30 May 2012

quartino ristorante & wine bar.

i heart tapas. this is not new news.

so i was pretty excited when my friends suggested we try quartino ristorante & wine bar, which features some main entree dishes and pizzas, but lots of small plates. basically italian tapas. seriously awesome.

quartino has tons of vegan options. a gm came over to explain them to me... and addition to what i had, there were a few other small plates -- as well as any pasta (obviously with a sort of vegan sauce or olive oil) and the pizza crust. great!

for this meal, however, we decided to stick with a small plates / tapas style of eating... and we shared a ton of options. here's what i had :

assortment of italian olives : 
gaeta, green leccino & sicilian oil cured.
duh. delicious. period. the super dark ones on the right were uh-mazing.

sicilian caponata sputini :
eggplant salad, olives & capers.
the photo of the sputini is actually horrific, so i apologize. it did not look this terrible in person... and it tasted really good. i thought it would be more salty, due to the olives & capers, but it wasn't... especially paired with a slice of italian baguette.

broccoli rabe :
red chili, onion, garlic & evoo.
this was everyone's least favorite dish. not sure what it was about it, but it just didn't hit the spot. plus, it was sitting in such a big pool of whatever evoo + vegetable water + spices were in the dish. so not a favorite, but not bad.

sauteed spinach :
evoo & garlic. 
this was also sitting in a pretty big pool of liquid. kind of a turnoff. but the actual flavor of the sauteed spinach was perfect. i always try to prepare this for myself at home and am just never very successful for some reason. seems like it would be easy, but it's not, okay? this version was delicious.

white bean & garlic spread :
with toasted filone bread. 
this was good, but a little meh. the spread was not garlic-y enough for my liking... it did improve once i started putting those little red pepper slices one each bite for some kick. but it just wasn't the best thing i've eaten. the toasted filone bread though... delish.


quartino is seriously great. the interior decor is super cute and the vibe is fun. basically, a great place for a girls night out! i cannot wait to go back and try some of the other vegan options... and with so much to try, i know i'll be back. 

27 May 2012

athenian room.

one of my most frequently asked, vegan related questions is ... "what do you eat when you've got a hangover?"

my answer : athenian room.

the vegetarian salad (which is actually vegan) is amazing ... hangover or no hangover.

so good, in fact ... that i got it on my most recent visit (and every previous visit). i present to you ...

vegetarian salad :
lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, kalamata olives, greek dressing & french fries. 
i actually can't figure out why this salad is so eff-ing good because it is super low budg. but it is so.eff-ing.good.

here's the pita it comes with ...
   not as good as andies restaurant, but still tasty. especially once it gets all soggy in the greek dressing.

and now, the pièce de résistance ...
vegan (!!!) baklava (!!!) :
 all i can say is hit the spot. yum.
(side note : there was confusion with the waitress as to whether or not this had butter ... when the owner clarified the recipe, she also gave me some baklava gratis for my troubles. woohoo! +++)

they've also got a few other vegan items (per the restaurant):
 - navy bean soup (only on wednesdays for a limited time).
 - cucumber salad w/out the tzatziki sauce.
 - tossed salad.
 - greek fries & french fries (cooked in soybean oil & with no non-vegan items... just fries).
 - olives.

athenian room -- fast. cheap. lots o' vegan goods.
try it out. asap.

23 May 2012

bloomington, indiana : upland brewing co.

in one of my last posts on bloomington, indiana, i mentioned upland brewing co. ... and how i wished i'd been able to eat there...

well, on a recent trip i did just that. and let me say, it was uh-mazing. not only was the food delish, but their understanding of veganism was also outstanding. plus & plus.

here's what i had ...

 southwestern tofu salad :
spicy vegan tofu, black bean & corn salsa, shredded carrots, toasted pumpkin seeds, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, crispy tortilla strips & mixed field greens w/ orange-ginger vinaigrette.

background on this meal... the rest of the weekend was to be spent even deeper into southern indiana... which i thought meant side salads w/ vinegar & oil dressing for me for the rest of my meals. so i was looking for something super delicious & filling for lunch. and i got it.

this salad was awesome. the tofu was sooo good. seasoned and cooked to crispy perfection. honestly... probably the best tofu i've had on a salad. ever. also, even though the only vegan dressing was an asian inspired one, it worked sooo well with this southwestern inspired salad! east meets west in vegan perfection. that should be the tagline for this dish.

basically, upland = awesome.
might be worth a trip down to bloomington in itself.

