Just like our Phuket Vegetarian Festival posts, we didn’t have the chance to post our vegan eats in Chicago and also I was inspired by my Canadian friend Holly of Traveling Pink Lips because she will be visiting Chicago in early November. Thanks Holly for inspiring me to complete our Chicago’s vegan eats post! The year 2013 sure flew by fast. We were in Chicago on Feb 8-11, 2013 for Doni’s Dad’s birthday. Chicago gets pretty cold in February, and there was a bit of snow on the grounds during our visit.
While in Chicago, we stayed at The Waldorf Astoria Chicago (expect a review soon this week) and had vegan dishes at the following restaurants: Green Zebra, Arami Japanese Restaurant, Slurping Turtle, The Girl & The Goat and The Waldorf Astoria Chicago, including vegan finds from Whole Foods Gold Coast and a vegan cupcake from Sprinkles Cupcakes.
Chicago in the evening – from the view of our hotel room at The Waldorf Astoria Chicago
This post will be featuring the vegan dishes we had at Green Zebra + Arami + Slurping Turtle + Vegan Finds at Whole Foods Gold Coast.
On our first evening, we dined at an upscale vegetarian restaurant in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, Green Zebra. We had to wait to be seated after checking in for our reservation because we were 15 minutes early. The restaurant was already packed, a bit noisy, but a a very small intimate setting. The menu is 100% vegetarian, and some dishes are labelled with a “V” for vegan/can be made vegan (they can omit dairy & eggs). Our server was accommodating in the beginning regarding the vegan options, but not very attentive during the service (i.e., refill, questions, or ordering more items). Pardon the grainy photos and quality, the lighting was pretty dark and I used the point-and-shoot camera and iPhone.
I took photos of the beverages/cocktails and menu from February 8th, 2013. You can view them here: Housemade Non-Alcoholic Beverages | Cocktails Menu | Restaurant Week Menu $33 per person | Small Plates + Sides Menu
Green Zebra: The small vegetarian restaurant filled up quickly as we were seated. The lighting was pretty dark and the attire was more smart casual – blazers, dresses and heels, etc.
Green Zebra: Prior to seating, I had a $10 Far East Fizz cocktail that consists of sake vodka, lemongrass, cucumber and soda. The sake vodka was pretty intense with cucumber and soda, but the lemongrass flavor was very faint.
Green Zebra: Complimentary amuse-bouche, a cold and thick tomato soup. It wasn’t on the menu.
Green Zebra: For the first course, Doni had a vegan chilled soba noodle salad with miso glazed turnips, crispy lotus root, pickled ginger in chili-lime vinaigrette from the Restaurant Week Menu ($33 per person).
Green Zebra: For the second course, Doni had vegan crispy Rutabaga dumplings with winter herbs and curly endive on smoked leek puree. Those were pretty tasty and the smoked leek puree was delicious. (View the Restaurant Week Menu here)
Green Zebra: I ordered the vegan Smoked Salsify Risotto with grilled treviso (longer version of tight-headed radicchio), orange supreme and fresh dill ($13) from the other menu. The portion may seem small, but it was filling with the other dishes I’ve tried. I didn’t like the grilled treviso because it was a bit bitter for me, but I liked the risotto, oranges, and the fresh dill together. (View the Small Plates Menu here)
Green Zebra: For the third course, Doni had a vegan Spiced Crimson Lentils with curried cauliflower, almonds and tamarind-glazed pearl onions. The dish was pretty good with fresh cilantro on top. (View the Restaurant Week Menu here)
Green Zebra: For the dessert, we both tried the vegan Roasted Granny Smith Apple with angel food cake, champagne reduction and lemongrass “ice cream.” The dessert wasn’t too heavy, but still full of flavors. (View the Restaurant Week Menu here)
Arami Japanese Restaurant
On our second day in Chicago (Feb 9th, 2013), we discovered some unique vegan options at Arami Japanese Restaurant in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood, including their vegan mayo. The restaurant wasn’t mentioned anywhere on vegan blogs nor HappyCow Chicago so we had to check it out. Our waitress was very accommodating and explained thoroughly about vegan options. Service was very attentive and helpful. The ambience was nice, but a bit noisy since it was packed around dinner time.
Feel free to check out their current menu on their website. The vegan options on the menu has changed since our February visit. We tried most of the vegan sushi from their “Yasai” section on their menu.
