The Beginning of Wheat’s End
The Wheat’s End Cafe story began with a diagnosis almost 10 years before its doors opened in 2015. In 2007, Lina Elakhaoui, a dear friend of co-owners Susan McMillan and Amelia Fonti was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Soon after, Amelia learned that she, too, was gluten intolerant. So they got to work creating gluten-free versions of traditional baked goods for Lina’s Lebanese restaurant. Then, when Lina’s husband died unexpectedly and Amelia and Susan took over the running of her Lebanese restaurant, they became aware of Chicago’s growing unmet need for a place where celiac sufferers could safely go for gluten-free food that did not compromise on taste, texture or nutrition.
In 2012, Susan and Amelia opened Senza, a celiac-safe fine dining tasting restaurant. It did not take long for young chef Noah Sandoval to earn Senza the world’s first Michelin Star ever granted to a gluten-free restaurant in 2013 and AGAIN in 2014. By January of 2013, they opened Wheat's End Artisan Foods, a 100% dedicated gluten-free bakery in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago. The bakery provided delicious and nutrient-rich gluten-free breads, bagels, rolls, pizza crusts, and more to Senza and a wide variety of hotels, restaurants, retail stores, and online customers.
In 2015, Susan and her team decided to convert Senza into Wheat’s End Café, a 100% gluten-free full service daytime restaurant. Since then, Meni Mizrahi, the general manager, has created a friendly haven where people can eat in or take out delightful baked goods and prepared dishes, drink great coffee, sip a classic cocktail or glass of wine and enjoy a unique gluten-free brunch on weekends. Coming full circle, their Lebanese celiac friend, Lina returned to run the kitchen for the new café and is currently the head chef and mainstay of the restaurant. Today, the bakery provides proprietary baked goods exclusively to the café.
The Wheat's End culinary team enjoys the challenge of creating recipes tailored to the needs of customers with multiple food sensitivities wherever possible. We offer dairy-free, vegan, and other specialty options for our clients as well. Please email us with any specific requests at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to check out our unique menu.
Located in East Lakeview, Chicago, Wheat's End Café combines the greatness of a European Cafe and Classic American Brunch …providing gluten-intolerant clientele with a delicious selection of breakfast, lunch and brunch dishes, fine coffee, specialty cocktails & wine, and a case full of baked goods to enjoy immediately or take home. On weekends, enjoy an amazing Celiac-safe brunch menu. Our team specializes in creating works of art on a plate that will have you salivating even before you take the first bite…so come on in and join the family!
Our Mission is to provide food that is truly nutritious and surprisingly Gluten-Free in a comfortable space where sufferers from celiac disease and gluten sensitivities can enjoy a memorable meal in the company of family and friends. We aim to act as a resource to the entire GF and local community in any way we can.
At Wheat’s End Café, we pride ourselves on not just the atmosphere and food but also the exceptional service given by the full staff. We care about our customers, gluten-free or not - our aim is to make your meal with us an unforgettable one. It is about being aware of each guests needs and reacting to those needs in a positive and caring manner. The goal is to provide the kind of unique and genuine personal care and attention that our customers tell stories about. There are four keys to effective and efficient service:
ATTITUDE – KNOWLEDGE – TEAMWORK – SUSTAINABILITY
ATTITUDE (Always be Smiling!!)
We believe that good isn’t good enough and we never stop trying to do better, no matter how good we are, we constantly strive to “raise the bar.” Kindness to our guests and each other is vital to our success and we embody a positive, supportive and safe work environment.
We are committed in creating an enjoyable and unforgettable experience. Knowing the ingredients of each dish and the severity of food allergies is crucial as our menu tailors to all sorts of food aware clientele. We treat each guest with patience, kindness and understanding. Being able to answer questions and ease guests mind when ordering is key to the guest experience. True knowledge of who and what we are will allow our guests an elevated experience.
The following three main points of Teamwork below are a recipe for success!
Honesty: Having integrity, and being truthful. Being sincere and straightforward.
Trust: Being able to rely on another in order to provide the best service possible.
Communication: Always growing and improving through exchanging ideas and working together for the greater good of the staff, guests and community.
We make decisions for our health, happiness and future. We do our best to think local, natural and lessen waste!
We proudly serve Bridgeport Coffee, Nueske’s Nitrate Free Bacon and Gepperth's Meat Market house made pork sausage. We are always researching new ways to create relationships with our food providers and ensure only the best for our guests!
Susan McMillan's journey with nutrition (and love affair with beans) began when she became a vegetarian in the middle of her law school years. (Strangely, her children were not as enthusiastic as she was about beans in their childhoods as they are now.) In later life, special dietary needs and sensitivities in various family members set her on the path to finding ways to transform often bland or even unappetizing dietary food into gourmet offerings indistinguishable from "normal" food. The challenge to create gluten free baked goods that taste and feel like their glutenous analogs was irresistible.
Susan's goal is to make Wheat’s End Cafe a safe space where all people can meet and share incredibly delicious food with family and friends.
Native Australian opera singer and voice teacher Amelia Fonti began her love affair with food at an early age, learning cooking under the critical tutelage of her Italian mom. Her musical career took her to many countries, giving her exposure to many cultures and restaurants! After recently being diagnosed with gluten sensitivity and multiple food allergies, Amelia knows the many frustrations of dining out. She is thrilled to be a member of the Wheat’s End team and to share her passion for food and teaching with others.
Passionate, hard working, and dedicated, Meni was part of the Senza/WE team from the very beginning, helping wherever he could from construction work to serving coffee in the morning cafe. When Senza closed its morning service in mid 2012, he convinced the owners to allow him to run a simple morning coffee service by himself. His customers loved him, and he loved what he did but, deep down he always hoped to expand that simple coffee shop to a full service cafe. His dream became a reality in March of 2015 when he took over as general manager of the new full service Wheat’s End Cafe.
In the 3 years since, Meni has built a huge following and now manages a restaurant that that offers amazing coffee, baked goods, inspiring food, and most of all, a welcoming atmosphere, impeccable service and a retreat where customers come to feel at home.
Chef Lina Elakhaoui takes gluten-free seriously. She knows firsthand the feelings of deprivation that can come with having Celiac Disease—she was diagnosed with Celiac in 2006 after a long battle with the mysterious illness.
Chef Lina's sensitivity to gluten is severe (anaphylactic is the term), meaning she cannot come into contact with flour or other gluten-bearing products. The Celiac diagnosis threatened to take Chef Lina, restaurant owner and life-long lover of cooking, out of the kitchen for good.
Her friendship with Susan and Amelia led to collaboration, invention, and perseverance in the face of gluten-free challenges. Now fully recovered, she is pursuing her passion as Head Chef at Wheat's End Café, where she takes pride in crafting great food for all customers regardless of nutritional preferences, but especially to those who suffer from Celiac disease. She also enjoys putting a gluten-free spin on traditional Lebanese foods at home for her two daughters, two grandchildren and son in law.
The Whole Cafe Gang
Join Our Team!
Click below to see current job openings to become part of our cafe team! If you don’t see any openings that suit you, but are still interested, make sure to contact us and let us know more about you! Apply either online or in store.