Ground Control: Vegetarian Favorites with Flavorful Twist

Neighborhood: Logan Square

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Affordability: ★★★★★

Ambience: ★★★★

Service: ★★★★★

 Food Quality: ★★★★1/2

Overall Rating: ★★★★1/2

I had been meaning to try Ground Control for months and I finally got to try it.  At this point, it has become one of my neighborhood spots.  I am so happy to see another vegetarian spot in Logan Square that is super affordable and funky.  The decor is quirky, cozy, and divey with a space-theme.  They were definitely all about the 80’s nostalgia, which I found endearing given the aesthetic and music playing.  As you walk in you are greeted by the bar on your right and darker room to your left for dining with booths.  Specials were written on the board in chalk (I always find this delightful) and they looked pretty great between the entree and dessert specials.  Ground control represents something very nostalgic to me.  It reminds me of one of my favorite restaurants in Milwaukee that I used to go to called Comet when I was in college.  The ambience, food, and decor really brought me back.

We were quickly greeted by the host/bartender and our server.  The service was quick and easygoing.  The menu is basically focusing on the vegetarian comfort food of your dreams while having some items that don’t make you feel completely guilty like the beet burger and salads.  The portions were great and it was priced so affordably.  It’s definitely more affordable than most of the restaurants in the Logan Square area now.

Tofu Buffalo Wings

Their cocktails were reasonably priced too and they have a wide assortment of beer with some wine options.  I started out with the Michelada and it had a nice kick to it.  It wasn’t the best Michelada I had in my life but it was pretty decent.  The tomato component had some spice to it.  I have to say that the best Michelada I have had is from Big Star because of how potent the tomato spice flavor is but if you’re not as obsessed with tomato flavors as I am, then you probably won’t care.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Being a fan of veggie buffalo wings, we of course ordered the Tofu Buffalo Wings.  The buffalo sauce was delicious and it came with an avocado crema that didn’t taste like ranch, which made me happy because I don’t like ranch sauce.  It was a smaller portion but I was happy with that because everything else we ordered was big and heavy.  My dining companion is a fan of Fried Green Tomatoes so we got that as well.  I haven’t had too many fried green tomatoes so I didn’t have much to compare them to. The breading was delicious and it was served with a remoulade sauce on top of a bed of greens garnished with a corn relish.  I didn’t really taste too much of a tomato flavor because the breading seemed to have taken over.  I did like the remoulade sauce and it added a nice tang to the breaded tomatoes.  I would’ve preferred for the tomatoes to have a more pronounced taste but they still tasted good.

Veggie Cheese Fries

We also tried the Veggie Chili Cheese Fries.  The fries were crispy and well-seasoned, the chili was hearty and flavorful and the cheese had a smokey flavor that complemented the spice very well.  I’m never a fan of melty cheese sauces but it didn’t taste gross at all, in fact it was quite delicious.

It was difficult to choose amongst the plethora of delicious sounding options on the menu, but we decided on the Cheesy Italian sandwich with a side of the smokin’ hot mac n cheese.  I was really impressed with both of these items!  First of all, it was a huge portion for $11 – thick and juicy seitan slices with giardiniera, and stewed peppers smothered in Provolone cheese served on French bread I believe.  All of the flavors blended so well with one another and had such a perfect moistness.  The side of Mac n cheese was pretty much a dinner portion and the smoked gouda flavor was very pronounced.  There was some cotija, which I thought was a unique twist on the traditional Mac n cheese along with some pepper and scallions.  It also had a nice mild spice to it.

Cheesy Italian with Mac n Cheese

I did really want to eat some vegetables though, so we also tried the Beet Burger.  The beet burger not only looked beautiful and pink but it tasted delicious and was huge.  It is their house-made burger made of beets, mushrooms, oats, and beans served with provolone cheese, pickles, tomato, arugula, and a zesty aioli-esque sauce.  It came with a side of the garlic smashed potatoes with the country gravy, which was heavenly.  The mashed potatoes were seasoned very well and it lived up to its garlic title.  The country gravy was thick and creamy, basically what you want in a gravy.  I’ve never been super crazy about mashed potatoes and gravy but this definitely stood out to me.

Beet Burger with Garlic Smashed Potatoes
Garlic Smashed Potatoes

Given the decent portions, I always take home leftovers and the prices here are a bit less than Chicago Diner and Handlebar.  With such affordable prices, big portions, and a true concern for vegetarians, I will be a regular here.  It’s a wonderful restaurant to go out with a smaller group of friends or to spontaneously go with a close friend or significant other since it doesn’t require reservations months ahead of time.  It’s a bit of a drive from Milwaukee Avenue, which makes it more of a hidden gem.  Yes, you could eat more “healthy” vegetables at places like Clever Rabbit and Bad Hunter, but sometimes it’s nice to not pay an arm and a leg for vegetables prepared correctly and just gorge on some seitan and cheese every now and then while still having healthier options.

Handlebar: Vegetarian Comfort Food Served with an Edge

Neighborhood: Wicker Park

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Affordability: ★★★★★

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★★★

 Food Quality: ★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★

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.

