Back in January, the busy month that was, I went with team VVC to scout Chicago as a potential location for Spring 2013’s conference.
Did we want the conference to take a leap east to a bigger city? Or did we want one more year of celebrating the vegan grandeur of our own home turf? We’ve now been discussing the pros and cons of both locations for 2 months, and as of last week, came to a decision. I won’t spill the beans here – you can check out the Vida blog for the official news.
Oh, we did.
As for the windy city, I had never been before, and had 3 items on my to do list:
1) Location scouting
Verdict: Check! Plenty of possibilities in multiple neighborhoods, and really great, really reliable public transit options – one stop even told us the weather, which bring me to…
Verdict: We arrived the morning after the first real storm of the season – check! I used to joke that I suffered from reverse seasonal depression since moving from New York and Boston to Portland, where it rarely snows for more than a few minutes within the city and 40F is a low. I miss the chills. To be fair, I do loathe humidity, as well.
No deep dish, but they have multiple Upton's seitan options so....
3)Vegan deep dish pizza
Verdict: According to our friend Snarky Vegan, there was a pizzeria in Chicago that was serving vegan deep dish until it closed a couple of years ago. These days, you can request a deep dish pie without cheese, making sure to ask about butter in the crust, or you can go to other pizza parlours for Daiya or Teese (hometown pride, y’all) topped pies. Michele and Janessa did have a chance to hit up one local shop for a cheese-less slice after I headed back to Portland for work (d’oh!), but overall, I did enjoy our pie at The Boiler Room. More on that follow below.
Three Days, Five Things, Chicago
With three full days, I had a taste for Chicago, and longing for more Upton’s under my belt. It’s a huge city with spread out vegan options, including the classic Chicago Diner (which we dined at twice, rest assure).
Since I’ve been a major procrastinator (see: December travels) and Janessa and Michele are covering the same trip, in addition to our joint contributions, for the VVC blog, I wanted to break down my brief stay in Chicagoland with my five favorite food experiences. Plus, it’s an internet blogging list rule, or something.
Regrettably, in my five days, there was more I tried that I wasn’t a fan of (I’m still trying to get the thought of a hybrid cheese sauce off my tongue) vs. what I could rave about, so the list was easier to put together than I planned on.
The tops include my inaugural torta experience at Quesadilla, a stand-in for deep dish pizza at The Boiler Room, classic milkshakes, caffeination, a surprise turn with cake balls, and more swooning over Upton’s products.
First up, Quesadilla:
Quesadilla La Reyna del Sur
2235 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
Complimentary chips & salsa at the all-vegetarian Quesadilla
Ordering a Soy Curl-stuffed torta from Los Gorditos – either the truck or the restaurant – has been on my to-do list for years now. I’ve simply been so easily distracted by burritos and mulitas and the quick journey home to my apartment. Now that I’ve experienced the tremendous satisfaction that was my meal at Quesadilla’s, as pictured below, it could actually happen?!
Vegan Cubana torta with Mexican sausage, soy bacon, soy chicken, lettuce, avocado and beans on crusty bread. It was intense and did not disappoint.
One of the soy meat-sensational tacos on our table.
Counter-style ordering with Michele at Quesadilla.
Next stop, The Boiler Room:
The Boiler Room
2210 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
Pizza with Daiya, Upton's seitan bacon, some shredded basil and marinara.
We held a small VVC reunion at The Boiler Room once we learned that deep dish pizza with vegan cheese, our original intent, was currently nowhere to be found in the city. The crust was surprisingly thin with an element of flop, something that saddens my inner New Yorker. I will, however, give kudos to the high quality ingredients and availability of Upton’s seitan products. It takes something special overshadow the d-cheese, in my humble option.
Millennium Park Coffee Bar
53 East Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601
Let’s just say that while it was not my first visit to an Intelligentsia location, coffee on a warm day in Silver Lake does not compare to a soy latte on a brisk day in Chicago. I quickly went through the smokey Diablo Dark Roast I brought back home with me.
Soy Latte, Intelligentsia
Cake Balls at Bleeding Heart Bakery
Bleeding Heart Bakery
1916 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
So, I’ve yet to take an official stance on cake balls. Part of me thinks they’re dumb, part of me really enjoyed the moist cake balls at the evidently-starred-on-a-Food-Network-special Bleeding Heart Bakery, part of me wants to throw every round piece of sprinkle-coated cake I see out of a window, and my heart says I should really give Dovetail’s a chance in Portland before I roll my eyes some more.
Yeah, I'd pop more of these into my mouth.
Bleeding Heart: proudly offering preservative-free Srichacha for all your preservative-free spicing needs.
Vegan Milkshakes! I experienced the joy of two creamy vegan milkshakes in the windy city. I want more.
3411 N Halsted
Whole Foods Lincoln Park’s Diner
1550 N. Kingsbury Street
Chicago, IL 60642
Peanut butter cookie dough milkshake sharing with Janessa at Chicago Diner.
Chicago Diner: Like we went to Chicago without dining here twice! I often suffer from bad-ordering luck, and it happened here with a few plates, despite small plate sharing optimism with Janessa. Over all, I think brunch had the most potential, regret not ordering the Titanic BLT or more with Upton’s seitan (a reoccurring theme of the trip) and have to give my props to their milkshake…and they were out of whipped cream at the time. It was an awesome welcome.
Whole Foods: Team VVC had a momentous shopping excursion at Whole Foods in Lincoln Park, where we sipped sparkling wine as we strolled the aisles picking up goodies and stopping at the Diner. I’m not one of veggie dogs, but my cohorts dug in, while I opted for a different classic:
Cookies and Cream milkshake & hand-cut fries at the Diner. What of it?
I’ll spare the details, but I would not order these appetizers again:
Special: Potato Skins at Chicago Diner. Pass. That ubiquitous hybrid cheese sauce may have seeped into my brain.
BBQ Seitan Wingz and Ranch at Chicago Diner. Pass #2, and #3.
Ebel's Weiss Hefeweizen from Two Brothers Brewing Company at Native Foods. This was light and lovely.
Coming across two Native Foods in Chicago = delightful. I picked up a Twister wrap with blackened chickin’ for dinner on my Denver layover on my way out-of-town.
Dinner with our friend Kelly Peloza, the Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, at Native Foods on West Belmont. I ordered a tasty deconstructed Scorpion Burger over quinoa, proving to myself that ordering faux gluten-free is indeed, pretty amusing.
Official VVC cocktail hour at the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Tower.
If only there was a vegan option...
Long live Upton's.