My Chicago Go-To’s
Before I leave Chicago for four months, I want to be sure to have one more meal from each of my go-to spots. This is a list and description of the kind of experience you’ll have if you decide to go. Enjoy!! Please e-mail me with your own stories about any of these places and I will amend this article with some of those (firstname.lastname@example.org)
1840 N. Damen
I have been going to En Hakkore for three years or so now. It is a small family owned place with just a few things on the menu. When I go, I get the jap chae, yam noodles with assorted veggies and a sweet soy sauce and a bi bim bap bowl with black rice, 14 vegetables, tofu and sauce (one of the two is vegan. Get it without the egg and Kim chi to make the bowl vegan. One of the unique things to get here on a cold day is the Job’s tear tea (unique only due to the fact that you can’t get it commonly in Chicago, apparently its commonplace in the Korean household. The best description I can come up with for this is if you were to take the milk left over after consuming a bowl of Sugar Smacks and heat it up with some crushed nuts. It is vegan and not too sweet, perfect for a cold day.
The service is always friendly and laid back with no frills. It is all about the food.
Cellar Door Provisions
3025 W. Diversey
Cellar Door is one of my favorite places to go out in Chicago. They always have a couple of vegan options, the bread is not to be missed. I recently ate a croissant there which is so beautiful, it is something worth eating and which I relished without regret. I am vegan 90% of the time and then there are rare times when I eat animal products, when it is a life enhancing experience such as one of those croissants.
Tony and Ethan have cultivated a menu that sources local, whole ingredients, they compost biodegradable materials and they are not afraid to run out which means they have little waste or excess of the things they prepare. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what they are doing to be mindful and support local farmers and businesses which I appreciate.
The place recently expanded to have dinner which I have not been to. A new wine shop opened up next door so I am sure it would be a romantic date night. Also, Four Letter Word, a new coffee shop that has opened across the street serves a special selection of their pastries. I look forward to going there at some point when I return. It is not the greatest option for a strict vegan diet which is why I don’t go there much anymore but a vegetarian will find a wide range of things to delight in.
3581 W. Belden
This place is a gem mostly because it is off the beaten path in a residential area which guarantees you will run into locals, regulars and industry folk which I appreciate. They have a wide range of vegan options here, most made with seitan which doesn’t interest me much. When I go here I order one of their draught cocktails and a root vegetable sandwich with salt and vinegar chips and a side salad. I go here when I am really hungry and leave really happy.
1123 N California Ave.
This place has something for everyone and the vegan options are great! I always get the flying breakfast bowl with brown rice, black beans, sautéed kale and seasonal veggie slaw. They do have vegan chorizo and tofu products here if you are into that. The pancakes here are incredible and I can’t believe they are vegan. I go alone and sidle up to the counter where the really good coffee flows freely. It’s a no frills place that has been around for a while, I drive across town for it.
2101 N. Milwaukee
Hands down some of the best ramen in Chicago. I LOVE this place. They have a very interesting and vast selection of Japanese whiskey, a knowledgable bar staff, and amazing vegan ramen that doesn’t feel like its missing anything and is also not so salty that you feel like you are all puffed up from eating it. They use Upton’s products to make their vegan ramen and you can get cool add ons like baby boy choi and pickles. This is another place I typically go alone and sidle up to the bar. It’s a bit small and gets quite busy so you could be in for a wait if you expect to sit at a table.
2889 N. Milwaukee
This place is a recent discovery. They specialize in meticulously crafted diner style sandwiches with mostly vegan and some pescatarian options. I have not tried everything but everything I have tried has been very satisfyingly prepared. The sandwiches are made taking the all important filling to bread ratio into account. The bread is always toasted perfectly and the sandwich is cut exactly and cleanly in half. It shows that someone put the time, consideration and thought into the important components of making a sandwich, very satisfying to eat.
The two guys who work there seem pretty quirky and possibly neurotic and that delightfully shines through in the dishes coming out of this kitchen. I also want to mention the bundt cake. Hands down, best bundt cake I have ever had. It may not sound like anything special but the consistent execution of what makes a bundt cake good makes it incredible. AND it’s vegan!! My favorite is the banana walnut cake which has confectioners sugar frosting infused with cinnamon and a heathy amount of nutmeg that comes through beautifully. The texture is moist and yet somehow light and the dark outer layer is browned to perfection without being burnt. I get really excited about this cake!
I also have to say that the price point here is extremely reasonable. It is never crowded which I selfishly enjoy but I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next couple of years they don’t grow their audience considerably, YUM!
Same Day Cafe
2651 N. Kedzie Blvd.
This place has a few pretty great vegan options including lots of veggie sides. Half the menu is vegetarian. I used to work here so I can say that it is clean and run by a caring, hard working staff. The bread is made in house and is delicious and unique. The very reason I began working there was the grilled cheese with tomato soup. It tastes like home but better with the rosemary flecked white bread and house-made pickles, a true delight. After I began working there, I moved on to appreciating the ham and cheese sandwich, I think it’s the best on the menu. If you are feeling saucy add an egg and/or some avocado.
As for vegan options their avocado toast is really great as well as the vegan burger on rye toast with the Amazing Kale Burger and vegan Russian dressing. They often have a vegan ice cream and/or shake aside from the wide range of soda options all made in house. They serve Ipsento coffee and have a comprehensive vinyl selection playing throughout the day.
2607 N. Milwaukee
Reno is a great neighborhood spot that does a lot of things right. They have a wide selection of made to order brick oven pizzas which on occasion I will get made vegan. A pretty great date night involves buying two of their pizza doughs (their pizza crust is fantastic), getting a range of toppings of your choice and a bottle of wine and then spending the evening making pizza while sipping your choice wine.
If you dine in, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. I like to share a pizza and quinoa and arugula salad. There are many great options for everybody. They have great pastries all made in house but sadly none of them are vegan.
This rounded out my rotation of last visits before embarking on a long journey, cannot wait to share the best things about the foods I will try overseas!