A couple of weeks ago, I heard about a dinner event that I simply couldn’t pass up: I’ve been wanting to try the restaurant El Nuevo Mexicano for months – ever since I read about their vegan menu on Cupcakes & Quinoa’s blog and saw them featured in Mindful Metropolis. Throw in a few more of my favorite things – Grubwithus events, fundraising for animal rights, and a blogger meetup – and it seemed to me that the stars must have aligned!
Alexandria, a fellow vegetarian and the blogger behind EatWellRunWell, signed up with me to attend this event (click here to read her review). I was excited because although we’d been exchanging tweets for a while, this was our first meetup!
The restaurant sits on a stark stretch of Clark St in Lakeview, but the interior is perfect for a date or a night out with friends – cozy, with a touch of class. (Blogger’s note: Krin & Etan – if you’re reading this – let’s do a double date here, very soon!)
I was also impressed with the service. They happily squeezed in an extra chair at our table so that I could sit by Alexandria. We even had the pleasure of meeting the restaurant owner, Maria Rodriguez, who came by several times throughout the night to see how we were doing.
El Nuevo Mexicano is not a vegetarian restaurant, yet their vegan food is among the best I’ve had in Chicago. After seeing a Mercy for Animals booth at an event, Maria decided to become a vegetarian herself, and partnered with Mercy for Animals to create a vegan menu for the restaurant. For the omni crowd, Maria’s new awareness inspired her to change her suppliers in order to purchase free-range chicken and other sustainable meats (though I’m sure any omni would love the offerings on the vegan menu).
As is customary of Grubwithus events, the family-style menu allowed us the opportunity to try many of the restaurant’s best dishes. El Nuevo Mexicano kicked it up a notch by adding in samples of some of their drinks, including a taste of their delicious house margarita.
We started with their very fresh guacamole & salsa, and their delicious house salad with mango & jicama.
Next up were their Enchiladas Verdes. These were absolutely delicious with plenty of heat in the salsa verde, a tasty filling of potatoes, veggies, and Upton’s veggie chorizo, and a sprinkling of Daiya cheese.
Our favorite, however, were the Chiles Rellenos. The creative ingredients gave this dish a special-occasion feel. Plantains, almonds, and raisins danced in my mouth, perfect partners for the chipotle salsa.
By this point, we were all stuffed, and we still had a plate of Flautas coming. The crispy flautas are a very popular dish at the restaurant, however they were my least favorite, mainly because I’m not a fan of fried foods in general. I did love the fluffy tomato quinoa they were paired with.
For the grand finale, along with a shot of Kahlua, we were served a dessert that I’m still dreaming about: Vegan coconut ice-cream with spicy peaches and sweet potato chimichangas. I never would have thought to put spicy peaches on ice-cream before, but now I think there’s no better topping.
The conversation of the night was as good as the food. Vandhana Bala, the General Counsel for Mercy for Animals sat at our table. She is instrumental in MFA’s fight for animal rights, including her recent work on abuse uncovered at a Butterball facility in North Carolina.
We also met Kenny Torrella, Campaign Coordinator. Both Kenny and Vandhana were incredibly approachable & knowledgeable, and best of all, they are foodies too! I left with a very long list of their restaurant recommendations, including several places that Mercy For Animals had partnered with to create vegan menu options – such as Loose Leaf Lounge (an old favorite of mine) and New York Deli.
Thanks to Alexandria, El Nuevo Mexicano, Grubwithus, and Mercy For Animals for a delicious, inspiring, and FUN night!
I’d love to hear from you!
What’s the most interesting dessert flavor-combo you’ve ever had?
What are your favorite not-for-profits?