Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Savory Chicago; the Land of Indulgences!

Please head over to my new blog at TheUrbanHousewife.com, where you'll find this post & more!

Recently, Ryan & I took a little trip to the Windy City of Chicago. With a great group of friends there & lots of excellent dining options, I thought I would show Ryan why I enjoyed it there so much last time & try some spots I didn't make it to before!

We arrived in Chicago late evening & hungry as can be, enter Pick Me Up Cafe, the perfect place for a night time bite. While not an all vegan restaurant, you won't be short on options here! We decided to go for it & get the Jalapeno Poppers, Chili Cheese Fries, & French Toast. While the Jalapeno Poppers were less than memorable, the Chili Cheese Fries were a delicious indulgence with cumin spiced chili, & cheese sauce by Teese, & perfectly crisp fries. Although, the highlight of our dining was certainly the French Toast! Ryan is a serious French Toast lover & is rarely impressed by the offerings available, but we were both blown away by the cinnamon & nutmeg flecked coating on thick, fluffy, locally baked bread. With maple syrup, this was heaven on a plate, & we were glad we listened to the many people who recommended it to us! Rumor has it, the locals prefer the vegan version. On another late night, we popped in again for a bite & noticed dessert options such as rice krispie treats & cake, but we were looking for savory items, so we opted for the Buffalo Tofu & salads. Let me just say, stick to the French Toast, it's too good to pass up!

Chicago knows junk food & so does Veggie Bite. If you like neon cheese sauce, then you'll LOVE this spot that claims to be the first 100% vegan fast food joint. We headed here with Natalie from Bake & Destroy, plus her husband & Veggie Bite lover, Tony. She warned us it was going to be gnarly & boy, was she right! When selecting photos for this post, one thing I noticed was all the food looks the same! It's like Taco Bell, the food may have different titles, but it all has the same ingredients. We started with Chili Cheese Fries for the table, then moved on to a Chili Cheese Dog with Fries for Ryan & a Taco Salad for me. Guess what? They all had (slightly burnt) beans & neon cheese sauce with something fried! I could see this being a late night drunken dining spot, but I couldn't imagine eating here regularly, unless you enjoy having a boxing match in your stomach!

After checking out Millennum Park with Natalie & her crew, we headed to a new spot for vegans called Delicious Cafe. While it's more of a coffee shop with light food options, there's some tastiness to be had here. First of all, they have a case full of sweets, some made in-house, others made by Fritz Pastry, which included cupcakes, pie, scones, & even S'mores! On the savory side, you'll find a McMuffin-like Breakfast Sandwich, plus sandwiches like my grilled Peanut Butter & Banana. Ryan opted to make his own sandwich with Tofurky & lots of veggies, which came with a side of chips. While nothing we had was epic, it was a nice bite to eat & a great option for the neighborhood. If anything, I would go back to support this vegan owned & operated business!

You can't go to Chicago without going to The Chicago Diner. In fact, we went there twice, once before a Cubs game & once for a night out with friends & we may or may not have ordered the same thing both times. The bottom line is The Radical Reuben totally lives up to its name & even as someone who would likely not order a reuben, I just have to have this sandwich when I'm there. Perfect seitan from Upton's Naturals, tangy Sauerkraut & Thousand Island dressing, plus melted Teese, I'm powerless! I can't seem to get away without ordering the Peanut Butter Cookie Dough milkshake as well, Temptation ice cream makes a killer shake! We also had some tasty nachos, some not-so-buffalo tasting wings, & I tried a raw strawberry cheesecake that was pretty good. I think I may be a Reuben & Shake girl for life!

On sunny afternoon, we headed over to Handlebar, another vegan friendly spot in Chicago, to meet up with Leanne from Vaute Couture & have lunch. If you don't know, Leanne is the beauty & brains behind Vaute Couture, a 100% vegan, eco-conscious, fashionable line of winter coats! She also has a blog On Our Sleeve, where she writes about news regarding her line, plus her life has a vegan, model, & activist. We had a great time chatting about our lives in the fashion industry & what's coming up for us next, Leanne is an awesome gal! On the food front, Ryan had one of the staples of Handlebar, the Buffalo Chicken wrap with a side of fries. I opted for a salad version, taking the "Fried Chicken Salad" & adding buffalo sauce. It turned out to be a good call & it totally hit the spot!

I always like to try to meet up with friends & bloggers when I visit other cities & this was no exception. A group of awesome ladies including Kelly of Vegan Cookies, Julia of SnarkyVegan, & some PPKers joined me for a feast at Soul Vegetarian East. We started with a big ol' basket of fried food! Onion Rings, Cauliflower, & also the Protein Tidbits were passed around & we all filled our bellies with far too much before our entrees came out. Most of us went for the Dinner Special of Pot Roast, Red Beans & Rice, Collard Greens, & Yams. I also had to grab a piece of Cornbread, since it's a favorite of mine. Everything was well seasoned & I enjoyed it, especially the yams. For dessert, we ordered soft serve & that's when the confusion began. Our waitress just plopped all of the (tiny) servings on the table, never telling us which was Mango & which was Pineapple! You would think we could taste them & figure it out, but that wasn't the case. Needless to say, none of us were impressed. Next time, I think I'll pass!

