Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Vegan Chicago: Restaurant Review of Northdown Cafe & Taproom

Tucked in between stores, other neighborhoods bars, and the busy hub-hub of Lakeview is this wonderful place called Northdown Cafe & Taproom. It is a vegan hidden gem. From the outside, one would never assume they have an extensive vegan menu. They pride themselves on homemade food from scratch with local ingredients and they certainly live up to this standard. Even their pickles are homemade (which I terribly appreciate as a person who pickles regularly)!

I enjoy a place where I can get great vegan food, a good beer, and not have to scream across the table to talk to the person I'm with. This is where you go to do all that. They have a full bar and seating in the back as well plus some pinball machines.

Garlic & White Bean Dip
The menu is marked what can be made vegan with a (v). To start, our option here is a roasted garlic and white bean dip. So good! Someone could make a meal out of just this. For lunch or dinner, the options include a portobello salad, seitan Philly sandwich, roasted spring veggie sandwich, mac and cheese, open face meatloaf sandwich, and a vegan cassoulet. For dessert, they make pies from scratch. There are usually two to three vegan varieties. When I was there, they had raspberry peach and blueberry. 

Mac & Cheese
Meatloaf Sandwich
My friend and I shared the roasted garlic and white bean dip for an appetizer. This dip is awesome. The toasty bread it came with was a great pair. Highly recommend this! For our dinners, I had the seitan Philly sandwich and he had the open face meatloaf sandwich. We also asked for a kids portion of the vegan mac and cheese. They make the cheese out of almond and cashew creams and while you can definitely taste the nutty flavor, it wasn't that bad at all. My Philly sandwich was huge! Oh my goodness! And really good too. The cheese sauce on it was the same used for the mac and cheese. The seitan is homemade and you can definitely tell. I really appreciated that as a home cook that makes a lot of seitan from scratch. I got a side of fries that was a mile high. We poured malt vinegar on it and it was the perfect pub food. My friend had the open faced meatloaf sandwich which really did look like what it was meant to copy. I find sometimes veganized versions of things fall short on how they are supposed to look. Not this. The seitan was stuffed with celery, carrots, and other things one would find in a meatloaf. It wasn't chewy, but moist and easy to cut as a "meatloaf" should be. It came topped with mashed potatoes and a beer gravy. Feast for a Sunday early dinner, let me tell you.

Seitan Philly
We were far too full for a dessert (actually, we boxed half of all the stuff we got aside from the appetizer), but the pies looked really tasty. Next time I'll be sure to save room.

For a vegan wanting to try a new place or if you're taking an omnivore friend out to eat but don't want to suffer in your own dining choices... go to Northdown Cafe! I give this place a 4.5/5 stars. I found my new place to frequent.

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