I am no vegan. I’m not even vegetarian. But while downtown last weekend with a vegan friend, I had the pleasure of dining at Native Foods, an entirely plant-based restaurant – and let me just say, any stereotypes I had about this culinary genre were blown out of the water.
Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburgers. Classic Deli Reubens. Nuevo Native Nachos. You read me right: typical meat-lovers’ fare, only substituted with animal-friendly ingredients.
In Native Food’s dishes, the seemingly intimidating seitan and cheese made from ground nuts are actually delicious, slathered in creamy chipotle sauces, topped with fresh avocado, and accompanied by heaps of bright orange sweet potato fries. Each dish is a cacophony of flavorful ingredients artfully presented. There are ethnic offerings (vegan gyros, curry, etc), as well as pizzas, wraps, salads, and desserts ranging from Carrot Cream Cheese Cupcakes to Peanut Butter Parfaits (whipped peanut butter filling layered between banana bread crumbles).
The drinks are also lovely and the refills are free (an insider’s tip: sign up for a member’s card for a complimentary drink on your initial visit). My favorite was the Lavender Lemonade, but the hibiscus tea is the perfect palate cleanser and the Watermelon Fresca is more like a smoothie, a pitcher full of watermelon pulp.
The prices at Native Foods are also extremely reasonable, and the service speedy (think Noodles & Company on both aspects), plus I’ve never seen wait staff so friendly. It was such a positive dining experience – I felt good about my part in the environment and my health (I was full in a satiated, not overly stuffed, way).
Native Foods has three locations in the Chicago-land area: Lakeview, the Loop, and Wicker Park. It’s worth a trip into the city just to try their cuisine.
I may not be vegan, but I’ve been converted to a Native Foods enthusiast.