I just returned from a road trip to Chicago! I’ve been dying to see the Post-Impressionist masterpieces at the Art Institute of Chicago for ages, and I also wanted to eat at the Chicago Diner ever since my friends Alison and Joe made that wonderful Thanksgiving Tofu Roulade from the Chicago Diner Cookbook. I actually got to travel with a fellow vegetarian (and fellow art historian), my good friend Kristin, and we stuffed ourselves silly with good food.
On the road we snacked on goodies from Trader Joe’s: roasted garlic hummus, mini whole-wheat pitas, a veggie tray, fresh fruit, dried mandarin oranges (those are amazing!), and sodas. All of this was less than $30.
When we got to Chicago we checked in to the HI Chicago Hostel, which was cheap but clean, safe, centrally located, and included free breakfast!
For dinner we walked down the street to The Berghoff Restaurant, recommended by Noor.
Now, a German place might not seem like the best bet for two herbivores, but Kristin LOVES German food, having been raised in Germany, and we made the most lovely meal of appetizers and sides!
From top-left: spinach-stuffed mushrooms, dark beer (house recipe), red cabbage, spaetzel, pierogies, potato pancakes with apple sauce, hot tea, bread basket, house salad (fresh greens, tomatoes, asparagus, shaved fresh fennel and amazing vinaigrette of some sort). We left full and very, very happy for only about $40.
This place had a lot of Old-Chicago charm. I loved the murals of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (where they debuted their beer).
…and the beer-stein stained-glass windows
The next day we had waffles at the hostel, granola bars at the museum, and then a nice, large linner (lunch+dinner) at the Chicago Diner. This place exceeded my built-up expectations!
It’s a cute little all-vegetarian place that features local artwork and friendly service.
I ordered the hazelnut coffee, which came with vegan whipped cream!
Then I chose the Chicken Fried Steak. It was seitan (high-protein wheat gluten) with a heavenly, crispy batter coating, served with mashed potatoes and vegan gravy, plus veggies with pesto. YUM!
I have to say: this was better than most of the ACTUAL chicken-fried steak I’ve ever had.
Kristin ordered the nachos: house-made chips with vegan cheese made by Chicago company Teese, house-made vegan chorizo and sour cream and salsa and guacamole and other goodies.
WE CLEANED OUR PLATES! That’s right! We even impressed the waitress. For about $30, we were full for the whole 8-hour trip home (although I did polish off the veggie tray anyway). Next time we need to remember to save room for dessert. I did buy the Chicago Diner Cookbook as a souvenir. I can’t wait to try the Stroganoff recipe. I love that even the vegan fare is hearty in the Midwest.