Healthy Chicago Restaurants + Trip | Part I

Hey friend! How are you? I hope you’re enjoying my Q&A series so far (in case you missed it, here’s part one, two, and three so far). My next Q&A post is with Lee Hersh (<—–!!!!!!) of Fit Foodie Finds on Thursday. I’m SO excited for that one! I’ve been a fan of Lee’s for years and years. Her blog and business are absolutely huge and yet she remains so down to earth. You guys will love her!

So I mentioned it quickly last week, but I just got back from spending about a week in my favorite U.S. city — Chicago! I had such a blast there, as usual. It wasn’t all fun though. I worked, too! Luckily there are plenty of great coffee shops to work from ☺️

I talked a little bit about it last week, but vacation isn’t necessarily a time that you have to go bonkers eating. You can still eat at all of your favorite restaurants, and try all your favorite dishes, will maintaining some semblance of balance. So I thought I’d share a few pictures from my trip to chat with you about what I do to have a happy, healthy, balanced trip & some of the healthy Chicago restaurants I got to try!

Wednesday Night

We got into town pretty late, and couldn’t wait all but about 5 minutes before heading over to one of our favorite coffeeshops – Intelligentsia!

healthy chicago restaurants sam vander wielen health coach hygge wellness

I got a cortado and we shared an (unpictured) cherry oat bar for a snack! Their coffee is definitely pricey, but considering how infrequently I get to have it, I splurged all weekend.

We walked all around the city for a bit and enjoyed the gorgeous views.

healthy chicago restaurants sam vander wielen health coach hygge wellness

After walking around for a bit, we popped into Rick Bayless’s Mexican restaurant, Frontera Grill, to see if there were any available reservations for the night. They only had 5pm and 9:45pm available, so we decided to be old and go with the earlier reservation. We were so tired from traveling and just wanted to eat & relax for the night.

I decided to be present in the moment & enjoy an amazing meal with my husband instead of taking pictures of all my food. I ordered a delicious margherita, a tomato salad for an appetizer, and a black bean enchilada dish for dinner. We shared a parsnip cake for dessert. It tasted just like carrot cake! It was so good. I definitely recommend going there for dinner at least once while you’re in town.


Since we were lucky enough to be in town on a weekday, we thought we’d take advantage and go to an always-crowded favorite, The Original Pancake House (22 E Bellevue Pl.). I ordered the Dutch Baby, which comes loaded with tons of fresh strawberries and bananas.

healthy chicago restaurants sam vander wielen health coach hygge wellness

I didn’t use any of the syrup or anything that came with it, but just because after tasting it, I decided it was sweet enough already. The good part is, I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything since I consciously chose to skip it. #intuitiveeating

We also shared a side of turkey bacon for a little extra staying power.

After breakfast, we spent the free time we had that day walking around and enjoying each other’s company. It was still a little windy and chilly that day from a storm moving through, so we decided to duck into a gorgeous tea shop, Argo Tea, for some hygge / coziness.

healthy chicago restaurants sam vander wielen health coach hygge wellness

Isn’t Argo so gorgeous on the outside!? The Gold Coast area is so beautiful, in general. I love it there. We loved sitting inside and chatting by the beautiful fireplace.

healthy chicago restaurants sam vander wielen health coach hygge wellness

For lunch, I was solo and headed off to a place I read a lot about – Brightwok Kitchen.  Since I went on the sweeter side for breakfast, I was craving some greens and veggies for lunch.

healthy chicago restaurants hygge wellness sam vander wielenI ordered the “Eat Right Bowl” which came with chicken, carrots, peppers, onions, broccoli, and thai basil. So good! I also saw they had a special side that day of pickled cucumbers with sesame seeds. I couldn’t resist ☺️

healthy chicago restaurants sam vander wielen health coach hygge wellness

We went to dinner at Davanti Enoteca in River North, closer to our hotel. We shared a burrata appetizer, the winter greens salad (pears, blue cheese, walnuts, apples, pomegranate seeds, lettuce), and an order of cacio e pepe. I fell in love with cacio e pepe in Rome a few years ago. Sadly, this didn’t taste like the ‘real thing’, but it was still really good! If I had never had cacio e pepe before, I would have thought it was a tasty butter + cheesy pasta.


We started out our Friday at our go-to healthy breakfast joint, Meli Cafe. I ordered the jalapeño bowl, which comes with potatoes, jalapeños, turkey chorizo, onions, peppers, avocado, tomatoes, and 2 eggs.

healthy chicago restaurants sam vander wielen health coach hygge wellness


I spent the first half of the day working on a few blog posts, following up with my health coaching clients, and following up on some emails with some corporate wellness and press events I have going on right now.

For lunch, I went to Le Pain Quotidien (which we have in Philly, but I just love!). I don’t know whether it was because I walked so much or what, but my body told me that it needed something fresh and plant-based. Leave it to LPQ, they had just the thing. Their Pad Thai Zucchini Noodle salad ❤️

healthy chicago restaurants sam vander wielen health coach hygge wellness

I’ve never had a bad meal there! In fact, I’ve loved everything I’ve ever ordered. It’s so good. I love that they have so many fresh, healthy options on hand. And everything there just feels like such a treat.

I spent most of the afternoon walking around Chicago with my in-laws. We stopped by most of the major tourist sites and did some afternoon shopping, too!

sam vander wielen health coach hygge wellness

We were so tired after walking all day that we didn’t go to the nice dinner we had planned. Originally, we had planned to go back to Cooper’s Tavern. We ate there last summer and loved it. Instead, we went to Shake Shack. There isn’t much I eat there, but mostly because I don’t eat red meat.

They do offer a chicken dog, which is not that bad! I wish they had a few more options for non-red meat eaters. I’m not a huge mushroom fan, so the portobello burger doesn’t do it for me.

I usually rip off half the chicken dog bun because it’s too much bread for what I prefer. I also add pickles and raw onion because it gives it a little more flavor. My in-laws also got the custard and fries and said they were great!

I didn’t take any pictures because I just enjoyed the moment and my time with them.

In putting together this post, I noticed a pattern about myself and something I’ve learned over time. I like to unwind and slow down as the night progresses. This has become a part of my routine. In doing so, I think I naturally started savoring dinners out or time with family and friends. I was kind of proud, actually, to see that I didn’t have any pictures of my dinner food so far. That must mean I was in the moment & just enjoying the company! #balance

I’ll be back next week with Part II of my healthy Chicago restaurant experiences! Don’t worry, I still managed to fit in a trip to Giordano’s.

Have you guys ever been to Chicago? Have you ever tried any of these places? I still have Lyfe Kitchen and a few other good ones coming up! 

If want to have a more balanced, healthy approach to stress, food, and fitness, let’s chat! I offer a *free* 50-minute consultation call so we can connect, get to know each other a little better, and see whether your goals align with my services. You can schedule your call and/or get more info about my 1-on-1 health coaching services here!

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