30 September 2012

hugo's frog bar & fish house.

the name says it all ... hugo's frog bar & fish house. sounds like it could be one of the vegan-unfriendliest restaurants in chicago. especially when you find out it is in the same restaurant group & shares the same kitchen as gibson's bar & steakhouse.

but alas, it is not!

i went to hugo's the other night with some work peeps ... it's a great spot for a large group ... and we had a great time. i even had another vegan there to share the experience with me! so that was exciting.

anyway, here's what i had ...

vegetable combination :
all veggies prepared vegan ... asparagus, red onions, broccoli & sautéed spinach. no mushrooms (ick) or creamed spinach.
i love spinach. and this was really really really well prepared. i ate all of it ... the asparagus & onions were also great ... but i couldn't tackle the broccoli. something about a huge head of broccoli is just very intimidating. 

sweet potato side :
prepared vegan.
the largest sweet potato in the world. (fact.)
delicious. since it had no butter, you could really taste the natural flavors of the sweet potato. wow & yum.

raspberry sorbet :
one of the non-vegans at the table tasted this and named it "dirty raspberry." very accurate. it did have a little bit of a dirty taste to it ... in a good way. 


just like all my other experiences at steakhouses (or in this case, fish houses) ... hugo's is very accommodating to any vegan needs. and their food happens to be fantastic. so fear not ... it's a great place to eat. 

26 September 2012

pierrot gourmet.

i'm always looking for a great new lunch spot. so recently, two girlfriends and i went to pierrot gourmet, a european style cafe located in the peninsula hotel.

at first, i was a little iffy. for some reason, lunch at fancy hotel seemed too fancy for me. but boy was i wrong. pierrot gourmet is very casual and super cute ... and we sat outside, which was great since chicago had idyllic 70 degree weather that day.

here's what i had ...

mediterranean wrap :
hummus, avocado, radishes, tomatoes, cucumber (no yogurt dressing) w/ a green salad.
not the typical mediterranean wrap with the avocado and radishes ... but i definitely liked that. hummus and avocado together create a creamy & delicious texture! perfect portion size, perfect flavor. a seriously perfect lunch.

also -- the iced tea they had was vanilla bean flavor. i've never had anything like this before. so so so good, it's worth the trip in itself.  

if you're wandering around michigan ave., take a step off that crazy busy street and try pierrot gourmet for lunch or just a quick refreshment. quite quite good.

23 September 2012

bin 36.

my new favorite place in chicago just might be bin36, a wine bar & restaurant located right downtown ... next to house of blues & (in?) hotel sax.

here's why ...

- upon entering, the adorable hostess commented on my outfit ... telling josh that i "made him look good." ha! compliments? an obvious way to win me over. plus, josh & i had a good laugh over this.

- our server was one of the most knowledgeable servers on veganism that i have ever met. more on that later.

anyway ... here's what i had ...  

spiced mixed olives :
with orange zest & fennel.
yum. a wide variety of (and quite a few!) olives in this little bowl. and the fennel seeds on top were awesome. added such great flavor! i definitely plan to do this at home ... 

 heirloom cherry tomato salad :
watermelon w/ basil & mint pistou (no persian feta). 
the perfect salad for the end of summer. i loved the basil with the watermelon. and heirloom tomatoes are always a win in my book. overall, super unique and delicious.

trio of housemade sorbets :
pineapple, blackberry & raspberry.
light & fresh. typical sorbet. yum ...
here's where the fabulousness of our server came in ... when i asked if he could confirm if the sorbet was vegan, he replied, "sure, because i'm not sure it is. it might contain egg whites or gelatin to hold it together." (paraphrasing a little.) i was so happy to hear someone who knew that gelatin was not vegan! i feel like for non-vegans, this is an easy one to overlook.

alright ... so bin 36 is great. awesome food. awesome staff. awesome vino. check it out.

19 September 2012

bq2go.

friend of vegans chef bill kim (of belly shack, my post here) recently opened up a new joint in the west loop called belly q, featuring modern asian barbeque. not so vegan sounding.

however, for lunch, belly q has bq2go, an "integrated lunch market" featuring lighter fare ... including custom made salads. yum! here's what i had ...

custom made salad :
kale w/ cucumber - dill, grape tomatoes & oregano, edamame & basil, chickpeas & soy balsamic dressing. 
as we all know, i absolutely love kale. so a fresh kale salad for lunch? pretty much ideal. the rest of the ingredients (especially the edamame & basil) and the dressing were also super tasty. kind of (100%) a perfect lunch.

bq2go confirmed that all of their dressings are vegan, so that's a plus. however, i was upset to learn that their marinated tofu, roasted broccoli and curried cauliflower are not vegan ... the tofu especially. that's okay. maybe someday ...

since bq2go doesn't have the same menu as belly q, i can't speak to the vegan nature of their dinner offerings. but if you're craving a super fresh salad with unique ingredients, bq2go is the perfect place for lunch. check it out asap.

