31 October 2012

native foods café.

alright, team. you know i don't usually post on specifically vegan places ... but this place is so delicious, i thought i'd share.

even though i am a super nice wife and always go to non-veg places with my dear josh, it's somewhat of a struggle to get him to go to vegan/vegetarian-only places. soooo ... i decided i would (soy) milk my birthday as much as possible (see what i did there?) ... and off to native foods café we went. 

native foods is "the premier chef-crafted vegan restaurant serving homemade, fresh food every day of the week." snap. they've got three locations in chi-town : loop, wicker park & lakeview (woohoo!).

here's what we had ...


native chicken wings :
crispy battered native chicken wings ... with ranch & buffalo sauce. (duh.)
ok, snarf city. we gobbled three of them before i could get a pic in. lo siento! these are sooo good. it might be the cripsy fried-ness, the faux-creamy ranch-ness or the spicy buffalo-ness, but whatever. so yum. i always forget how tasty ranch dressing is ... and this was a pleasant reminder. 

nuevo native nachos :
homemade corn tortilla chips covered in black beans, native taco meat, native chipotle crema, tative cheese, salsa fresca & guacamole. topped with corn, green onions, cilantro and jalapenos.
holy fresh toppings. enough said.

twister wrap :
salad greens, fresh avocado & cucumber salsa, creamy chipotle sauce with crispy native chicken in an organic whole wheat wrap.
again, so good. i saved some of the ranch dressing from our tenders and added it to the wrap. genius. 

soooo ... my vegan & non-vegan friends. if you're in the mood for an absolutely fantastic vegan meal, head over to native foods. it's a great place. 

28 October 2012

lulu belle's pancake house.

this weekend, josh and i had some friends in town (hi, bob & pete!) ... so we wanted to try a new place for brunch on saturday.

criteria :
 1. walking distance from home.
 2. delish food.

we landed at lulu belle's pancake house ... located down the street on southport : check ...
"down home southern with a modern twist" : check. criteria met.


here's what i had :  


farmhouse veggie wrap :
red pepper, red onion, lettuce, balsamic dressing ... add tomato & avocado. no jack cheese or grilled portobello mushrooms. 
not much of the breakfast stuff at lulu belle's appeared to be vegan, so i went the lunch route and did the farmhouse veggie wrap with fries. a typical veggie wrap, but tasty nonetheless. the avocado was perfectly ripe, so that addition definitely improved things for me.

their veggie burger is also vegan, but the bun it comes on is not. so if you're in the mood for a lower-ish carb meal, that'd be a good way to go. 

all in all, lulu belle's is a nice, quick spot for brunch. if you've got non-vegan friends in tow, it's a great place for everyone.

24 October 2012

nhu lan's bakery.

chicago's got a few great banh mi (vietnamese sandwiches) places ... but i haven't really ventured out to try them. so when my mom suggested we go to nhu lan's bakery on lawrence ave. in lincoln square, i was quite excited to go.

why is nhu lan's the best? per their website, "everything is FRESH! TASTY! and DELICIOUS!" so there you have it. 

here's what i had ...



vegan lemongrass tofu banh mi :
ok. yum. 
1. this sandwich is sooo big. but i was starving, so it was kind of perfect. but yeah, unusually huge.
2. this sandwich is sooo cheap. $3.50. absurd. 
3. this sandwich is sooo delicious!! if you aren't used to vietnamese flavors, you might take a minute to get used to it. but for anyone who loves vietnamese food (like me!), this is just one tasty bite. besides the tofu being insanely good, the toppings really are so fresh! i love me some jalapeno & cilantro ... so really, this sammie was just banh mi perfection.

baked coconut cassava & coconut rice cake :
top left : khoai mi nuong ... cassava, coconut, sugar & coconut milk. 
 literally, a little tapioca cake. i haven't had tapioca pudding in years. so i was super excited by this delightful little dessert. and again, 2 little cakes for $2.50. so good & cheap.

bottom right : banh bo nuoc dira ... rice flour, coconut, sugar, coconut milk. 
also delish. kind of the same flavor & texture as the cassava, but without the cassava taste. 

but my favorite thing about nhu lan's? their sandwiches are clearly marked as vegan. and many of their other side items have all their ingredients listed. so you can tell what's vegan and what's not. awesome.

my mom also said that the non-vegan meatball banh mi was amazing ... so basically, great all around.

vegans & non-vegans, rejoice! nhu lan's bakery is the place to go for some "FRESH! TASTY! and DELICIOUS!" vietnamese sandwiches. ya hear?

