I've traveled a lot, and been to Vegetarian restaurants across the world. But there is a reason Chicago Diner is famous. It's A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. I was a skeptic that it'd beat my beloved Seva, but it's a completely different (and even for an almost 17-year Vegetarian, shockingly delicious) experience.
I'd been surviving on Black Bean ("Georgia") Reubens for years - I never liked real-meat Reubens when I was a kid anyhow. But The Radical Reuben is definitely their acclaimed sandwich for a reason. How they get their seitan to look so realistic is beyond me. I had to force myself not to eat it all at once. (And since I often hear Vegan's complain about "realistic looking" faux meat, I was left wondering what those types would do if encountered with this sandwich.) But what meat eater would need the real thing if you can replicate it so accurately?
And yes, that's Macaroni & Cheeze on the side. (Not nearly as impressive or as tasty, unfortunately.)
Heidi's choice were the Gyros - complete with Vegan tzatziki sauce. Once again - shockingly impressive. How they got such a creamy Vegan sauce, or as Heidi said "seitan that tastes JUST like lamb" is beyond me. I'm super grossed out by the concept of "lamb" anyhow, but Heidi is a new Vegan and she was totally stoked to have a cruelty-free replacement of an old favorite. Combine that was some of the best Sweet Potato Fries I've ever had. Wow.
Oh - and how could I forget the guilty-pleasure part? We started our Chicago Diner experience with one of their famous Vegan shakes: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Peanut Butter Shake. Ohmigod. Blizzard meet Vegan indulgence. I would weigh 300 pounds if I had access to these treats on a daily basis... and was so grateful I had Heidi to share it with before I devoured it alone. (Look how excited she was!)
My week in Chicago was filed with great food and drinks - even before I made it to Chicago Diner. I had a midnight run for authentic Mexican with Meghan, then amazing gourmet (and BYOB, the one thing Ann Arbor lacks) brunch at Jam with Kim. Plus I got to eat delicious homemade Indian food at Kim's apartment, thanks to her mother-in-law. And we all know that I could eat Indian food (or Mexican for that matter) three times a day. Add in some Chicagoland Whole Foods Market treats, Thai curries with my cousin Anna, and 3am post-bar "breakfast" at Pick-Me-Up Cafe with Kim, Juergen & friends. (Why is it every city but Ann Arbor has amazing Vegetarian-friendly brunch? All I'm asking for is tofu or tempeh in with the eggs and potatoes on the menu!)
It wouldn't have been a successful vacation without some culinary inspiration, some late-night trouble, and some great laughter with old friends!