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.