16 September 2012

the rosebud.

the summer of italian continues ... 

there's a very well known italian restaurant group in chicago known as rosebud. each of their restaurants (except one) are called rosebud. there's rosebud prime, rosebud trattoria, rosebud express ...

but the original restaurant is the rosebud, located in chicago's little italy neighborhood (also known as university village nowadays), right on taylor street.

we recently visited the rosebud for a birthday celebration (happy birthday, katie!) ... and were hungry and excited for some authentic italian cuisine. the rosebud did not disappoint. here's what i had ...

tomato & onion salad + fresh basil :
wow. for something so incredibly simple, this was so incredibly delicious.
all super fresh and crisp ... just very flavorful. i saved a few bites of tomato to add to my ...

vegan & gluten-free pasta with garlic white wine sauce :
very light pasta & very light sauce.
the only vegan pasta they had was also gluten-free. so not really an option there, but that's okay. this was my first time with gf pasta and i must say, i was very pleasantly surprised! it was much less dense than i expected it to be. and really, quite tasty. (even josh liked it! which is saying a lot.) the sauce was also very good. the kitchen modified it to cut out the dairy and it turned out perfect. i mean, you can't really go wrong when a dish includes white wine, garlic and olive oil.

remember how my only complaint with rpm italian was that the portion size was too small? this is absolutely not the case at the rosebud. their servings are huge, almost ridiculous. i've got plenty of leftovers (a.k.a. meals for the next two nights) ... which i couldn't be more pleased about. yum. 

so if you're really hungry for italian ... the rosebud is a great place to try. especially for all you gluten-free vegans!

12 September 2012

kamehachi.

josh and i hail from the lovely chicago suburb of northbrook ... a place not known for their fantastic cuisine, vegan or otherwise. however, one of our favorite spots there is kamehachi, a sushi place right in the "downtown" area. (yes, i'm using that term lightly.)

kamehachi also has a location in old town. we've been to this one, as well ... and it honestly is better than the northbrook restaurant ... josh agrees, in terms of deliciousness of the actual sushi.

but for northbrook, it is really good. and we recently ordered carry out from this location. here's what i had ...

hiyashi wakame :
 assorted seaweed marinated in a red pepper & sesame dressing.
as i've said before, i always order seaweed salad and then end up not liking it. this was a particularly good rendition, mainly because of the tiny bits of red pepper that added a bit more flavor. don't get me wrong, the seaweed was still impossible to eat and i was constantly worried it was stuck in my teeth (anyone who has ever eaten a seaweed salad can testify to that) ... but it was good.

aac maki :
asparagus, avocado & cucumber. 
the aac maki is one of my favorite rolls out there, since it combines most of my favorite sushi veggies... however, it still falls behind the zen roll at rise or shine in the city. my only complaint with my aac maki was that the restaurant only sent low sodium soy sauce home with us... which contains lactic acid (and not specified whether or not it is from a vegetable source). so i had to just eat it with wasabi. wah.

overall, our carry out was good, furthering our belief that kamehachi a consistent spot for some decent sushi. so whether you're in northbrook or old town, it's worth trying out. 

on a separate note, last time i was there, they told me that the vegetable tempura batter was vegan. this time, they said it had egg in it. (that's why i always ask even if i've had it before!) so maybe it was vegan and now it's not ... or maybe they messed up last time ... or this time. either way, i was sad. c'est la vegan. (see what i did there?)

