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Six Chicago Restaurants I Will Miss

July 6, 2013

After what seemed like an eternity of dealing with cold weather, mood swings, seasonal affective disorder, and subtle marital power struggles, Andy and I have moved from Chicago to San Diego, again.  Again??

I’m dealing with it.

Happy husband, happy life.  People say that, right?

No other city has given me such overwhelming regret.  (Okay, except maybe Paris…) There’s so much left that I haven’t seen or done.  Whole neighborhoods I haven’t visited, new people I haven’t met.

I haven’t written in over a year, and didn’t do any blog posts about Chicago at all, WTF?  Granted, I was busy with work, planning a wedding and dealing with depression, but really?  

Can I have a do-over?  Can we go back to Chicago, where I’d do everything I should have done during our  year there?

I’d move to a cool apartment in a more affordable part of town.  I’d throw dinner parties for my neighbors.  I’d take cooking classes, and befriend local bloggers, chefs and foodies.  I’d join my friend Kevin’s beach volleyball team.  I’d take the water taxi to Chinatown all the time, because I could.  I’d follow my friend Brittany all over the city, because she is the queen of free/cheap entertainment and bargain shopping.  I’d go to new restaurants every week.  And I’d photograph and write about everything.

Anyway, I’ve fallen out of the habit of taking pictures of everything I eat/make – but here is a list of eating establishments I already miss, the ones I will seek out when I return for visits… in no particular order:

  1. Karyn’s on Green – Andy and I had our wedding reception brunch there, so this place will always be special to us.  Located in the West Loop, this spot has the best French toast in the city!
  2. The Chicago Diner – Junk food galore! Wings, milkshakes, Reuben sandwiches, milkshakes.  Booze.  Hot male servers.  Hot female servers.  I love this place so hard.  If it’s crowded at the original Halsted Street location (which it often is), you will probably be asked to sit at the bar.  While it’s not as nice as a booth or a table by the window, you can watch one of the hotties preparing milkshakes.  If he messes up a milkshake (made the wrong kind, made too much, etc), he may give that mistake to you, for free.  This happened to me at least three times.  ;)
  3. Bon Bon Sandwiches – Vietnamese Banh Mi is my new sandwich of choice (move over, falafel), and Bon Bon’s Lemongrass Tofu is perfect.  Crusty/soft baguette, chewy fried tofu flavored with lemongrass and soy sauce, sweet daikon radish and carrot relish, creamy avocado and vegan mayo.  I want one NOW, with mango bubble tea!  And the place, located in Wicker Park, is a great hangout spot, with free Wifi, comfy seating, and music that’s at a good level for conversation.
    Lemongrass Tofu Banh Mi and Bubble Tea!  Yum yum

4.  Native Foods – I worked there briefly when we first moved to Chicago, so after I quit it was weird for me to go in there for a while.  But I still adore their food!  Yeah, it’s a chain, but the closest location to San Diego is two hours away (by bus, anyway) so I mourn no longer being able to walk there.  This place, though I did enjoy flashier options such as the Scorpion Burger and the Super Italian Meatball Sub, was truly one of the places I could visit to get a really good salad.  I rarely order salads at restaurants, except at Native Foods.  (Okay, there’s the occasional Buffalo Ranch Salad at Chicago Diner, but it’s smothered in so much ranch dressing that it just ain’t healthy anymore.)  The Caribbean Jerk Kale Salad was my favorite, followed by the Ensalada Azteca.

5.  Ba Le Sandwiches – Another Banh Mi place?  This food-crush is turning serious.  Ba Le was only a block away from our apartment in the Loop, and from day one the lady there  always remembered to leave the cheese and mayo off my sandwich, even when I forgot to say anything.  I just wanted to put her in my pocket and take her everywhere, so she can yell at anyone who even dares to fuck up my food.  Though their sandwiches are pricier and not quite as flavorful as Bon Bon’s, they are larger, and served at a steamier temperature, which makes them quite satisfying to tuck into on a cold afternoon.  In their refrigerated case, they always had vegan salad rolls (spring rolls filled with avocado, rice noodles and spicy sauce), which were delightful.

6. Ruby of Siam – Three doors away from Ba Le, this quiet BYOB is a Thai food haven in the western Loop area when other establishments have closed.  And the food is yum!  They are very vegan friendly and can make almost anything on their very large menu animal-free.

Chicago is such a foodie city that of course there are more restaurants I could have mentioned, but I’ll stop there.

I’m in San Diego now and am happy.  And my husband’s happy.  And we’re renting a cute place (a house, not an apartment) in an affordable part of town.  Too far away from the beach to join a volleyball team, and there isn’t a water taxi or a Chinatown, but we do throw dinner parties for our neighbors.  And I’ve taken a few cooking classes and tried some restaurants.

But I haven’t found a good Banh Mi sandwich here.  (Or falafel, for that matter.)  Vegan French toast?  Forget it.  And all I keep telling everyone is that I miss Chicago.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2013 7:54 pm

    I have been anxious to try the Chicago Diner ever since I heard about it on the Cooking Channel! Now I have a few more restaurants to add to my list haha

    • July 10, 2013 10:59 am

      Ani, the Diner definitely lives up to the hype! Chicago’s a city where you can definitely indulge (Italian beef and deep-dish pizza galore for the meat-eaters) so it’s nice to have a place where vegans can “be bad.” ;)

  2. July 8, 2013 6:33 am

    Oh my goodness, that Banh Mi looks and sounds to die for! I’ll be needing to make a trip over there sooner rather than later I think.

    • July 10, 2013 11:03 am

      Yes, go now!! Plan a Wicker Park outing (vintage stores!) and get a Banh Mi for lunch! A couple blocks away from Bon Bon is a place called the Handlebar, which is also quite vegan-friendly. However, the hipster vibe was toooo much for me. Good food, though!

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