24 November 2013

wasabi.

now that i have two vegan co-workers (hi, tnaya & katie!), that means we do a little vegan dinner outing every so often. our first : northdown cafe & taproom ... our second : wasabi in wicker park.

picture this. it's the first actually super cold day we've had in chicago ... what sounds good? how about "sushi bar & japanese comfort food"? yes, please. wasabi fit that bill ... perfectly.

here's what we had ...

vegan hot yogi :
asparagus, cucumber, avocado, carrot, lettuce, chili oil, lotus root chips, sesame & sriracha. 
hello, tasty vegan roll that is actually legit & ultra flavorful. i'll eat you any day. 

ume shiso maki :
sour plum, cucumber, shiso mint leaf. 
we thought this sounded weird, but our server said it was good ... so we decided to try it. soooo tasty -- in a weird way. ha.

avocado maki :
the usual.

vegan ramen :
mushroom base broth, bok choy, chive, chilis + tofu.
and now ... the best part of the meal.
ok ... i was terrified of the mushroom base ... that is how much i hate mushrooms. however, not only did this not taste like mushrooms (hell yea) -- but it was freaking delicious. like seriously freaking delicious. i had read some reviews online that implied that the vegan ramen reigned superior over the non-vegan pork ramen ... since this was so amazing, i have to believe this to be true.

my only issue with wasabi is the previously mentioned pork ramen. damn, does that smell takeover the place.

so in the words of the great, wise joseph tribbiani, "mmm. soup." wasabi = uh.mazing ... as the days become colder & colder, get there stat.

--
2115 n. milwaukee avenue
chicago, il 60647

17 November 2013

the bristol.

for a long, long, long time ... my friends & i have been wanting to try the bristol, located on n. damen avenue in wicker park / bucktown. so one chilly fall evening, off we went.

per their website : "in 2008, chef chris pandel opened the bristol ... his menu focuses on locally-sourced, seasonal dishes with a mediterranean influence. ... the bristol has become a staple for chicago’s local dining crowd, off-duty chefs, & visiting gastronomes looking for a great dinner or sunday brunch. the menu features handmade pasta, charcuterie, farm-fresh produce, & a nose-to-tail approach to cooking." beautiful.

the bristol is super aware of dietary needs. i believe there is a whole separate vegetarian menu ... in terms of vegan, there are a few salads & a pasta (see below) ... but it's a super seasonal menu, so that's bound to change.

anyway, here's what i had ...

smoked carrot salad :
barley, crispy kale & black olives.
i was amazed by how actually delicious the smoked carrots were. not only that, but this was an awesome, hearty salad ... like actually filling (thanks to the barley). and every bite that had a black olive in it was especially tasty. duh.

house-made cavatelli pasta w/ rapini pesto :
broccoli rabe & pine nuts. 
i love me some pesto ... and this? this was a perfect departure from the usual basil version. slightly bitter, but that's to be expected ... and the pine nuts added great texture. oh, and the pasta.was.fantastic. normally the vegan option of pasta is specifically not house-made. so i was very excited about this. highly recommended.

the bristol is the type of place i could eat at over and over again as the menu changes ... and i'm quite certain i will ... looking forward to what spring has to offer!

--
 the bristol
2152 n. damen avenue
chicago, il 60647

13 November 2013

northdown café & taproom.

the love i have for non-vegan restaurants that feature legit vegan items on their menus is unending.

northdown café & taproom on lincoln ave. in lakeview is one of these fantastic places. and a special thank you to my vegan friend & co-worker, tnaya, for introducing it to me!

northdown's mantra : "at the northdown, we are a neighborhood café & taproom where our mission is to provide great beer paired with great food made from scratch. our ever-evolving menu features hand-made salads, entrees, & sandwiches for both carnivores & herbivores. all of our food is sourced locally, with a focus on small purveyors. we want you be happy, well-fed & pleasantly buzzed after visiting us!" who doesn't want to leave a meal happy, well-fed & pleasantly buzzed? i mean, i do.

here's what i had ...

vegan mac :
cashew butter "cheese" sauce.
not going to lie, i was super freaking pumped for this.
was it a tasty dish? yes. was it mac & "cheese"? no. a stellar effort though.

vegan "pork" slaw sandwich :
field roast smoked tomato loaf & red cabbage slaw on a home-style bun w/ house-cut fries. 
now this? this was delicious. calling it "pork slaw" isn't the biggest turn on, but that's okay once you realize it's a smoked tomato loaf. and damn is it good. plus the seasoned & salty fries are amazing. #yum.

northdown has several other special vegan items i look forward to trying in the near future ... and since they are located not far from me in the lovely lakeview, i'm sure i'll be back soon. until then, i'll just be dreaming of that fab sandwich + french fries combo ... you should be, too.