21 October 2012

slurping turtle.

we all know that i am mildly (read : extremely) obsessed with top chef. and this most recent season of top chef masters was no different. so let's just say i was more than excited to see chicago chef takashi yagihashi in the line up.

takashi-san (as his fellow cheftestants referred to him on t.c.m.) has not one, but two restaurants in chicago ... yea, we're one lucky city.

it's taken me all year to get to these fine establishments ... josh and i are scheduled to go to takashi (in wicker park) coming up in november ... so my first stop was slurping turtle, located on hubbard street in river north, which "strives to recreate ... chef takashi's childhood culinary experiences in japan, the essence of japanese comfort food." yup. pretty much amazing.

here's what i had :

cherry tomato bincho :
 with a balsamic glaze.
a perfect little starter bite. delightful.

tofu noodle soup :
rice noodles, shio base broth, silken tofu, kabocha squash (subbed out the non-vegan whole wheat ramen noodles ... & no japanese mushrooms for me!).
 the team at slurping turtle was awesome and so nice to completely modify this dish for me. i mean, the noodles are an easy substitution ... but they also cut out the mushrooms from this "tofu mushroom" soup. and let me say, i am so glad that they were so accommodating because this noodle bowl was so so so so tasty. hot & steamy, crazy good flavor and a huge portion ... the perfect meal for a rainy chicago evening.

slurp shot !!! :
 mmm.slurp.mmm.

alright, beyond the super yum food ... the most exciting part of this trip was that chef takashi was at slurping turtle that night !!!!! thrilling to say the least. (no, i am not being sarcastic.) i absolutely love a chef sighting ... and seeing top chef masters fan favorite takashi was ah-mazing!

if you haven't already ... get to slurping turtle now. delish! 

17 October 2012

the bagel.

since becoming vegan, i've found that eating at a traditional deli can be quite difficult ... so many meat & cheese sandwiches ... you're lucky to get away with a dinky "garden" salad.

however, that's not the case at all at the bagel, a classic jewish deli located on broadway in lakeview (also, one at old orchard in skokie).

we've been going to the bagel for years ... and it's definitely our favorite deli in chicago. so when josh wasn't feeling well this week and wanted some matzo ball soup, off i went.

the menu at the bagel works extremely well for vegans ... they've got a different vegan soup every day ... as well as a bunch of huge salads & other vegetarian dishes that can be prepared vegan. and, if you eat in the restaurant ... they put a little plate of delicious kosher pickles on the table for your enjoyment. aka the best thing ever.

on this fall day, i opted to carry out the soup of the day ... here's what i had :

lentil soup ... still hot & steamy! :
100% meat & dairy free
so.yum. this soup was super thick, which was perfect in the chilly weather. tasty, warm & filling. can it get much better? 

the bagel only sent challah bread with the soup (not vegan!), but that was okay because i had my vegan butter & vegan multigrain bread at home to dip. double the amazingness. 

i don't believe the menu at the bagel has changed much over the years, so here's their daily vegan soup options just for you! :
- monday : vegetable.
- tuesday : lentil or bean.
- wednesday : split pea. (sounds so good.)
- thursday : vegetable.
- friday : mushroom barley.
- saturday : potato. (another favorite of mine.)
- sunday : mushroom barley.

for non-vegans, the bagel is a must try for some authentic deli food ... and for vegans, it's just a great place to eat. definitely worth checking out.

14 October 2012

fritz pastry.

vegan.donuts. 

enough said. but there's more ...

fritz pastry is an adorable, "classic american style bakery" near southport & diversey. since my birthday was last weekend, i requested some vegan treats in lieu of a cake (since sweet mandy b's won't do vegan. tears.) ... so when i heard fritz had vegan donuts ... in addition to a slew of other vegan items? i was all about it.

so i woke up sunday morning to some amazing-ness. here's what i had ...

a blueberry scone, strawberry glazed donut & cinnamon sugar donut : 
after my amazing donut experience at babycakes nyc earlier summer, i had been craving vegan donuts again. fritz did not let me down. so so so so so good. and the scone was even better than the one i had at alice's tea cup in nyc! shocking, i know! in all honesty, this was one of the best (but least healthy) breakfasts i've ever had. 

i saved a cinnamon sugar for later in the week and dipped it into melted vegan chocolate. best decision of my life. 