Arami Japanese Restaurant: We sat in the rear dining area (patio) and it was pretty warm and cozy there.
Arami Japanese Restaurant: Busy chefs at the sushi bar, I prefer sitting at the bar and interacting with the chefs.
Arami Japanese Restaurant: Dining area, view from the patio dining area and of course Doni and his mohawk hair…
Arami Japanese Restaurant: From the “Yasai” section, we had vegan Aspagarus sushi with pickled ginger and sweet soy sauce. “Yasai” means vegetables in Japanese. It is still on their current menu (as of Oct 2013).
Arami Japanese Restaurant: From the “Yasai” section, we had vegan Nira sushi with garlic chive, vegan lemon mayo and pickled pear on the top. It is still on their current menu (as of Oct 2013). The vegan mayo-based sushi selections was pretty tasty and unique.
Arami Japanese Restaurant: Sadly this item isn’t on the current menu (as of Oct 2013). From the “Yasai” section, we had vegan Enoki sushi with enoki mushrooms, vegan spicy mayo and pickled cucumber. We love the spicy vegan mayo on the sushi.
Arami Japanese Restaurant: Again, sadly this item isn’t on the current menu (as of Oct 2013). We thought that was pretty good. From the “Yasai” section, we had vegan Piman sushi with grilled green pepper, pickled pear and togarashi (red Japanese seasoning)
Arami Japanese Restaurant: From the “Yasai” section, we had vegan Eringi sushi with grilled king oyster mushroom, garlic vinegar and caramelized garlic on the top. The vegan sushi is available on their current menu (as of Oct 2013). We don’t see a lot of vegan sushi consisting of king oyster mushrooms, but that was pretty unique.
Arami Japanese Restaurant: From the “Yasai” section, we had vegan Avocado sushi with vegan spicy mayo and toasted almonds. The mayo was slightly spicy, but very good with the avocado and toasted almonds. The item is not available on their current menu (as of Oct 2013), I would love to see it again.
We learned about Slurping Turtle’s amazing vegan noodle soup through another vegan blogger Halley of The Chi City Vegan. A past guest on Top Chef Masters, Chef Takashi Yagihashi owns both The Slurping Turtle and Takashi in Chicago. Slurping Turtle is a Gourmand-winning Japanese ramen restaurant located in the River North area, off West Hubbard Street. The menu is not 100% vegetarian, however there are few dishes have a “V” label for vegetarian and always ask your server to confirm if they can be made vegan. They also accomodate vegetarian & gluten allergies. We tried one vegan dish at Slurping Turtle: Tofu Mushroom Noodle Soup ($14).
Slurping Turtle: The restaurant has an industrial-chic feel with a very interesting entrance, notice the door with circles. The Slurping Turtle logo is pretty cute and animated.
Slurping Turtle: The clean and modern dining area has an open space with high ceilings and concrete floor. The long communal table with high seats reminds me of a British-headquartered restaurant chain Wagamama.
Slurping Turtle: We sat in the secluded window-side booths in the back and they looked like cubicles, which was pretty neat. The seats were pretty comfy. I wish I had a photo of that…and I didn’t (argh).
Slurping Turtle: This is a massive bowl of vegan Tofu Mushroom Noodle Soup ($14) with whole wheat ramen noodle, silken tofu, Japanese mushrooms and kabocha squash. The broth was beautiful, full of flavors, and this bowl was meant for two (Doni and me). I couldn’t finish half of that noodle soup! I am not sure if the vegan noodle soup is still available on their menu, but here is the photo of the menu I took on February 10th, 2013. Please check their current menu on their website and ask your server for vegan options.
Slurping Turtle: Took this on Instagram on February 10th, 2013. The beer in the background is vegan, by Two Brothers Cane and Ebel (view image here) and (view vegan confirmation here). The vegan beer is featured on Fire Food & Drink’s Vegan Beer Dinner Set (view the post here).
Doni’s dad found us a vegan red velvet cupcake during his morning walk. Thank you for this awesome vegan find! The vegan red velvet cupcake is from Pastry Chef Candace Nelson’s Sprinkles Cupcakes bakery, and has twelve locations nationwide. The bakery is located off Chciago’s Magnificient Mile between Michigan Avenue and Rush Street near our hotel, The Waldorf Astoria Chicago (about 2 blocks away). Just look for the “red V” cupcake when you visit the bakery!
