When I planned our spring break getaway for this year I knew it had to be someplace for healing and renewal.
So, what better place than sunny, warm, and dry Arizona (although it wasn’t any of those things for most of the trip, but we’ll get to that later)?
We spent a little over half the trip in the Phoenix-area, mostly in Scottsdale. Then, we spent a few days at the Grand Canyon.
Phoenix Day 1
Our plane landed at 6:40am, so after we picked up our rental car, a bright red Fiat 500 (because, why not?), we drove to DeSoto Central Market. I chose this place, because of a drink called Teaspressa, which I saw featured on Shark Tank. It’s tea brewed like coffee and crafted into latte drinks. It’s available at Tea and Toast Co., housed in DeSoto Central Market.
Let me tell you it was worth the stop. Turns out tea brewed like coffee is pretty darn tasty. We also had a small breakfast and some time to rest and recover from the flight.
Our next stop was the Japanese Friendship Garden, which was only a few blocks away from DeSoto Central Market.
We arrived as the garden opened, so there were very few people there. As we made our way around the loop more people filtered in, but it didn’t take away from the experience.
I would definitely recommended buying the Koi feed for $1. That alone provided an hour of entertainment.
From there it was only a short distance to the Phoenix Public Market, a daily farmer’s market in the middle of downtown Phoenix. It was good to be in a place where most of the taste tests were gluten and dairy-free. We had lunch at the organic Cafe on site.
From there we drove to Papago Park. I’d seen images online of the “Hole in the Rock” formation and wanted to see it for myself.
It was an easy short hike up to the formation.
Our top notch hotel let us check in early. I definitely recommend Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale. I mean look at the room. Mid-century modern paradise:
Being up since 3am we took a catnap before dinner. After the rest we headed to dinner at Cien Agaves, a short walk from the hotel. Tacos, tacos, tacos.
Then, what I’d been waiting for all day - “An Evening with Ana Gasteyer.” I’ve adored Ana Gasteyer ever since her start on SNL. People have said I look like her and I take it as the greatest compliment. I love all of her SNL characters from Martha Stewart to Celine Dion. When I found out she was going to be in Scottsdale the day we arrived, performing at a venue only a short walk from our hotel, I jumped on it. The show was FANTASTIC. Two hours of songs and stories. As expected, she was brilliant and hilarious.
After the walk back to the hotel we crashed. It was a long day, but the perfect way start to our vacation.
Phoenix Day 2
We woke up early hoping to beat the Easter brunch crowd, but still had a bit of a wait at Butterfield’s Pancake House. I loved the waffle lights.
A major reason we chose Phoenix as our travel destination was spring training baseball. Zach is a huge Cubs fan, and while the Twins are my team, as a Chicagoan I back the Cubs as well.
Sloan Park is a small, well-kept ballpark, bustling with Cubs fans, both transplants and travelers. Our seats were in the first base deck.
In the middle of the game a swarm of bees attacked the center fielder and cleared some of the lawn seats. I got texts from friends asking if I was getting stung. Luckily, we were far away from the swarm.
At one point Clark the Cub walked by our seats. I had to get a picture with him and Zach.
The Cubs didn't have the best outing and lost to the Mariners 12-9, but it was a great experience.
For dinner we hit up a local restaurant called Brat Haus. Their food consisted of many different sausages. It was nice to eat outside.
The atmosphere trumped the delicious food with outdoor games, like giant jenga. And it was super dog friendly, so there were lots of four-legged friends roaming around. I took the chance to write on the giant chalk board wall.
An end to another successful day.
Phoenix Day 3
Road trip day started with breakfast at U.S. Egg. Another breakfast establishment with a gluten-free menu.
We took the scenic drive toward the mountains from Scottsdale to Apache Junction. There we took a stop at Goldfield Ghost Town. A fun tourist trap with the backdrop of the Superstition Mountains. Fun fact, the Superstition Mountains are the 2nd most photographed landscape in Arizona. Second to The Grand Canyon.
In the Ghost Town we took a tour of a brothel, took an epic old timey photo, and rode the train.
We continued on the drive to Tortilla Flat, a tiny town with a population of 6. The drive is one of the most scenic in Arizona and we stopped along the way for many photo ops.
It was a very twisty turny road, but Zach navigated it like a pro. Probably due to his mountain driving experience in Ireland.
