Well these vegan peanut butter cups were pretty divine, but I’ll get to them in a moment.
We just returned from a wonderful (if a lot chilly!) weekend visiting with Anne in Chicago. Since going vegan it was the first time that David and I were traveling. We did some advance planning figuring that snacking and breakfast might be the hardest things to negotiate. We brought along plenty of dried fruit and nuts and a half a leftover vegan pumpkin bread (very delicious, recipe here) that I baked before we left. Pumpkin bread and soy lattes from Starbucks did the job (if a bit sweetly) for breakfast.
It turns out that Chicago is a very vegan-friendly place, and I have Anne to thank for scoping out the local options. While Anne isn’t vegan she’s an adventurous eater in general and she loves her veggies. When we first arrived in Chicago on Friday, we went just a few blocks from the Congress Plaza hotel where we were staying to a health food store/cafe. Since it was sleeting (yes, sleeting!) it was a perfect choice. I don’t have any pictures of that but we all ate vegan dishes that were tasty. I had a “sunshine salad”–a basic green salad with chickpeas.
That night we headed over to a wonderful restaurant in Anne’s neighborhood in Edgewater called “Uncommon Ground”. We had been there once before in our pre-vegan days, and we were delighted with our vegan meal of salads and vegetable mole with a masa cake. If you’re ever in that neck of the woods I recommend this restaurant. It’s truly a place for everyone, and the emphasis is on locally-sourced healthy food. Plus the toasty fireplaces are such a welcome sight when you come in from the cold and wind. You can link to the restaurant website here.
Anne and I spent Saturday afternoon together exploring downtown and doing some shopping. For lunch we stopped at an Italian restaurant, but I can’t remember the name of it (oops!) It was a reasonably-priced meeting and lunchtime place in the loop. I put away my gluten-free diet (I’m not celiac) for the afternoon and ordered the pasta aglio e olio (garlic and oil). I did ask if the pasta contained eggs (no!) before ordering and it was a warming and tasty lunch. I was very encouraged by this because a bowl of simple pasta can be a go-to dish most anywhere. A great travel option.
The Chicago Diner
Our destination for a pre-theater dinner was the famous Chicago Diner, the go-to fun place for vegans (and vegetarians) in the Belmont section of the city. This restaurant has been a part of the Chicago dining scene since 1983. The menu is full of typical veganized diner fare as well as more classic veggie entrees. We had both a great time and fantastic meal there. We actually started out with poutine, a decidedly unhealthy pile of waffle fries with brown and veggie cheese sauces. I forgot to take a photo and in a flash these were gone. But here’s what came next:
David’s seitan “reuben sandwich” which is actually a trademarked dish:
Anne’s lentil and nut loaf:
And my cajun black bean burger:
It was all crazy good and as you might imagine, filling. I took half of my burger in a doggie bag and David and I had it for lunch the next day on the plane!
Oh, and then came some dessert including the peanut butter cups from the photo up top. These were obscenely delicious, and one also came all the way home to Tucson with us.
Clearly the Chicago Diner is not a health food restaurant. It’s full of calorie-laden comfort food that just happens to be vegan. What I loved about the place though was the current, busy hip vibe right down to the 80’s music. The restaurant was packed and tables turned over fast. This was a mainstream place for vegans and non-vegans. So much fun. I’m pretty sure that any future trips to Chicago will include a visit to the Chicago Diner. If you want to read more about this incredibly successful restaurant you can link to their website here and see what’s on the menu.
We had a great time this weekend. It was such a treat to have so much time with Anne, and we all enjoyed exploring the great vegan food. Success all around 🙂