Vegan. To some, that word screams trendy and the pinnacle of the new generation. To others, the word speaks out to their worst nightmares. Throughout my life, I related much more to the latter than the former. But the hype around the plant-based world may not be a figment of my imagination. Even the world-class athletes I look up to like Novak Djokovic, Lewis Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger are proponents of the ever-growing vegan diet. With these inspiring figures in mind, I ordered vegan restaurant food for the first time in my life.

Elephant + Vine

Naturally, the first restaurant I tried was Elephant + Vine, one of Evanston’s most popular vegan restaurants. After stepping inside, I was charmed by the aesthetically pleasing interior with floral decorations and neon lighting on a fair-light background.

Elephant + Vine’s menu had a robust range of options from burgers, sandwiches and wraps to the expected bowl and salad lineup. Notably, the menu listed fair several foods normally made with meat products.

Of course, I had to try a hamburger, which used Impossible meat. I ordered a Baja Burger, which takes a Mexican spin on a traditional burger. When my food arrived, I took a bite, and the first thing I noticed was that I didn’t notice a difference between my vegan burger and a regular one. Sure, after a few seconds, I could faintly pinpoint a bean flavor in the patty, but otherwise, the Baja Burger was everything I would expect from a hamburger. Avocado added a refreshing taste, and the cilantro, onions and salsa offered tanginess and zest. I accepted the fact that the burger was genuinely good and left me wanting more.

Alan Guo

Blind Faith Cafe

While not vegan, Blind Faith Cafe is another vegetarian restaurant located on Dempster Street in Evanston. Like Elephant + Vine, Blind Faith’s had a very plant-based theme around the interior with a plant vase on each table and lush bushes near windows.

As a more sit-down-style cafe, Blind Faith serves breakfast, lunch and dinner options with food from seemingly every culture including Mexican, Chinese and Mediterranean.

I ordered the cafe gyros, which I took a unique spin on how a gyro is usually served. With a salad-style mix atop a warm pita, this dish looked surprisingly colorful. Interestingly, upon my first bite, I tasted a sweet, tangy flavor that I could almost describe as teriyaki sauce. I found this strange for a dish that is usually savory, but the sauce paired well with the flavor explosions of the tzatziki sauce and feta cheese. The meat sub this time around was tofu, which fit in nicely with the pita wrap. Overall, I was not as big a fan of Blind Faith’s gyros as the burger at Elephant + Vine, but the dish was still tasty and definitely a unique experience.

Alan Guo

Success or Failure?

Success! Although my positive experience does not necessarily mean I am now a full-time vegan, I’ve certainly exposed my ignorance of vegan foods. For others who have avoided the vegan scene, I implore you to try at least one plant-based item and see for yourself what’s in store. While I would still prefer a true meat option and vegan meat brands are relatively more expensive, I will not blatantly reject vegan food in the future