&

ginger molasses cookies :
1. these cookies are HUGE. literally, huge. 
2. these cookies are AMAZING. literally, amazing. 
i kept calling them ginger bread cookies, but was wondering why i was tasting molasses. a quick trip to the fritz website and i found out they are ginger molasses cookies. ha. genius. 

basically, fritz pastry is my new favorite bakery in the city. if you are vegan, it's a must try, for realz. check them out. 

10 October 2012

sunda.

another place i have been wanting to try for a while now is sunda, "an award-winning restaurant at the vanguard of america’s new asian movement showcasing eastern asian and southeast asian regional cuisine." wow, sounds pretty amazing, huh?

so when it came time to celebrate two birthdays (me & my bestie carly), it was the obvious choice ...

happy birthday to us! 

so, here's what i had ...

strawberry fields :
belvedere vodka, muddled with fresh strawberries, cointreau, fennel syrup, lemon juice, lime juice, and orange juice.
wow. super delicious.
we also tried the "asian sangria," which was just as good.

sugar snap peas :
 shallots & sesame soy.
so beautiful & green! & tasty!

wok fired shishito peppers :
it's no secret that i love shishito peppers. but this version just didn't do it for me. don't get me wrong, i ate them. and they were good! just not the best. i think they needed more heat ...

summer garden roll :
soy paper, basil, mango, mizuna, avocado, asparagus, cucumber.
i had high hopes for this fancy sounding roll. it typically comes with ponzu sauce, but there was confusion about whether or not it was vegan. so i didn't have any. i also didn't taste any basil in this roll ... which is probably what would have given it the most interesting flavor. i will say that i loved the soy paper though! and all the vegs were extremely fresh.
sunda has a great vibe. and it was a great spot for a birthday celebration. they had a ton of vegan options & items that could easily be prepared vegan. i would definitely try it again ... and you should, too! 


07 October 2012

cesar's.

i've been hearing great things about cesar's, a mexican restaurante in lakeview (two spots ... one on broadway, one on clark) for many years ... mostly about their famous "killer margaritas."

so when there was a groupon for cesar's, i jumped at the opportunity to go.

we got there pretty late on friday ... and there was still a 30 minute wait. so we were offered a little deal ... in exchange for sitting upstairs in the cash only section, we would get some free tequila shots. que divertido!

here's what i had ...

frozen peach margarita :
mmm. can't go wrong.

chips & salsa :
 i love chips & salsa. and we ate a lot of it. yum. the first batch we had was super spicy and the second batch was a little more mild. both were awesome.

guacamole :
some of the best guacamole i've ever had. seriously. simple & super fresh ... not too much extra stuff to mess up the tastiness of the avocado. 

veggie fajitas :
veggies sauteed in a white wine marinade with guacamole, beans & tortillas.
this also came with rice, but that wasn't vegan (cooked in chicken broth). pretty basic fajitas ... but then again, all veggie fajitas are pretty basic. still yum. 
to sum up ... cesar's is a great place for some tasty & simple mexican food ... if you're in the hood, it's worth the trip. and it's true, their margaritas really are killer. i paid for it the next day.

03 October 2012

duck n roll food truck.

my mom and i have been wanting to try eating from a food truck for a while now. but everytime we've had the chance, it doesn't work out. well, this weekend ... we made a real effort and headed over to the cornucopia fall festival in eugene park, where we were promised a cornucopia (pun intended) of food trucks.

they didn't lie ... there were quite a few food trucks there. most, however, did not have vegan options. so we landed at duck n roll food truck, "a concept inspired by vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches, with a contemporary take on flavors from china, japan, korea and thailand" ... and in our experience, mexican.

the menu at the cornucopia fall festival featured various "bacos" = bao + taco ... and the tofu & veggie option's filling was vegan.

here it is ... 

homemade tofu w/ mango lychee salsa :
on tortilla chips.
the tortilla chips were the option to replace having the bao bun (which contains eggs). i was quite pleased they were able to accommodate! buuut ... when i was eating this little dish, i couldn't figure out what the flavor was on the tofu. for some reason, i just didn't love it. now i see on their website it's cooked in a mushroom soy reduction. mushrooms (ick), we meet again. so that's probably what my issue was.

basically, for my first food truck experience ... i was not let down. duck n roll is a nice place for a light, vegan snack. plus, the girls in the truck were super nice & friendly.

if you're interested, you can find out where they're at on their twitter page, @ducknrolltruck.