Thursday, January 5, 2012

Restaurant Review: Native Foods Café and The Bleeding Heart Bakery in Chicago...

Native Foods Café - The Loop Location

If you have not been to Native Foods Cafe, you need to go right now! I’m serious! It is one of the best low-key, comfort-foodey vegan restaurant I think I’ve ever been too, and almost everything is delicious! For those of you who may not be aware, Native Foods Café is a California based restaurant that finally made it’s way to the Chicagoland Area in 2011. Three locations opened, one in Wicker Park, one in Lakeview and one in the Loop. I was extremely excited about this latest addition to Chicago’s vegan dining scene, and since they opened In August we have been about four times. Every time we go I mean to take pictures and post about this marvel of an eatery and always I forget. Well, not this time. We were in the Loop location on the 27th as part of my husband’s birthday celebration week. You see we typically do fun stuff the entire week of our birthday’s rather then just on the day, and dining out at Native Foods was one of the things he wanted to do, and we just happened to have a camera handy.

Every time we go to Native Foods I look forward to it for days before hand, and usually plan out what I’m going to get before we arrive. Native Foods is a cafeteria style place with a cozy interior and comforting atmosphere. They serve up good ole’ fashion comfort food in a gourmet style and make everything in house. Including their drinks, their seitan, their tempeh, their ‘chick’n’ their ‘bacon’ their other faux meats and their ‘cheese’ which I believe is nut based. The food is truly divine, and very reasonably priced in my opinion. There isn’t a thing on the menu over $9.95. The most expensive appetizer is $7.95, non-alcoholic beverages are $2.50 and come with free re-fills, alcoholic beverages run between $3.95 and $4.95, and all desserts are $2.95. Oh and did I mention that the portions are huge! Holy veggies, when you eat here you do not leave hungry. It is also the kind of place that just begs you to be naughty but overindulging in all that stuff you - definitely I - try to shy away from most of the time, but it’s oh so good!

On this latest trip I ordered the Chili Cheese Fries for an appetizer, I figure if I’m going to be bad why not be really bad right? These were pretty good, and not quite as bad as one might imagine. The cheese wasn’t a melty daiya kind meant to mimic ‘real’ cheese but more of a creamy nut based cheese that is spooned on the top. While it was good I would have liked it to have a bit more kick. I like a little spice in my chili and the chili on these fries didn’t really have any. I also like my chili a little acidic which this chili was not and so I added a bit of organic ketchup into the mix and that fixed it right up. These fires however are entirely too much for just one person to handle so if you order them share them with a friend!

Chili Cheese Fries

My husband ordered the Saigon Roll which is amazing! Braised lemongrass tofu, with daikon raddish, carrot, cucumber brown rice cilantro and basil wrapped in a whole wheat wrap and served with a peanut dipping sauce. Can you say yum?

Saigon Roll

To drink I ordered a hot Chai tea as it was rather cold out, and it was seriously delicious. My husband got the Lavender Lemonade which I nearly drank all of before he’d even had a sip, so he had to go back for the re-fill. Definitely delicious.

For the main meal I decided to go with the Greek Gyro Bowl. I was kind of in the mood for something Greek and a gyro sounded pretty good right then. While the bowl was good overall I think it was the wrong choice for that moment. It was a bit plainly seasoned, and when I go out I usually want big, bold flavor. The thinly sliced peppered seitan was pretty good, although It wasn’t my favorite preparation. It was served over a bed of quinoa and shallot with steamed broccoli, cauliflower and kale. Topped off with a lemon garlic humus, which I thought there should have been more of, and a warm tortilla. Definitely tasty, and super gut-busting filling but not my favorite meal from Native Foods.

Greek Gyro Bowl

My husband ordered the Scorpion Burger for his meal which was amazing! A blackened tempeh burger served with chipotle sauce, romaine, carrots, avocado and onions. Delicious!

Scorpion Burger

We have eaten a lot of things in our few trips to Native Foods, and I highly recommend getting a small bowl of chili. It’s so tasty with it’s combination of white beans, Native chili meat, tomatoes, onions and Native Cheese. It comes with cornbread too! The Native Chicken Wings are also good if you’re in a mood to have them, and I recommend the ranch sauce rather then the buffalo sauce particularly if you don’t like spicy, but you know they taste good with ketchup too. They definitely reminded me of the chicken fingers I’d eat as a kid only 10 times better. The Sweet Potato Taquitos are pretty incredible too. I mean how can you go wrong with mashed coconut sweet potatoes inside a crispy shell? I love their chipotle crema and guacamole. However my favorite appetizer is the Nuevo Native Nachos, hands down. So delicious and monstrously big so if you order it share with a friend! The corn tortilla chips are homemade and come uber-loaded with Native Taco Meat, Native Chipotle Crema, Native Cheese, Salsa fresca, guacamole, black beans, corn, green onions, cilantro, and Jalapeno.

