25 September 2013

¡ la chi city vegan : back to españa !

yes, it is surprising. i am heading back to spain. (that makes two trips to this lovely country in less than 6 months! olé!)

this time though, i'll be traveling with josh ... and the purpose of the trip is to attend & celebrate at the wedding of my good friend, sara, in madrid ... my favorite city in europe. (although, it's tied with paris. come on.)

sara & me ...
halloween 2008.

sara & i met when i studied abroad in madrid ... me, a chicago girl wanting to practice spanish, & sara, a madrileña looking to practice english. we would meet up every week to do just that.

sara showed me all different kinds of places in madrid ... rose gardens, lesser known (to me) shopping malls, a funicular ... and we always had the best time. so i am so excited to be heading to madrid to celebrate with her & her fiancé, ángel. 

after a few days in madrid, josh & i are headed to tenerife in the canary islands ... for a few days of sand + sun ... and most importantly, a monkey park

i hope to come back with some great info on vegan eating in both places! so stand by! 

22 September 2013

rockit bar & grill.

several months ago, rockit bar & grill sent me a little e-mail showing off their new vegan. (there is also a gluten-free menu!) for several reasons, i was very excited to try this ... mainly because : hello! bar + grill w/ a vegan menu? win! it took some time, but i finally got over there.

the vegan menu :
love it!

anyway, according to their website, "rockit bar & grill, located in the heart of the booming river north neighborhood, puts executive chef amanda downing’s contemporary culinary twist on the traditional bar & grill ... offering outstanding casual american cuisine, using the freshest ingredients available in a mouthwatering menu that includes salads, sandwiches, and entrees." great. i love me a good culinary twist.

here's what i had ...

white bean hummus : 
veggies + grilled pita.
ignore the eggplant dip in the back there. the white bean hummus? pretty good. not as amazing as the ceci bean spread from la madia, the standard by which i judge all white bean dips ... but still, very very good. and even better with a bite of super salty caper. 

mediterranean salad :
kale-chickpea falafel, white bean hummus, grilled pita, tomato, cucumber, red onion, chopped romaine & toasted sesame dressing. (add avocado.)
kale-chickpea falafel? now this i can get 100% on board with. the ingredients were, in fact, super fresh ... making for quite a nice, light dinner. my only issue? the toasted sesame dressing. while it was very tasty, it just didn't feel right with a mediterranean salad. just some simple balsamic + evoo would have done the trick.

don't get me wrong. i definitely plan to head back to rockit bar & grill. i mean come on, there are three other salads to try! besides that, it's nice to know that at least one bar in this big ol' city offers a legit vegan menu. oh, & they also have happy hour specials ... so if you're in the hood, looking for a beer + tasty bite ... try rockit. 

rockit bar & grill
22 w. hubbard street
chicago, il 60654

18 September 2013

piccolo sogno.

oh piccolo sogno ... how i've longed to visit you. and finally, i have! josh & i decided to do a date night ... on the first night of regular season football, much to josh's chagrin. oops.

but that's okay ... summer was coming to a close & i wanted to sit outside at the famous piccolo sogno patio! so we had to go! at least, that's how i justified it.

so off we went to the river west neighborhood (the grand, halsted & milwaukee six corners, to be exact) for some cucina italiana.

per the website : "piccolo sogno features a menu of fresh, seasonal rustic italian cuisine ... from homemade pastas & hand-tossed pizzas prepared in the restaurant's wood-burning oven to roman-style pork & mediterranean sea bass [ed. note : not applicable to vegans] -- as well as homemade gelato & sorbet." lovely! 

here's what i had ...

insalata di pesche :
peaches, baby arugula & lemon oil.
i've been on a peach kick for the past couple of weeks, so i had to get this. light + fresh. a winning combination. there were some other salad options that could be vegan-ized, but again ... had to go with the pesche.

vegan pasta :
olive oil + every vegetable ever grown ... fava beans, peas, carrots, cauliflower, sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, etc. etc. etc.
literally every vegetable known to (wo)man was tossed in this dish ... except mushrooms. duh. the pasta was fab & reminded me of the gluten-free kind i had at the rosebud. (could be the same!) all in all, just a perfect bowl of veggies + noodles.

