Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vegan Chicago!

Hi everybody! I got back this morning from a long weekend in Chicago, my first real trip to the city after a couple of quick past visits. The general theme was baseball, bars, and music, so clearly I was in the right town. All of that, plus around 24 hours on Amtrak, makes me more than a little tired right now, but here's some pics from the weekend. That's the skyline as seen from out on Navy Pier.

We're starting with food, of course. On Saturday we had lunch at Frontera Grill, the Rick Bayless restaurant. Since I have done more than a few Bayless recipes here, and love his PBS series, this was sort of a big deal for me :) Given the place's stature, I thought it would be more expensive than our cheap selves were willing to go for, but it's pretty reasonable. The food, to pull out a word I promise you won't see often here, was exquisite. Plus, they were really cool about making vegans happy. First course was this salad of jicama, cucumber, and pineapple, powdered with guajillo chili powder and drizzled with lime juice. Served in a banana leaf, it's a lovely presentation of a street stall standard from much of Latin America.

Here's my meal - enchiladas stuffed with fresh mixed greens, topped with awesome crispy onions and a tomato-guajillo sauce. I've made recipes like this from Bayless cookbooks, but this was perfect. Plus, it was outside on Clark Street on a perfect July day, with a bottle of beer, and all of those things never fail to make food even better. If it's not clear yet, I was crazy about the place :)

Food was great and veg-friendly all weekend, and yesterday lunch was at the Chicago Diner, on the north side just down the street from where I stayed. As spelled out in a big sign on the side of the building, "Meat-free since '83!"

I tried the seitan wings and this California Reuben. It's thinly sliced "turkey-style" seitan, with a crunchy coleslaw topping and vegan cheese on a nice marble rye bread. The sides alone at the Diner are worth a trip...it was hard to decide, but I opted for these sweet potato fries.

I didn't take any pictures there, but the Pick Me Up Cafe, also up in the Wrigleyville neighborhood, was lots of fun too. Very hip, which only matters if the quality of the food matches the ambience, which it did. Here's a couple of non-food pictures too - this is the Jazz Record Mart, one of those music stores where you could spend a whole day looking around. Owner Bob Koester was there dealing directions and commentary...a big figure in the Chicago music scene of the last half century, he had a recent profile in the New York Times. He once called Iggy Pop and his friends "stooges," after thowing them out of his apartment.

Sunday was a day game at Wrigley. Cubs win! Here's the view from section 239. My first Cubs game too!

I heard a ton of good music over the weekend too, at clubs and the Chicago Folk and Roots Festival on Sunday at Welles Park after the game. I didn't bring the camera there, but did get a shot of these towers downtown, familiar to any Chicago folks or Wilco fans...thanks for indulging my little slide show! Back to a food focus soon :)


Lisa (Show Me Vegan) said...

what fun! This sounds like my kind of vacation- food, music, and neighborhood bars (I would skip the baseball part). I didn't know those Wilco cover buildings were in Chicago.

Tami (Vegan Appetite) said...

I love visiting Chicago but have never made it to Bayless' restaurant. That's got to change! Thanks for the vicarious trip.

Bianca said...

Oh man, that enchilada plate looks amazing!!! I've never had anything that gorgeous in a non-vegan restaurant (or in a vegan restaurant for that matter).

Someday I hope to visit the Chicago Diner. It's been a long-time dream of mine.

nora said...

It's my dream to go to Chicago Diner. I want their PB Cookie Dough Milkshake.

Sal said...

wowza all that food looks ace, especially the enchiladas.

Chicago is on my (long) list of places I want to visit in the States.

nora said...

Thanks for your comment, Mike! At first I thought it was my dad, because his name is Mike and our last name starts with a K, haha

Anonymous said...

Y'know I've always wanted to go to Chi-town but have yet to make the visit. But I will definitely write down all the places you tried.....thanks!

Anonymous said...

So glad to be able to refer to your post...my partner and I will be heading to Chicago by Amtrak soon. I would love to get more suggestions for you on places to eat (vegan) since we'll be there for 5 days! What neighborhood to stay in (cheapest, coolest, safest, most convenient for good eating and convenient touristy stuff...) you know, whatever you can throw my way would help!

Thanks much!

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I would like to eat these recipes, Tacos are delicious mmmmmm I wan to visit Chicago!