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August 9, 2011

Native Foods Cafe open in Chicago!

Back in June I took a weekend trip to LA. Top on my list of local vegan restaurants to try was Native Foods. Perusing their website in preparation for my visit I was surprised to learn that there would be three locations opening in Chicago in the fall. I decided to postpone my visit to Native Foods and wait for them to come to me. The two month wait is over, the first Chicago location opened in Wicker Park today!

I didn't have to wait until today though, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a pre-opening dinner on Friday night!

Our dining experience started out with a greeting from Chef Tanya herself at the door! Starstruck, I expressed my excitement to meet her and asked for a photo, to which she replied, "Oh, a groupie!" Guilty as charged, vegan food nerd to the core! We had a nice chat before getting in line to order.

While we were in line we were offered samples of their Lavender Lemonade and Watermelon Fresca. I am not a big fan of mint, watermelon, or lavender, so I did not think that I would like either of these. To my surprise I loved them both! They were light and refreshing, and the flavors were very complimentary and not overpowering.

When we reached the counter we were encouraged to order several things, all on the house, so that we could get a good taste of their offerings. How could we resist with a menu like this?

For our starter we chose the Sweet Potato Taquitos. We loved these! The dish comes with three fantastically crunchy corn tortillas stuffed with coconut mashed sweet potatoes and topped with chipotle crema.

For my main dish I chose the Portobello and Sausage Burger with a side of sweet potato fries. This burger is made up of grilled portobellos, sausage seitan, caramelized onion, pumpkin seed pesto, roasted garlic, pomodoro, and vegan mayo. The pumpkin seed pesto and roasted garlic really pop in this sandwich, which just happen to be a couple of my favorite flavors on earth! The sweet potato fries were tasty too, but a bit too heavy alongside the burger for me. Next time I'll try it with the steamed kale.

Steve's entree was the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger. This was our favorite dish of the night! It might be hard to figure out what all the awesome is in this picture, so let me break it down for you. On the left side of the plate is the top half of the sandwich: bun, lettuce tomato, onion. On the right side of the plate is the bottom half of the sandwich: sliced seitan, bacon, melted "cheddar", caramelized onion, battered pickle chips, and bbq sauce. Everything about this sandwich is amazing and perfect, but we both agreed that the cheddar stole the show. Chef Tanya, please give me your recipe!!

I got a kick out of being served Annie's ketchup--it was the first time I have seen an Annie's product at a restaurant. I prefer my fries without the high fructose corn syrup, thanks for that Native Foods!

It was pretty foolish to think we'd have room for dessert after all of that food, but thankfully our selections were served in to-go cups. We took a single bite of each and tucked them away for later. My choice was the Strawberry Shortcake Parfait. I couldn't resist, strawberry shortcake is a childhood favorite of mine, and something I haven't had since going vegan. What a treat! I was very impressed by how close this vegan and refined sugar-free version tasted to what I remember from childhood. I particularly loved the fluffy layers of almond creme.

Steve made the winning selection again with the Peanut Butter Parfait, but how could you go wrong with a dessert featuring whipped peanut butter filling? The cookie pieces are actually crumbles of Native's boogie bars, a banana bread made with oats, coconut, and almonds. So creative and delicious, and most definitely healthier than the average parfait.

We welcome our new friends at Native Foods to Chicago with open arms! Our first visit was simply amazing, and we haven't stopped talking about it since. Our next visit is officially on our calendars, so we'll see you really soon! (We may or may not have even decided what we are going to be trying next time [I'm looking at you, Soul Bowl]). Thanks again for your hospitality and great eats!


  1. That all looks fantastic, and how fun that you got to meet Tanya, you groupie. ;) The Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger is my favorite sandwich anywhere. I was so excited they were moving to the middle of the country, if only I could get that sandwich again. Their chicken-less wings are really good too, and the ranch that comes with it is a perfect match. It's funny that you took a picture of the ketchup on the table. I've done that too when I've seen organic condiments at restaurants. It's then I know that I'm in the right place. :)

  2. I am so jealous, you have no idea. Of course it had to open after I moved away from Chicago. Just weeks after, actually. I used to work at Myopic just down the street and man, a yummy all vegan place would have been so nice. Now I live in Indianapolis where, I swear, none o the restaurants have heard of tempeh or seitan. Enjoy it for all of us who can't!

  3. Um jealous!! Guess I need to come back to Chicago huh ;-)

  4. Do you know if the one on Clark is open yet?

  5. Oh, that looks amazing! I really need to get downtown sometime.....

  6. Another reason to visit Chicago...

  7. Wow, that looks like you guys had some amazing food!! Glad to hear you had an enjoyable time, what a privilege to be invited before the opening! You're a rockstar :)

  8. Peanut Butter Parfait Recipe
    Peanut Butter Mousse

    1 C peanut butter
    12 oz firm silken tofu (not the vacuum packed kind)
    1/2 C agave
    1 C vegan cream cheese (Says Evan: “…like Tofutti non-hydrogenated…yeah I know, but whatever, it gives it a little something-something, and it’s not like you are or should be eating peanut butter mousse everyday for every meal or something, so lay off.”)
    1/2 C organic sugar
    1 1/2 TBS vanilla extract
    2-6 TBS soymilk, depending on consistency
    Blend tofu and peanut butter in blender/food processor until ridiculously smooth, scraping down sides. Add cream cheese and blend. Add agave, sugar, and vanilla, keep blending and scraping. Add soymilk until it’s a bit thinner consistency but still a rich, thick pudding/mousse. For the ‘boogie bars’, you can make the ones from the Native Foods cookbook, or just use a regular banana bread recipe and add some of the extras. You can also buy it from me! To assemble, layer banana bread or boogie bar chunks with the peanut butter mousse and top with chocolate chips, granola, banana slices and whatever else you like.


  9. How exciting! this sounds like such a fabulous dining experience!

  10. Oh this place looks amazing! The food really looks so delicious!

  11. I've never heard of Native Foods but now I totally wish we had one here!!

  12. I just ate at Native Foods in LA for the first time last week! Matt and I got the taquitos, the OK cheeseburger, and the PB parfait - and I got the rockin' Moroccan bowl. Everything was amazing! You're so lucky you now have one nearby!

  13. Never heard of it but it looks amazing! I clicked and found that one is opening in my neighborhood on 11/1 - can't wait to try it!! :)

    Thanks for the tip :)

  14. Oh wow that looks like a PERFECT restaurant! I want to go to one so bad...I just found your blog and I love it. I am following you and cannot wait to come back!

  15. Looks like a great night out! How lucky you got your meals on the house!

  16. We definitely need one of these! Hope you are enjoying your honeymoon :)

  17. You guys are married now right??! Congrats!!! :) I hope you'll share photos. :)


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