Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Eatin' Vegan in Chicago

Last night, I posted about the fun time I had at Chicago Veggie Fest — doing cooking demos, signing books, eating delicious vegan festival food. Tonight, I'll post about the food I ate in Chicago outside the festival.

It was a really quick trip (arrived Friday at 4 p.m. and left Sunday 5 p.m., and most of the time in between was spent at Veggie Fest), so I didn't have nearly enough time to squeeze in all the stuff I wanted to eat. But I knew that a trip to Chicago would not be complete without a visit to the Chicago Diner. Soon after checking into our hotel in Warrenville (way, way out in the suburbs), Paul and I hopped back in the car (after a 10-hour car trip, mind you) and drove another hour into the city.

Little did I know, the Chicago Diner is right in the heart of Boystown!! There were rainbows and adorable gay boys and lovely lesbians everywhere!! My kind of place. These rainbow art installation street signs are all up and down North Halsted, where the Chicago Diner is.

Once inside, I ordered a Bloody Mary right away, because, vegan Bloody Mary. I asked for the spicy version and look how it came garnished — with "spicy" written in sriracha!

I'd been studying the menu for weeks, so I already knew what I wanted to order. We started with the Vegan Poutine (Teese cheese, gravy, sour cream, vegan bacon, and scallions atop waffle fries). BEST THING EVER! Even my omni boyfriend couldn't stay out of it. I think he ate more of this than I did. I was trying to save my appetite for the big entree.

Also, Paul ordered some Edamamme as an appetizer because he loves the stuff. I like it too, but I can eat that anywhere. Meh.

For my entree, of course I ordered the Radical Reuben! How could I order anything else? It's the stuff vegan dreams are made of — corned beef seitan, Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut, vegan cheese, and marbled rye. Oh my! Every bite was pure magic.

The Chicago Diner offers dairy cheese by request, so I fully expected Paul to order something with dairy cheese. But you know what? He ordered a totally vegan entree with no prodding from me — the Country Fried Steak.

Wow. This was just as good as the reuben, if not better. It was a tender seitan steak coated in the world's best crispy breading and deep-fried and then covered in country gravy. Lucky for me, Paul could only eat about half before he was full, and then he said I could have the rest for breakfast in the hotel room! Score. He raved and raved about that country fried steak all weekend. He just couldn't believe how much he loved seitan. Planting seeds, my friends. Planting seeds.

Anyway, we were way too full for dessert, which is damn shame. Chicago Diner is known for their phenomenal milkshakes. But I'll have to save that for next time.

We ate at the Veggie Fest for lunch on Saturday, but we headed back into the city Saturday night for dinner. Now I really had my heart set on a meal at Upton's Breakroom, but I promised Paul we'd find him a Chicago dog while we were there. And since he was such a good boy and ate all vegan on Friday night, I decided we could opt for a vegan-friendly hot dog joint for dinner.

Huey's Hot Dogs has both meaty Chicago dogs and vegan ones. Here's mine loaded up with tomatoes, mustard, a pickle, sport peppers, and celery salt. This meal was delicious! I'm a sucker for a good hot dog. Plus, this place has a dog-friendly patio, so we spent our meal hanging out with other people's pooches.

Speaking of pooches, we stumbled upon a "gourmutt" Doggie Food Truck just a few blocks down from Huey's!! Fido's To-Go sells doggie fro-yo and fresh baked treats.

I picked up a couple of Peanut Butter and Coconut Rice Krispie Treats for Maynard and Datsun.

I was kinda hoping there'd be enough time left to swing by Upton's for a late-night snack, but they close at 10 p.m. and we just couldn't make it. Next time.

Even though we were stuffed, I wanted to check out Handle Bar, a mostly vegetarian bar (they do serve a few fish dishes) in Wicker Park.

I ordered a Beermosa — made with the regionally brewed (Michigan) Bell's Oberon Ale and a splash of orange juice. Very summery and refreshing.

Sad story: We parked the car about a block away from Handlebar, and as I stepped out of the vehicle, guess what I saw — a Vietnamese sandwich shop called Bon Bon. And guess what they had in their window — a menu that listed vegan ramen as an option. I wanted it sooooooo bad!!! But we'd just left Huey's, and I was stuffed. I considered letting my inner glutton shine through, ordering it anyway, and dealing with the guilt later. But I talked myself out of it.

I wish I hadn't. I wish I'd just ordered those damn noodles and worked extra hard to get back on track this week. Damn food guilt. I woke up the next morning thinking about those noodles. That's how badly I wanted them. You know ramen is, like, sacred food to me, right? Anyway, once we were back to the hotel and Sunday at Veggie Fest, we were about an hour outside the city and driving in just for noodles was too far out of the way. But next time, right? Next time. I have a lot to do next time! Guess I'll have to plan a trip back to Chicago soon.


Kyleigh said...

You ordered my two favorite things at The Chicago Diner - The Poutine and the Reuben! Both of them are so good. To bad you didn't have the space for a milkshake because they really are good! The Mocha, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Lucky Leprechaun are my faves.

Haven't been to Huey's before i'll have to check it out!

Chef Amber Shea said...

Love the Chicago Diner, and Boystown! You wouldn't believe how many guys ogled Matt's crotch when we were walking around there a few years ago. Great shopping in that area too. ;)

Cadry's Kitchen said...

I totally agree on the coolness of Boystown. Whenever we're in the area, David insists that we go to Gaymart, which is just down the street from Chicago Diner, so that he can check out all of their Doctor Who stuff. Anyway, I'm so glad you were able to get the reuben at Chicago Diner! I was so tempted by that poutine the last time we were there. The next time, it's a non-negotiable. I had the country fried seitan once, and it was crazy, crazy good. So decadent! I can see why Paul couldn't stop raving about it.

Jen said...

There is too much AWESOME in this post to even start...I MUST come to Chicago! ~ Rob

Monika said...

You're making me so homesick! We only make it back to Chicago a couple of times a year, and I always visit Chicago Diner. My husband was living in Boystown when I met him, and it's one of my favorite Chicago neighborhoods. Handlebar and Filter were two of my favorite Wicker spots. Off to plan my next visit...

Diana @ VeggieNextDoor said...

My two favorite things at Chicago Diner are the Country Fried Steak (yay!) and the Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Shake (so sad you missed it!).

I seriously had no idea that they had Poutine there, but they have been adding lots of goodness to their menu recently. I'm still dying to try their Pierogi Quesadillas!

VeganLinda said...

We try to get up to Chicago every chance we can. Chicago Diner is my kids' fave! My husband's best friend used to live about a block from there and we would stuff ourselves silly on all the great eats and the spicy bloody mary is awesome! Now I'm hungry.

Sheridan said...

We have a few really good friends in Chicago - I've been dying to make it back for a visit! We need to make a trip with you guys soon so we can eat all the vegan things!!!

jess said...

Next time I'm in Chicago, I am so hitting up that vegan ramen!