By Renee Keer
A gluten-free vegetarian (Barbara) and bread-loving, kosher-style foodie (Renee) walk into a bar: specifically CheSa’s Bistro and Bar, located in the Avondale District at 3235 W. Addison St. Suite C, near Kedzie. No joke follows—only tasty food that both Chicago Splash Magazine reviewers ate with great pleasure. CheSa’s gluten-free menu plays with the ingredients and flavors of traditional Creole and Cajun food. The result is a completely gluten-free menu that includes traditional dishes such as crab cake rolls, gumbo, and jambalaya, but also truffle portobello sliders and beet salad.
CheSa’s Bistro and Bar is an elegant restaurant with contemporary black and gold décor that features a full bar, comfortable seating for 80, and a private dining room. The brain-child of owner Chesaree Rollins, CheSa’s opened its doors just a few short weeks ago.
Rollins’ journey to opening CheSa’s began eight years ago when, while pregnant with her daughter Chloe, she was diagnosed with celiac disease eight years ago. Overnight, gluten vanished from her diet. The food she loves—dishes like crab-cakes, fried chicken, and mac and cheese—were suddenly forbidden. So CheSa gave up her career as a financial advisor and began turning the food she loved into delicious gluten-free dishes .
Then Rollins found an abandoned food truck by the side of the road. She purchased and refurbished it and that was the start of CheSa’s Gluten Tootin Free Food Trucks. During the past eight years, she added a second food truck, expanded to corporate catering, and launched a pop-up called CheSa’s Art of the Bistro at 935 N. Damen.
CheSa’s Bistro and Bar was the next step. Why a bistro and bar? Says Rollins: “I want people to relax and enjoy our friendly and down-to-earth hospitality while enjoying food and drink in a beautiful space that has a stimulating hip vibe. If they say, ‘it feels like home,’ I am very happy.”
That the restaurant exists at all is a testament to her sheer determination. Despite facing one set-back—a fraudulent contractor, then another—a contractor with a lapsed certificate—she persevered. On her third try, she found an amazing contractor who brought her dream to reality. CheSa’s Bistro and Bar is the result and Chicagoland is fortunate that she succeeded in opening this gem of a restaurant.
The menu includes Creole and Cajun dishes like CheSa’s signature Jumbo Lump Crab Cake Rolls, Sausage & Cheddar Hush Puppies; Short Rib & Red Grits in a cream sauce, CheSa’s Gumbo, and Catfish & Jambalaya—all of which sound delicious, but aren’t on either of our intrepid reviewers’ diets. We left them for all y’all to try.
Renee ordered the Red Snapper filet sauteed with diced green and red bell peppers and onions over red beans and garlic rice. The snapper was firm, yet flaky, with just enough crust to hold in the moisture, which the Cajun flavoring of the red beans and rice complemented beautifully.
Barbara ordered the Portobello Mushroom Sliders, delicious- succulent pieces of seasoned mushroom topped with cheddar cheese within a small gluten-free bun. Renee, the skeptical bread-lover, took three bites before she remembered the bun was gluten-free. Rollins explained that, while the rolls come from a gluten-free bakery, she works a kind of chef magic to give them a real bread feel. It works.
The Sliders come with a side of truffle fries, which were crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and piping hot all over.
While that would have been enough, the final dish was the Mac & Cheese, made with five cheeses. It was the ultimate comfort food, with just a dash of truffle for elegance.
Each dish stood on its own, but they also complemented each other beautifully for a complete and delicious meal. We weren’t done though.
Dessert was a slice of Chocolate Lava Cake, characterized by an intense chocolate flavor and a soft fudgy chocolate center. It was decadent. On this cold night the comfort food was very satisfying and we left full and happy.
Want to visit CheSa’s Bistro & Bar? Here’s the info:
Location and parking: 3235 W. Addison, Suite 3, Chicago. Ample free parking in the adjacent parking lot. Hours and Days: Tuesday-Thursday: 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday: 5-11 p.m. Sundays and Mondays: Closed. Coming soon (we hope): Sunday Brunch
Follow CheSa’s Bistro & Bar on social media: