Saturday, December 27, 2008

Veg Way Out: Chicago

The view of Lake Michigan from our hotel window

In the Second City, the agenda is as follows: Maintain body heat. Engage in all activities known to slow the loss of it. Do not for one second think that you have any power at all. You are here to be manhandled.

The cities I choose to embark upon are always the ones that strip me of my insolence.

And they pretty much always have an uppermost elite hockey team and mountains of vegetarian grazing.

Of course we could not depart without a minor flight delay that sent us to Chickie & Pete's in the airport for crab fries (veg your heart out).

Sir Collin from Phoodie sent us to Gino's East for our First Deep Dish Experience. I started to eat it backwards. This is the No. 1 Way To Feel Warm & Full, according to me.

Brunchtime led us to Orange, home of orange-flavored coffee, fruishi, and pancake flights that change weekly.

The veggie bbq sandwich at the Smoke Daddy was only disappointing when I realized that it wasn't seitan-based. But smother a veggie burger in that special sauce and dress it with slaw and I'll play along. Sweet potato fries and banana pudding come correct.

On spur of the moment alone, we found ourselves at the Russian and Mexi-staffed Beef & Brandy, where the veggie skillet comes pinned by neon eggs, the chilaquiles are chased with an odd garnish of pineapple, and hash browns are golden starches. None of this should be special at a house of beef, but damn.

Damn it is.

As planned, we headed to the Chicago Diner, one of the most notorious vegetarian restaurants in the country, and dug right in with cookie dough soy shakes made with Temptations vegan ice cream. Seitan chicken nuggets were nicely crisp, but the real mind-melter was the veggie Reuben with bright pink fake pastrami on marbled rye. I added a side of seitan bbq wings and was intensely proteined out. But I still managed a bite of the veggie beef and cheddar, which reminded me of Arby's, and some mashed potatoes and gravy. By no means healthy, it was my 100% RDA of Cold Blocker. We swooned for this spot and took two pieces of vegan cake for the road. Or the hotel room and champagne evening that lay ahead of us.

Room service breakfast with a mini churro and leftover vegan cake (Carrot and Cookies & Cream).

Chicago would not let us go without checking out the Violet Hour. A canceled flight allowed us to slip by the hidden speakeasy on our extra night. Think Philly's Apothecary (now APO) with much tighter cocktail control and a more thoughtful, sexier-faced crowd. They put on a real show at the bar, and good thing, since cell phones are not allowed to be used and standing is not tolerated. You wait for seating at the bar or one of the extremely-high-backed, grandpa-gone-hip chairs and order Pimms Cups and Tom Collinses as they should come. We sampled a pretty bit of the drink menu along with mini veggie sandwiches on sourdough, and raved over the shape of the ice cubes, which was another way that Chicago does cold right.

1 comment:

Fluffy said...

Lots of good food in Chi! Get down to Soul Veg on the south side if you have the chance, for sure. Seitan burritos from Earwax are a favorite too.

Hot Doug's is also worth checking out, it's one of those 40 kinds of hot dog (which includes vegan/vegetarian options) spots and is always bustling. It's bit of a landmark, but in a really homegrown, slightly off the path kinda way.