31 March 2013

flat top grill.

flat top grill is "a create your own stir-fry restaurant with fresh ingredients & home made sauces for a fun, fresh & interactive dining experience." they're based in chicago, but have locations throughout the midwest. the one we went to is located right at the corner of southport & belmont. easy peasy!

not going to lie, i'm generally a huge fan of interactive dining. and when you get to build your own perfect dish? ideal.

the best part about flat top grill ... instead of having a list of vegan items, they have a list of the few non-vegan items. take a look ...

DO NOT eat these items :
quorn - horseradish tofu sauce - pad thai sauce - thai red curry sauce - triple chocolate storm - whipped cream (obvi.) - ice cream (obvi.) - kung pao prata - chicken satay (obvi.) - mu shu wraps - korean bbq (contains honey.)

but that means that literally everything else is vegan! woop! they also have the option to put a "dietary restriction" stick in your bowl, which means they will cook your dish on a separate, cleaned griddle. another win, woop!

here's what i had ...

create your own stir fry :
brown rice, baby corns, jalapeños  edamame, bamboo, curry pakoras, soy sauce, red hot chili sauce & flat bread.
oooh. see the hot steaminess? okay, so maybe this bowl looks not so good. but it's my not so good mess, so i liked it. and if you make your own, you can make it look as pretty as you'd like! oh, and the curry pakoras are freaking delicious. 

flat top is a quick & easy place for lunch or din ... and if you're into a diy-style meal, it's the place for you. check it. 

28 March 2013

butcher & the burger.

the guys in my office are pretty much always craving burgers. so recently, we ordered delivery from butcher & the burger, a burger shop on w. armitage in lincoln park where you can customize a variety of burgers to your little heart's desire.

the best thing about butcher & the burger? they've got a vegan burger ---- & ---- can make vegan french fries. "a dash of old fashion butcher shop with a pinch of culinary artistry mixed in" ... hell yeah.

after talking about this place obsessively to josh, we decided to venture over there. the perfect spot to celebrate a hoosier victory in the ncaa tournament.

anyway, here's what i had ...

lentil brown rice burger :
w/ umami spices & avocado on a lettuce wrap bun. 
holy yum. this officially beats out tavern on rush as my favorite vegan burger in the city. it's so good ... and actually gets a nice little crust on the outside. i mean, it's still the type of thing you need to eat with a fork & knife. but that's okay because the flavor is there. oh, and adding the avocado makes a huge difference in deliciousness. highly recommended.

vegan french fries (!!!) :
it is possible that another bun option at butcher & the burger is vegan. but i didn't ask because i wanted to save room (& calories!) for the vegan french fries! they take a little longer to prepare, but damn are they worth the wait. fries are kind of my weakness, so i'm always super excited about some vegan ones. mmm.

hubbie & me :
josh had the bison burger w/ goat cheese & ghost pepper. he loved it!

le aftermath :
snarfed up every last bit (except half the lettuce bun).

the butcher & the burger is most definitely a new favorite for me. (gosh, i've had two new favorites lately!) it's not the healthiest thing in the world. but it's so good, you won't even care. check it out!!

25 March 2013

siena tavern.

get excited ... chicago welcomes another top chef! this time, it's top chef season 5 fan favorite : chef fabio viviani.

fabio partnered up with a couple of veteran chicago restauranteurs to create siena tavern, where the "sophistication and charisma of viviani's cuisine" shines. the restaurant is located at the corner of n. dearborn & w. kinzie street in river north ... a fun, bustling area ... the perfect place for a girls night out.

of course, i was super hopeful that fabio would be at the restaurant that night ... but alas, he was in la. (i know this because he replied to one of my tweets. yeah, we're bffs.)

here's what i had ...

roasted shishito peppers :
lemon & olive oil.
we all know i can't pass up some shishito peppers. these were a simple version. flavorful, but not spicy. perfectly crispy. 

roasted cauliflower :
pepperoncini, roasted pine nuts & torn mint.
wow. in my opinion, cauliflower can be boring as hell. not this version. the pepperoncini added just the right amount of kick ... cooled down if you were lucky enough to get a bite of the mint. the cauliflower was also perfectly roasted. i could eat this all day. 

