Well, there you have it – the conclusion of my Pacific Northwest ramblings series. I left the Pacific Northwest extremely satiated in multiple ways. I was refreshed from the serene nature and fulfilled by the vast array of delicious international, vegan, and pescatarian cuisine.
While Portland has plenty of dive bars located in unassuming street corners, it has quite a thriving international food scene. Not only do they have amazing vegan and vegetarian food, they have a prominent Indian and Vietnamese food scene. I also had Swedish food there, which is not really a popular European cuisine in the U.S., so that was refreshing. Did I fall in love with Portland the way I fell in love with Seattle? No. But I am so happy I was able to experience Portland in its sustainable, vegan glory.
Have you ever been to a vegan prix-fixe dinner? I hadn’t been or even heard of this amazing concept until I went to Seattle. Most prix-fixe restaurants in Chicago tend to be pretty meat-centric with a sprinkling of seafood and it’s kind of a pain to switch because you want to get your money’s worth. But we didn’t have to worry about this in Seattle. We could eat everything on the prix-fixe menu, as is, and not pay an arm and a leg at $65 per person. It is definitely a special occasion, but it is much more affordable than other prix-fixe experiences.
Mountains, evergreen trees, the Pacific Ocean, a haven for vegans – is the Pacific Northwest all its cracked out to be? Yes, it is, in every possible way. Is it the most racially diverse and cutting edge place? No. Is it celebrating sustainability and environmentalism? Yes…and they have a statue of Lenin. I didn’t know what to expect from Seattle and had grand expectations for Portland as a fan of Portlandia. I ended up falling in love with Seattle and as someone who isn’t an “outdoorsy” person, I fell in love with its gorgeous nature.
Lula has been part of the Logan Square community for 17 years prior to the more recent explosion of restaurants, bars, and cafes. I have had the pleasure of coming here for both brunch and dinner multiple times. While I am more of a fan of their dinner options, their brunch is also delicious and affordable. The environment is quaint and cute within a somewhat eclectic and charming space. Their patio is always packed full of diners on balmy summer nights. Their service has always been accommodating and the servers are knowledgeable and proud of their food.
Do you love grilling but are a vegetarian or vegan? While grilling in the Midwest tends to be meat-centric, you can go all out with delicious and satisfying plant-based options like Brussels sprouts. Just marinate the vegetables like you would need to marinate the meat and plan ahead a tiny bit so it can marinate for at least 30 minutes.
I’m happy to see a relatively affordable, quick, gourmet option in Logan Square where you can get a veggie burger for $10. I also appreciate that they are open all day and until 12am on weekends for us night owls! Take your meat loving and vegetarian friends to Mini Mott and enjoy the relaxed, unpretentious vibes and flavors.
You might have noticed a small shop that opened up in Logan Square by Mi Tocaya called Rosie’s Sidekick. What is it all about? Rosie’s Sidekick is a small, Italian sub shop that opened up a few months ago and aims to offer affordable Italian subs to the Logan Square community. While Logan Square has a plethora of restaurants, it is definitely in need of more affordable, quicker restaurants so I was happy to see Rosie’s Sidekick open.
Hosting or going to a dinner party? Not sure what to make? Want to bring something different from the usual cheese and crackers? A beet tartare crostini will not only impress your guests, it will also please your gut. While beets do take time to prepare, they are absolutely gorgeous and vibrant (oh and healthy) – I wanted to make a unique and fun appetizer for a dinner party I went to so I figured why not make a twist on a traditional beef tartare? The beet tartare crostini was not only beautiful to the eye but also extremely pleasing for the palate.
So what can I say, New Orleans is a weird city. I couldn’t live here, but I could live with the weather and all of its delicious food and cocktails. I appreciated the more relaxed vibe and how walkable of a city it is. It is easy to find what you’re looking for in NOLA, whether it’s a higher-end small plates restaurant or a binge when you’re hungover brunch spot. There are so many bars to choose from and with a selection of bars open till 5am or even 24 hours! If you’re looking for opulence or a chill night away from the tourists, you will be able to find your spot. Gritty and decadent, New Orleans is a melting pot of cultures, traditions, and flavors that will keep you coming for more.
My recent trip to New Orleans was quite inspiring when it came to trying and exploring new and dynamic flavors. I was exposed to amazingly delicious Creole and Cajun cuisine (and I learned that these are distinct from one another as well) and wanted to explore making a vegan version of a New Orleans classic, Crawfish Étouffée. The étouffée sauce is traditionally made with butter and a meat or seafood stock, but I used soy butter and a veggie broth instead. I also made it with pan fried tofu instead of crawfish.
Being a fan of dark techno, I made my pilgrimage to Detroit for Memorial Day Weekend’s Movement festivities. I was not going to just enjoy the music though, I was excited to embark on the culinary delicacies of Detroit. While Detroit is known for their Coney Island Hot Dogs, I obviously did not take part in this tradition being a vegetarian.
Lifestyle changes simply do not happen overnight. With many other lifestyle changes I have made over the years, changing my dietary habits has been slow, which, I must add, benefits me tremendously because it always gives me adequate time for self-reflection. Moreover, going at a slow pace helps me to truly let go of the habits so that I won’t re-acquire them in the future.
