Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vegan Chicago: Restaurant Review of The Bleeding Heart Bakery & Cafe

Popeye Cake
A few months ago, local punk rock baking heroes, Bleeding Heart Bakery, opened their new bakery and cafe in West Town. Prior to this, the company had only been a bakery. I've always been a big supporter of this place because: 1. it's local and they get a lot of exposure on the Food Network competing in challenges, 2. because a lot of their stuff is vegan, & 3. it's the only punk rock bakery I know of! The past two birthdays I have gotten my cake from Bleeding Heart. One was a vintage poodle design and the other was of my oldest cat, Popeye, who has only one eye. Both were completely delicious and filled with raspberry jam and yummy icing. They stood 3 layers tall and man, that was a lot of cake I ended up freezing! While it may be a bit pricey to order one of their cakes, it is most definitely worth it as they are genius bakers and designers. One day I was having coffee with a friend at their old location and someone came to pick up their cake. It was a gigantic life-like heart that bled raspberry jam. Amazing.

If you can't tell, I really like Bleeding Heart so I was excited to try out the new cafe that has a number of vegan options on their menu. I mean, a vegan s'mores pancake?! Yes! It exists here. The inside of the cafe is rather big and has a 1950's diner feel to it along with their signature artwork of "punk rock" themed things like skulls and slogans like, "Shut Up And Bake!", in the typical tattoo font (if you have seen the owners, you will understand the theme - they are literally quite the colorful bunch!). Oh, and if you are wondering why Bleeding Heart decided to branch out to savory food, it is because one of the owners, Chef Michelle, has a background in savory cooking despite being a baker and wanted to broaden her career horizons (she was on Food Network's Chopped twice in the last year). The service was kind of slow and we waited for 20 minutes or more for our food, but the atmosphere and quality of the food did not disappoint. 

The Farmers Skillet
For brunch, I had the farmers skillet and my friend had the housemade vegan biscuits and gravy. We split an order of roasted potatoes too. The farmers skillet had mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, carrots, and twice-baked tofu, all topped with wild mushroom gravy (which I added) and homemade fresh toast. I really enjoyed this skillet. It was reminiscent of a tofu scramble sans the scramble-y part. The bread was really delicious. I'm a sucker for homemade fresh bread. The carrots were a little underdone, but otherwise I would order this again. The roasted potatoes I believe were supposed to come with it, but didn't, so I ordered them on the side. These were really tasty. They were roasted with herbs and had just the right crunchy consistency on the outside.
Housemade Vegan Biscuits & Gravy
My friend's housemade vegan biscuits and gravy were super yummy too. The wild mushroom gravy has a lot of depth to it and is not just a simple black pepper gravy. The biscuits were fluffy and combined nicely with the gravy. Since it was made vegan, my friend got a big pile of twice-baked tofu which tasted great, but it was just way too much tofu. If they take away half the tofu from this dish and add roasted potatoes to it, it would be a winning brunch in my opinion. I left them a comment card which says just that!

If you check out their drink menu, you'll notice all the specialty coffee drinks have titles referring to A Clockwork Orange which I thought was cute. My friend and I both got the Agent Orange Mimosa (it's spiked with vodka as well as Prosseco and fresh O.J. and has muddled oranges) and they were really good (although probably not worth $10, but hey, it was a splurge brunch). 

Not vegan but cute!
As far as other vegan options on the brunch menu go, there are a couple skillets one can get with tofu including the seasonal squash and the roots (root veggies). As I mentioned, there are s'more pancakes as well as "plain jane" vanilla bean pancakes and seasonal fruit pancakes. Sides include apple slaw, roasted potatoes, and caramelized grapefruit. There are, of course, baked goods up at the bakery counter one can get. They always have a variety of vegan cupcakes, cake balls, donuts, fruit bars, and brownies. Bleeding Heart also carries fresh bread that they sell at this location.

So, everyone in Chicago, go check out Bleeding Heart Bakery & Cafe in West Town and have a really awesome punk rock brunch. Eat or die! xo

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