[side note : my gal pals & i laughed about the torn mint listed on the menu ... such a top chef descriptor. love.]

farro pasta :
pesto, artichoke, toasted peppers & zucchini. 
a vegan variation of the farro pasta menu item. i've gotta say. i was pumped for this. mostly because i thought it was just going to be farro. but farro turned into pasta? honestly, genius. it was soooooo flavorful. so much more so than regular or brown rice pasta. i loved it. the pesto was also delish. another dish i could eat all day.

siena tavern is definitely a fun place ... a new favorite for me! i highly recommend to any fabio fans (& i know there are a lot of us!) ... or anyone else looking to try something new. i know i will certainly be back.

20 March 2013

the chicago diner.

i usually don't like to write posts on vegan/vegetarian only places (i mean, in a little over a year, i've only done one & two.) ... but the chicago diner is too good to go on neglected by this vegan (me).

the chicago diner now has two locations -- logan square (far from me) and halsted street (the orig, close to me). my mom & i opted for the nearby halsted street location last weekend.

back in 1983, the founders of the chicago diner aimed to "create an atmosphere as american as mini malls, decorating the place with vintage ads and neon lights & serving up heaping helpings of comfort food, but without the meat."

and thankful we are to these brave, trailblazing souls. because today? today we have an incredible place for vegan eats.

this was my mom's first time at the chicago diner ... and we decided to order a bunch of stuff and share it all. since i've been a few times, i knew a couple items we had to order, but we also tried some new dishes.

here's what i had ...

crispy creole combo :
jalapeño corn fritters, french fried banana peppers, sweet potato fries & creole mustard. 
frying banana peppers is the most genius idea ever. sooo yum. i snarfed almost all of them before my mom could get a bite in. also, the jalapeño corn fritters were amazing. basically, a plate of fried deliciousness + a side of creaminess. 

radical reuben :
corned beef seitan, grilled onions, peppers, sauerkraut, vegan thousand island & cheeze on marbled rye. 
in my opinion (and the opinion of vegetarian times magazine), this is why you come to the chicago diner. this sandwich is freaking awesome. i generally don't really like foods that are trying to be something else (and i also don't like foods that are trying to be meat, i mean - we are vegan. why would we want meat?) ... but this is just sooo tasty. salty, sour, crunchy bread = real sandwich perfection. 

mac & cheeze side :
hi, freaking awesome macaroni & cheeze that can accompany the freaking awesome reuben. 

chipotle firehouse wrap :
grilled seitan, onions & peppers, chipotle fire sauce, cheeze, lettuce, tomato & mexican rice in a tomato tortilla w/ sour cream & black bean corn salad. 
my mom's pick. i thought it was reeeeally good (not as good as the reuben). good flavor, but the faux meat (aka grilled seitan) was cut a little thick for my liking. the black bean corn salad = eh, kind of boring. when i go to a place like this, i like to really dive in and eat the things i normally don't get to eat. (like cheezy waffle fries. next time!)


the chicago diner is truly a must eat for vegans & vegetarians (oh, and regular old meat eaters, too!) who live in or are visiting chicago. it's mind-blowingly-amazing. get there, stat.

17 March 2013

wildfire.

i haven't been to a lettuce entertain you classic in a while ... so my friend & i decided to head to wildfire, located right in river north on w. erie street.

wildfire is a fun place ... they describe themselves as "a modern-day 1940s dinner club." and it's true. the decor & atmosphere are pretty much what i think that time would be like.

martinis & vino :
my amiga, ilana, & me. 
wildfire has some pretty damn good martinis (try the stormy night) ... i opted for a glass of malbec this time.

anyway, wildfire is a definite favorite for me and josh. (and also a north suburban staple.) in fact, we like it so much that we had our wedding rehearsal dinner there. the food was delish and the martinis were a-flowin'.

anyway, on this most recent trip, here's what i had ... 

wildfire chopped salad :
avocado, tomatoes, scallions, corn & tortilla strips w/ citrus lime vinaigrette. 
(no chicken. no bleu cheese. no bacon.)
this is literally my favorite salad in the entire world. wildfire has a few other vegan options, but you really need to look no further than this delicious salad. okay, it looks a little sad in this picture. but that's my fault - not the salad's! fresh avocado + tortilla strips + citrus lime vinaigrette makes for a happy vegan. you can even buy the dressing to bring home with you, but i didn't let myself get that carried away. 

fresh steamed broccoli :
with lemon vinaigrette. 
i hadn't ever had the broccoli side before ... tasty. very light (including the vinaigrette) ... but still good. pretty much exactly what you would expect it to be. 

okay, i'll say this. sometimes the crowd at wildfire is a little older. but that don't mean the food ain't tasty. it's one of my go-to places when i'm craving a salad. check it out. 

