Friday, March 30, 2012

Chicago Diner or Garden of Delights

The Slow and Savory Review

Rabbit Food.  That's what carnivores generally call vegetarian fair, and a fair enough accusation it once was.  Many a fledgling vegetarian will make the mistake of partaking in various types of salad before feeling a bit bored with their menu selection at even the finest of establishments.  But as Brandy has learned over the past few years, Chicago can be a vegetarian's paradise if you where to look. 

Enter the headquarters for foodie vegetarians everywhere, The Chicago Diner, which has been serving all vegetarian cuisine since 1983 in the form of familiar, comforting diner favorites like Chicken Fried Steak and Nachos.  Many a meat eater has been converted on these holy grounds, and Brandy, a lover of most meats, decided it was time to brave the tofu, the seitan, and the textured vegetable protein to discover the truth about this Lakeview staple.

On first impressions, Chicago Diner has done everything to make you feel like you've entered just your average diner on Main Street, USA.  Red, black, and chrome is the color scheme, with neon lights and high booths added in for an even more nostalgic feeling.  Though a bit small and cramped, which might make for uncomfortable seating on a busy day, Brandy was able to seat herself at a table with an adequate amount of elbow room.

First off, as she was sadly suffering with a sore throat, Brandy eyed up the milkshakes and ordered herself one of the Vanilla Chai variety.  Believe us, dear reader when we tell you that our normally more vocal lady's only note was "Heaven." After a little more pressing, we eventually got out of Brandy that this shake was utter perfection in both texture (thick and creamy, but not so thick that it couldn't be drunk through a straw) and flavor (a brilliantly fine mix of spice and sweetness with subtle floral notes from the vanilla). Brandy also came up with a very odd theory when asked if she had wanted to order another. "No," she said, "This is the sort of thing I would only get once a year. It's so special, so magical that to have it over and over again would somehow bring it down to the level of common food, and that cannot happen."

For her entree, Brandy decided to go all out veggie and ordered the Breakfast Bowl with soy sausage and scrambled tofu. She was rather disappointed to see how sloppily plated the dish was, with gravy splattered on the sides of the plate and no color other than a few small bits of bell pepper to liven up the dish. The biscuits that topped the hash were a lovely texture, but rather bland. This was helped by the country gravy that covered everything, though for someone like Brandy who is a little sensitive to herbs, the flavor proved to be a bit over powering. The sausage was rather nice and chewy, while the tofu was light and fluffy, almost indistinguishable from the real things. The potatoes were also cooked perfectly, though Brandy could have done with bigger pieces.  All in all though, a rather bland dish.

Sadly at this point, Brandy's sore throat got the better of her. She longed to try one of Chicago Diner's famed desserts, though, so she decided to take a meal to go for when her esophagus had decided to cooperate.

She ordered one of Chicago Diner's signature dishes, the Radical Reuben with a side of sweet potato fries. The fries, even after re-heating, still had a lovely crisp on the outside and a supple softness of the inside. Somehow, these fries tasted a bit more savory than a typical sweet potato fry, but Brandy greatly enjoyed the contrast. Brandy was hard pressed to tell the "meat" on this sandwich from real corned beef, as the texture, flavor, and even the look of it was spot on. The sauerkraut provided a nice tangy contrast to the sweet grilled onions and peppers (an unusual, but bright addition to a classic Reuben) and the cheese (she did cop out here a little and asked for dairy cheese) had melted wonderfully into the pungent marble rye.

At last, the dessert; a chocolate chip cheesecake. Here, a few points were added back on for plating, as even in the to-go box a nice drizzle of chocolate had been applied. The crust seems to be made of crushed nuts, rather than the traditional graham cracker, which proved to be a looser, more crumbly texture. The chocolate layer on top was divinely soft and rich, with an almost fruity flavor. The cheesecake itself was creamy with just a little bit of sourness for good measure. Brandy appreciated its slightly dense texture, as she finds fluffier cheesecakes not quite decadent enough.

Though she won't be switching to vegetarianism any time soon, Brandy did enjoy her encounter with so called Rabbit Food this week. For as she put it, "If this is what the rabbits are eating, then I want to be one in my next life."

The Short and Sweet Review

Chicago Diner on Urbanspoon

No comments:

Post a Comment