Commemorating the coining of the term ‘vegan’ and founding of the British Vegan Society on November 1st, 1944, every year the Month of November is “World Vegan Month” and the first of November is “World Vegan Day”.
I was excited to see that the ChicagoVeg Meetup group had planned a dinner in my neighborhood in celebration of World Vegan Day and I promptly signed up Mike and myself to attend.
If you aren’t familiar with Meetup, it’s a website connecting people with special interest groups around the world, covering nearly every topic imaginable. In fact, ChicagoVeg is just one of several vegetarian meet-up groups in the Chicago area.
The event was at La Sierra, a Mexican & Ecuadorian restaurant near the Montrose Brown-line stop, and just two doors down from Urban Vegan. Although La Sierra does not have much vegan fare on their menu, they put together a fantastic vegan spread especially for this event.
About 50 people attended the event, filling up every seat in the restaurant. When Mike and I arrived (just 5 min late) the party was already in full swing. We grabbed seats at one of the last open tables and were soon joined by two strangers who we enjoyed getting to know throughout the meal.
Mike was worried that he might be the only omnivore there, but as each attendee was asked to give a brief introduction, the crowd proved to be a good mix of vegans, vegetarians, and yes, a number of omnivores too.
We started with drinks which included a sweet red hibiscus beverage which we loved, a light and refreshing passion fruit drink, lemonade, and water. We didn’t realize that it is also a BYOB restaurant, but I will keep that in mind for next time for sure!
Each table at the event also got to try the restaurant’s salsa verde (not pictured), pico de gallo, and guacamole, all of which were incredibly fresh tasting.
For the main courses, the restaurant had set out an extensive buffet of 100% vegan dishes. Most of these dishes aren’t on the main menu but were made especially for this event using Follow Your Heart’s Vegan Mozzarella cheese.
The buffet was so long, it wouldn’t all fit in one picture. Dishes included mushroom and cheese quesadillas, steamed veggies, 2 kinds of enchiladas – with green sauce or red sauce, taquitos, beans, and rice…..
…and my favorites… Vegan Chiles Rellenos (pictured below), Nopales – a salad of grilled cactus (pictured above, far left), and the sauteed mixture of Fajita Veggies (centered in the photo on the right).
I tried to be polite and take just a little bit of each dish, but there were so many items to try, that before I knew it, my plate was overflowing! Everything was so delicious, and both Mike and I barely had any room left for dessert.
Luckily, dessert was light enough that I was able to try it all. Dessert included Mango Flambee, a Sweet Potato dessert, and plenty of fresh fruit including watermelon, strawberries, grapes, and apples.
Can you believe we got all this food for just $15 each (including tax and gratuity)? The staff even provided to-go containers in case anyone wanted to visit the buffet again to pack some food to take home (which of course I did!).
Lastly, the restaurant manager came out to tell us a little bit more about the restaurant which has been family run for over 25 years. He also brought out everyone who had helped to prepare this wonderful meal, which included some of his brothers.
While the dishes we ate aren’t all on the restaurant’s menu and they don’t always have vegan cheese on hand, they told us that with enough advance notice, any of the dishes we had can be prepared by request.
I loved seeing how willing they are to accommodate special requests and how they embraced the vegan community. I know I’ll be back again, and I won’t be ashamed to request my food exactly how I like it – no cheese or sourcream, add avocado, extra beans and extra veggies, please!
I’d love to hear from you!
Have you ever attended a Meetup.com event?
Do you know of any non-vegetarian restaurants that are surprisingly accommodating?
Coming up next: a recap of the VeganMania festival in Chicago