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A Gluten-Free Fast-Casual Spot Is Coming to Restaurant Row This Summer

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Dirty Root replaces Eastman Egg on Randolph Street in June

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Connor Lacy, Matt Dobleman, and Justin Milius of Dirty Root
Callie Craig

A gluten-free fast casual restaurant designed to give office denizens dining options that won’t clog their arteries is coming to Randolph Restaurant Row this summer. Dirty Root, a grab-and-go restaurant from “corporate defectors” Connor Lacy, a former accountant and consultant, and Matt Dobleman, once a finance lawyer, is scheduled to open before the end of June at 939 W. Randolph Street. The space was formerly occupied by a branch of breakfast and lunch mini-chain Eastman Egg Company.

The pair, who first met their freshman year of high school and attended Notre Dame University together, left the world of cubicles behind to offer diners healthy, customizable dishes made with seasonal ingredients from local farms, including Genesis Growers in St. Anne, and Nichols Farm & Orchard in Marengo. Inspired by their own experiences with long work hours, stressful jobs, and difficulty accessing quick, healthy dining options, Lacy and Dobleman collaborated with the latter’s sister, a functional medicine doctor, and dove deep into the world of nutrition.

The menu, designed by culinary director Justin Milius (The Purple Pig, Balena), is all about ease and transparency: customers design their own bowl, starting with a base of “ancient grains” (at Dirty Root these include wild rice and buckwheat), greens, or cauliflower rice and mushroom pilaf. They will then select two vegetable-based side dishes, such as cold cabbage slaw or carrots with za’taar, and one of four protein options, including chicken and salmon. Diners can then top off their bowl with one of five sauces, still in development by Milius. A finalized menu is not yet available. Coffee from Wisconsin-based purveyor Kickapoo Coffee will also be on offer, as well as a short breakfast menu that includes a gluten-free biscuit sandwich.

Lacy and Dobleman decided to keep gluten, refined sugar, and canola oil, as well as other vegetable and seed oils off the menu in an effort to make their menu accessible to people with a range of dietary desires and restrictions. “We want to be a place where people can come and see exactly what’s in the food they’re eating and eliminate their concerns to the extent we can,” Dobleman said.

The 1,200 square-foot space is primarily designed to provide grab-and-go counter service and will have extremely restricted seating — only seven spots along the window and a few two-tops, according to Lacy and Dobleman. In the summer, Dirty Root will have limited patio seating as well. The space will feature “rustic” wood to evoke a farmhouse sensibility, and signs to educate diners about agricultural partners and the source of their meal.

Renderings of the space by Aria Group Architects are available here:

“We’re trying to bridge the gap that we feel personally when we walk into restaurants and get people a step closer to their food,” Dobleman said. “We’re not trying to be preachy, we just want to give people a little bit of insight and pause, and bring them around to a simpler way of eating.”

Stay tuned for more news of the opening as summer inches closer.