We spent the past week in Chicago visiting Erik’s brother and his family for Thanksgiving. They actually live in the ‘burbs, which is where we spent most of our time; but on Saturday, Erik and I spent the day—just us— tooling around the big city and checking out some good vegan eats (an entire day of being able to choose anything from the menu!). It was so wonderful to be in a city like Chicago that has so many veg restaurants that we had to whittle down our options to what we could fit into one day.
Karyn’s on Green
I’ve heard so much about The Chicago Diner that I knew it had to be on our list, but I turned to Twitter for other suggestions. Karyn’s on Green responded with, “Try us!” How could I turn down a personal invitation!? I added it to our list and on Saturday we bundled up and headed into Chicago for an early lunch at Karyn’s, a cool, contemporary, chic all-vegan restaurant and bar where they are “making vegan sexy.”
The staff was so kind and helpful, and literally everything on the menu looked good! We eventually decided on Jerry’s pizza, the Buffalo Chicken Pita and, after a good sales pitch from our waiter, Roasted Brussels Sprouts.
Jerry’s pizza comes with marinara sauce, wild mushrooms and a mozzarella-style cheese. The pizza had a wonderful flavor and we enjoyed it, but the cheese had a certain stickiness to it.
The Buffalo Chicken Pita was amazing, and I guarantee you that no one would ever know that it was vegan if you didn’t tell ’em. It is topped with red onion, shreds of romaine and a cool Caesar dressing that nicely compliments the heat of the buffalo sauce. The pita is served with seasoned steak fries and barbecue sauce. If you visit Karyn’s for lunch (it’s not on their dinner menu), get this!
I’ve never eaten Brussels sprouts before because I was never able to get past the awful stench. Turns out they only get stinky if you overcook them! Karyn’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts are served in a creole mustard vinaigrette and they were so good that I could have seriously eaten them–just them–for lunch. Erik liked them just as much as I did. They set the bar pretty high, but now I’m excited to try some recipes of my own in the near future.
Vegan Food Truck
After the filling lunch we hung out at Millennium Park (where we got engaged about four years ago) and then spent some time on State Street and Michigan Avenue doing some window shopping. The night before, our sister-in-law, Jill, mentioned the new trend of food trucks in big cities, so we borrowed her computer to see if there was one in Chicago. And there was! And it was vegan! In November, Ste Martaen, a gourmet vegan cheese maker, teamed up with the restaurant Soul Vegetarian East to launch a vegan food truck service–the first of its kind in Chicago.
The food truck serves the masses by request (via Twitter, text or call) Tuesday through Saturday. Once again turning to Twitter, I let them know that we were hungry, told them where we were located and they scheduled a stop by us! I was completely fascinated by the process (and I never knew Twitter could be so useful!)! We scored some delicious Pecan Pie and a Tofu Sandwich on Sun-Dried Tomato Focaccia with two types of Ste Martaen cheeses, greens, tomatoes, Vegenaise and truffle oil. I was very impressed with the sandwich and wish we would have gotten two. The driver, Meshael, was very friendly, too, and even took our picture by the truck.
The Chicago Diner
Our final stop for the day was The Chicago Diner, an “all vegetarian, very vegan” restaurant. This place was hoppin’! We had a 40 minute wait, so we hung out in the “holding tank” (a heated tent on their patio) and enjoyed some complimentary hot apple cider until a table opened for us. Once our name was called we entered the diner and had a seat at our table. The diner is pretty small, but it has a very fun, hip atmosphere.
After much deliberation, we decided on the Pumpkin Ravioli and Enchiladas (minus the cheeze). The Pumpkin Ravioli is topped with a butternut squash sauce and oven-roasted tart apples and onions. It was very good, but for us the flavor was a bit too strong and sweet for an entrée, and we would have preferred a smaller portion as an appetizer.
The enchiladas were absolutely spectacular. They are made with corn tortillas and are filled with seitan chorizo, onions, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes, topped with guajillo pepper sauce, black olives and vegan sour cream, and served with a side of rice and black beans. It was a lot of very, very good food.
Too stuffed to eat another bite, we ordered Donnie’s Peanut Butter Puck to go. We didn’t know when we ordered it, but it was created by our waiter, Don! He spent a few weeks mastering this dessert and the flavor is much like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. It was fantastic!
After The Chicago Diner we said goodbye to the city and made our way back to our home for the week with plenty of leftovers for the next day. Thanks, Karyn’s on Green, Ste Martaen and Soul Vegetarian Food Truck and The Chicago Diner, for a day of wonderful food experiences and for demonstrating how delicious eating compassionately can be!