Vegan Roadtrip: Chicago!   »

The rainy season is upon us, and combined with much shorter, winter days, I’m longing for the fun and daylight of summertime! So in an effort to cheer myself up, I thought we could look at all of the places I ate this summer, when I went to Chicago. That’s fun, right?

First, I tried El Nuevo Mexicano. I’d written about them in the past, on this very blog, and finally my opportunity to try it had arrived!

Of course my party had margaritas! My love of the margarita was born in the city of Chicago. They’re so delectable there.

For dinner I had this beast of a quesadilla. Not too shabby, eh? Their menu vegan menu changes periodically, but I’m pretty sure these were filled with seitan, Daiya, pico de gallo, and sauteed onions and bell peppers. They were delicious and very filling!

The next two days were a little scattered and uninteresting as far as food goes. My friend and I hightailed to mid-Michigan for a friend’s wedding, and it was slim pickings. My wedding meal looked like this:
Actually, the bride was very considerate of my diet, and a long-time vegetarian herself. Not pictured is some beautiful white squash with basil and oh so much wine.

Back in the city, I went to The Handlebar, as it’s one of my all-time favorite places to be! Now, usually when I’m there, I get the samosas for an appetizer and the buffalo “chicken” ranch wrap as my entree. For this visit, I decided to go a little crazy and mix things up!

I know you won’t believe this, but pictured above was my first foray in to the world of fried pickle spears. I fell fast, I fell hard, and now I order them anytime they’re available on a menu. I would also like to say, loudly and proudly, that I am Team Pickle Spear, but who am I kidding; I’ll gobble up deep-fried pickle chips like nobody’s business.

Then, there were fried avocado tacos. Deep-fried avocados—please, it was a no-brainer. As much as I may have liked them, I’m still head over heels for my buffalo-chicken wrap. It’s good to try new things, as sometimes it validates your love for the tried and true, right?

And then, the next night, IT HAPPENED—I tried Native Foods Cafe for the first time! I will now long for the Oaklahoma bacon cheeseburger every day until we are reunited again. Oh man, the cheddar sauce alone … Why must you live so far from San Francisco, Native Foods?

Native Foods Cafe in Wicker Park!

My friend Stephanie ordered the sweet potato fries.

My girl Nora got a massive plate of nachos!

Buffalo chicken strips are MY JAM, so of course I ordered them!

Last but certainly not least — the Oaklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger, in all its glory!

The next day, I tried to go to Quesadilla: La Reyna del Sur and it was closed! How dare you get in the way of my vegan gorging, Fourth of July? Instead, I went to my old late-night post-bars standby, Lazo’s tacos. It was all right. It’s much better at 3 a.m., but I appreciated the flood of memories I had walking in.

Decent, but is much tastier as an after-hours-everything-else-is-closed meal.

That concludes my Chicago trip! I know there are a lot of places I didn’t go, as time and also room in my stomach didn’t allow for it. I know you guys get super-excited about reccommending the Chicago Diner as well, but believe me, I know about it! I ate there almost every day when I worked there as a baker in 2006-‘07.


Guest post: Eating vegan in Los Angeles!  »

My beau and I set out on a three day eating extravaganza adventure to eat as much tasty Los Angeles vegan food as we could possibly fit our mouths around.

Day one
Our journey began as soon as we stepped onto the tarmac at Burbank airport, and my kindly obliging parents brought us some Veggie Grill. We got my fave, the chipotle BBQ burger, and the All-American Stack (live out all your burger junk food fantasies - it’s got onion rings on it!!). The bf thought the two burgers tasted too similar, but I say they’re probably the best damn veggie burgers I’ve had. Plus Veggie Grill has won over many an omnivorous friend.

On Saturday, we tackled some Los Feliz/Silverlake delicacies: Cruzer Pizza and Scoops ice cream. Cruzer isn’t the best vegan pizza I’ve ever had, but it’s damn tasty & affordable, plus they’re an all-vegan pizzeria! We got it to go and ate it in Griffith park, where we were serenaded by drum circles and the carousel organ.

Next up was Scoops. Hoo, boy. Scoops always has four vegan flavors, which are all crazy inventive and wacky and ridiculously awesome! Scoops takes customer suggestions for flavors, so you never know what to expect. We got pomegramate tiramisu (I know, holy shit, right?!), banana oreo, and pear champagne sorbet. Just in case you’re some sick masochist who needs additional incentive to go to Scoops (what part of pomegranate tiramisu ice cream don’t you understand?), it’s right across the street from another amazing vegan restaurant, Pure Luck. They have jackfruit carnitas burritos! And sweet potato fries! And sweet potato fries in a jackfruit carnitas burrito! [Ed.: It looks like Pure Luck is closing. We cry a million tears]

We took a short break from gorging with the Museum of Jurassic Technology. I know, it’s not food or vegan-related, but if you appreciate humor and/or conceptual art, it’s the best tourist attraction in L.A.

Then more gorging at the beloved Native Foods Cafe. We split the Native Nachos: infinite layers of deliciousness! It’s listed as an appetizer, but it’s enough for two people to get completely stuffed. Native Foods founder and head chef Tanya Petrovna is completely adorable. Every table has flyers with what she’s up to and this month it included building a tree house out of recycled materials for her rescued cats. Come on. Plus, the bathrooms have info on why elephants shouldn’t be exploited for entertainment. Tanya’s clearly got the right idea; lure people in with delicious food, then convert them to animal rights.

Day two

We culminated our gustatory odyssey in a run-down mall in Little Tokyo. Past all the Karaoke bars and Korean BBQ restaurants lies a vegan heaven. Shojin. The restaurant itself is beautiful and peaceful. Deciding what to order was a painful and lengthly ordeal, but well worth it.

We started with appetizers: pumpkin croquettes, and stuffed shiitake mushrooms. I have never tasted such an amazing combination of new flavors and textures as the pumpkin croquettes with homemade ketchup.

Then we reached le petit mort: the dynamite roll, a spicy tofu “tuna” roll with spicy mayo and green onion on top with spicy soy sauce. It lives up to its name; it has an explosively spicy and charred flavor—incredibly savory and satisfying. We got the dragon roll too, but it couldn’t hold our attention when we had the dynamite roll sitting right in front of us.

It’s not really fair for anything to follow Shojin, but we had to keep go(rg)ing. For dinner we went to Vinh Loi Tofu House in Reseda. Don’t let the whole strip-mall-in-Reseda thing scare you; they’re all vegan, make their own tofu and soy milk, and are Vietnamese fake meat heaven. I’ve heard the soups are souperb (sorry), but haven’t tried them yet.

Since it wouldn’t be L.A. without gratuitous driving, we had dessert at My Vegan in Pasadena. Coconut ice cream, banana spring rolls, and carrot cake. BONUS MEAL!

I couldn’t pass up a chance to go to Stuff I Eat in Inglewood, an all-vegan restaurant whose motto is, “If you don’t want meat, try the Stuff I Eat!” It’s like Souley Vegan + Mexican food on high-quality acid. Case in point: the Kilamanjaro Quesadilla topped with vegan cheese sauce, organic wild and black rice, seasoned tofu, black beans, mock chicken salad, carrot un-tuna, organic sauteed portobello mushrooms, sauteed broccoli, tomatoes, corn, and guacamole.

Though we left L.A., our exercise in gluttony will never really end, especially when we live in a land of Cinnaholic and Scream Sorbet.

Katie C. is a former Los Angelino who’s forsaken the smog and best vegan food ever for Berkeley. She works with autistic kids, and gives presentations on the evils of factory farming. Check out Vegansaurus’ previous L.A. coverage here!

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