a hike. However, if you’re looking to take a few extra minutes away from your desk, take the trip.
Two words: Holyyyyyy Shitballs. When I stopped into FireFin Poke, I had no idea of the great experience I was about to have. Located two blocks away from my work (LaSalle and Madison), FireFin is a goldmine of flavor and health. It’s even gotten rave reviews around town (see here). Not only does FF cook in clean AIP/Paleo oils (coconut oil and sesame oil), but its menu is 100% gluten-free. PLUS, the menu and staff are extremely adaptable to whatever your diet concerns are.
From the quality of the fish, to the freshness of the ingredients, FireFin only uses sustainable fish and local products. The best part? FF does NOT add any unnatural sugars, spices, or ingredients to their items. TOTALLY AIP compliant and seriously the answer to my prayers. If you have some food restrictions, my advice is to create a custom bowl. First, choose a base of organic greens, gluten-free noodles, or purple rice (i.e. a blend of black and short grain rice with LESS carbs). Next, choose your protein (ahi tuna, salmon, hawaiian albacore, snow crab, chicken, or tofu) – then choose the house-made sauce (most are soy sauce or soybean based-if you are RI) and then pile up on those toppings.
The Short & Sweet: FireFin was the FIRST storefront/restaurant I felt that I can trust – in other words, I didn’t feel like I had to worry about breaking out in hives after eating my bowl. Besides grabbing a squeaky clean bowl, you MUST try the “poke me sweetly” dessert-it’s perfect for this disgusting weather we’re having.
Back to the OG of my lunch outings, Brightwok is another gem in the southeast part of the loop. Having a base of either a rice noodle, white/brown rice, or greens base, the nlayering with proteins, and veggies, Brightwok has the same concept in regards to the other two contenders above. The only issue for AIP/Paleo foodies like myself is that Bwok uses canola oils in their woks and miso in some of the sauces. HOWEVER, you have the option of asking for no oil and using your own sauce – lame I know, but if you have a food allergy, it must be done.
The Short & Sweet: With Bwok still being a favorite of mine, there’s no way I can’t turn down a good bowl….or those sinful plantain chips (not AIP but I have them and suffer the consequences sometimes).
Peach & Green
Although opened for a good while, I came across Peach & Green on an alternate walk to work. Hidden underneath the L by Madison and Wabash, P&G is technically outside of the loop….by 5 feet. However, their storefront is a notable location. Just like their sister store in Ireland (yes, really), the store notes,”We hope to enable our customers to eat and live well by providing healthy, fresh food at an affordable price. We subscribe to the notion that what we consume plays a large role in our physical and mental well-being. Given this philosophy, it is important to us that we serve only all-natural food – free from additives, preservatives, artificial flavors or colors.”
Some AIP options are their smoothies, juices (get the Beet-licious), or a MYO customized salad. However, some of their Paleo standouts are: the Cobb (minus the dressing), the “avocado-do-you-good,” and their coffees. If I could eat anything though, it would hands down be the “hummer” salad starring my CHICKPEAS.
The Short & Sweet: Although this is not a heavy AIP compliant spot, there are still a few good options and a TON of Paleo items to choose from.