To be honest, the first thing that comes to my mind when someone mentions a vegan meal is soggy, bland tofu and crunchy raw vegetables — but Native Foods Café turns that unappetizing image on its head. With locations in Wicker Park, Lakeview and the Loop, the restaurant serves up delicious vegan, homemade meals to herbivores and carnivores alike.
Its mission, as depicted by the mural and art on the walls, is to bring a love for food, animals and the environment together in one place. Everything on the menu is 100% plant-based, which comes as a real shock once you actually try the food. Using ingredients like seitan (a wheat-based, high-protein meat substitute) and tempeh (a soy-based, high-protein meat substitute), the chefs at Native Foods Café craft flavorful dairy-free and meat-free meals that taste just like the real thing. For instance, their chicken run ranch burger or super Italian meatball sub are almost indistinguishable from their meat alternatives.
For something fresh and satisfying try the yo amigo taco salad with the restaurant’s vegan taco ‘meat,’ topped with fresh salsa, corn and homemade tortilla chips and Native Food’s original creamy chipotle dressing served on the side. Wash it down with lavender lemonade sweetened with organic sugar or try a glass of refreshing watermelon fresca served with a touch of mint. For dessert try the homemade apple pie with a sweet crumb topping or the dairy-free chocolate cupcake (or get both because vegan means it’s good for you… right?).
The “Chef’s Favorite” portobello and sausage burger is made with homemade sausage seitan and grilled portobellos, topped with caramelized onions, roasted garlic and creamy pumpkin seed pesto, and served on a wheat bun. If I didn’t know better I definitely would have thought I was chomping into a juicy mushroom burger with real meat. The sausage seitan had all the flavor, texture, and juiciness of a real sausage patty and none of the same ingredients.
For a long time people seemed to take an attitude of “ignorance is bliss” when it came to animal rights. Nowadays there is an increasing amount of awareness surrounding the food industry and more and more people who want to make a change by refusing to endorse the animal abuse that underlies most of the meat we eat. With an honorable mission, free refills on all drink orders and tantalizing desserts, Native Foods Café is making people across the country realize that being vegan doesn’t mean sacrificing delicious food.
Addresses and Hours of Operation:
1023 West Belmont Avenue
Chicago, IL 60657
Mon-Sun: 11am – 10pm
218 South Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60604
Mon-Sat: 10:30am – 8pm
1484 North Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
Mon-Sun: 11am – 10pm