Chicago – Summer in the City

Foster Beach in Chicago

Travelling to Chicago in the summer time always makes me want to live there. Walking around the city, riding the El while listening to Sufjan Stevens, visiting with my friends and family, and eating glorious food always makes me stop and say “I could live here”. Then I try to buy a cocktail or walk around at Christmastime and realize I could never live here. Well, maybe I’ll be able to do it after global weather change. God knows it is getting pretty hard to live in Texas right now with this serious drought and heat wave. It seems practically apocalyptic in Austin these days, everything is dying. Sunny Day Farms can’t even feed their rescued farm animals because they can’t grow grass so please donate if you can, they need hay for the piggies. All the poor critters out there are suffering the most.

Compared with Texas, Illinois kept blowing me away by how lush and green everything was, it was just gorgeous! We were supposed to start the trip with my Mom taking my sister and I to the fancy vegetarian restaurant Green Zebra but my flight was late and we took a wrong turn and ended up at Handlebar which is a mostly vegan bar and restaurant that is open until 2 am. I got a Buffalo “chicken” wrap which had vegan ranch, fried seitan and vegetables along with some mashed potatoes. It was pretty much the perfect thing to get at a bar if you had been drinking all night. I took the worst picture of my blogging career. It is so bad that I have to share it. Hey, it was bar lighting.

We went back for brunch another day and I took a picture that was a little better on their cute bike friendly patio. My sister had a bloody mary garnished with a deep fried pickle.

I had a hard time deciding what to get on the brunch menu because the biscuits and gravy were softly whispering “Lazy, you know you want us” but I pushed the voices aside this time and ordered the pepita tofu scramble which had roasted red peppers, sweet potatoes, kale, poblanos, and a pepita pesto even, I was not disappointed. The creamy pesto mstched really well with the crunchy fried onions.

Another day we checked out Mana Food Bar for happy hour and had an array of salads and delicious cocktails. It was hot out so the cold dishes were perfect and I felt like I was eating how people imagine vegans eat all the time. I think our favorite was the top one, a jicama and mango dish with cucumbers, cilantro, and chile lime salt. I should try and make that at home because it was perfect for 90 degree weather. The middle dish was a quinoa salad with tomatoes and kalamatas with sage. It was ok but probably not worth seven dollars for a small. Finally, we had a seaweed salad which had cucumbers and a bright lemon sesame dressing. The sampler was pretty good but my watermelon and mint sake cocktail was the definitely the best part.

Later we went down the street to Crust for pizza and Trivia, and our team, “The Springfield Isotopes” was robbed of victory. The food at Crust was well done overall, I had an olive tapenade, chips and mango salsa and a fabulous but teeny brushetta with white bean hummus, capers, and preserved lemon, and another one with roasted woodland mushrooms and truffle oil. I would have gotten the pizza too but it was 5 dollars to add soy cheese, tempeh or seitan and which seemed a little excessive, overall everything was really delicious and probably worth the price. Another Day we went to Foster Beach which was just beautiful. The water was warm and it was almost perfect….almost because the City of Chicago doesn’t allowed floaties in the water! Blasphemy! I guess the fear is that people will float off to far. For some reason this is a concern in a lake but not a problem in other places like the OCEAN in Hawaii or Florida. Bullshit. If I lived there I would be emailing Rahm Emanuel disgruntled letters all summer long. Later my sister took me to Falafill which was probably my favorite new find of the whole trip.The brilliant concept behind this awesome little falafel stop is that you get either a falafel or hummus sandwich or bowl and then you get to go to the self service bar to put on whatever of the 30 toppings you want and can fit! The falafels were perfectly seasoned and fried up crunchy and the toppings were overwhelmingly good. I would eat there every day and just get salad. Almost everything on the bar was vegan and clearly marked. My protip if you go, put your cilantro chutney on first, my falafel was a little dry because I put all the sauce on last. And do get the cilantro chutney. Unless you are a hater. The bazerghen, the Armenian salad, the olives with morrocan spice, and toum (garlic sauce) were all fantastic. Every bite was a new sensation of wonder and delight. They have guides for the timid so you don’t go mixing un-mixey things.

