Colon cleanse, anyone? Over the past week, I’ve consumed (in no particular order): paczkis for Paczki Day, Chairman Mao’s Pork for Chinese New Year, chocolate, passionfruit and oysters for Valentine’s Day and a buffet of bread pudding, po-boys and gumbo for Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday. You think it’s time for a break? Ash Wednesday begins today, signaling the beginning of Lent - a period of abstinence and sacrifice (many forego meat on Fridays) until Easter Sunday, April 4th. I also think this day might be a good signal for a new start, or at least a healthier approach to what we all do everyday.
You could go for that cleanse I refer to above, but you might also take a serious look at a few of the area’s best vegetarian options, including Blind Faith Cafe in Evanston, The Chicago Diner in Boystown or Mana Food Bar in Wicker Park. In Arlington Heights, Chowpatti has one of the largest vegan and vegetarian-friendly menus in the region, offering a mix of Italian, Indian and American classics. These are all good places to go if you’re looking to add more root vegetables, leafy greens and whole grains to your diet. It’s good to see new restaurants offering more than just a token veggie dish these days as well. I think Mado and Browntrout do a pretty good job of that. Vegans and raw foodists will no doubt hail Karyn Calabrese’s work - her raw and cooked restaurants are always popular places for a good detox/cleanse and she’s certainly a poster child for the results of her work; there’s also a new Raw food kiosk inside the Chicago French Market downtown.
One place that slips under the radar is always The Heartland Cafe. This Rogers Park institution has been in business for 34 years, and I remember going there before the legendary Schadenfreude shows next door, to eat something relatively good for me, before swilling beer the rest of the night and watching Justin Kaufmann rip a baristas’ heart out, but I digress. The Heartland has always been a reliable source for healthier, conscious eating without the political message. I’m featuring the place today on the 11 a.m. news on ABC 7, so check it out if if you can. Their mantra has always been “good wholesome food for the mind and body.” Isn’t that what we all want these days?
Which veggie-friendly restaurants would you recommend? Anything I’ve missed?
Hummus plate from the Heartland Cafe
The macro plate from The Heartland Cafe