I recently had a double-date with my vegetarian friend and our meat-loving significant others at Karyn’s on Green, one of three vegan restaurants in Chicago owned by Karyn Calabrese.  Her other restaurants include raw cuisine at “Karyn’s Raw Cafe” in Lincoln Park and vegan comfort-food at “Karyn’s Cooked” in Old Town.

Karyn’s on Green aims to “make vegan sexy” with a chic atmosphere, a full bar, and sumptuous vegan food…exactly why we chose it for our double date!

The decor was simple yet classy with floor to ceiling windows, an airy ceiling, potted palms, and twinkling candle lights.  The service was excellent – our server took the time to answer our questions and make recommendations – and best of all, since my friends were first-time visitors, Karyn herself came over to see how we were enjoying our meal.  Seeing Karyn was a great reinforcer of all the health benefits of eating well – she was radiant and at 61 years old, she could easily pass for 20 years younger.

In a delightful contradiction to the chic, sexy atmosphere, nearly every table had a generous order of French Fries perched atop their table.  Thick and full of potato flavor, they were the talk of our table.  They were paired with a bold barbeque sauce and a delicious Chipotle Aioli with a smoky flavor and a spicy kick at the end.  Be sure to order the French Fries if you go!!!

Don’t miss the French Fries!

 But perhaps the “Chicken-Legs” were the most eye-catching dish.  It started with my friend spotting them on a table across the room and asking our server “what’s she eating, over there?”  Then when a table was seated near us, that couple wanted to know what we were eating.

Although truth be told, while the Chicken-Legs may be the best-looking dish in the restaurant, other dishes trumped them in taste.  Made of breaded texturized-tofu on skewers, they were light, moist and chewy.  I found them to be tasty, though not as “chicken-y” as MorningStar Farms Chik’n Tenders or Seitan.

“Chicken Legs” with sweet potato hash, swiss chard, sweet barbecue sauce

Texturized Tofu “Chicken Leg”

I also really enjoyed the Shepherd’s Pie. I had previously taken a colleague of mine to Karyn’s to try fake meat for her first time.  Originally from England, she said the Shepherd’s Pie tasted exactly as it is supposed to taste.  I especially enjoyed the savory flavors of the red-wine gravy.  The Seitan in this dish is ground, making it a good option for those who are new to mock-meats.

Shepherd’s Pie with seitan, carrot, parsnip, red wine gravy, horseradish potato pancake

The menu is wonderful for anyone with dietary restrictions or allergies.  Dishes were clearly labeled as Gluten Free, Soy-Free, Nut/Seed Free, and Raw.  I wanted to try out one of the Raw entrees so I ordered the Zucchini “Pasta”. Although the dish doesn’t look like much – WOW did it have flavor.  The cashew-pesto was creamy and tasted like Parmesan.  Contrasting the richness were cherry tomatoes made tart with a vinegar kick. It was more filling than I expected and I wasn’t able to finish the dish.  As delicious as this was, I would recommend against ordering it as an entrée and think it would be better as a dish to split with a friend as either a starter (instead of a salad) or as a side dish for a veggie burger.  If I had the recipe for this, I’d be bringing it instead of pasta salad to every summer BBQ!  (note, it comes with beech mushrooms but I had asked to leave those off.)

Raw “Pasta Salad” of zucchini and cashew basil pesto

 On two occasions, I’ve ordered the roasted Brussels Sprouts and could not stop eating them.  Nicely blackened, they are coated in a delicious mustard vinaigrette.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with creole mustard vinaigrette

For $2, you can also order a side of “Enzymes” with your meal as a digestive dietary supplement.  On one visit I ordered these, expecting a sauce or spray like Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids.  My friend and I got a laugh when our Enzymes came in a shot-glass filled with 5 vitamins.  I didn’t feel any different after taking them, but imagine they did some good on a microscopic level.

Lastly, we topped off the meal sharing a slice of a Vegan Cheesecake in the flavor of the day – Coffee.  I’m not sure if this is typical of their desserts or not, but it wasn’t sweet at all.  The two of us girls didn’t think it tasted like a dessert at all, and I wouldn’t order this again.  However, the men enjoyed it, especially because of it’s lack of sweetness.

Coffee Cheesecake

All in all, Karyn’s on Green made for a great double-date, complete with a toast as we shared a bottle of wine with our meal.

Karyn’s on Green

130 South Green Street, Chicago, IL

Closed on Mondays