This past weekend, Andy and I decided to take off on a little getaway to Chicago. We lived there for several years when we were each studying for our Master’s and it’s always nice to go back and spend some time seeing old friends and getting reacquainted with the city.
Unfortunately, I was not vegan when we lived in Chicago (most of the time we were there, I wasn’t even vegetarian yet!), so I really missed out on all the perks of being vegan in a major city. Color me bummed. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t take full advantage of easily accessible, delicious vegan fare when we visit – and that’s just what we did!
I planned to stop in at three fantastic vegan spots during our stay, but our breakfast at the famed Chicago Diner was foiled by the gay pride parade on Sunday morning, so I’ve only got two places to highlight this time. Don’t you worry though. I shall return and bring home more tales of delicious vegan eats from the Windy City.
First up is where we ate our last meal before we had to head back down 55, Handlebar. This was the most low-key and least-hyped vegan place I planned to visit on our trip and it ended up being the best meal we had all weekend. We stopped in for brunch on Monday morning and ended up eating ourselves silly.
Handlebar is a mostly vegetarian establishment (fish appears on the menu a few times) with numerous vegan options. Everything vegan is clearly marked on the menu, so there’s no confusion about what’s what – something I always appreciate. I ordered the vegan breakfast burrito and one piece of vegan french toast (I couldn’t resist!) which was WAY too much food, but I was on vacation!
The burrito went a little something like this: seitan chorizo, potato, avocado, cilantro and spinach with sides of beans and salsa. The chorizo tasted a lot more like traditional crumbled breakfast sausage than chorizo, but it was absolutely to die for. I could not stop thinking about how awesome it would be on pizza. I also have to mention that the potatoes were the bomb! Perfectly crispy and seasoned. So, so good. Basically, that was the theme of our experience at Handlebar. Though the ingredients were all fairly run of the mill, each of them was exceptionally good. This place is definitely a step above the rest in that regard.
Same goes for the french toast. Pretty much indistinguishable from traditional french toast, as I would expect, but the addition of the candied pecans and pure maple syrup kicked things up a notch.
In addition to high-quality food, the service and atmosphere at Handlebar are very friendly and laid-back. It’s a little off the beaten path for tourists, but that’s sort of part of the appeal. It’s definitely worth hopping on the blue line or cabbing it out to Wicker Park. All in all, it’s a pretty great little place.
Even though I want to experience as much vegan food as Chicago has to offer, I’m fairly certain we’ll be stopping back in at Handlebar next time we’re in town. On a related note: it’s now my mission in life to recreate that seitan chorizo. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.