Quesadilla for Amazing Vegan Mexican Food in Chicago

After spending the day walking around wicker park, JC and I had worked up an appetite. And after repeated recommendations, we had only one place on our mind – Quesadilla La Reyna del Sur, a vegan-friendly (lacto-ovo-vegetarian) Mexican restaurant in the Bucktown area of Chicago. We loved this place, and can finally understand the enthusiasm our Toronto vegan pals had when recommending this spot (thanks Amanda & KT). Everything on the menu is veganizable and everything we ordered was absolutely great. Service was lovely, and when we got the check we experienced this weird shock at why it wasn’t more expensive. We started with an order of chips and guacamole. Guacamole was fantastic, with cilantro and lime and a good quantity of salt. It was also much bigger than we had expected. This was the beginning of a trend at Quesadilla for us… portions were incredible value for the money. JC and I both ordered Platillo’s (plates) of Tacos, though for some reason I ordered the dinner with rice and beans. I expected much smaller portions, but three tacos/person were more than enough for us. JC had a plate of three tacos, and I don’t remember what he ordered but they looked (and tasted) great. Along with my rice and beans, I had three different tacos. I had asked the server which ones she liked the most because there were lots of “meats” I wasn’t familiar with. She recommended the Asada, Pastor, & Chorizo, so I went with it. And…

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Chicago – Upton’s Naturals

After a lovely day of exploring Chicago’s Magnificent Mile and a wonderful meal at The Lobby, we planned a more casual day of wandering around for our last full day in Chicago. First stop – Upton’s Breakroom for lunch and the Ukrainian Village & Wicker Park neighbourhood to look around. It was the first time we took a bus in Chicago. Those magic Ventra transit cards are pretty great (at least from a tourist perspective) – multiple forms of transit, one pass. There is probably a better way, especially considering how hot that day was, but it worked. We walked for about 15 minutes and just as we started to wonder if we’d missed it somewhere along the way, we saw the newly added Upton’s Breakroom signage, and wandered in. As you can see, there is a bus that conveniently stops right in front of Upton’s Breakroom. We didn’t take that one. Of course, we didn’t take that one. We ordered a whole bunch of delicious stuff, and as we ate, it became apparent that it was (at least unofficially) the breakroom of the attached Upton’s Factory as folks from inside came into the place for lunch or a snack or a break or a drink. I’ve eaten Upton’s Breakroom products stuff before in the early days – probably at their popup sandwich shop at Food Fight during the first Vida Vegan Con, but more recently we’ve sampled their prepackaged goods at Whole Foods locations in the North East/North Central USA…

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Vegan Afternoon Tea in The Lobby at the Peninsula Hotel Chicago

As a special surprise for JC’s birthday I wanted to take him out for something he’s never done before, and after the camping and the driving, it seemed a nice fancy experience would be just the right thing as a treat. I emailed The Peninsula Hotel and The Lobby a few weeks ago about their vegan afternoon tea offering, and what would be on the menu if we went. They kindly sent over a PDF and asked if I wanted to make a reservation. I did! After a lovely day admiring the works at the Art Institute of Chicago, we made our way over through the Magnificent Mile, and on to The Lobby inside The Peninsula Hotel. It’s beautiful inside and service is semi-formal and friendly. It was nice that when I mentioned only being interested in the vegan menu when I made the reservation, because we got to skip the menu shuffle that has occasionally happened when we’ve gone to a restaurant that has a vegan menu, but who’s staff aren’t particularly enthusiastic about it. That didn’t happen here, and I can’t say that it would, because everyone was great. Save for five tables or so, we had The Lobby to ourselves, so I could actually take a picture of what the place looked like without taking pictures of strangers. Most people were in booths or by the window like us. We started with celebratory glasses of champagne, and enjoyed the view out the window as the staff prepared for dinner. Happy…

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Chicago – the Art Institute & Native Foods

Oh where to begin. This was the day I planned out a little JC birthday celebration. I emailed with the staff at The Lobby in the Peninsula hotel before we left Toronto about their Afternoon Tea, and we planned to go to the Art Institute of Chicago for a very long wander and to visit the famous Chicago Bean (uh, I mean the Cloud Gate…) in Millennium Park. It’s also a perfect time to see a few other things in the area like the Magnificent Mile, DuSable Bridge, the Water Tower (one of the only remaining structures from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871), House of Blues, other things, and you can grab a bite to eat at Native Foods if you’re so inclined (we were.) I love learning more about the history of places we visit, and some of the architecture, so I considered taking a walking tour with the Chicago Architecture Foundation, but there wasn’t enough time, but if you’re planning a visit you might want to check them out. There is a list of the various walking tours here. They also have tours by boat and other methods of transportation. We whipped out our fancy 3-day pass loaded Ventra (transit) cards and took the pink line train to The Loop, which many other lines are conveniently connect to as well. To go to the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) we got out at Adams/Wabash and walked up to the Beaux-Arts style building (a design familiar to some of us Canadian Prairie…

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Chicago wandering and Soul Vegan grab-and-go

After enjoying a very lovely lunch at The Chicago Diner & enjoying a few cups of fancy coffee at Gaslight Coffee Roasters, we wandered around the Pilsen neighbourhood enjoying some of the street art Chicago is known for while we waited for our AirBnB apartment to be ready.   As we travelled through the city I couldn’t help but feel like the city had a lot in common with Toronto in ways that other places I’ve travelled to do not. Little pockets of different cultures and neighbourhoods, a couple of major roads as main thoroughfares, street art, the general mid-sized-large city ambiance, etc. Home away from home. I collect pictures of street art wherever I can find it, because it’s so transient, and always changing and evolving. If you want to see anymore, please check out my Graffiti album on flickr. After getting into our AirBNB, we zipped over to a nearby Whole Foods in search of Earth Balance macaroni and cheese, and stumbled on Soul Vegan grab and go fare. We had considered going to Soul Vegetarian that night, but after a reasonably busy morning, we’d end up getting there just a bit too late for a relaxed meal. Until now, I didn’t actually realize that Soul Vegetarian and Soul Vegan are not the same folks though. So far JC and I have eaten at Souley Vegan (in Oakland), Soul Vegetarian (Jacksonville), Detroit Vegan Soul (Detroit), and now this one. I wonder what it’s like fresh, because most of…

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Chicago Diner – Roadtrip 2014

After our fun but brief camping time at Fort Custer Recreation Area we drove on to Chicago in a couple of hours. I plotted the course to the Chicago Diner in the Logan Square area because we had a few hours to go before our AirBnB in the Pilsen neighbourhood would be available, and we both skipped breakfast. The Logan square area offers some wandering potential too, so I figured we could poke around the area after lunch. It’s a beautiful restaurant with solid oak tables and benches, and reclaimed wood from the neighbourhood. It was interesting reading about the beginnings on the Chicago Diner blog post from a few years ago, because it gave me a greater appreciation for what they were trying to do with the space. Apparently the building is LEED certified (which is no small feat) and generally tries to be more environmentally friendly. The host/bartender was super friendly when we walked in, but our server seemed stressed out and exhausted. That said, this didn’t actually impact service much, and we were mostly left alone to eat in peace, which was good. When we’re travelling, it’s always worth remembering that while we’re excited and keen on a place, it’s ultimately just a restaurant. Where people eat. Local or otherwise. Not everyone needs to appreciate or mirror our excitement. It’s just food right? (seriously) We started with one of the much recommended shakes, and ordered one regular sized chocolate chip cookie dough shakes, intending to share it. The…

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