--
northdown café & taproom
3244 n. lincoln avenue
chicago, il 60657

10 November 2013

kanela breakfast club.

brunch, brunch, brunch ... anyone looking for a brunch place? try kanela breakfast club

there are two kanela locations ... one in lakeview & one in old town. i met some girlie friends (hi, carly & joelle!) at the old town location a couple of weeks ago for some lovely foodstuffs.

per the kanela website : "kanela is a marvelous world bringing a local, organic & flavorful approach to a greek-inflected american breakfast & lunch menu, reflecting our heritage ... a refreshing take on mama's recipes & delivered to you just the same way, with love & a smile." aww.

here's what i had ...

apple + strawberry + banana juice :
i pretty much drank this in one gulp. so delicious.

greek salad :
mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, sliced red onions & greek vinaigrette. 
anyone here familiar w/ the seinfeld episode where elaine wants a "big salad" ... ? now this would have satisfied her greens requirements. literally huge. i couldn't even finish it -- generally not a problem for me + a bowl of basically water. either way, this was comprised of fresh, tasty ingredients. overall = mmm.

i've gotta say -- there aren't a ton of vegan options at kanela -- but there are a few ... and there are many, many vegetarian options, so that's good. if you're in the hood, it's worth stopping by.

--
kanela breakfast club
1552 n. wells street
chicago, il 60610

06 November 2013

trenchermen - dinner.

it's 100% official ... trenchermen is my new favorite restaurant in chicago. after such a fantastic brunch experience, my gal pals & i decided this was the place for an upcoming combined birthday dinner.

some more about this fine establishment : "this is an eating bar as much as it is a drinking one. where it's communal at large, it's also intimate & coaxing. a sanctuary for the neighborhood. a place where conversations are shared with friends old & new ... unexpected, rooted in simplicity. a place where a good drink is best sipped, food best savored." i mean, come on.

speaking of beverages, i had a couple of delicious drinks this night ... my favorite? mother's milk : carbonated vodka, citrus & pear ... my ideal cocktail & i didn't even know it until then. fabulous.

anyway ...

special birthday menus!

our server also brought over a menu with the vegan & easily-convertible vegan options. my two besties (see below) were willing to share with me ... i think we literally had all of the veg items. here's what i had ...

beets :
pistachio, black olives + nasturtium.
different from your basic beet salad, which was greatly appreciated. the pistachio spread was great with the roasted beets. 

kale salad :
vegetable escabeche, avocado, pumpkin seed.
maybe the best kale salad ever. the kale was cooked, but still slightly crispy somehow. awesome.  

heirloom tomatoes :
red wine vinegar + olive oil sorbet & fried bread.
this.was.amazing. we could not get over how perfectly ripe the tomatoes were -- especially impressive in the middle of october. together with the fried bread & sorbet ... no words. tied with the wheatberries (below) for my favorite dishes.

heirloom wheatberries :
mapo tofu, squash, carrots, chilies & pumpkin seeds.
an already-vegan-option on the menu. woot! all i can say is : delicious. all the flavors worked together perfectly ... and i love wheatberries & tofu, so i was pretty much in heaven.

heirloom eggplant :
sweet chili, garlic, sesame.
we had so many heirloom items for dinner this night. eggplant is generally a so-so veggie for me, but this side was quite tasty.

and now for some friends pics, just for good measure ...

best lady friends.
joelle, me, carly.

lovely ohio visitors.
pete, me, bob & noelle.

alright, people. it's time to get your pretty little tushies over to trenchermen. like now. right now. the food is awesome, the drinks are top notch & the overall environment is just lovely. i'm honestly obsessed with the decor.

so seriously. whether you're looking for a nice place for a special occasion or just a casual brunch or dinner, getting to trenchermen should be your number one priority in life. make it happen. i know i'll be back very soon.

--
trenchermen
2039 w. north avenue
chicago, il 60647

03 November 2013

umi restaurant.

every so often, josh & i stumble upon a random little gem of a restaurant. our most recent discovery was introduced to us by my mom & brother ... umi restaurant, located in irving park. we went there one sunday night to celebrate my brother's birthday : hbd, jeff!

umi offers the "fresh, clean flavors of japan in a casual, yet elegant atmosphere." perfect. and even though the restaurant is located in a strip mall ... when you walk inside, it's really very nice.

here's what i had ...

tofu salad :
fresh tofu tossed in a tangy vinaigrette served with greens. 
this salad was much larger than i expected ... but perfectly delicious. all veggies were very fresh & super flavorful. 

gomae :
boiled spinach in a miso sesame dressing. 
you can't go wrong with anything covered in a tasty sesame sauce ...

avocado maki & aac maki :
avocado + avocado, asparagus & cucumber. 
your basic maki ... the vegan sushi staples. 

umi offers a few other vegan salads & rolls ... and some of the noodle dishes may have also been vegan (but i didn't ask). if you're looking for something quick & easy, umi is a great option.

--
umi restaurant
2845 w. irving park road
chicago, il 60618