By the way, if you are traveling to Chicago I would recommend staying in Wrigglyville because all my favorite places are right around there, The Chicago Diner, Falafill, and all sorts of others. And you could see a game which people in Chicago are really into. There are lots of vegan options at the park. PS, if you are going to Chicago I have several posts from other trips to the Chicago Diner and Irazu (and even Milwaukee), and Soul Veg.

I checked out another Spanish tapas place kind of nearby Wriggly with my Dad called Bull-eh-dia. I thought I would be able to find something at a tapas place and it turned out they had a lot! We started with peach sangria and then I couldn’t resist the Paella Vegetariana which was surprisingly vegan.It was delicious and chock-full of mushrooms, artichokes, asparagus, peas and peppers. It was creamy and comforting and a huge portion. I didn’t try the other tapas but they had a changing menu with items like artichokes in a citrus dressing, and aceitunas aliñadas and many different kinds of sangria.

Finally it was time to say good-bye and my Mom and I headed out of town. Before we left, though, my sister told me to check out the Whole Foods in the South Loop. Even though it was out of the way I was so glad we went. They had all kinds of things that our Whole Foods doesn’t carry, and I always thought ours was the best! The difference is that Chicago has such great local companies like Soul Veg and Uptown’s seitan that make a ton of prepared food for the store. They just had a giant rack with vegan mac and cheese, sandwiches, chicken salad, pies and barbecue. What a travesty that the Texas Whole Foods doesn’t carry vegan barbecue!

They even had a vegan chicken bacon ranch wrap! It was madness.

We loaded up with supplies and headed downstate.

10 thoughts on “Chicago – Summer in the City

  1. Michelle

    I love Chicago! One of my best friends lives there…although I always end up visiting in the middle of February, never the summer. I’m heading there in September and I’m definitely bookmarking this post for restaurant suggestions!

  2. Jes

    Ohhhh Chicago vegan eats are the best! I’m so sad you missed out on Green Zebra (would have loved to hear if it’s as good as it was when I went a few years ago) but everything else looks amazingly good–especially that paella. I love places that make vegan paellas!

  3. edayem

    The Whole Foods on Lamar has vegan TX barbecue seitan–I think it’s Wayfare brand. It’s over in the refrigerated section with the tofu salad and hummus, across from the yogurts. Personally, I found it “eh”, but when the mood hits you….

  4. windycityvegan

    I’ve been putting off reading your post because I AM SO HOMESICK!! I love where I live now and don’t see myself moving back any time soon (unless I go to law school there), but . . . sigh. Double sigh.

    Okay, now the important stuff – comments on your food!
    1. I haven’t been to Green Zebra, but I went to Spring a few times – very good.
    2. $5 for soy cheese or veg meat? Insane. I’ll make my lawyer friends take me there and foot the bill next time I visit so that I can have the total Crust experience.
    3. Was the Whole Foods you visited the one that has, like, a bunch of mini restaurants in the food court, including a vegan diner? If not, you definitely need to hit that one up on your next visit.

    Also, “. . . you could see a game which people in Chicago are really into” is a total understatement. I think I dated my now-husband because he lived next to Wrigley stadium.

  5. lazysmurf Post author

    windycityvegan – the mini restaurant Whole Food is the one in Lincoln Park I think, I have been there before and I thought this one I went to in the South Loop had a LOT more vegan options. All that delicious soul veg stuff.

    And yeah, the “way into” comment is definitely an understatement. I think it is funny that whenever you are on the train or ANYWHERE in town there are a ton of people wondering around in baseball jersey’s. It is definitely a passion.

    edayem- I’ll have to check out that BBQ, I can’t believe I never noticed it since I get Grandma’s Hummus from that cooler quite a bit. They also have smoked hummus. What was really cool about the Chicago WF was that there was a whole case (like where the fresh soups packaged to go are in our WF) that was filled from top to bottom with different things you could just grab. And the Soul Veg BBQ is soooo good.

  6. Sarah C

    I’m sorry you’ve departed the windy city because I have a suggestion to rock your world. Amitabul – all-vegan Korean Buddhist restaurant. http://www.amitabulvegan.com/ A bit outside of the main areas of the city, but worth it. I haven’t been to Chicago in a few years but I still dream of the Spicy Kimchee Noodle dish.

  7. lazysmurf Post author

    Sarah C- I have heard of Amitabul and I wanted to go there, it is always tricky since the family doesn’t necessarily want to go all over the city in search of vegan restaurants even if that is all I want to do!

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