I love Chicago. Although I moved here years ago, rarely do I pass up an opportunity to spend time simply reveling in the energy and urban vibe of the city. My passion for the city is one of the reasons I established a Chicago office; it’s a perfectly fine justification for escaping the ‘burbs and heading back to my beloved city streets.
Also, need I mention, the dining options in the city are (duh) just so darn more plentiful, varied and inventive! With one of my professional mantras being “Eat In”, you can probably imagine that I’m a bit particular when I choose to “Eat Out”.
This past weekend brought family in from out of town. Another fine excuse, er, justification for ambling the city streets; SOMEONE has to play tour guide. As I hurried to the weekend visitor hotel headquarters, I inadvertently found myself in front of Native Foods Café, a dining establishment mentioned to me months ago by one of my clients (you know who you are, and I sincerely thank you), yet mysteriously missing from my memory. Somehow, I’d completely forgotten her recommendation.
I tugged my husband toward the menu posted in the window, excitedly explaining how I’d learned of this place. Scanning the menu, our taste buds began whispering “when, for the love of God, is lunch?” Fortunately, we’d arrived at the right time (the fam, wholly uninterested in “weird food” was lunching around the corner at a ubiquitous chain, which shall remain anonymous). Unfortunately (for us), Native Foods was hopping, and we were on a be-there-in-time-for-the-first-pitch Cubs/Cards time schedule. Sadly, we had to skip it. Vehemently, we vowed to return.
Native Foods Café is a vegan restaurant, and the loop location I’d stumbled upon is one of three in Chicago. What makes this especially astonishing to me is that years ago, when I began eating a vegetarian diet, finding a restaurant like this in the meat and potatoes Midwest was similar to moving heaven and earth – essentially impossible. I am giddy about the many vegan/vegetarian/plant-based restaurants popping up in and around Chicago. It makes “Eating Well While Eating Out” so much easier.
As it turns out, I returned to Native Foods Café at the close of the whirlwind weekend, albeit sans husband (long story). But I took plenty of food pics, shared my (very positive) experience with him, and promised we’d go back to try other options, together. On a closing note, I must mention that not everything on the menu is uber-healthy. Native Foods serves fries, battered “chicken” (a combo of soy, wheat and pea protein), island jack fritters (code for FRIED), and plenty of desserts. Remember, vegan or not, calories are still calories!