13 March 2013

little market american brasserie.

this past weekend, my gal pal carly & i ventured out in the cold for brunch. we decided on little market american brasserie, located in the gold coast at the talbott hotel.

little market offers "a diverse, yet approachable menu with hearty american dishes, european inspirations & a distinctive design." the restaurant is adorable. the decor is cozy, but beautiful ... and the overall environment is just très chic. i loved it.

our server knew what a vegan was and happily suggested a few options. here's what i had ...

the green machine :
kale, green apple, celery, basil & lemon. 
ok, i was obviously drawn to this vibrant beverage because of the kale. duh. 
the green machine was, to be frank, freaking amazing. soooo fresh. and not at all heavy like you might expect a kale drink to be. even carly loved it - and she doesn't do that kind of thing.

sunchoke salad :
pear, arugula & red wine vinaigrette.
um, yum. super light. maybe a smidge too light even. but oh so tasty. this was my first experience with sunchoke. it kind of tasted like a crisper, less flavorful apple. nothing like i expected. but delicious nonetheless.

i loved little market. a perfect green brunch. i will certainly be back again -- probably in the summer when they've got the outdoor seating set up.

10 March 2013

kyu sushi.

when you're craving something healthy, what's your go to? mine's sushi. but i felt tired of all the usual places. so josh and i decided to take a peek on grubhub and find something new ...

enter kyu sushi, a "contemporary" sushi joint in ukrainian village.

not going to lie, i was initially drawn to kyu because i saw soy paper on the menu. for some reason, i just love soy paper. so that made our dinner decision much simpler.

here's what i had ...

gomae :
 spinach w/ sesame peanut sauce.
 this looks like a tiny little order. which is it. but the spinach was so tightly packed that it actually felt like a substantial bit of food. the sesame peanut sauce helped, too. delish.

avocado roll w/ soy paper :
 your classic avocado roll. but for some reason, this one was even tastier. i think it was the soy paper and the appropriate rice to avocado ratio that did the trick. i gobbled this up in about 2 seconds.

green day roll w/ soy paper : 
yamakobo, kampyo, cucumber, seaweed salad, avocado & cilantro w/ ginger dressing.
i was super excited to be able to order a specialty maki. i feel like vegans rarely get that opportunity, since they all mostly contain fish or fried things. but this one? perfectly fresh. and the soy paper even did a good job holding this together. (sometimes i think soy paper isn't as effective as seaweed.) oh, and having the seaweed salad actually in the roll was awesome! really innovative, i thought. overall roll rating : a++. 

we will certainly be back for more kyu sushi. vegan sushi yums. 

06 March 2013

bloomington, indiana : the irish lion.

in all my years at indiana university, i never dined at the irish lion, a restaurant & pub located on kirkwood right off the square ... where you can get a "true taste of ireland." 

the irish lion's menu is not what you would call "vegan-friendly." i'm going to guess that most of the restaurants in ireland are not what you would call "vegan-friendly" either. but that's okay. when our server was a little confused, a manager came over and explained my options. and after a quick confab with the chefs, we had settled on my vegan meal.

here's what i had ...

 sauteed vegetable medley :
a steamed seasonal vegetable blend w/ white rice. 
oops, forgot to say no mushrooms. my bad. the rest? delish. i added some olive oil, vinegar, salt & pepper to ya know, spice things up a bit. 

baked potato :
 again, i added olive oil, salt & pepper to this big bad boy. yum. i am going through a major baked potato phase right now ... so this was a perfect addition.


i know this meal might look a little boring. but come on people, we're vegan. when all else fails, steamed veggies & a baked potato aren't the worst items we can eat. 

either way, the team at the irish lion really took care of me. and for that, i am thankful!