20 May 2012

pho & i.

since saigon sisters definitely does not deliver from their west loop location to my house in lakeview, i've been attempting to find a good pho place.

enter pho & i.

unfortunately, let's just say that saigon sisters blows pho & i out of the water in terms of deliciousness level of their pho.

here's what i had :

tofu goi :
 the classic vietnamese salad... shredded cabbage, carrot, mint w/ tofu and a tangy & sour dressing.
actually, pretty decent. not a big fan of peanuts, but okay. it had kind of a weird taste... some mint maybe? but overall, not bad. would i order it again? meh.

pho chay :
vegetarian noodle soup with fresh tofu and assorted vegetables in vegetarian broth.
this is the kind of soup i might want to eat when i've got a stomach ache... one word : bland.
the veggies were fresh, but it was just so so soooo bland. meh.

well... they all can't be winners. and unfortunately, pho & i is just one of those. i might try it again when i've got a super bad hangover. meh.

16 May 2012

aria.

we're ready for yet another stop on the chicago top chef restaurant tour ...

this time we went to aria : "a new world asian experience" by chef beverly kim, the chef de cuisine... we saw her wandering about the restaurant floor. so that was obviously exciting.

i have been looking forward to going to aria for a very long time ... mostly because chef kim's menu has a vegan item on it regularly. yay!

here's what i had.

garden greens :

icicle radish, asian pear, tomato & carrot-ginger vinaigrette.
this salad was great. fresh and light. and i had never had (to my knowledge) icicle radish or asian pear, so that was fun + exciting. (yes, i know that sounds lame... but these are the kinds of things that are exciting for vegans!)

vegan singapore :

tofu, snap peas, curry, coconut & peanut.
 one word = yum. this was a delish vegan dish. there were noodles of some sort on the bottom to give the plate more bulk (obviously a like on my part).

a few more specifics about this dish:
 - a perfect size portion.
- in my opinion, not enough tofu... i actually can't remember there being any on the dish, to be honest. 

- the best part... this dish doesn't have a real sauce or anything on it... instead, the flavors of the fresh ingredients are what give taste to this dish. a vegan dream.

so overall, aria is pretty great... and i would definitely head back in the future. hoping that chef kim keeps her vegan dishes on the menu!

13 May 2012

rj grunts.

as my minor obsession with chicago's lettuce entertain you restaurants continues ... it'd only be appropriate for me to visit the very first lettuce entertain you restaurant ...  rj grunts : "the original lettuce entertain you creation."

rj grunts is most well known for their burgers. first minus for vegans.
but okay, they've got a veggie chili and a veggie burger. neither vegan. second minus for vegans.
according to our server, "yeah... we're not the best restaurant for vegans." at least she was honest... or so i thought.

rj grunts has an awesome, huge salad bar. so that's what this vegan had.
 
 
my selections included spinach, cucumber, tofu chunks (yum!), craisins, black olives... a chickpea salad and a couscous salad with balsamic vinegar.
 what i liked about my dinner at rj grunts is that i got to put exactly what i wanted on my plate and didn't have to annoy my server with substitutions. wins for all. the ingredients were fresh & tasty ... and i was full after just one big salad. great stuff! 

so at first glance, rj grunts isn't the ideal restaurant for vegans ... but a quick trip to the salad bar proves otherwise. i can't wait to head back.