Sweet Potato Taquitos

For your meal I highly recommend both the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger and the Baja Surf Tacos. The former is thinly sliced Native Seitan, melted Native cheddar, caramelized onion, and crispy Native Bacon on a bun slathered with BBQ and Ranch, topped with romaine, carrots, onion, tomato and crunchy battered dill pickle chips. So, so good. This is the first thing I ever ate here and it’s phenomenal. I really can’t stress that enough. It actually tastes like a bacon cheeseburger. It’s one of those things that looks and tastes like it should give you a heart attack, but because it’s plant based you know it won’t. Love, love, love it! The latter consists of two grilled soft corn tortillas stuffed with crispy battered tempeh, homemade ‘surfer’ sauce - a kind of tartar sauce - salsa fresca, shredded cabbage, and guacamole. Oh man, so good they nearly blew my mind! My husband has also got the Portobello and Sausage Burger which he said was amazing, and the Chef’s Garden Pizza which he also said was really good.

Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger

For dessert I definitely recommend the peanut butter parfait, it’s my hands down favorite. I’ve also tried the boogie bars which are good, - they’re actually crumbled up inside the peanut butter parfait by the way - the strawberry shortcake which I was less then impressed with and the seasonal pumpkin cheesecake which was good but doesn’t compare to the parfait. This time however we decided against dessert as my husband wanted to pop on over to Bleeding Heart Bakery for a little vegan dessert. We hadn’t been there since our Anniversary in August so he was itching to go again. Last time we went, I enjoyed it but wasn’t overly impressed. Personally I think I make pretty good desserts and I find that store bought or restaurant desserts often don’t compare. They’re either lacking in flavor, dry, or way to sickly sweet. Bleeding Heart is a pretty cool place, very ‘punk’ and though they are not a strictly vegan bakery they do have many vegan options as well as gluten-free and nut-free options. Just ignore the bacon cupcake when you walk in there. (Yuck!) This time around I opted for the chocolate peppermint cake ball, I sure do love the chocolate peppermint combo and Starbucks has been taunting me all through the holiday season with their non-vegan chocolate peppermint cake pop - boo! I also got the peanut butter doughnut with peanut butter glaze. First, the doughnut was a bit dry and could have used a stronger peanut butter flavor but over all It was decent. I haven’t quite got around to testing my skill on home made doughnuts but I just might have to one of these days. The peppermint cake ball on the other hand was fan-freaking-tastic! No lie! It was mind-blowing good, and I wish I’d gotten two or three of them! What I really like about the bakery in addition to their vegan options is the fact that they have a rotating menu, it’s nice to be met with different options every time. The staff are also very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful, which you gotta love. Also nice to keep in mind is that the Roscoe Village location at least is open 24 hours on the weakened, and the first time I went there I was told that they do brunch on Sunday mornings, though you may want to double check that, and certainly check whether all locations do the same.

Bleeding Heart Bakery - Roscoe Village

If you’re not as proficient in dessert making as I am this is definitely a place worthy of your attention. However even if you are a wonderfully talented baker, we all have our faults, and in those moments it’s nice to have someone skilled do a little baking for you. Chocolate peppermint cake ball anyone? Seriously, they’re worth the trip just for that! Sorry I forgot to take a picture, I ate it to damn fast!

PS: I just found out that since Native Foods had such a wonderful, blossoming 2011 they are planning to open 15 new locations 1 in Boulder Colorado, Newport Beach, San Diego, Santa Monica and another location that has not yet been disclosed. Keep your eyes and ears open for it as these restaurants are set to open in the first quarter of 2012! Yay!

Native Foods Café Chicago Locations -

Wicker Park - 1484 N Milwaukee Ave
Lakeview -1023 West Belmont Ave
The Loop - 218 South Clark St

Bleeding Heart Bakery Locations -

Roscoe Village -1955 W Belmont Ave,
Oak Park - 1010 North Boulevard
Elmhurst - 116 S. York St
West Town - 1916 W. Chicago Ave.

1 comment:

  1. I love Native Foods Cafe!! I wish we could go there more often but it's a shame no location is this far out in the burbs. This was a fun bday week! The food was so delicious. I just love the atmosphere. I just wish the tables had more space between them. lol I forgot about that Scorpion Burger. Holy crap, was that good!!
    I miss Bleeding Heart Bakery. That place was so cool & nice to go to if we were out looking for a dessert. lol
    - M