Locavore/veg options in Chicago
We'll be in Chicago over Thanksgiving weekend. Normally we're stuck in the burbs, but this time we're meeting friends in Chicago proper for brunch/lunch on Friday. Here are the parameters:
1. Must be fairly easily accessible via public transportation.
2. Must have solid vegetarian options (i.e., something other than ("chicken alfredo, hold the chicken, please")
3. To the extent this is possible, must source ingredients locally.
4. Otherwise, meats must come from sustainable, responsible sources.
Hmmm. We had a not-so-hot experience at Lula. I'll relate the story, and you tell me if it was just a fluke: we ordered the cheese plate as a first course. It was beautifully presented, although I must say I have never, ever seen such tiny portions of the selections - they must have used a laser cutter. I mean, light was shining through these slices. Anyway, the server thunked the plate down and turned to leave. We asked her to please identify the cheeses, and she was utterly incapable of offering any descriptors other than, "That one's blue, I think," gesturing broadly with her hand, "and that one's a stinky French cheese" (I'm not even editing - she literally called it "stinky French cheese") - anyway, we were underwhelmed. We were left feeling like it was gauche or snobby of us to expect to know what cheeses we were eating. Fluke? I'm reluctant to try it again...
I haven't had a negative service experience like that. But Lula has a vibe of funky, offbeat rebellion to it. Usually it's not relevant to the dining experience, but I am guessing that it's possible for that to manifest itself in a lack of professionalism on the part of an individual server. I don't blame you for your reluctance to return; I rarely go back to a place where I've had a negative experience.
Another strictly vegetarian restaurant is Blind Faith, in Evanston. Not as upscale as the other places mentioned, but it's quite good. One block east of the Dempster stop on the CTA Purple Line. www.blindfaithcafe.com
Mado might be worth looking into. I seem to remember reading that the chefs/owners were really focused on locally sourced items for their menu. That said, you might want to call and verify about the sustainable and responsible meat requirement. It is located in Bucktown and easily accessible by several buses or the blue line.
I second Mado. We were just there for the first time this weekend. The owners clearly take pride in the local, sustainable family farms that provide their supplies: they list them on the chalkboard with the menu. They also use all parts of the animals they buy in creations like salamis and pates.
They have offerings that will please both carnivores and vegetarians, especially if you choose from the small plates as I did.
Just remember that Mado is BYO.
Mado is easily accessible off the blue line at the Damen exit. Walk to the corner of Damen, North and Milwaukee and turn northwest onto Milwaukee. It's about a block from the corner.
Uncommon Ground (http://www.uncommonground.com/) is a great place. They have two locations. One on Devon (not that far from the Loyola or Granville red line stops) and one on North Clark. I've eaten on the one on Devon and it was wonderful. They have interesting choices of food and are vegetarian friendly. The restaurant on Devon has it's own rooftop garden, so that's a neat way to make sure you're eating local. Some of the stuff comes from the roof!
I hope you'll try Lula again. Yes, the servers there can put out some attitude, but overall the place has a real charm. It sounds like you were caught in someone's off moment. What you experienced was atypical of Lula. When I moved from SF to Chicago a few years ago a friend told me Lula would become my favorite restaurant. It has. Lula creates inventive and lovely vegetarian fare. I think they serve the best salads in town. The soups are fun. Entrees integrate seasonal produce in a beautiful way. And I often see Chef at Green City Market.
My favorite vegetarian restaurant in the city is Chicago Diner.
Great location, great service and friendly staff. The food is amazing- it's hard to find words to do it justice. Walking distance from the Belmont Avenue Red Line stop. And they're serving Thanksgiving dinner!
I'd heard that Lula was good for vegetarians, but I stopped in recently and there wasn't a single vegetarian option available on their dinner menu. Do they have a second location with a vegetarian friendly menu, or am I missing something?
re: opehlia payne
That's hard to believe, Ophelia.
Maybe something has changed, but their regular dinner menu includes "linguini with summer squash, smoked pine nuts, squash blossoms, chevre, and basil goat butter" and "ratatouille with Japanese eggplant, smoked peppers summer squash, red bottle onion, tomato, and baby leeks." Both are vegetarian and the second is even vegan.
This time of year I'm especially fond of their hearty, filling Moroccan Chickpea Sweet Potato Tagine, but that may be just a lunch offering.
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