We ate lunch at the famous Superstition Saloon with bar stools made of saddles and dollar bills covering every inch of wall space in the restaurant. Good atmosphere, but very little food for spoonies.
For dessert, we headed over to the General Store and had some famous Prickly Pear Gelato. It’s gelato made from the fruit of the Prickly Pear cactus. It was not Lyme Diet friendly, but I allowed myself the treat. How often do you get to eat gelato made from a cactus?
In the evening we took a stroll around Scottsdale, past the Arabian Horse Fountain in the middle of a shopping district.
We ate dinner at The Original Chop Shop Co., which quickly became my favorite meal spot of the trip.
Then, we walked along the riverfront on the way back to the hotel. Ah, palm trees.
We ended the evening with a lovely sunset.
Phoenix Day 4
Our last day in the Phoenix area started out with breakfast at Daily Dose. From there is was onto Ponderosa Stables for a trail ride. I’ve always loved horses, but since childhood, never really rode one. We signed up for the hour long trail ride.
When it came time to choosing horses, we made sure the wrangler knew we were beginners. One of my favorite moments from the trip was when they put Zach on a gigantic Clydesdale named R.J. My horse was a tall, white horse named Diamond. We held up the back of the line, because R.J. was the anchor. Diamond was a pretty slow old girl, but made me feel safe as we scaled up and down the rocky hills.
I can’t wait to do it again. Maybe next time, on flat Illinois land.
After the trial ride we took a break at the hotel before our next destination. We drove to Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s southwest masterpiece.
We took the hour and a half tour of the property and learned a lot about the life and architecture of FLW.
For dinner, we met up with Zach’s aunt Margie, who calls Scottsdale home. She took us to a fabulous place called Tru Food Kitchen. The kitchen was exposed and you could see a ton of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Then, it was back to the hotel to rest up and pack for our next destination, The Grand Canyon (look for future post).
“We don’t have anything in common. You love horses. I don’t trust them. Their shoes are permanent. Who makes that kind of commitment to a shoe?” - Arthur Bach, Arthur (2011)
Let’s face it. Our sweet home Chicago is not known for health food. We are much more famous for our hot dogs and gluttonous deep dish pizza. I recently visited Phoenix, Arizona and was thrilled by all the healthy, organic eateries there were to choose from. Let’s hope one day Chicago will be known as the healthy restaurant capital of the Midwest, but, in the meantime, here are 30 great options for you to try.
This bucket list of “good for you” restaurants in the Chicago area features restaurants with options for the most common dietary restrictions gluten-free and dairy-free. Here’s to many more healthy places coming to Chicago in the near future.
1. The Amazing Kale Burger (741 Howard St, Evanston, IL 60202)
The menu here is centered around, you guessed it, The Amazing Kale Burger, and that’s okay, because it is amazing. You can find the kale burger at farmer’s markets and small grocers, but I recommend visiting this great lunch counter in Evanston. Order a souped-up kale burger with a delicious organic, local side. Talk up the owner, he is super friendly and knowledgeable.
2. Amitabul (6207 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60646)
This Asian vegan restaurant is on every healthy Chicago food list out there. The menu features “healing noodle soups.” You don’t get much healthier than that. Located on the far Northwest side of the city in Norwood Park.
3. Be Leaf (29 N Upper Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606)
Most of the food at this salad restaurant in the loop is vegan and gluten-free. They also serve hormone-free meat and wrap. They have six homemade gluten-free, vegan salad dressings. Six! Plus you an feel good about what you are eating, because the company has a commitment to locally sourced food and sustainable practices.
4. Blind Faith Cafe (525 Dempster St, Evanston, IL 60201)
A long standing vegetarian cafe in Evanston with tons of vegan and gluten-free options. You'll love the pleasant atmosphere and friendly staff. Blind Faith has a green restaurant certification for sustainable sourcing, composting, recycling, and conserving energy, among other things.
5. Cassava (3338 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657)
Cassava is a dedicated gluten-free facility, which makes it a great option for people with celiac disease. The menu consists of gluten-free empanadas, cassava rolls, grass-fed beef chili, and smoothies. Get this, the cheese is also grass-fed and they only use coconut oil. Can't get to Lakeview? You can buy frozen empanadas at all Mariano's and many Whole Foods locations.