My favorite appetizer here is the chili cheese fries (though I have also had their fried pickles and they are heavenly).  The vegetarian chili is amazing with fresh peppers in there, the fries are seasoned soooo well, and the cheese on there is a nicely melted jack cheese.  I always want to eat too much of this.

Vegetarian chili-cheese fries – can be served with vegan queso too.

The vegan buffalo wrap has been my go to meal here for years!  The buffalo seitan is chopped up into little bits and has a great, potent buffalo flavor, I wish they would put more buffalo sauce on there actually.  Their vegan ranch is so tasty and I don’t like regular ranch.  The wrap comes with a side and my favorite is the smoked gouda mac and cheese.  It’s just so fulfilling in every way.  It’s a simple wrap but it’s always very delicious.  I have tried other sandwiches before like the Chicago Style Tofu and it was a bit bland so I like to stick to the buffalo seitan wrap.

Loaded Bloody Mary

I have also come here for brunch and wanted to add that I am a big fan of their brunch too.  Their Bloody Mary is generous and has so many wonderful toppings like a fried pickle, olives, and a pickled pepper.  I love a loaded Bloody Mary so I was very happy to have this.  It is large though, so you might want to split it with a friend.  Their vegetarian biscuits and gravy is heavenly.  It’s a huge portion, the biscuits are flaky, the gravy tastes like it is mushroom based and melts in your mouth.  I ordered it with tofu and their tofu is crispy, firm, and well-seasoned.

Vegetarian biscuits and gravy with tofu

I also tried one of their brunch specials, which was the Huarache.  It was a masa cake with a refried black bean paste, edamame, red onion, corn, queso fresco and my favorite, radishes.  This dish was a little underwhelming.  I thought it could have been more flavorful and spicier, it was a bit too mild for my tastes but it had potential.  The radishes and edamame were a nice touch.  Their servings are always generous and you will most likely leave with leftovers!

Country Fried Portobella

I will continue to go with the dishes that I know here.  They know how to do American really well, some of their “Mexican” dishes can lack in flavor and spice though.  I did recently come back and have the Country Fried Portobello, which was mouthwateringly delicious!  The portobello mushroom was nicely breaded over a bed of comforting mashed potatoes, perfectly sautéed collard greens and a jalapeño cream gravy with an over-easy egg on top.  The egg yolk spilled over beautifully into the orchestra of flavors on my plate.

So now you know why I have been coming here for 12 years … Their delicious vegetarian cuisine, reasonable prices, tasty vegan drinks (they have vegan Kahlua) and rustic, laid-back atmosphere.

Mana Food Bar: A Sanctuary for Vegetarians

Neighborhood: Wicker Park

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Affordability: ★★★

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★ ★★

Food Quality: ★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★

Mana Food Bar is a staple for vegetarians and it has an assortment of unique and eclectic flavors.  I love the fact that I can come here and be able to eat everything on the menu, I am not quarantined to a quarter of the menu options.  It’s so nice to have all of these delicious options here.

The ambience/decor make it a great place for a more intimate experience whether it is with friends or a date.  I like that it is dimly lit and has a very sharp, contemporary aesthetic.  The outdoor patio is also a gem in the summer.  The service here has always been good.  Sometimes I feel a little rushed by the servers, but everyone has been very nice and friendly.  They have great cocktail options with unique flavors as well.  But what takes the cake here is their diverse and delicious menu options.

Panzanella Salad

Come here with the intention of sharing because you’ll get to try as much food as possible then.  Everything is made to be shared but what’s nice is that if you come with a larger group, then they have larger sizes that can be shared, which makes it convenient for both small and large groups.


We started out with the Panzanella salad, which is basically a toast bread salad with a light vinaigrette, grape tomatoes, shallots, and cucumbers.  The bread was toasted to perfection and soaked up the dressing really nicely.  We also each got a slider and they had a nice texture and flavor.  The mini Hawaiian bun was toasted nicely with a bit of spicy mayo on top of the patty.  The patty was made from mushrooms and brown rice, which tasted very fresh.  The only dish we got that was a little disappointing was the Mapo Tofu.  It had tofu chunks with sweet potatoes and both the tofu and potatoes were made really well but I expected there to be more of a mapo sweet and sour sauce to it.  The sauce in Mapo Tofu is my favorite part of the dish so getting it without the sauce was kind of disappointing.  It was’t bad, just not that exciting because there isn’t really a sauce.


But the gnocchi was delicious.  The gnocchi had a soft, delicate texture that went really well with the crunchier zucchini and the tomato glaze.  The asiago was also a perfect touch with its more prominent flavor.  Our last dish was the saag paneer, which is one of my favorites.  It’s a twist on the traditional saag paneer so it’s not the creamy spinach sauce.  It is a unique interpretation of the traditional saag paneer.  The paneer was made perfectly and grilled or charred.  The spinach was fresh and served with the paneer in a lighter yogurt sauce.  Now I usually don’t like yogurt but this yogurt sauce is very light and the yogurt isn’t a super intense flavor at all. It’s served over brown rice which provides a foundation for the spinach and paneer.

Saag Paneer

This place is also more affordable for a smaller plates type of restaurant.  It for sure is a staple of mine and I can’t wait for the next time!