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Be Leaf

8 of Chicago's best seasonally inspired grain bowls

By Nicole Bruce

Here in the Midwest, our love for grains—be it steel-cut oats, wild rice, or organic quinoa—knows no bounds. So it's no surprise the city's top chefs are churning out hearty bowls of grains inspired by seasonal findings and jazzed up with all the healthy fixings. We've scouted the city for the freshest farm-energized grub, and culled eight spots worth hitting up for the all-day staple, some of which are customizable.

Be Leaf
This boutique salad and veggie spot's colorful Bravocado quinoa bowl (pictured above) is loaded with avocado, kale chips, red peppers, sliced cherry tomatoes, dates, scallions, and jalapeños, and finished off with queso fresco, a hint of sesame oil, and fresh-squeezed lime. The hearty Bean Rice Knowing Ya brown rice bowl combines black beans, white Cheddar, caramelized onions, skirt steak, avocado, cherry tomatoes, cilantro and a ginger-lemon sriracha dressing. You can magically turn either of these bowls into a spinach or whole-wheat wrap, too.
Neighborhood: The Loop MAP

Hannah's Bretzel
Hannah's Bretzel's main focus is killer sandwiches served up sustainably, but they've also got a few pretty sweet grain bowl options for your breakfast and lunchtime fix. Start your day with the Sweet Whole-Grain Energy Bowl, featuring organic freekeh, almond milk, diced apples, toasted pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, raisins, and raspberry preserves. Or power through your afternoon meetings with the organic quinoa and roasted vegetable salad, a veggie-loaded organic tricolor quinoa tossed with tamari roasted almonds and white balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
Neighborhood: Several locations across the city


Kitchfix

Kitchfix
Kitchfix dishes up clean, locally sourced and fully prepped meals that rotate weekly, through both its food delivery service and Gold Coast storefront. The epic Power Green Veggie Quinoa Bowl is piled with organic vegetables—think broccoli, asparagus, kale, parsley—and outfitted with a basil and arugula sauce verte.
Neighborhood: Gold Coast MAP (also a food delivery service)

Baker Miller Bakery & Millhouse
When it comes to handheld pies and house-made whole-grain goods, this neighborhood spot by former Bang Bang Pie Shop owners does it right. Baker Miller's seasonal grain bowl begins with savory whole heirloom oats, which are then topped with shakshouka, feta cheese, and slices of avocado and radish, We should also note that the bakery's milky bowl of "famous" oatmeal features house-milled, stone-cut oats with cultured cream, house jam, and toasted pecans—in a bowl.
Neighborhood: Lincoln Square MAP


Lula Cafe

Lula Cafe
As a forerunner of Chicago’s farm-to-table movement, this casual, hip café dishes up a downright tasty breakfast with the grain bowl, comprised of assorted grains, bitter greens, wood-grilled apple, white Cheddar, a soft boiled egg, and hazelnut vinaigrette.
Neighborhood: Logan Square MAP

Protein Bar
Protein Bar offers a variety of warm and hearty bowls built upon an organic quinoa blend. Refreshing takes like the Korean BiBi-Q, with all-natural chicken, diced cucumber, radish, spinach, and pickled carrots with sweet and spicy Korean chile sauce, and the Mexicali, a Southwestern-style bowl of chicken, avocado, corn, black beans, salsa roja, and Cholula hot sauce topped with a chipotle Greek yogurt, make perfect lunchtime options. You can also sub out chicken for roasted tofu or braised beef as your protein instead.
Neighborhood: Several locations across the city


Brown Bag Seafood Co.

Brown Bag Seafood Co.
Fresh seafood, healthy grains, and power-packed veggies in a range of to-go formats is the name of the game at Brown Bag Seafood Co. Their eateries near Millennium Park and within Revival Food Hall pack "powerboxes" with fresh fish like teriyaki-scallion salmon, lemon-broiled whitefish, or blackened shrimp atop a quinoa and wild rice blend with chopped fresh spinach, herbs, and lemon. The Revival Food Hall locale also has "grainboxes" with quinoa, brown rice, wheatberry, and lemon vinaigrette. These protein-packed grain bowls (err, boxes) will surely fill you up… but you still might want to consider the truffle-parm tater tots as a side.
Neighborhood: The Loop MAP

Doc B's Fresh Kitchen
This "fresh-casual" kitchen slings a crave-worthy Wok Out Bowl. All their dishes come with kale, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, and chopped cashews, but these bowls are totally customizable. First pick your grain: sticky brown rice, Shanghai lo mein, or quinoa. Next pick your protein from the likes of Faroe Island salmon, black tiger shrimp, filet mignon, and tofu. Then, should you make your dish sesame teriyaki- or spicy Thai-style?
Neighborhood: Gold Coast MAP River North MAP

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