27 June 2012

new york city : westville.

to quote my best friend, melissa : "westville is my favorite nyc restaurant." i'd have to agree.

i've been to westville twice ... and both times were delicious.

see, here i am! proof that i ate there.

anywho, here's why westville is amazing :

 1. every day they have a long list of "market sides" -- 
which mainly consist of veggies, aka plenty o' vegan items.  choose 4 for $14.  
um, yes please!
 k, i've got just one reason. but that's really enough for me. 

 my gal pal was kind enough to get a vegan market side ... 

artichoke hearts sans parmesan :
so.so.so. good. after i was fully stuffed, i still had room to finish these puppies off. 

but for me...
my four market sides :
 sauteed cherry tomatoes : amazing.
soy-glazed tofu w/ broccoli + toasted sesame seeds : perfection.
added just a bit of substance to an all veggie meal. super salty. plus+plus.
sauteed kale w/ shallots : love me some kale. favorite veggie in an awesome way.
brussels sprouts w/ honey-dijon : meh. but still tasty.
YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUM.

ok, vegans & otherwise -- LISTEN UP.
if you are in new york city ... GET TO WESTVILLE. there are three locations to choose from - west village, east village & chelsea. so really you have no excuse. hurry up.

24 June 2012

90 miles cuban cafe.

"taste the forbidden." 

that's the tagline for 90 miles cuban cafe, a family owned restaurant offering authentic cuban food in logan square & roscoe village.

i had never had cuban food, so i was really excited to try this place. we wanted to eat there, but eating hot food in 95 degree weather was not appealing. so we brought it home for lunch. here's what i had ...

salida del sol :
earl grey iced tea, mango puree, sugar & fresh lime.
fresh, light & delicious. not much to complain about. 

aji relleno :
   stuffed red pepper with soy beef picadillo, green olives, raisins potatoes & i don't know what else.
i don't really like to eat fake meats, but i decided to try this since the guy at the restaurant was raving about it. but unfortunately, no me gusta. i think the raisins are what threw me off. not a good flavor combo for me. but still, a great option for other hungry vegans!

tofu sandwich :
tofu & peppers marinated in creole sauce & black beans on french bread.
oh.em.gee.yum. i actually inhaled this because it was so good. i could have done without the beans, but still amazing. the bread soaks up all the sauce so it gets nice and soggy. (seriously, not lying, the way i like it.) mmmmm.

tostones :
fried green plantains w/ garlic sauce.
super crispy and fresh ... just add salt. yum.

my first experience with cuban food was a good one... i cannot wait to head back to 90 miles cuban cafe again!

20 June 2012

new york city : medi wine bar.

first stop on the chi city vegan's food tour de force in nyc ... 

there are two things new york has that chicago lacks (in my humble opinion) :
 1. bodegas. can we say convenient?
 2. wine bars. 

our first planned event was to go to a wine bar for some quick eats and a cuppa vino. we decided on medi wine bar. they've got a great back garden, which is where we sat. since it was so late, i just went for a couple of sides ... here's what i had :

broccoli rabe with red chilis :
 while tasty, there were no chilis, which would have been my favorite part. sadness.

roasted garlic hummus & pita :
i believe my exact words were : "best hummus i've ever had in my life."
seriously. that. good. insanely garlicky & creamy. so yum.

in summation ... delish hummus. great outdoor space. wine bar perfection.

19 June 2012

upcoming posts : new york city.

welp, i'm back from new york city ... and man, am i full!! 

even though we walked about 10 miles a day ... we also ate.so.much. 

most of our planned stops occured ... but we also had to change some of our plans to accommodate the shopping. (perhaps the only thing we did more than eat was shop.)

to the point ... i'm going to be interspersing my nyc eats with my chi city eats ... 
first one -- coming tomorrow.

to tide you over ... here's a preview pic from one of my favorite stops :
can you guess where from?

17 June 2012

spiaggia.

so we've made it to june ... and yet another stop on the chicago top chef restaurant tour ... this time, we went to spiaggia, a super fancy italian restaurant where chef sarah grueneberg is the executive chef. 

now, spiaggia will certainly cost you a pretty penny ... so josh and i decided to save it for a special occasion ... and in this case, a double celebration : our 10 year dating anniversary & our 1 year wedding anniversary. 

i'm not going to lie, i was pretty much super incredibly excited to eat at spiaggia. not only because i hoped we would see chef grueneberg (sadly, we didn't) ... 

but mostly because i knew that the items she created on top chef finale were offered in a special tasting menu. and even though (obviously) none of it was vegan, i was really hoping that josh would get it. and he did! i didn't take pics of his food, but he thought it all was fantastic. with every one of his five dishes, i asked him if the food was top chef worthy. his answer was always, "yes."

anywho, the team at spiaggia was super accommodating to my vegan needs. here's what i had ...

an amuse-bouche (since i don't know the italian word for this) :
pickled strawberry, chickpeas & an almond.  
so interesting & kind of weird ... in the best possible way. 

 artichoke appetizer :
 roasted artichokes with almonds, shaved asparagus & a medjool date puree (no cheese).
incredible. the date puree was nice and sweet ... a combination i wouldn't think i'd like with the artichokes, but it was amazing. 

pasta entree :
 fusilli with roasted tomatoes, shaved asparagus & fava beans in a white wine sauce.
also incredible. in my life, i have never had a white wine sauce. so i figured this was the place to try it. and i am so glad i did. because it was so fantastic. i could have eaten 4 more bowls of this. easily. but that wouldn't have left room for dessert ...

sorbetti :
passionfruit, cinnamon rice milk & blood orange.
okay ... these were absolutely insane. i have seriously never eaten any food that packed much flavor into each bite as the passionfruit and blood orange sorbetti. so so so yum. however, the cinnamon rice milk was my favorite. it was just so rich and creamy and perfect. i really wanted to ask our server if i could get 17 quarts of this to bring home, but i decided that it wasn't really appropriate for such a nice restaurant. alas, a reason to return!

to sum it up, spiaggia is pretty much amazing. the food is truly out of this world. however, what i was most impressed with was their staff ... we had our one server and then several other individuals who would bus the table, bring out food, refill our wine & water or offer bread. every single one of them knew that i was vegan, what ingredients were in their food and what i could or could not eat. by far the best customer service i have ever received at a restaurant. 

so in the eternal words of ferris bueller, "it is so choice. if you have the means, i highly recommend dining there." (i may have altered that slightly, but you get the picture.)

