I met up with one of my friends who I met through the magazine she works for. This is the second year we have enjoyed dinner together while in Chicago and she’s great fun. Very lively and talks faster than my Dad thinks I do… So I have been wanting to check out the famed Chicago Diner for at least a year now. It went all-vegetarian in the 80s and is located in a part of the city known as Boys town also known as Wrigleyville. We got lost a few times trying to find Halsted but the food was worth the effort to get out to this small eatery.
Now Patricia has never had vegetarian food. Ever. So, since she was already walking on the wild side by agreeing to go veggie tonight, I challenged her to branch even further out and try something with seitan, tofu or tempeh, if for no other reason then just for grins.
We nibbled on a vegan Spinach dip with toasted pita chips and crudites. The dip was cold and creamy with all the right seasonings and didn’t come across as anything other than the real thing. I ended up choosing the Tempeh Patty Melt with vegan cheddar cheese because I was in the mood for tempeh. The server suggested the mashed potatoes and then gave me a forkful of the macaroni and vegan “cheeze.” The Patty Melt was incredible- it made me almost feel bad for eating it because it tasted so much like meat. All the textures were right on and nothing was overcooked. Patricia ordered the Cabbage Seitan rolls and exclaimed several times how yummy they were. We saved room for some forkfuls of dessert. She selected a slice of raw apple pie and I went for the vegan chocolate chip cheesecake. The ganache on my cheesecake was killer- you can tell they used the good cocoa, no cheap mainstream substitute. Her pie had such a phenomenal combination of ingredients that we both had to chew on the bite for a while before responding to how we felt about it, since we wanted to have a complete experience before making any declarations.
Our server knowledgeably guided us through the menu and every server seemed genuinely interested to be there. We left a good tip and Patricia left with a bag full of leftovers, a newly informed palate of vegetarian experience and the statement that she would be back.
NOISE: not too bad
GROUPS: booths for one-on-ones, small groups + longer tables for bigger groups
AMBIENCE: fun and upbeat