6. Chicago Raw (51 W Huron St, Chicago, IL 60654)
Everything on this menu looks doggone amazing. Raw food is basically guaranteed to be healthy. Everything is 100% plant-based and uncooked. Go online and scroll through the menu. You will not believe so many delicious things can be made raw.
7. The Chicago Diner (3411 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60657 and 2333 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647)
Serving vegetarian food in Lakeview since 1983, the diner recently opened a second location in Logan Square. The Chicago Diner is synonymous with vegetarian food in Chicago. They also have a separate gluten-free menu.
8. Cookie Bar Gluten-Free Bakery (1746 W Wilson Ave, Chicago, IL 60640)
This Ravenswood bakery is as healthy as it can get with gluten-free and dairy-free options. Perfect for special occasions. Pick up a small treat or an entire cake. Birthday celebration here I come.
9. Defloured: A Gluten-Free Bakery (1477 W Balmoral Ave, Chicago, IL 60640)
Similar to above, located in Andersonville. You can also buy their tasty flourless treats at many Whole Foods locations and other outlets. Can I have two birthday celebrations?
10. Earth’s Healing Cafe (1942 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL 60613)
Featuring organic superfood smoothies. The owners see their smoothies as medicinal and use no sweeteners, so it’s very good for those of us that try to eat sugar-free, as well.
11. Farmhouse Chicago (228 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60654)
Farmhouse Evanston (703 Church St, Evanston, IL 60201)
Both Farmhouse locations are perfect for a farm-to-table date night. Good ambiance and creative made-from-scratch recipes. Also, good for craft beer lovers.
12. Goddess and Grocer (6 Chicagoland locations)
This healthy restaurant and catering business offers more soup options than you can shake a stick at. They have a soup calendar online with new soups daily. Also features sandwiches, salads, and desserts.
13. Green Zebra (1460 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60642)
An upscale vegetarian restaurant serving seasonal small plates. The focus is on locally produced, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. A good choice for a special occasion.
14. Handlebar (2311 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647)
A restaurant described as serving vegan and vegetarian comfort food? I'm there. No designated gluten-free menu, but has gluten-free options. Surprisingly affordable for local, organic, food in Wicker Park.
15. Heartland Cafe (7000 N Glenwood Ave, Chicago, IL 60626)
On a quiet street in Rogers Park you will find this cozy eatery. Great outdoor patio. The menu focuses on local, organic, and sustainable foods. Many gluten-free and vegetarian options.
16. I Dream of Falafel (3 Chicagoland locations)
The falafel is a favorite among healthy eaters. The falafel here is made in house with organic chick peas. The menu is clearly marked with vegan, gluten-free, and organic options.
17. Karyn’s Raw Bistro & Karyn’s Cooked (1901 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614)
Do yourself a favor and head on over to Karyn’s website and look at Karyn’s picture. She is 68 years old, but looks much younger. It’s one of the best testaments to healthy eating I have seen. She has both a raw and cooked vegan restaurant.
18. Little Goat Diner (820 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607)
Just because you are eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to miss out on one of the most popular restaurants in Chicago. Little Goat has a separate gluten-free menu.
19. Loving Heart (838 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL 60613)
In the heart of Uptown is a sweet vegan cafe. Friendly service and lots of menu options for those with vegan and gluten-free restrictions.
20. Lula Cafe (2537 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 6064)
A popular farm-to-table option in Logan Square. Upscale, but fair prices for local, organic fare. They list their local providers right on the website, so you know where your food comes from.
21. Lyfe Kitchen (5 Chicagoland locations)
This is a national chain of healthy fast-ish food. They offer complete gluten-free and vegan menus, which have just as many choices as the regular menu. It makes it easy and affordable to eat healthy on the go.
22. Native Foods Cafe (4 Chicagoland locations)
Another national chain, which features made from scratch vegan food. Gluten-free foods are listed on the menu. They also offer cooking demos, so you can learn to cook delicious vegan dishes at home.
23. Peach and Green (33 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60603)
With a tagline like “...for the love of good food...,” you can’t go wrong. They serve all-natural and locally sourced food. Gluten-free bread is available for sandwiches and they also have an array of raw juices and smoothies.
24. Protein Bar (13 Chicagoland locations)
This now National chain started in Chicago with the goal of offering a healthy fast food alternative. The menu features protein filled salads, wraps, and bowls. Also, offers out of this world juices and smoothies.
