Gluten free in Milwaukee: Chili Lili’s chili bar

Plenty of the big chains now have gluten-free menus.

Word gets around the gluten-free community pretty fast. So when some of the biggest chains in the restaurant world started offering gluten-free options, there were some very happy people.

But, I didn’t dine at most of those places before going gluten-free, and they didn’t seem much more appealing after. The list of dining options in Milwaukee is expanding daily, plenty of local places to stop for a bite to eat.

And don’t misunderstand. I think the awareness created is fantastic. We are living in the “Golden Age of Gluten-Free” my friends. Just a few years ago, many of those restaurants weren’t even considering catering to us.

But sometimes the local guys could use some gluten-free love.

The kind of place that is willing to cater to any dietary need. Where they are making their food from scratch. Using natural, fresh ingredients. With the kind of owner who goes out of his way to make sure there are gluten-free options on his menu. (and at no extra charge, which is pretty much unheard of)

Enter Chili Lili’s Chili Bar in the Historic Third Ward in Milwaukee.

Over the past few months, I have gotten to know Jay Schiek, owner of Chili Lili’s. I can honestly say, he is one of the most kind, sincere, generous people I have ever met. He embraces the challenges of gluten-free dining with a smile. Planning our GF Get Together dinner in November with him was a breeze. Where he not only made an appearance, but spent time with our group sharing the story of his restaurant and going through the entire menu with us.

But his welcoming personality isn’t only for the gluten-free crowd. When he’s not in the kitchen helping out, he greets every single customer that walks in. And he’s happy to go through the menu with first-timers to guide them in the right direction to meet their chili loving needs.

Chili isn’t your thing? No worries. The two-sided, lengthy menu has something for everyone, including the kids. (and they eat for free every Sunday after 4pm)

Too many choices?

What I recommend:

  • Spicy Pizza chili served over garlic bread (their gf breads are from Molly’s Gluten Free Bakery)
  • Southwest Roasted Corn Chicken Chili over nachos
  • Cincinnati chili over fries
  • Fries, fries and more fries (can’t get enough of their waffle fries, and they are safe!)
  • New Grist, with any meal really

And they do a chili-of-the-month too. This month is “Chili Lasagna” made with corn tortillas, their signature Cincinnati chili with Wisconsin Cheddar, jalapeno and served with their famous garlic bread. (just ask for gf) It’s ridiculously good bread, with real butter and fresh garlic.

Don’t forget dessert. Guajillo chili flourless cake.

They like to keep you on your toes. Always coming up with new ideas. You might as well stay up to date on their Facebook page. You don’t want to miss anything.

Like these:

  • Brunch: starting January 23rd, they will be serving up brunch, with gluten-free options of course
  • Take-away boxes: try their chili lasagna to-go
  • Rewards for frequent chili eating friends: become one of their “Chilebrities”  and start earning free stuff! One of Jay’s ways to stay in touch with customers by tracking how often you stop in, and rewarding you!
  • New chili choices: two of which will be unmasked at the 2011 Milwaukee Chili Bowl (both will be gf)

Go on.

Give the locals some love.

8 thoughts on “Gluten free in Milwaukee: Chili Lili’s chili bar

  1. I’m really looking forward to trying Chili Lili’s. Hot chili on a cold day YUM. It’s so nice to have local fresh dining options out there – Thanks Jay!!

    For anyone willing to take a road trip to West Bend, there’s a fantastic locally owned resturant serving fresh food made from scratch – Cafe Soeurette.
    Chef and owner Jodi Janisse has been incredibly welcoming, gracious and accomodating to those of us that are gluten free. She recently updated the menu so now 7 out of 8 dinner entrees are GF most soups and salads GF too!
    visit their website to see the new menus

  2. Their food really is great! Unfortunately, when I was there, our server had just fallen off the turnip truck, and was really incompetent about all the GF options. (I asked her specifically about the GF garlic bread, and she said they didn’t have it.) I also wish they had more beer options than just the New Grist. (I like Redbridge and Bard’s much better.)

    But Three Cheers for Great local food, that also happens to be GF. 🙂

    • Sorry to hear that Rachel, were you there recently? They have been working with their staff to train them on the gluten free options and they DO have the bread now. You can always ask for a manager, or even Jay, he’s there often. They want to support local too, hence the New Grist, but they are also getting a new cider soon. My vote has been put in for Crispin, but I’ll pass along the beer request to Jay too!

    • Rachel, Please give ask for me when you come back. I am almost always at the restaurant. I am working very hard so all of my staff is completely aware of the ways we accomodate all food intollerances and allergies, including Gluten Free choices.
      We try to support local food growers and breweries. All of our food is hand crafted, as well as our cocktails. We never use a mix behind our bar so you can be assured our Bloodies, Old Fashioneds, and Collins drinks are GF as well.
      Jay Schiek

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