On my final day in Chicago, I spent most of the day in a tattoo chair with Hannah Aitchison laying down a little over 6 hours of ink on my arm. All that tattooing gets a girl mighty hungry, so I met up with friends Cas, Mary, & Megan for dinner at Amitabul, home of "Healthy Korean Vegan Cuisine". Everything on the menu sounded SO good, it was hard to decide what to get, but we all started with some delicious dumplings, & I ordered the Spicy Kimchi Noodle dish as an entree. It was a HUGE plate of food that was super flavorful & spicy! Mary ordered the Dark Side of the Moon & I have to say, it was so good, I would likely order that next time! I loved the fresh vegetables & flavorful dishes at Amitabul, it really did feel healthy for restaurant fare & I hope to get back there soon!

Once again, Chicago showed me a good time on the dining front. While everything may be a bit heavier than I would normally eat, it's fun to let loose sometimes & load up on vegan cheese products & fried treats. Speaking of indulgences, next time I'll be bringing you the sweet side of Chicago! Stay tuned!


Mihl said...

Melisser, you should write a vegan travel guide! I always enjoy your entries about your travels and want to hop right on a plain.

Lisa (Show Me Vegan) said...

What an informative review! Thanks for all your tips. You should write a vegan eats travel guide.

Hannah said...

That is some killer french toast! I'm always impressed by how vegan-friendly Chicago seems... I want to go just to try the food!

Alyssa Franchetti said...

That cookie dough shake looks AMAZING!!! If I may ask, how did you manage to get an appointment with Hannah Aitchison? I have been trying for over a year now, and she never seems to be taking appointments:( Congrats on your new ink, though!

Sal said...

I love reading your reviews, they're always honest and make me want to visit the places in question!!

congrats on the ink - Hannah Aitchinson is awesome!!

pixiepine said...

I love Chicago!
Hopefully we can see your new tattoos?

littlepretty said...

um, you got tattooed by hannah?! HOW?! what did you get done? i wanna see! its a dream of mine to get inked by her! shes amazing.

Anonymous said...

"grilled Peanut Butter & Banana sandwich"


*runs to kitchen to make*

Anonymous said...

God I love Chicago! Its the only place in the world that vegans travel too and come back with loads of pictures of cheese fries, reubens, milkshakes, and buffalo wings. Thanks God I don't live there I would be 500 pounds. Thanks though for the review, I am going up there next week and now I have new places to try, that french toast sounds amazing :)

Anonymous said...

Mmmmm, delicious! I can't wait to hear about the sweet side... :)

Vegan_Noodle said...

I need to get my butt up to Chicago! You always meet up with all kinds of fun people. I could use a piece of that french toast right now, it's a weakness of mine as well.
Hope you are doing well!

julie hasson said...

So much yummy food Melisser!! I have a mad craving for that Reuben right now. Chicago's got some awesome looking vegan food.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what Mihl said, you should write vegan travel guides! You always write such good reviews of the places you visit.

It sounds like there are a lot of vegan options in Chicago! After reading posts like these I get a little irked that there are little to NO options for vegans here in Charlotte.

Bianca said...

Okay, so Veggie Bite actually sounds like heaven to me! Everything covered in neon cheezy sauce...pure heaven. I'm a sucker for junk food. I actually really love Taco Bell though (the 7-layer burrito sans cheese and sour cream is pure bliss...I know I'm crazy).

allularpunk said...

you're always making me want to go visit new places! if only i could afford it ;) i'd travel to chicago for a few days of fried food and vegan cheese (maybe some fried vegan cheese, as well?) in a heartbeat.

Ryan said...

the reuben was AMAZING! I had two of them while i was there. Can't wait to go back and have another!!!

Jesse said...

It's too bad you didn't catch Handle bar for brunch. I think it's the best to be had(Beer-mosa). Maybe next time. Also karyn's cooked rocks the boat. Thanks for showing an awesome side to Chicago living.

dreaminitvegan said...

So jealous that you get to do so much traveling. You should write a vegan travel guide!

céline said...

I'm with Mihl: vegan travel guide, bitte.

Leanne Maily said...

aw, it was so fabulous meeting up! You're the sweetest. And man, you really live it up when you travel! I still haven't been to Delicious- and I live here, ha. I'm with the consensus...write a Vegan Travel Guide- then you'll get to travel more to promote it- a lovely cycle of awesomeness! <3

whenever you're in Chi again let me know! xo

miss v said...

late night drunken hot spot!? i'm sooo all about that.

i can't wait to revisit chicago so i can try some of these places!

Monique a.k.a. Mo said...

This is my kinda food! I've only been to Chicago once about 6 years ago. After reading this, I'm convinced that I need to go back.

Mattie said...

One more vote for the vegan travel guide! Now I really need to get to Chicago.

allularpunk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meghan said...

yum! im so jealous of all the food you get to eat. how's business?
and didn't you say you were coming to austin at some point?

keep me posted!!

Penny said...

my 3 favorites: grilled pb & banana sandwich, pb cookie dough shake, and healthy Korean.

HayMarket8 said...

I have never eat at a vegan spot in Chicago but I want to now! Great food.

Adriana said...

I agree with Mihl and Lisa! You cut out the bullsh*t and get to the goods. See you soon!

Anonymous said...