Passion House provides artisanal coffee and remarkable loose-leaf hot tea and sparkling iced tea with a sprinkling of baked goods. They put as much effort into their tea as they do their coffee. The barista provided wonderful descriptions of the tea flavors and was very enthusiastic about their products. They have authentic, loose-leaf black tea, green tea, herbal tea, and white tea with incredibly complex flavors.
Cellar Door Provisions is a cute, boho byob restaurant tucked away in Logan Square. Its front is unassuming, but as you walk in, you are greeted with gorgeous plants, sleek wood, and a minimalist decor nested in a small interior. It is an order at the counter type of restaurant, which gives it more of a casual vibe, though its prices are not casual. They have very unique, small plates with refined, complex flavors.
Elske is New American restaurant tucked away in the West Loop offering beautiful Danish inspired cuisine. I was very excited to try Elske having been to Copenhagen this past year. The decor definitely brought me back to Copenhagen as it’s minimal and all about the mid-century modern vibe. They also have a lovely outdoor area with a fireplace for when it will eventually be warmer outside. We were here for a celebration and had been wanting to try Elske for awhile.
Same Day Cafe is a picturesque, relaxed cafe in the heart of Logan Square. Its sign and exterior is unassuming but their food and beverages are everything but unassuming. It’s a smaller cafe with a wonderful collection of records and natural light. There are some cute plants on the wall, but it’s not overdone. It feels unadorned with sparks of a rustic ambience.
S.K.Y is a newer, creative restaurant with a sleek, minimal decor serving New American fare with an “Asian” influence. It is unpretentious as it is in Pilsen rather than the West Loop, which is quite refreshing. This is one of the best restaurants I have ever been to in Chicago. Everything I ate here was absolutely mouthwateringly delicious between the fun textures and well-seasoned/spiced flavors. Everything about this restaurant screams minimal decor but their flavors are everything but minimal.
I had the amazing opportunity to sit down with Keon Dillon, Founder of Millennial Soul Food, which is a spiritual, life-coaching, tarot project based in Chicago but practiced all over the country. Keon is a dynamic and innovative Chicagoan who has thought deeply and comprehensively about food and our relationship to it for a very long time.
Ugo’s, an Italian neighborhood gem of Logan Square is set to close its doors to the public on Sunday, March 18th after being open for 2.5 years. Ugo’s is located on 2833 W. Armitage Avenue and is a cozy, casual Italian spot serving delicious, yet affordable Italian fare. It’s often overlooked by Osteria Langhe across the street. And while Osteria Langhe is quite delicious, it is also quite expensive so Ugo’s is more of the down to earth, neighborhood Italian spot where you don’t have to pay an extravagant amount of money to have a delicious meal.
La Boulangerie is a small, cozy and modern looking Parisian boulangerie with a wide assortment of traditional French pastries, breads, coffee, and tea. They also have some substantial lunch items like sandwiches and savory crepes. I am a big fan of savory crepes and and while they weren’t on the menu at this specific location they let us customize the crepe to our liking.
I love making this on busy weekends when I have a bit more time to cook than on a weekday but not quite enough time to make a frittata or something more elaborate. This is also great for a busy weeknight because all you really have to do is chop some vegetables, season them, and add in the eggs. It’s probably one of the fastest dishes I make. Depending on what I have, I love to mix up the vegetables, dill is quite inspirational for me as dill and eggs go together perfectly.
Proxi represents the best of fine, creative, and adventurous cuisine in Chicago. Their concept is eclectic twists on global street food served tapas style in an open, beautiful, and modern dining environment. I love how open this restaurant is without it feeling overwhelming and chain-like. High-ceilings, chic lighting, and a rustic decor create a refined, but not stuffy ambience. Over-sized leather booths and brass mirrors give it a funky, yet sophisticated feel. It was a special occasion so we were seated at the Chef’s Table with a lovely view of the chefs and all of the live action in the kitchen.
I had been wanting to try Imperial La Mian for quite awhile as I’ve seen it recommended in food blogs but was reticent as it’s located in River North and I don’t really enjoy River North vibes. I am willing to brave River North for delicious food though. Upon walking in you are greeted by the hosts and there are two separate areas, one is kind of separated from the rest of the restaurant with brighter lighting and families (didn’t want to sit there) and another area is more open, dimly lit, and by the bar (much better choice). It was a busy Saturday night and we had reservations so we were sat down almost immediately, which I appreciated.
I love Chinese food but unfortunately the more fast/convenient Chinese food places tend to be high in sodium without fresh vegetables. This recipe is also based off of my mom’s Chinese food recipes. What I love about this dish is that it is hearty, delicious, and affordable! I am all about the sauces and I love this garlic sauce!
Situated between The Game Room and the lobby at the Chicago Athletic Association, The Milk Room is an 8-seater, with spirits dating back to actual speakeasy times. Think of Milk Room as you would a tasting menu through time, and with cocktails curated for you. Milk Room, like many culinary experiences in Chicago is a ticketed event through Tock.