for dessert :
the stanley cup stopped by! 
too full for actual dessert - so a photo of the 2013 stanley cup (as won by the chicago blackhawks!) was equally delicious.

piccolo sogno is one of those classic chicago restaurants -- need a reservation long in advance, always a wait, fantastic food. 

now that it's getting chilly out, i'd hold off on a visit until the warmer months to sit on the patio. but once spring/summer hits, get over there asap for some tastiness.

piccolo sogno
464 n. halsted street
chicago, il 60642

15 September 2013

pot pan thai restaurant.

well, here is goes ...

pot pan is my favorite thai restaurant in all of chicago.

i was introduced to pot pan a few years ago by my boss (hi, erin!) ... see, we love pot pan ... & we have ordered it for lunch many, many times. the sad news is that pot pan does not deliver to my house in lakeview. tears.

but that's ok. because i finally made the trip over to wicker park (on n. milwaukee avenue to be exact, next to antique taco) & dined in the actual pot pan restaurant!

here's what i had ...

tofu salad :
steamed tossed with onion, cucumber, carrot, tomato, cilantro & lime juice, served on top of a romaine lettuce leaf. 
tofu + lime is one of my favorite combos. the tofu at pot pan is top notch, so this salad was basically light, yummy perfection. 

red curry :
tofu in coconut milk, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, hot peppers & basil leaves.
my favorite favorite favorite red curry. honestly, the best in chicago that i've had. (opart thai house is a close second.) super spicy, but also perfectly sweet.

besides having amazing food, the real reason i love pot pan so much is that they are very accommodating to vegetarian & vegan needs. sooo many places won't make their red curry without fish sauce, but they will at pot pan. and they have lots of other dishes that can also be prepared vegan. so that makes them automatic winners. check them out!

pot pan thai restaurant
1362 n. milwaukee avenue
chicago, il 60642

11 September 2013

arya bhavan.

sometimes, one (me) just craves indian food. this happened last week. but instead of going our usual route, i wanted to try somewhere new.

new (to me)arya bhavan, located on w. devon avenue ... although, per the usual for a lazy weekday night, i ordered delivery.

a bit about arya bhavan : "our food, with its unique combination of fragrantly subtle spices, is a representation of the many and varied regional cuisines of india & the many ethnic groups of people in the subcontinent."

but the best part of arya bhavan, you ask? it's all vegan! i repeat -- it's all vegan. w/ many gluten-free & raw options. woo!

here's what i had ...
arya bhavan vegan entrees :
palak paneer : fresh organic spinach & pan-seared vegan cheese, seasoned with cumin, onion, cinnamon, cardamom & garam masala spices. i have been craving palak paneer basically since the day i became vegan. no where offers a vegan version. so i absolutely had to try this. amazing. fantastic. must have. could eat for every meal, every day.

chana masala : sun-dried chickpeas seasoned with cumin & fresh onion, sauteed & topped w/ tomato gravy. chana masala is the dish i judge all indian places by since it's almost always a vegan option. from arya bhavan? delicious. 

basmati rice : yummy & carb-y, as always 

garlic naan : unbleached clay-oven baked fat-bread topped with cilantro & garlic.  ah naan, another thing i've missed. the a.b. version was crazy good. 

arya bhavan also offers a buffet if you eat in the restaurant. i am definitely doing this soon. because i want to try pretty much everything on the menu ... & eat myself into an indian food coma. this food is so great ... aka you should probably head over there now. like.now.

arya bhavan
2508 w. devon avenue
chicago, il 60659

08 September 2013

the gage.

josh & i both decided to take a couple days off work for an extended labor day weekend... and one day, we ventured over to the art institute. where to eat a light lunch when walking around michigan avenue? why the gage, of course.

the gage features "delicious, upscale comfort food" with a "relaxing ambiance" & "vintage decor." beautiful. they also have a fantastic outdoor seating area -- and even though it's right on michigan, it's nicely secluded & really very quiet.

here's what i had ...

beet salad :
green beans, spiced pecans & orange vinaigrette. 
a lovely lunch salad. super fresh... the golden beets were delicious paired w/ the orange vinaigrette.

sauteed tuscan kale :
marinated cherry tomatoes & chili flakes.
salad w/ a side of kale greens = my obvious m.o.

the gage has a couple other salads and side dishes that can be prepared vegan. there is also a mushroom sandwich, but i obviously didn't ask about that. oops

if you're looking for something a little nicer than the usual touristy and/or fast food stops on michigan ave., stop in at the gage.

