A Day in Chicago: Chicago Diner and The Handlebar

So, I am on a trip to the midwest in which I am seeing a few of my long lost ladyfriends (perhaps a post for another day).  I’m staying in South Bend, Indiana, with my brilliant and entertaining friend Claudia – who is in the process of getting her PhD here at Notre Dame.  Yes, I’m envious also…. 

Anyway, yesterday we went on a little trip into Chicago to visit another amazing lady friend, Linette.  Other than the weather, Chicago is my favorite city that I’ve been to.  I love how beautiful it is, I love the way the city is laid out, I love the neighborhoods, and especially, I love the food.  Luckily, every time I’ve come to this town, I have had Linette and her boyfriend Bucky to show me to all the great vegan eateries here, and there are MANY.  Yesterday, we managed to fit in two in one day! 

Our first stop in town was for a late brunch at the Chicago Diner.  This “must” for vegetarians has been an all veggie haven since 1983 (the year I was born!), and they know how to do it right.  We worked up an appetite by walking around Lakeview and taking in some city bustle while waiting for a table to free up, and were pretty hungry by the time we ordered.  We got a lot of food!

Linette ordered the vegan po’ boy sandwich.  Sliced roast ‘beef’ with veggie au jus sauce on a toasted demi baguette baguette with lettuce, tomato, onion & creole mustard.  Along side, she got some veggie BBQ Wings.  This got good marks, although the veggie wings were gone so fast I almost missed my chance to photograph the plate!

Bucky had a hard time deciding.  He was really into the tofu scramble, but ultimately made what I think must have been the right choice by ordering the Monte Cristo.  I eyeballed this for a while myself on the menu, but ultimately decided that since I’ve never eaten a piece of ham (or veggie ham) I didn’t want to risk my meal on something which wouldn’t please my palate.  I half regretted that decision until I got my own delicious lunch…

The Chicken Ceasar Salad!  Here is a dish that I have always envied on meat-eaters’ plates, but never had the opportunity to try!  The chicken was made of grilled seitan that for the life of me was so yummy I have to find out if they have a cookbook with their chicken seitan recipe in it.  MMMMM.

And Claudia got a dish I was also curious about, but which I was too timid to order myself.  A breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, chorizo, peppers, onions, and cheese.  Many meat-eating friends have commented to me that they prefer soy chorizo to the real deal, but having never had a sausage I’m kind of frightened by the whole idea – even the vegetarian version.  One day I will go for it though, I swear!  Claudia is also a meat eater and she LOVED her lunch, which of course made me happy and less guilt-ridden about taking her to vegan eateries for her lunch and dinner!

Then we were off for a day of “touristing.”  I suggested we go to the top of the cock, which turned out to be a great stop.  We got there at the perfect time, just before dusk, so we got to see the city transform as the sun set and the lights came up.  It wasn’t very crowded yesterday, maybe because it was so chilly outside, but I’m told usually there is up to a 3 hour wait!  

Afterwards we walked down the magnificent mile, looking in the windows at Tiffany and Co. (disappointing display) and all of the other fancy stores.  We walked to the Chicago river so we could see some of the beautiful sky rises like the Tribune Building, and then walked back up Michigan avenue so we could head off towards our dinner destination, The Handlebar.

Without a doubt this is my favorite eatery in Chicago.  The food is awesome, the atmosphere is super casual, and the price is right.  Also, its the kind of spot that I might run into friends I know even though I’m in a strange city (last night was no exception, on my way out I saw the lovely Tara, who played a concert in Chicago on Saturday night as the last stop on her tour.  Her music is exceptional so music-lovers should check it out).  After agonizing over what to order, I got the Handlebar Salad, which is made of Arugala, Pears, Parmesan, and Walnuts with a champaign honey-mustard dressing.  I ordered it with the fried seitan chicken pieces, which was really good, just crisp and well seasoned and delicious.  Claudia ended up with the blackened tofu fajitas, and Bucky and Linette both got the Buffalo Seitan Chicken Wrap.  A really satisfying way to end our day in Chicago. 

As much as I love the lehigh valley, I sure wish there were more veg restaurants!

2 Responses to “A Day in Chicago: Chicago Diner and The Handlebar”

  1. 1 Edgar November 24, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    I’d like to eat that food.

  2. 2 Dick Nepon November 24, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    While in Mexico at a B&B, we were served veggie Chorizo, the hostess said she preferred it to real meat. My wife loved it. It is quite good.

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