Vegan in the Windy City: day one

Nick and I went to Chicago for 4 days right before Thanksgiving. We LOVE Chicago, and were last there in April, just before we became vegan. So we were really excited to see what the Windy City had in store for us. Just as with the Cities, we did a lot of research online before going. We found a great little B & B in our favorite Chicago neighborhood last time, so we couldn’t wait to go back. We are also getting really good at taking public transportation (read: I still get confused, but Nick is a total pro), so we bought some 3-day passes a few weeks before our trip.

We left on Sunday morning and decided to do some shopping/exploring/etc in the suburbs. We went to a great outdoor mall and were able to visit some super cute shops. Of course I had to snap this picture of Nick in front of the giant Christmas tree. 🙂

Christmas in Chicago

There weren’t really a lot of great vegan options because EVERYTHING was a chain. So, after some deliberation, we ended up at Buca di Beppo. Now, we’ve been to Buca in the past and had a REALLY bad experience. Previously, the food had been good, but the service was AWFUL. I mean, really awful. Service really does make a difference. Well, with that being said, we decided to give it another go. We soon found there weren’t a lot of options, but decided to order the Mixed Green Salad.

Buca di Beppo Mixed Green Salad

And a side (a side!) of plain ‘ol spaghetti.

Buca di Beppo Spaghetti

The spaghetti was nothing special (did you see the size of that portion?!), and neither was the bread, but the salad? The salad was REALLY tasty. We could have easily just had that and been happy. The dressing was similar to the Olive Garden, and the olives were a great touch. Unfortunately, our service was not so good. I don’t know if our server was mad we didn’t order more food, but he would disappear for long periods of time. We were finished for a good 5-10 minutes before he even offered to bring us the check. Lame. Bottom line: the service sucks, the salad rocks!

Well, after visiting an insanely busy Costco, being disappointed by the lack of fun things at REI, and finding THE cutest Christmas cards, we headed for downtown. If you’re planning a trip to Chicago anytime soon, we highly recommend the Wicker Park/Bucktown area. A few years ago, we took a food tour with Chicago Food Planet, and were introduced to the area. We HIGHLY recommend their food tours, we’ve also taken the Chinatown tour, and it was just as great. They are highly informative and you get to learn about a new neighborhood while tasting what they have to offer. They’re awesome!

Well, we got all checked into the Wicker Park Inn and got ourselves ready to head out for dinner. We ended up at Native Foods Cafe. They are a 100% vegan, plant-based restaurant, so needless to say were were REALLY excited. It’s always fun to be able to go into a restaurant and order whatever you want without having to to worry about anything! 🙂

We ordered the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger with their seasoned fries (they also offer sweet potato fries).

Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger from Native Foods Cafe

I’m not sure I could do the ingredients justice, so here’s the description from their menu: “thinly sliced Native Original Seitan, melted cheddar, caramelized onions, and crispy Native Bacon on a bun slathered with BBQ sauce and ranch dressing, romaine, carrots, onions, and tomato. Topped with crunchy battered dill pickle chips.” Okay, there few things to say about this sandwich. First of all, it was huge. HUGE. So glad Nick and I decided to split it. And there was absolutely no way to pick this sandwich up. You definitely had to eat it with a knife and fork. This would NOT be the sandwich to introduce someone to vegan food. (in fact, they have options marked on their menu that are great “starters” for people who aren’t vegan – this was not one of them) I’m not sure if our bacon didn’t get cooked long enough, but it was NOT crispy. In fact, our major complaint about this sandwich was that there weren’t enough differing textures. The taste was really good, but the texture was just too squidgy and soft. The fried pickles were great! We could have enjoyed a whole side of those. The fries were delicious. (we went back for more 2 nights later!) The game changer, for me, was the RANCH DRESSING. OMG, people. I die. Seriously. I wanted to bathe in it. It was SOOOOO good. I wish they sold it by the gallon!

Bottom line: great place, awesome ambiance, THE RANCH, and everything is vegan, so definitely give it a try. We will definitely give it another go next time we’re in Chicago.

Well, we needed to end the meal with something sweet, so we headed to iCream. We first went to iCream on our food tour, and we’ve been back several times since. We were anxious to go again! Basically, you choose your base (organic, soy, nonfat, etc), your flavor (things like root beer, cake, lemon, chocolate, etc), and your mix-ins. You can also make it a fun color if you want to. Brings out the kid in me. Well, this time we went for the soy base, cake flavor, blue color, and chose peanut butter, Oreo, and sprinkles for our mix-ins. They mix the base first and freeze it with a blast of liquid nitrogen. So neat! After its a frozen, creamy mixture, they add in your mix-ins.


We then decided to head downtown to see “Skyfall”. The theater was meh, and the movie was a bit slow, but definitely the best of the three with Daniel Craig. After we got out of the movie, we went and hit up the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM. At 11:45pm. Oh, yeah. Nothing like a Vegan Red Velvet Cupcake at midnight! 🙂 Unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture of the cupcake. It went directly into our mouths.

Cupcake ATM. Yeah we did.

See you for day two!