13 June 2012

new items : café ba ba reeba.

i've already posted once on café ba ba reeba ... but that doesn't mean i can't eat there again, right? 

josh and i went here for a belated birthday dinner. (for him... happy birthday, love!)

i decided to switch it up and try a few different things...

strawberry sangria:
delish. best part of my meal! although, i wouldn't say i could taste the strawberry. it was simply a very refreshing glass of sangria.

summer vegetable market salad:
mixed greens, lemon & olive oil.
only meh for some reason... the orange fruit was delish, but the greens were super bitter.
just meh.

traditional tomato gazpacho:
also just meh.
i don't know what was going on in the kitchen that day... because they were really just not on their a-game. 

oh well. just like the rest of us, restaurants are allowed to have off days. this was just one of them for café ba ba reeba.

a side note ... every time we go here, josh gets frustrated that we order everything at one time ... even though they say they will pace it, they just don't. so just a quick tip ... order in shifts! otherwise, your table because of mess of tapas plates.

10 June 2012

galena, illinois : vinny vanucchi's little italy.

visiting galena, illinois in the summertime is a tradition in josh's family... something which i have obviously become a part of over the past ten years.

no matter what time of year we go, we always reserve one dinner for vinny vanucchi's little italy, a kitschy, little italian place right on main street.

vinny's (our nickname for it) is known for two things : their family style salad ... and their insanely buttery & cheesy garlic better. (extra napkins, please!) obviously, i don't eat the garlic bread... but my family is so accommodating, they order the salad without cheese so i can partake in its tastiness. here it is ...

vinny's family style salad :
a super basic salad. we were joking whether or not i should even take a picture of it ... because it does look a pretty sad on the plate. but damn, is it good. i'm guessing the salad dressing is about a million calories per tablespoon for that very reason. yum.


for my main course, i've gotten the same thing the past 10 times i've been to vinny's... 

linguini pasta w/ vinny sauce :
a blend of olive oil, garlic, basil & spicy red peppers.  
i rarely treat myself with pasta... so when i do, i expect some serious deliciousness.
the pasta with vinny sauce definitely hits the spot. spicy, garlicky, salty -- those are pretty much my favorite words when it comes to food. not the mention the portion size is huuuge. as much as i love chicago's obsession with small plates, sometimes you just want a ridiculous bowl of pasta.


i would go so far as to say that vinny vanucchi's little italy is the best restaurant on main street in galena. so if you're ever in town looking for a tasty bite, definitely check out vinny's.

07 June 2012

the city so nice, they named it twice.

in one short week, i'll be traveling from the windy city to the city that never sleeps...

that's right, the chi city vegan is heading to nyc, baby!

be on the look out for a variety of vegan posts from the big apple.

pre-determined eating stops include :
 - westville.
 - babycakes

melissa (my nyc-living bff) & i at traffic in hell's kitchen.

can't wait!!  

ps - yes, i did try to squeeze in as many city nicknames as i possibly could in one short post.

06 June 2012

the aberdeen tap.

the aberdeen tap is a cute little bar/restaurant in river west / west town. (this according to their website, i thought it was west loop!)

i ventured over here with my office recently for some post-work dinner, drinks & birthday celebrations. (happy birthday - steven, erik & andy if you are reading!)

i waffled back and forth on whether or not to eat, but eventually did. and i was really glad i did, because it was the perfect, light little dinner.

greek salad :
tomato, cucumber, kalamata olives & (dry) grilled baguette. (no feta.)
no lettuce! fine with me. like i said, the perfect, light little dinner. the dressing was flavorful & the veggies were fresh. can't go wrong. 

i didn't ask what else was vegan on their menu... so i can't speak for the restaurant as a whole. but what i had was ideal. so if you're in the 'hood looking for a dinner+drinks spot, try the aberdeen tap.

03 June 2012

market.

one of my favorite lunch spots in the west loop is market, a "multi-faceted restaurant and sports bar." oh, so fancy!

i've been here for lunch with my office several times... but most recently, i met some girlfriends for dinner + drinks in their beer garden on a beautiful, chicago summer night. très fun. 

 here's what we had ...

hippie hummus :
house-made hummus, crisp vegetables, marinated olives, feta & warm wheat pitas.
per the usual for a non-med place, the hummus was pretty basic. but the veggies were indeed crisp... and the pitas were indeed warm and wheaty. so no complaints. just be sure to order with the feta on the side. we messed that up the first time around since it normally comes on top of the hummus.

falafel wrap :
falafel, cucumbers, red onion, tomatoes, tahini sauce, & a petite spinach salad. (no feta.)
this was super yum. i'll have to recant my previous about being so-so for a non-med place, because the falafel was soooo delish. however, it wasn't like typical falafel... much lighter and more flavorful. the spinach salad was only okay, but no loss since the wrap was so good.

cotton candy :
flavor of the day ... blue!     
love these restaurants that have fun desserts. like carnivale, we got cotton candy. can't go wrong.  

overall, market has lots of pluses : good for vegans w/ a large menu, great place for summer dining & lots of fun! check it out soon.