You might remember my friend Amy from her guest blog post about Vegetarian Eats in Washington, DC. She was one of my college roommates and is not only one of my best friends, she’s also a vegetarian! I was super excited to have her visit me in Chicago this past week for some major Vegetarian Adventures.
She arrived around dinner time on Wednesday night, so I made a pot of Seitan Bourguignon to welcome her. Afterwards, we walked over to Kopi Cafe for tea and dessert. We both adored the Chocolate Mint Rooibos tea, and she loved Kopi SO much that she wound up eating there 3 times over the course of her visit. I would too if I knew it would be a while before I could go back!
On Thursday and Friday I had to work, but since Amy went to grad school in Chicago, she was happy to entertain herself and revisit some of her favorite places. Thursday night, along with Mike, we met at Blind Faith Cafe, which is our favorite vegetarian restaurant in the Chicago area (and my favorite place for Thai Peanut Noodles). Afterwards, we went for a walk along Lake Michigan in Evanston (pictured above).
Friday night, Amy and I, along with our friend Traci, went to Mana Food Bar, a fantastic restaurant in Wicker Park. Mana’s menu is entirely vegetarian, and is a mix of small plates with international influences. I love this concept since the small plates make it easy to try a number of dishes.
Mana is a small, intimate restaurant, perfect for catching up with old friends or for a date. In fact, when Mike and I first started dating, Mike met Krin and Etan for the first time here when I planned a double date. I also ate here just a couple of weeks ago with one of my favorite co-workers that was visiting from California, so I’ve tried most of their menu! Read on for more about some the best dishes at Mana.
Mana has an excellent drink menu, including both cocktails, smoothies, and fresh juice. On my visit earlier this month, we had Sake Sangria and a Cucumber Sakerita. On my visit with Amy, I ordered a customized juice drink of watermelon, cucumber, and spinach.
My favorite dishes of the season include the Avocado, Arugula, and Tomato salad with picked red onions and garlic chili dressing (pictured below, far right). It’s seriously amazing. On my most recent visit, I ordered this salad as part of their ‘sampler’, where you get to pick 3 dishes to try for just $12. I had selected the Five Spice Tofu (left) and the Quinoa (center) to round out my meal.
One dish that shouldn’t be missed is the Baked Goat Cheese, and I don’t even usually like Goat Cheese. The tomato sauce has a bit of spice, and it’s served with a generous amount of grilled bread for scooping.
I also had a serious case of food envy over Traci’s Curry dish, which had Indian spiced sweet potatoes and peas over brown rice.
Other noteworthy mentions
I also enjoyed the Jicama and Mango salad with cucumbers, cilantro, and chili lime salt. It’s both spicy and refreshing, though it’s not as amazing as my all-time favorite Pineapple-Jalapeno salad, that they didn’t have on either of my recent visits.
The Ravioli is also always interesting, and the filling rotates regularly. Last week, the ravioli was filled with artichokes in tomato sauce with green olives. However, the time before, it was a sweet pea and mint ravioli with tomato sauce and asiago cheese, which was one of the most interesting (and surprisingly good) flavor combinations I’ve had.
For dessert, Traci and I each ordered a dish of Mana’s seasonal sorbet and were very impressed. Each dish was half peach sorbet and half avocado sorbet. The peach sorbet was pleasantly boozy with a generous amount of white wine blended in. The avocado sorbet took us by surprise and both Traci and I declared it our favorite. It was both creamy and tart with flavors of lime and basil. The perfect way to end our meal!
I highly recommend Mana Food bar for a delicious night out, and guarantee it will be popular with anyone – vegetarian or not.
Where do you like to take visiting guests?
Coming up Next: Since Amy has done all of the Chicago attractions countless times, instead we headed up to Milwaukee for the weekend! We had an amazing time at a brewery, a fun visit to the Wisconsin State Fair, and, of course, lots of delicious food!