Gaijin (Chicago) – Gluten-Friendly Okonomiyaki!

Gaijin Review

Whether you’re a Chicago native or visiting, checking out Gaijin on Lake Street should definitely be added to your list of “must try’s”. Having okonomiyaki is truly such a fantastic experience. When you’re able to have it without traveling to Japan, then it’s even better, considering the pandemic is still very much a big part of our lives. Eating at Gaijn now is like having the experience of travel without getting on a plane. Experiencing culture one bite at a time.

Keep in mind, this is but a sample of this wonderful culture, but at least it will keep that craving satisfied until we can all safely travel again.

Anywho–let’s get to talking about WHY I enjoyed my time at Gaijin so much.

Gluten-Free? No Problem! Celiac? They’ve Got You Covered!

Gaijin Highball : Jin-Ger
Gaijin Highball: Jin-Ger

One of the best things about Gaijin from my experience was how well-educated the staff was about dietary restrictions, especially being gluten-intolerant. Our server was very thorough in asking if cross-contact was okay, or if I was Celiac. I didn’t feel like I had to explain myself or didn’t feel like a bother in asking which menu items were going to be okay for me.

A big bonus about Gaijin: If you’re gluten-free, you’re basically able to have a few items from each section of the menu–with the exception of the Hiroshima-Style Okonomiyaki, which uses yakisoba noodles. The servers are absolutely happy to talk through the menu, which makes ordering a much more pleasant experience.

If you’re Celiac, please do mention this to your server. For the okonomiyaki, the staff is able to use a cast-iron skillet for your order. This truly makes this restaurant so incredibly accessible for people who often stress or get frustrated about eating out, because “I don’t know if I can eat this”. We also spoke to an employee about how they are handling gluten-free menus.

While Gaijin is able to accommodate even folks who are Celiac, please don’t let others abuse that. It’s all too often that I hear people being on a gluten-free diet as a preference. If you’re Celiac, it’s a lot more serious when it comes to cross-contamination. If you’re saying you’re Celiac just as a preference, then you’re holding up the service for others.

In other words, don’t be a jerk. Only ask for Celiac prepared food, if this actually affects you. Okay? Ok.

Gaijin Starter and Shared Plate
Gaijin’s Starter: Kombu Marinated Vegetables and Shared Plate: Marinated Beel Ribs (Not Gluten-Free)

Quality And Portion Size–Gaijin Knows What They’re Doing

For this review, I tried every section of the menu that I could try. We ordered a started of the Komubu Marinated Vegetables, and two shared plates: Arctic Char (not pictured) and Marinated Beef Ribs (not gluten-free). My friend got to enjoy those and did mention that they were delicious! To start us off, we also ordered some Highballs, which were refreshing and light. They went with the food perfectly. That was really the recurring feeling–everything felt portioned out properly and we didn’t feel weighed down before our main entree arrived at the table.

If you are looking to keep it light, then you can absolutely order a few shared plates and enjoy a few drinks without feeling like you’ll need to be rolled home.

If you’re like me and want to get the full feel of the menu, then know that you can VERY comfortable share it all with another person, if not more.

Gaijin Raspberry Kaki-tail
Raspberry “Kaki-tail”

The Star of Gaijin: The Okonomiyaki!

I think it would be so wrong for me to complete this review without talking about the star of Gaijin, which would be the Okonomiyaki. For be being gluten-free, there were plenty of choices for me on the Osaka-Style Okonomiyaki. For our review, we ordered the pork okonomiyaki and the “tempura” shrimp okonomiyaki. Because this was made gluten-free, the shrimp was actually grilled instead of breaded.

Gaijin Pork Okonomiyaki
Osaka-Style Pork Okonomiyaki
Gaijin Shrimp Okonomiyaki
Osaka-Style Grilled Shrimp Okonomiyaki

The staff at Gaijin uses a gluten-free batter for this okonomiyaki, which makes it okay to eat for those who are gluten-free or Celiac. Again, please be sure to mention any food allergies to your server as you are seated, or do call ahead. On the menu itself, it does not state the option of gluten-free prepared food, but it does ask for you to mention any food allergies to your server.

The okonomiyaki we ordered was absolutely delicious. Savory, sweet, full of such a unique flavor that really satisfied the soul. I’ve never had anything like it before and if you haven’t either, then I highly recommend checking out Gaijin. I think it is something that everyone should try at least once. I mean–the bonito flakes dance from the heat! It’s a dinner and a show!

Why Visit Gaijin?

Gaijin is a truly unique experience if you’ve never had okonomiyaki before. It transports you to Japan for a few hours as you make your way through the menu, truly. Despite not having a parking lot or valet, it’s worth making the trip out to eat at this restaurant. If you’re driving, then I highly recommend using SpotHero to reserve a parking spot. The service is incredibly delightful and so understanding of your needs. I could not have asked for a better experience for my first time here.

To check out our full experience and to see our AMAZING dessert, don’t forget to check out my video on my Youtube channel! I’ll have it linked below!

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