Mon Ami Gabi is a classic Parisian style Bistro, it is upscale, but not stuffy. You walk in and are taken by the charm and ambience of a bistro in Paris with their dark wood pillars and accents interspersed with little chalkboards that have seafood specials written in French. The tan/beige wall color with the darker wood and larger windows provided that cozy, French ambience. The lighting is dim making it a perfect space for an intimate friend dinner or romantic date.
This recipe emerged from necessity. I was 19, broke, a vegan, and in college. I needed something cheap, quick, healthy, and abundant. This recipe has become a staple of mine and I still eat it throughout the week many times. It has staying power. It’s easy to make and yields a lot of food. I usually like to make this on Sunday night in preparation for the week.
Katherine Anne Confections is a cute, small cafe in Logan Square that has a fabulous assortment of chocolate truffles, candies, hot chocolates, and surprisingly sandwiches. After being gifted a box of chocolate truffles from here, I can’t go back to eating truffles that can be found at Walgreens even though that makes me sound super bourgie. These truffles are fresh and heavenly. They have unique combinations like goat cheese walnut, which literally melt in your mouth.
Spice Room finally graced the Logan Square restaurant scene in the spring of 2016. It’s a small, quaint restaurant with club music, pretty decorations and lights, and a very attentive staff. The service is consistently friendly, quick, and on top of things. The older gentleman is always excellent with those water refills, which is necessary if you are sensitive to spice.
I love Thai food so much but I don’t live close to good Thai places. If I want to eat high quality, authentic Thai cuisine, I have to venture out to the Northeast part of the city, which I am happy to do in warmer temperatures, but in the winter, I just want to eat delicious Thai food in the comfort of my own home. The delivery options around here have been disappointing me with a watery, bland dish that they call Red Thai Curry. This is why I make my own Red Thai Curry – it is much more flavorful, cheaper, and healthier than ordering it out! I prefer a thicker Thai curry sauce and I think this recipe has given me the best results.
Bite is one of my favorite brunch and dinner spots. I love everything about the ambience here. It’s easygoing, unpretentious, and the servers aren’t too cool to give you decent service. I always enjoy the music as its eclectic and unpredictable, but at times very familiar. The other night they were playing my favorite Cursive songs that brought me back twelve years ago.
I came here with a group of friends on a Wednesday night and had high expectations. My high expectations were fulfilled! I love Thai food and can’t get enough of it. Unfortunately, there really isn’t great Thai food in the Wicker Park/Logan Square area so I am willing to travel far for it, but we really need some better options around here.
I have been coming here for years and absolutely love this place. It’s great for Wicker Park to have vegetarian options and I think they should have more. The ambience of Handlebar is no frills, but is a divey, rustic aesthetic. They also have a lovely patio in the back when it’s summer, which is super enjoyable. The service here is always good and fast too. I have had the same waiter here for years and he’s always on top of things.
If you want a cozy, intimate, yet exciting dining experience, Café Marie-Jeanne is a perfect option. I absolutely adored everything about this place. It has “traditional” French food but also innovative, contemporary dishes that are made in really unique ways. There was nothing I ate here that I didn’t love.
Located within the Waldorf Astoria Chicago, Margeaux Brasserie takes you back to classic Parisian cuisine with a 1920’s style decor. I have had the pleasure of dining here for dinner and brunch. When I first came here, I was here for my dear friend’s birthday celebration. It was the perfect place for two Francophiles. I absolutely adore French restaurants and Brasseries.
This is probably my favorite coffee shop in the Wicker Park area. The ambience is bright and modern, which is great for doing work. The baristas are very friendly and knowledgeable. They aren’t too cool to help you like a lot of other places around here. They also have beverages that are unique and you can’t find at other coffee shops. Fairgrounds has a great balance of tea, juices, and coffee drinks, that combine eclectic ingredients together to create a mixture of gorgeous flavors.
Jin Thai is one of my favorite Thai restaurants in Chicago. It is certainly up there for the best Thai food I have had in Chicago and it is a wonderful haven for vegetarians and pescatarians. Jin Thai has very unique Thai dishes that you do not see at most Thai restaurants. It has a quiet, cozy ambience that is relaxing and chill.
I really love Bad Hunter. I’ve been here a few times and the food has always been delicious. The ambience is gorgeous. I love the plant decor, the non-edison lightbulbs, and the clean, cozy feel to it. I also really enjoy the dried up framed plants hanging in the bathroom. It encompasses what I love when it comes to interior decorating.
As you know, this food blog is written from the perspective of a self-identified “vegetarian-pescatarian”. What is a vegetarian-pescatarian? Someone who eats fish and seafood, but no land meat like chicken, beef, pork, turkey, lamb, etc. Why would one willfully choose to eat like this? Well, let me tell you a little bit about my journey towards being a vegetarian-pescatarian…
Umami Burger is obviously a staple in Wicker Park for meat eaters. But now with their new “Impossible Burger” (their new vegetarian burger that tastes pretty much like a regular hamburger), it will be definitely frequented more by vegetarians. Prior to the debut of their “Impossible Burger”, I had never been to Umami Burger since I don’t eat meat. But I thought now is the time to try this place and I had only heard good things about it.