25. Range (1119 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614)
Reasonable prices for farm-to-table fare. Gluten-free is noted on the menu and there are many options. Also, quite a few gluten-free options for brunch. Range is also committed to giving back to the community.
26. Snap Kitchen (9 Chicagoland locations)
Portion controlled healthy take away food. Every single ingredient is listed on the container and they have options for all dietary restrictions. They also carry pantry items. You'll never had to cook again.
27. Tava Indian Restaurant (7172 Dempster St, Morton Grove, IL 60053)
It is worth a trip out to the suburbs for this Indian restaurant. You'll be surprised such a nice atmosphere can be found in a strip mall. The menu specifies gluten-free and vegan and they mostly use olive oil in the dishes. With gluten-free bread options, you don’t feel like you have to miss out.
28. Thrive360 Eatery (37 S La Salle St, Chicago, IL 60603)
Protein Bar’s newest concept. Menu is similar with more customizable options. As always, gluten-free and vegan are noted on the menu.
29. Uncommon Ground (3800 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60613 and 1401 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60660)
The Wrigleyville location partnered with the organic brewery next door and the Edgewater location has a rooftop organic garden, which brings a new meaning to farm-to-table. With 20 years in business it is one of the original organic Chicago restaurants.
30. Wheat’s End Artisan Foods (2873 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657)
A menu that is 100% gluten-free and celiac safe? That is music to my ears. Only open for lunch and brunch, but when was the last time you had a gluten-free panini or vegan doughnut?
What's your favorite healthy restaurant in Chicago?
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” - Virginia Woolf
My most recent adventure was seeing Chicago mainstay, "That's Weird Grandma," with my sister-in-law and nephew. My 5 year old nephew authors a blog where he reviews plays. I was going to write a post about the show, but compared to him, I wouldn't do it justice. I hope you enjoy his delightful writing and visit his blog.
Guest Post from Gunnar at Gunner Goes...
Yesterday me and mommy and auntie Kerry went to see a play called "That's Weird Grandma" by the Barrel of Monkeys. This was my second time seeing the show but it was different because it didn't have the same stories, that's because the show is different every week. Barrel of Monkeys is a theatre company that does classes with kids and helps them write their own plays and stories and then the grown-ups (Barrel of Monkeys actors) perform some of the plays every week.
The stories this week were: Once Upon a Princess, The Game, My Holiday (Ice Cream Candy Sugar rush day!!!!!) the best Holiday Event, The Dumb Chicken, The Crazy Old People, Love in Heaven, Where do People Come from?, The Day I drive a car, The Kid with the Donut Suite, UNTITLED (Cross the border), Running in the Snow, The Worst Zoo, The Football Player, Zyra, Day in the Life of Bacon, Buffalo Joe's Argument, and A Dinosaur that Came to Life.
My favorite stories were "The Worst Zoo" and "Where do People Come From?" I loved "Where do People Come From?" because the story was about a girl who didn't know where people came from so she asked her mom and her mom was giving her silly answers because she didn't know either so she said things like..."They come from cats hairballs, They come from chocolate and vanilla, The people come from Money, and People come from flowers" Every time the mom said a different reason where people came from a baby came out but he was a grown-up wearing a bib hat and a diaper and he'd say "MAMA! MAMA!" and it was soooooo funny!!! "The Worst Zoo" was so funny because there was a girl who didn't like the zoo because there was hay everywhere and the animals are out of their cages which is so silly because every zoo has hay, that's what animals eat and if the animals were in cages you couldn't see them! I also liked the Dumb Chicken because the chicken died but he didn't fall down he was drowning in the toilet and praying in the toilet then he died, died, died! And it was so silly because they put a halo on his head and he looked silly. I also liked the game one because the dog was like "Hide! Hide! Hide! Flora! Hide" and Flora couldn't hide because she was a flower stuck in the ground!!
I think this play was good because it had funny stories. People who like funny things would like this show, if you like laughing this is the show for you. I think my friend Jo likes this show because I saw it with her before, but she should come back because the stories are different. I also think Jordan would like it.
I give this play 12 points because I liked it the Most!
Gunnar's Point System:
12 points: I LOVED IT THE MOST!
10 points: I loved it a LOT
3 points: I liked some and didn't like some
1 point: I only liked a little
0 points: I didn't like it at all
"Children see magic, because they look for it." - Christopher Moore