I've had the privilege of getting in a lot of U.S. travel over the past several years, thanks in large part to my publisher, who is super awesome and sends me to VegFests to promote my cookbook. I've never really had the money to do much travel otherwise, so it's been great to finally be able to visit some legendary vegan restaurants across the country. Forget tourist attractions and museums. When I travel, I plan my trips around vegan restaurants.
The Chicago Diner was on my vegan bucket list until last August, when I was sent to the Windy City to demo and sign books at the Chicago Veggie Fest. I knew for months prior to the trip what I'd be ordering when I finally had a chance to dine at one of the country's oldest vegan restaurants —The Radical Reuben. It's the stuff of vegan legend. There is perhaps no vegan sandwich more famous.
Here's the Radical Reuben I ordered that fateful day — homemade seitan corned beef, sauerkraut, vegan cheese, and Thousand Island sauce. Mmmmmm ......
I figured it'd be years before I could order that sandwich again! But guess what? I can make it at home now (and it's just as good!) with The New Chicago Diner Cookbook.
When I was sent this book to review, I knew exactly what I would make. Duh! Behold the Radical Reuben made in my very own kitchen.
I used the recipe for Diner Seitan in the cookbook and then marinated it using the recipe for Corned "Beef" Marinade. Beet juice gives it that lovely color, and pickle juice (!!!) and other spices give it that corned beef taste. I couldn't slice it as thin as they did at the diner, but that was okay. It was still ever-so-tasty.
The "beef" is topped with sauerkraut, sauteed peppers and onions, a slice of Daiya Provolone, and homemade Thousand Island (made with the new Just Mayo ... OMG, I think that stuff is better than Vegenaise, and I didn't even know that was possible). It's been a few months since I had the real thing at the diner, but I really think this recipe version is just as good as the one I had in Chicago.
By the way, there's also a recipe in the book to make your own raw sauerkraut. I tried. But I failed. I used a bag of shredded cabbage (because I'm lazy), and it called for a whole head. I think there's less cabbage in a bag. Anyway, I used the tablespoon or so of salt called for in the recipe, and it was too much for the amount of cabbage. My homemade version was a salty mess. So I just bought a jar of the already-made kind. Problem solved.
There are so many more recipes that I want to try from this book! The Chicago Diner Vegan Ranch Dressing will happen! And the Bacun Wrapped Dates will most definitely be served at my next house party. Also on my list are White Bean Bacun Soup, the Delta Po'Boy with Blackened Tofu and Creole Remoulade, the Bibimbap, and the Buddha's Karma Burgers with Realignment Sauce (because the name is too cool!).
Perhaps the coolest thing about this book, though, are the cocktails. There's a recipe for their famed Bloody Mary, which I had at the restaurant. And there's a cocktail called the Black Rainbow Unicorn with homemade grenadine and house cherries!
The only bummer? They didn't include the recipe for their Country Fried Steak. That's what Paul ordered at the diner last August, and damn was it good!