7 Restaurants For Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions in Chicago

It’s that time of year again, when resolutions mean people start flocking to gyms and replace their eggnog with salad. But resolving to eat healthier doesn’t automatically mean bland flavor and depressing food. Chicago’s dynamic dining scene is filled with delicious restaurants and cafes that just so happen to offer healthy alternatives aplenty. Here’s where to eat and drink with resolutions in mind:


Bad Hunter
Bad Hunter; photo by Anthony Tahlier

One of the hottest openings of 2016 is also one of the best places to keep vegetables at the center of your plate as you cling to your New Year’s resolutions. I’m talking about Bad Hunter, the West Loop newcomer with a mission to put produce front-and-center. It’s not meat-free, by any means, but rather uses meat as an accent on occasion, preferring to keep fruits and vegetables as the focal point in innovative new ways. Considering how unique and exciting the menus are here, it’ll be all too easy to maintain your resolution with dishes like roasted turnips with shoyu butter, maitake mushrooms a la plancha and sturgeon skewers with grilled little gem lettuce. Even the desserts put vegetables first, like a red curry squash tart with coconut cream and a sunchoke cake with poached pears and hazelnut anglaise. 

Owen + Alchemy is the ultimate place for maintaining resolutions deliciously. The juice bar and vegetarian haven in Logan Square features an alluring variety of fresh juices, smoothies, salads and vibrant bowls bursting with fruit, cashew milk, seeds and more. The handiwork of Anne Owen, O+A will have you forgetting all about pie with their cayenne-spiced apple juice and their luscious blueberry juice with basil. 

With a name like Little Beet Table, one can safely expect that vegetables take the spotlight at this Gold Coast newcomer. And indeed they do, in delicious ways. Like sweet pea guacamole, cauliflower hummus and charred broccoli with spicy carrot remoulade and carrot chips. There are beef and chicken dishes among the entrees, but they’re sourced responsibly and prepared in as wholesome a manner as possible, like a grass-fed beef burger or an herb-roasted chicken with honey-glazed carrots and yogurt ranch. 

A restaurant modeled after southern California clearly has healthier tendencies. At Lincoln Park’s Summer House Santa Monica, the beachy restaurant feels like an authentic West Coast vacation, complete with pristine, fresh food that the Golden State is known for, from ahi tuna tostadas and hamachi tartare to fresh Burrata, slow-poached scallops, grilled Atlantic salmon, vegetable tacos and much more. 

Another place offering a neoteric take on wholesome dining is Beatrix. All day long, the River North restaurant offers a cornucopia of internationally inspired dishes and drinks, ranging from over-the-top indulgent to mercifully nutritious, so there’s something for everyone (and every resolution). Fresh juices are a great option for kickstarting your menu, along with ten-grain oatmeal and shakshouka, a Middle Eastern dish consisting of spicy tomato sauce, poached eggs, kale, feta and warm naan. Lunch offers some of the best salads in town, turkey-sweet potato-greens “neatloaf” and a mushroom and quinoa burger. For dinner, cleaner options include the chili- and chocolate-glazed salmon or the wild mushroom braise, a plate of four different kinds of hearty mushrooms with cauliflower mash. 

Chicago’s first batch of Lyfe Kitchens are alive and kicking, all rife with nutritious fare. Vegetarian and gluten-free dishes are huge here throughout the day, and each item comes with calorie and sodium information, so customers know exactly what they’re getting into. Start your day with the morning tofu wrap or the farmers’ market egg white frittata, and later in the day move on to edamame hummus, kale Caesar salad, veggie burgers and quinoa crunch wraps. To drink, Lyfe Kitchen has a bevy of refreshing waters in flavors such as hibiscus-beet, ginger-mint-chia and cucumber-mint.

Rogers Park’s legendary Heartland Cafe has long been a Mecca of wholesome food on the far north side, renowned for its vegetarian dishes and cleaner substitutes for comfort foods such as burgers, sandwiches, meatloaf and mashed potatoes. All the comfort is there, just better for you. Heartland Cafe’s dishes include fritters smothered in vegan gravy, vegan buckwheat pancakes, pumpkin seed- and sunflower seed-flecked porridge, buffalo chili, vegan seitan French dip, turkey meatloaf, maple-glazed tofu and lots more. And even the mashed potatoes are healthier, made with mashed root vegetables instead of straight-up spuds.