09 September 2012

portillo's hot dogs.

i started this blog to show the world (yes, the world!) that you can be vegan and still eat great food at restaurants. it's not all cooked kale and sauteed tofu. although, i personally wouldn't mind that.

as we've seen over the past eight months, i've eaten at tons of amazing chicago (& elsewhere) restaurants. and i'm just now getting to one chicago staple : portillo's hot dogs. portillo's has several locations all over the chicagoland area. my office loves to order lunch from their downtown shop. i think it's the beefy fries that get everyone at work so excited.

anyway ... portillo's is (probably) my least favorite of our lunch places, simply because they just do not have a lot of vegan stuff. here's what a portillo's rep said when i emailed about their menu : "the only item available that would be strictly vegan would be our garden salad ordered with no cheese and the house dressing. our other salads can also be made without dairy or meat as well as our grilled vegetable sandwich without cheese. however, i would ask a manager to take your order to insure no meat or dairy products were included." ok, at least they're honest.

so that's what i get every time we order portillo's. here it is ...

gourmet garden salad :
crispy chilled romaine & iceberg with a wide array of garden fresh vegetables (no cheddar cheese).
 so sad.

here is my list of complaints :
- crispy chilled romaine & iceberg lettuce = meh lettuce, obviously from a bag. [note : i am well aware that plenty of restaurants (read : most) use lettuce from a bag. but this is just so obviously from a bag ... that i find it unappealing.]
- it costs $6.75. i can barely bring myself to order this at that ridiculous price.
      - the portillo's rep noted that other salads can be prepared without the meat or dairy ... again, then you're paying $10 for bowl of meh veggies. and i don't think i'd trust a grilled vegetable sandwich, that is probably cooked on the same griddle as other, non-veg items. no, thank you.
- their house salad dressing is vegan. but it's not good. the third ingredient is sugar. blech.
- their menu really doesn't have that much vegetarian stuff either. what gives?

basically, portillo's needs to get on board with the rest of the world (yes, the world!) and offer some more vegan items ... yes, you can get away with a quick meal here ... but come on, portillo's. give the (vegan) people what they want. expand a bit. then, we'll (i'll) be back.

05 September 2012

raj darbar.

i've been craving indian food this week ... so josh and i decided to order some and try somewhere new.

we ended up with raj darbar, an indian restaurant in lincoln park, boasting "only the finest ingredients ... dishes that are as healthy as they are delicious." well, it's true. raj darbar is, in fact, delicious.

i ordered the same items i order from our usual indian place (india house, located downtown) for a good comparison. here's what i had ...

step one ...
kachumbar salad :
diced onions, tomatoes & cucumber with lemon.
fresh veggies? yes, please. quite good.
i also liked how it was more of a chopped salad. easier to scoop up with roti.
(as a refresher, i use salad for my base instead of rice ... saving my carbs & calories for the roti.)

step two ...
chana masala :
chickpeas cooked in onions, fresh tomato, ginger & garlic.
so tasty. the base was a little chunkier in raj darbar's chana masala, which i really really enjoyed. josh ordered it super spicy for me and it definitely was. can't wait for leftovers for dinner tomorrow.
 
step three ...
tandoori roti :
unleavened, puffed whole wheat bread.
mmm. can't go wrong with roti bread. the perfect vessel for spicy chickpeas.
 
here are the pros of raj darbar :
 - deliciously spicy chana masala.
 - SUPER quick delivery ... literally, 25 minutes.
 - not as expensive as some of the other indian places we've tried. 

overall, raj darbar is awesome. if you're in the area, give it a try. they won't disappoint.

02 September 2012

springfield, illinois : the illinois state fair.

my grandma lives in springfield, illinois ... our lovely state's capital city. we've obviously been going to springfield since i was little ... and one of our favorite summer traditions is going to the illinois state fair.

the state fair is not the most vegan aware place in the world. lots of fried options = not a lot of vegan options. however, i was able to find a few things to snack on. here's what i had ...

the first stop for me was at culler's french fries ... 
what seems to be a springfield tradition.

culler's french fries :
fresh cut & fried in vegetable oil.
is there anything better than some fresh cut & fresh fried french fries? don't think so.
extra salt & vinegar? yes, please! i could go for another batch right now.

the second stop was at the ethnic village, a little cluster of food booths with "ethnic" food. there were probably a few vegan options at the indian and thai cabins ... but it was 90+ degrees and i wasn't in the mood for either of those delicious cuisines. i found something else instead ...

cajun corn on the cob :
boiled corn + cajun spices (no butter!).
can you really go to a state fair without eating corn on the cob?
so tasty.

the last stop was to try ...
the iconic lemon shake up :
water, lemons, sugar + ice.
you can get these at about a million little stands throughout the fair grounds.
refreshing & delicious. i had two. 

so while the illinois state fair might not have the most vegan choices, they've got a few tasty options. maybe next year they'll bring the veggies, salads & other actually healthy foods. until then, we can stick with the carbs.