Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Vegan Chicago: Restaurant Review of Earwax Cafe (Reopened w/ New Menu)

Earwax Cafe in the Wicker Park area of Chicago is a landmark place. They recently released in mid-February that they were closing their doors on the last day of the month. It was truly a sad time. Their menu was always fun, tasty, and really vegan/vegetarian-friendly. It was a great place to get a Sunday brunch any time of the year. A week after they closed, they reopened! Apparently, the uproar was so much so that they found themselves in a position to open their doors again, albeit with a new menu. I am assuming this had something to do with their closing - their previous menu. I would say it was too large with many options and I can see how that would cause a fall in business. So, the week the reopened, I was super excited to try this new menu. 

For starters, my friends and I started out with the seitan croquettes. While the description says it is fried golden with a lovely dip... it wasn't at all impressive. The croquettes were not fried golden and the dip was nothing more than pureed green vegetables. The seitan had no spices to it and overall, it was in dire need of salt. I'd sincerely give them 1/5 stars.

Next, we shared the blackened salad. It was a decent salad with interestingly shaved carrots (though a bit impractical where one needed a knife to cut them). I'd say my only flaw I found with it was the lack of dressing, although I like a little more than most. The ranch is vegan, by the way. The salad gets a 3.5/5 stars.

Lastly, we shared a black bean burger and the seitan rueben. For the black bean burger, we added vegan cheddar, mushrooms, and caramelized onions. I really think this was the best part of the meal. It came with a perfect one person portion of fries. The texture of the burger was great and the add-on's made it a pretty damn good. The seitan rueben, on the other hand, was not as good. It was dry and severely lacked thousand island sauce. It would have be tasty if it just had more sauce! This sandwich also came fries. The fries were good. Not too crispy, but not underdone. The black bean burger gets a 4/5 stars. The rueben gets a 2.5/5 stars.

We were too full to have dessert, though I do not know what was vegan on the dessert menu (didn't ask). My assessment of the new Earwax menu is that it is not that great. The former menu was much better. What I would have done was downed the original menu. This new menu is just not up to par with what I remember fondly. If someone asked me to check out Earwax now, I'd honestly say to walk up the street to the Handlebar because the food is just better. I will add, though, that it is nice to see a vegan-friendly restaurant back in business! 2.5/5 stars for the new Earwax.

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