Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Windy City Eats

We don't eat out much. Between our strict plant-based diet, our strict budget and the fact that I enjoy cooking (most nights), we probably eat home-cooked meals 95% of the time, if not more.

We try our best to eat on the cheap and healthy when away from home too, and that creates some challenges. Let's see, what are our options?

Chipotle has vegan beans, yippee! Some Mexican food places can deal with our tweaks, which means hold the cheese, the meat, the sour cream and hey, do you have any whole wheat tortillas by any chance? Another option is Thai, most restaurants can accommodate my husband's need to keep his food from being drenched in oil. So that puts us where? Bean and bean burritos with a side of beans, and some Thai dishes served with brown rice, but please hold the salt. It sure isn't easy, and travel adds a bit more baggage to the question of What's for dinner? 

At the beginning of the month we were off to Chicago for another work weekend at the McCormick Center. This was the sixth time for me, the fourth time for my husband. I don't count the time he flew there with me to enjoy the hotel room, the city and the sights, while I limped around proctoring for days on end. No, I don't count that time. 

Working the job we have there has its advantages. There's the fact we get paid, and the hours do add up. We get to stay in a great hotel, work with some super people and see more and more of Chicago each time. There's just one minor detail that makes it hard. It's those horrid wake-up times for the days we work. I didn't get the rooster gene, so any alarm set before 5:30 AM seems positively barbaric. 

Gulp! That's 1:45 AM Sacramento time.

But I get through it. The food helps. It really helps.

Even though we live in the Farm to Fork Capital, Chicago has it all over Sacramento when it comes to vegan food options. A regular Mexican restaurant that has an entire section of the menu devoted to vegan food? Chicago has it. None of this, "Can I have some extra beans on my nachos to make up for the fact I'm not having cheese and sour cream?" La Cantina Grill has a menu that makes us swoon. While Ernst is making his more serious dietary issues known to the server, I'm just going hog wild ordering off the plant-based menu.

Oh. My. Word.
Chili rellenos stuffed with vegan cheese. It made that 3:45AM wake up call all better.

"Meat" tacos.
It didn't taste like meat. That's not the point. It just tasted wonderful.

We were in Chicago for four nights. We went to the Cantina Grill twice. One night we ordered three entrees between us. Let's see - two people, two visits, five entrees. Yep, we love this place!

Our friend Lorena also did her homework for us, and brought us to some great places. One was The Chicago Diner - Meat Free Since '83. This place didn't just have one page of choices, the whole menu was plant-based. Well, maybe that's a stretch, I'm sure some of the entrees had stuff that we would never eat at home. But when in Rome and all that.

My yummy sweet potato burger.

Ernst had the "meat loaf".
He was a happy boy.

I kept myself to only one entree.
But I did order the "milk" shake.
I was a happy girl.

The highlight of our resturant adventures in Chicago was definitely a visit to Revolution Brewing. We planned on just stopping in briefly for a tasting and a brewery tour and then we were headed with Lorena to a vegan-friendly Costa Rican place she'd found. While Ernst and Lorena were going to look for parking, they dropped me off street side. "Beware of the man in the red cape" our hostess warned me as I exited the vehicle. And sure enough, a very interesting man in a red cape was walking down the street. When he entered the brewery ahead of me, I had no idea what was in store inside.

I walked into a brewery full of people in red capes! We had come to the place on a pre-Comicon Kickoff Night, and it was full of interesting characters. It was hilarious fun! There were people in all kinds of costumes, there was a drawing for prizes, and best of all, there was a buffet! A free buffet, or at least we think it was free. And they had vegan burgers in this seemingly free buffet. We never made it to the Costa Rican place.

Beware of the man in the red cape!

Lorena, Hop Head Woman, Ernst and me.
Chicago, we will be back.
We still need to try the Costa Rican place.