Sure, there are plenty of bakeries around town that serve one or two gluten-free items, but if you follow a gluten-free diet, wouldn’t it be great to be able to order anything on the menu? We tracked down the best 100-percent gluten-free bakeries in the Chicago area, each one started in response to its owner’s need to accommodate a gluten-free lifestyle and each with its own unique (and tasty!) personality. Gluten-free eaters: meet your new favorite sweet spots.
1 Riverside Road, Riverside, 708-442-6801
Pastry Chef Adriana Saldana-Meadath, who honed her skills at the Peninsula Hotel and Everest, opened this exclusively gluten-free bakery in 2012 after she was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. She set out to make high-quality, delicious gluten-free baked goods and boy did she succeed. Her unique flour blend ups the tastiness of every baked good behind the counter.
Friday and Saturday, the bakery carries special treats including ham and gruyere scones, pretzels, and pop tarts (most recently, blueberry jam with an iced lemon glaze and sprinkles). Be sure to check out the newest addition: buffalo chicken hand pies.
Saldana-Meadath says the flaky quiche (spinach with shallots and bacon with cheese) is always a big hit with customers, and the carrot and banana-nut muffins are top sellers. If they’re in season, be sure to snag a pumpkin muffin; these sell out fast and are moist and mouthwatering.
Always on offer: a sausage breakfast sandwich for commuters, a range of macarons, and a freezer packed with chicken pot pies, pretzels, and scones.
Pop in and order too much, then sit out at the street-side tables and take in quaint Riverside’s historic architecture and majestic trees. Just be sure to check the bakery hours — it can close as early as 11 a.m. Monday to Thursday and is closed on Sundays.
1477 W. Balmoral Ave., Chicago, 773-234-5733
This bright, fun Andersonville bakery wants to make sure everyone gets to enjoy delicious baked goodies. They cater to dietary preferences ranging from gluten free and dairy free to nut free, egg free, and vegan.
Everything on the menu, which is stocked with dozens of seasonal and rotating goodies, is always gluten free. Highlights include cream puffs, whoopie pies, pineapple upside-down cake, and earl grey apricot cupcakes. On weekends, Defloured makes their own fresh bread, like challah, sandwich bread, and pizza bread.
A majority of the items are made with a hand-mixed combination of brown rice flour, tapioca flour, and potato starch, and the bakery will work with you to accommodate other dietary needs, too. If you need something special, just be sure to provide at least 10 days notice for the bakery to plan ahead.
7100 S. Shore Drive, Chicago, 773-495-4615
Betty Alper opened her gluten-free, vegan, corn-free, nightshade-free bakery just off the lakefront trail in the South Shore neighborhood back in 2007. Every item she bakes is chock-full of unique, fresh flavors.
Alper can frequently be spotted making her rounds along the local farmers market circuit, including Logan Square, Wicker Park, and 61st Street markets. She lets the produce and fresh herbs she sources from local farmers serve as the inspiration for her experimental flavor combinations — think Asian pear upside-down cake made with organic, Asian pears from local farm Oriana’s Orchard, vanilla cupcakes made from fresh vanilla bean, and chocolate cupcakes with turmeric frosting. Also not to be missed is the doughnut of the week (past hits include vanilla bean rose water, s’mores, and lemon poppy seed), best with a hot cup of pour-over coffee.
She’s also drawn to the history and regionality behind food and brings this passion to her recipes, like the customer favorite BOT brownies. This vegan, gluten-free treat is Alper’s unique take on the original, which was invented here in Chicago in the late 1800s at the Palmer House and served at the World’s Fair, Alper says.
Make a weekend morning of it with a visit to the shop followed by a stop at the South Shore Nature Sanctuary. Shop hours are limited from Friday to Monday, so check them before you go — and if the famous waffle cake is on the menu, don’t miss it!
13 W. 1st St., Hinsdale, 630-908-7175
When Sweet Ali’s owner Ali Graeme’s son was diagnosed with celiac disease, she wanted him to have healthy food he could not only eat, but also enjoy — so she got baking. Two years later, she opened Sweet Ali’s, which now has locations in Hinsdale and Glenview.
Besides a delectable array of fresh baked goods like cupcakes, M&M cookie cakes, brownies, and the can’t-miss cinnamon rolls, the bakery is like a small gluten-free grocery store stocked with frozen lasagnas, pizzas dough, pancake mixes, coffee cakes, and breadcrumbs. They also offer plenty of fresh-baked breads, from cheesy rolls and focaccia to hamburger and hot dog buns. Sweet Ali’s is a great option for custom gluten-free baked goods, like iced cookies in an array of shapes and designs, including rocket ships, unicorns, and bumblebees, and custom cakes and cupcakes.
2873 N. Broadway, Chicago, 773-770-3527
For people struggling with celiac disease, being able to eat absolutely anything on a restaurant’s menu is mind blowing. This Lakeview café makes that a reality.
The owners of Wheat’s End Café recognized that there was a large population of gluten-free Chicagoans settling for gluten-free foods devoid of taste, texture, and nutritional value. Enter their 100-percent gluten-free full-service daytime restaurant, serving up prepared dishes to eat in or take out, such as turkey panini with fig hazelnut jam and brie, mango quinoa lettuce wraps, and homemade brownie ice cream sandwiches.
Wash it all down with a drink from their long list of gluten-free libations. Choose from cocktails like the Broadway mule and homemade Bloody Mary, or a glass of sparkling wine, rosé, or cider.
Brunch, served on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., is a can’t miss. Try the Wheats End pancakes, biscuits and gravy (yep, you heard us), and coconut doughnuts. After your meal, be sure to take home some their house-made frozen bagels.
More from Make It Better: