Restaurants We Love: Summer House Santa Monica, Chicago
Ryan Reynolds recently tweeted, “People in LA are deathly afraid of gluten. I swear to god, you could rob a liquor store in this city with a bagel.” So it’s not surprising to find that Summer House Santa Monica, a West Coast inspired restaurant in the heart of Lincoln Park, has a wide selection of gluten-free offerings.
The brainchild of our friends at Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants and Chef Jeff Mahin, Summer House transports guests through a revolving door into a beach-washed bistro. No matter what the capricious Chicago weather is doing outside, the ambiance inside Summer House is always 73 and sunny.
For those adverse to gluten, advert your eyes upon entering. A shared market counter with delectable treats like s’mores cookies the size of your face, and brown butter rice crispy bars, will be the first and last thing you will see as you come and go from the boardwalk inspired bar. While there are a few gluten-free bakery selections, it’s impossible to not be tempted by the other fully-leaded treats.
A perfect spot for a late lunch that bleeds into happy hour, start with a Basil Tequila Gimlet, one of many light and refreshing cocktails, and ask to sit in the main atrium. Take a moment to look up, where a glass ceiling studded with café lights gives way to natural wood support beams adorned with hanging ferns and cloth covered barrel lamps. A mix of canvas booths, marble rounds of six, and wooden squares of four seem to always be full no matter the time of day, as waiters in navy gingham shirts flutter about replenishing wine glasses.
For those watching their gluten, there’s no need to pick apart constructed dishes from the main menu, just ask the wait-staff for a gluten free menu, and be sure to start with the Ahi Tuna & Watermelon Tostadas. Perfect two bite rounds of crispy corn tortilla set on a dollop of guacamole, are topped with sashimi grade ahi tuna and diced watermelon. Sprinkled with thai chili, cilantro leaves, a squeeze of crèma, and a drizzle of olive oil, these little bites of heaven pair perfectly with a crisp sparkling rose.
If you are in the mood for a sandwich, gluten free bread is also available, and the Avocado Toast is where it’s at. A thick slice of rustic country bread is topped scallion mascarpone and fresh, salty, smashed avocado. Topped with two beautifully poached eggs, and a sprinkle of paprika and chive, the only thing missing is a smoky undertone, which is easily remedied by adding crispy bacon into the mix. While a side of frites is always fine, the side salad is not to be missed. Beautiful shaved watermelon radish, fennel, and colorful carrots, sit atop a bed of mesclun with a nice acidic dressing. Perfect for cutting through the richness of egg yolk and avocado.
The only downside is that with west coast aesthetic, comes west coast prices. For a hungry guy to get full, along with the few cocktails or bottles of wine, you’re looking at a price tag of no less than $60 a person. Valet is available, and parking in Lincoln Park is limited, so take the brown line or an Uber to save a little on your bottom line. But even if it’s for a quick tostada and a glass of Pinot Gris, Summer House will wash away the woes of a cloudy day, and allow you to enjoy a little boardwalk magic in the heart of the windy city.
Images via Summer House, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Foodie Girl, and Windy City Wanderlust.
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