09 May 2012

state restaurant & cafe.

when you think of a cafe, what image generally comes to mind? for me, it's a cute corner shop with outdoor seating, european coffee and little sandwiches on the menu. (see : any street corner in paris.)

however, chicago's got a different variation of the typical cafe in state restaurant & cafe ... which boasts, "with 100 flat-screen HDTVs, you’ll never miss a moment of sports action or breaking news." wowie.

i recently went to state for dinner before a friend's cocktail charity event. here's what i had :

hummus wrap :
homemade southwestern hummus, mixed with shaved zucchini, diced cucumbers & shredded romaine lettuce. 
i added avocado & swapped the low-card wrap to a spinach wrap here. it was pretty good & pretty basic. a little hummus heavy, but okay. what is funny is that this was on the sub 450 portion of the menu and didn't come with any sort of side! oh well. i got my own, which i'm thinking would not add that many calories ...

minty watermelon:
i was really pumped about this because i didn't know what it'd be like. it was literally just watermelon with a few specks of fresh mint leaves on it. really really really tasty. but not for $4.99. oops. 

overall, the food at state was good. the menu works well for vegans and they were pretty flexible with making changes. i'd definitely go back ... just not when i want to sip quietly on a cup of tea. maybe for a chicago playoff game.

06 May 2012

penny's noodle shop.

do you ever crave just some simple asian food?

i do. i loooove some rice noodles + tofu or soup + veggies. that's where penny's noodle shop comes in.

penny's is one of my favorite places to order carry out from ... mostly because they are fast. like really fast. like 15 minutes after you order fast. so if you are starving, it's the perfect place to order from.

so that's what happened last week. i was craving penny's and was starving all at once. here's what i got ...

vietnamese spring rolls :

rice paper wrapped around noodles, lettuce, sprouts, green onion, cucumber, cilantro, basil & carrots.
basic, fresh, delicious. not much else to say. except it did say they came with a tart mustard sauce, which it did not. i was unsure if the other sauces they came with were vegan, so i left those out.

vegetarian bowl :

thin rice noodles served with tofu, carrots, green onions, cilantro, ground peanuts & slices of lime (no cabbage or bean sprouts). i added extra chopped jalapeno.
again, basic, fresh & delicious. when you're in the mood for that, this is literally perfect. the toppings literally cover the noodles, so that's why i did just a couple closer up shots. i think you can actually see how fresh everything is.

the other thing about penny's is that the portions are big. i got two meals out of these dishes. so basically, penny's noodle shop = a+ for simple asian food. mmm. and now i'm craving it again.

02 May 2012

southport lanes.

the southport corridor is chock full of fun restaurants & bars. one of my favorites is southport lanes, a bar that also features a small hand-set bowling alley and several pool tables.

i've been to southport lanes several times ... and literally every time, i've gotten the hotel california sandwich with no cheese.

in order to fully 100% maintain the integrity of the blog, i decided to double check that the ciabatta bread that the sandwich comes on is vegan. the response i got : "none of our breads our vegan. they all have egg."

now, the likelihood of this being true is very small. in the past i have gotten the response that yes, the bread for this sandwich is vegan. i think this most recent visit, someone was just trying to cover their ass by not knowing whether or not it is vegan. i might understand if the breads were made at southport lanes ... but they are not. so to me, it's as simple as checking the ingredients label on the bag.

and maybe it actually is not vegan ... but if so, i would be more inclined to believe it is because there is some sort of milk or cream in the mix ... or maybe some kind of non-vegan wash on top. 

oh well, substitute a flour tortilla.

so here it it ...

hotel california :
sliced avocado, tomato, lettuce & cilantro pesto on a flour tortilla ... no potato chips, sub salad.
the flour tortilla made this not quite as delicious as it is with the ciabatta roll ... but still quite good. their side salad is really very good also. the veggies are crisp and fresh and it's not just clear iceberg lettuce. so another plus there. overall, a pretty decent lunch. 

southport lanes is a great place for food + drink. they just might be a little unclear about their ingredients, so be specific when ordering if you ever find yourself here. and you really should find yourself here sometime.