Sprinkles Cupcakes’ Vegan Red Velvet cupcake is made with natural soy milk, tofu-based cream cheese and pure coconut oil. It is available daily. You can order them online, too. The reddish cake was moist, but the frosting was a bit rich for me, but perfect for Doni and me to share. I liked the red “V” part, and it’s pretty easy for vegans to find them with a red “V.”
Whole Foods Gold Coast
We dropped by Whole Foods (Gold Coast) in Chicago to grab some snacks during our stay and for the flight and also that they carry some local products. It is located on the corner of N. Dearborn St and N. Huron St, which is within walking distance of Washington Square Park. So far we found a variety of prepared vegan foods from Upton’s Naturals and Soul Vegan, and the desserts from the Chicago Diner.
We didn’t have the chance to go to Chicago Diner (it was too far to walk from our hotel and we already made other reservations) and Upton’s Naturals (they opened later that summer after our visit). But I was happy to try a few of their selections at Whole Foods, which was close to our hotel.
Whole Foods Gold Coast: The Chicago Diner’s vegan chocolate chip cheesecake, man, this cheesecake is heavenly delicious! It was really massive for both of us! I wish I can try their other desserts, but I didn’t have room for them! We also had a vegan fruit pudding tart (raspberry, blackberry, kiwi, strawberry, and blueberry) from Whole Foods, and the sweet pudding was sort of bland.
Whole Foods Gold Coast: Fortunately we had a microwave in our hotel room and had Soul Vegan’s vegan macaroni & cheese, fresh greens and BBQ tofu. So tasty and filling…I wish I have more of that macaroni & cheese. There are a lot of vegan prepared meals by Soul Vegan at Whole Foods Gold Coast such as vegan lasagna, bean curd salad, wraps, mac & cheese, bbq delights, and loads more. I wish I can try all of them, but not within 3 days! In addition to the photo above, we had unpasteurized wild berry lemonade “Made Right Here” which was pretty good. I love fresh juices.
Whole Foods Gold Coast: Vegan Prepared Meals from Soul Vegan: vegan lasagna, bean curd salad and vegan jalapeno cheese (so delicious!)
Whole Foods Gold Coast: Vegan Jalapeño Cheese from Soul Vegan, man, this was so good and tasty with a bit of heat! I wish I had some chips or burrito to go wtih it, but I ate it with vegan challah bread we picked up at Whole Foods (hehe). The ingredients are, organic soy milk, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, sea salt, vegetable oil and fresh jalapeño.
Whole Foods Gold Coast: A whole collection of vegan foods we bought at Whole Foods including the vegan challah bread (it didn’t taste like actual challah, but it was a bit bready for me).
Whole Foods Gold Coast: Found some vegan breads such as hot dog buns, onions rolls, and of course, the challah breads (photographed in the collection above).
Whole Foods Gold Coast: Other interesting vegan meals at Whole Foods such as the Tofu Curry Cous Cous box.
Whole Foods Gold Coast: Found vegan Upton’s Naturals sandwiches and wraps, which was pretty cool. For the sandwiches, we had the Vegan BBQ Slaw and Focaccia. For the wraps, we had the Vegan Sesame Seitan and ChickenBaconRanch. We loved the breads and the juicy seitan, but it needed more seasoning or a separate container of creamy base dressing/mayo to go with it.
Whole Foods Gold Coast: Upton’s Naturals’ Vegan BBQ Bowl with BBQ seitan, mac n’ cheese and greens. We haven’t tried it (we were too full from all day dining and snacking) what do you think of the bowl?
Whole Foods Gold Coast: Upton’s Naturals’ Vegan Ashram Bowl with kitchari, curried cauliflower & chickpeas and halwa. Have you tried this bowl before?
Whole Foods Gold Coast: Upton’s Naturals’ Vegan Macro Bowl with brown rice, seitan, kale, sauerkraut, carrots and a miso-tahini sauce. This sounds like my ideal meal for the flight, but I didn’t have room for it. Have you tried this macrobiotic-inspired bowl before?
Whew! Stay tuned for the next post on another vegan-friendly restaurant & sightseeing in Chicago! And thank you for reading this!