Suburban Illinois is not particularly well known for it’s variety in vegan dining options. There are of course a few chain places a hungry vegan can go and grab a quick bite if need be. However 100% vegetarian places - let alone vegan - are a bit hard to come by. You run into more and more of them in the suburbs the closer you get to the city, but the further out you go the more scarce they become. That’s why I’ve been dying to tell you about a place my husband and I discovered back in February. It’s a small Vietnamese place called Happy Buddha, and it’s in Barrington. Trust me when I say it’s worth the drive, and if you live in the area it’s sure to make you very happy indeed.
We originally celebrated Valentine’s Day here this year, and it was so good that when I aced one of my finals my husband took me back to celebrate that. Everything we’ve eaten here tastes amazing, and fresh, and none of the food contains MSG. Unfortunately they have now added a few meat items onto the menu - I think business was very slow and they did it to generate interest in an otherwise vegan-unfriendly area - but the restaurant was originally vegetarian - mostly vegan - and they still run it as a vegetarian restaurant. The meat menu is very limited, and the veggie menu is extensive.
My husband and I love Vietnamese food, and so we’ve tried quite a few items on the menu thus far. We start each meal off with the Fresh Vegetarian Steam Rolls, which are incredible! They contain mushrooms, green peas, jicama, carrots and tofu and come with a chili dipping sauce and a bowl of pickled vegetable slices. Super good.
We’ve also had the Fresh Vegetarian Shrimp Spring Roll which has soy shrimp, tofu, bean sprouts, mint, lettuce and rice noodles. It comes with a sweet spicy dipping sauce and crushed peanuts.
We’ve also had the Fried Wontons which were amazing, filled with the same mix as in the fresh steam roll. And we’ve had the deep fried soy shrimp although It seems we forgot to take a picture of that one, sorry!
As a side to split between us one day we ordered the Combination Fried Rice, which has Soy Shrimp, Soy Chicken, and Soy Ham, with carrots, green peas, corn, bean sprouts and green onions. We asked for this to be made with brown rice instead of white, and I really love that this place gives you that option. The rice was super flavorful and super tender. A definite winner.
For Entrees we’ve tried the Vietnamese Pho which is my favorite Vietnamese dish ever and I always order this in every Vietnamese restaurant. I have to say that this is one of the better Pho’s I’ve had. About as good or maybe even better then the Pho I ate at Loving Hut. Happy Buddha’s Pho is made with Vegetable Broth, Rice Noodles, Soy Chicken, Mushrooms, Oyster Mushrooms, Fried Tofu, Bean Sprouts, Bay Leaves, Cilantro, Broccoli and Green Onions. It comes with a sweet Hoisin style sauce for you to spoon into your soup as well as a hot, hot, hot and spicy red sauce that you can add for a bit of heat.
We’ve also tried the Asparagus Soup and it was absolutely amazing! This soup is made with vegetable broth, tofu, asparagus, green onions and soy crabmeat. We’ve had the Wonton Soup as well but we took it to go so I forgot to take a picture of that also. It was super delicious though! Made with vegetable broth, wontons, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, tofu, green peas, jicama, and radish. I can’t even remember the last time I had wonton soup - AMAZING!
Other Entrees we’ve had are the Vegetable Fried Noodles which is a bit on the plain side but also quite delicious. Since I wasn’t overly hungry when I ordered this it was just the right amount. However if you’re very hungry I suggest a bigger menu item. It contained broccoli, snow peas, bean sprouts, mushrooms, fried tofu, green onions, white onions and of course noodles. The sauce was savory and a tad sweet, though I get the feeling that this dish is particularly high in sodium so if that’s an issue for you, you may want to double check.
We’ve also had the vegetables in curry sauce which was very good as well. It was made with broccoli, sugar snap peas, baby corn, green pepper, white onion, fried tofu, mushrooms and the house curry sauce which I really loved. It was the perfect blend of heat with a touch of spice and it came with a side of brown rice.
Lastly the second time we dined at Happy Buddha my husband decided to try the Vietnamese Vegetarian Rice Crepes. I snuck a few bites and oh my are these good! It’s a tasty rice crepe filled with soy shrimp, fried tofu, jicama, bean sprouts, mint, lettuce, toasted rice powder, white onions and cilantro. Served with House sauce Really, really, good!
So to sum it all up, Happy Buddha is a pretty wonderful place. The food is excellent, the staff is friendly, attentive and appreciative. The place is small but the atmosphere is great, I love the relaxing ‘chill-out’ music and the easy-going vibe of the place. I think also that this is a great place to take family members who are maybe a little unsure of vegetarianism and veganism. If they want to play it safe they can order a meat dish while they try the veggie things you order. The food is so good I don’t think any non-veg person would be disappointed. So if you live in the area, live near the area, are passing through or just want a good meal stop by this little Oasis in the burbs, and enjoy! I always leave happy, and I’m sure you will too!
207 W Northwest Highway
Open Monday - Saturday 11am - 9pm - Closed Sunday
Phone - 847 - 304 - 1472