24 s. michigan avenue
chicago, il 60603

04 September 2013

hubbard inn.

a couple of weeks ago, some gal pals (hi, carly & ilana!) & i decided that some end-of-work-week eats & drinks were in order. so we headed to the obvious choice : outdoor seating at hubbard inn.

hubbard inn is located in river north ... so dining alfresco = great people watching ... perfect for the end of summer. (tears.)

a bit about this lovely place : "hubbard inn features european inspired small plates, quintessential mid-century cocktails & old world decor." beautiful. also, when hubbard inn first opened, the rumor was that it was somewhat hemingway inspired ... so i was definitely looking forward to seeing what was up.

here's what i had :

tuscan kale salad :
walnuts, pickled blackberries & shallot vinaigrette.
i'm incapable of seeing kale on a menu and not ordering it. and since my darling carly also suffers from this kale-salad-loving affliction, we had to get it. pickled blackberries aren't your everyday fare and they were delicious. great w/ the crunchy walnuts + fresh kale.

brussels sprouts :
ain't nothing to complain about when it comes to fried brussels. delish.

vegan flatbread :
onions, bell peppers, asparagus & greens. 
i snarfed this puppy. fresh veg + fresh flatbread perfection.

french fries : 
these were a last minute addition ... crispy & fresh ... the two main requirements for actually good french fries.

to recap hubbard inn ...
1. fab outdoor seating.
2. fab food.
3. get there.

hubbard inn
110 west hubbard street
chicago, il 60654

01 September 2013

urban vegan.

sometime between one and two years ago, a new all-vegan all-the-time restaurant opened in chicago : urban vegan ... now with one located in lakeview, one located in lincoln park. i think lakeview is the original though.

"at urban vegan chicago, we've made it our mission to create a truly authentic thai/asian restaurant ... we focus on providing premium-quality meat-free products with the finest ingredients and deliciously original recipes ... the result? an ever-growing range of delicious vegan foods."

when urban vegan first opened, i was obsessed with it. it had just been so long since i had an "egg" roll ... i couldn't get enough. then i read a scary yelp review and took pause for a bit. since then, i've decided to give them another try. and it's just as good as it always was.

here's what i had ...

trio of appetizers :
keep in mind, this is not an actual option on the menu. we just ordered a bunch of items to have a nice little selection. from the top ...
spring rolls : deep fried spring rolls stuffed with cabbage, carrot, mung bean noodles & shiitake mushroom. served with sweet & sour sauce. my favorite little things. fantastic fried vegan goodness.
steamed veggie dumplings : stuffed with vegetables. also delicious ... & their special sauce makes them even better.
golden tofu : served with sweet chili sauce & ground peanuts. sometimes you just want some simple, crispy tofu. this is what you get when you do. 

tom kah kai :
soy chicken, tomatos & exotic herbs in coconut milk broth.
soy chicken scares me. but here, it's actually really really good. it just tastes tofu-y, so it's okay. this soup is just overall great. coconut milk is amazing, so ...  i can't wait to order a big bowl for delivery when it's -75° in the middle of february. will certainly improve any cold winter night.

i've ordered a ton of other stuff off their menu, too ... pad thai, red curry, banana coconut rolls (freaking heaven), etc. it's all good. 

i've never eaten at either of the actual restaurants ... delivery only for this girl. so that's all i can vouch for. but if you're in the mood for some certifiably good, certifiably vegan asian foods, check them out. 

1605 w. montrose avenue
chicago, il 60613