I spent this past weekend with dear friends of mine in Crystal Lake, which is about 45 miles northwest of Chicago. It was a staycation of sorts. It was relaxing, but not “sit on the couch and be lazy” relaxing. It was fun, but not “let’s get wasted and go crazy” fun. It was far away from the noise and the city and my real life, but not “where in the world am I, is that a cow in your backyard” far. The best part was the company.
I really like Crystal Lake. On the drive there from either my home or my work, it gets scenic. It’s becoming more and more rare to drive for awhile and only see trees. It’s also not a short drive. There’s a general feeling that you might drive right into someone’s backyard silo or get lost on a dark road with no surrounding civilization. But then, you get to Crystal Lake, and everything you need is there. Even better, Crystal Lake has a great vegan-friendly restaurant: Duke’s Alehouse & Kitchen.
Duke’s is located across the street from the Metra station, so I would imagine that those who commute back home from the city stop by here for a pint before heading home. It’s cozy and open and family-friendly. It was a bit rainy when we were there, so they didn’t have any tables outside, but my understanding is that the outdoor seating is popular on a nice day.
The fact that Duke’s is vegan-friendly is great, but what impressed me most about is that everything is locally sourced. They have a large board which I first assumed was a list of beer specials, but it was actually a list of where they got all their meat and vegetables. For carnivores who care about where their meat comes from, this is the place for you.
Duke’s straightforward vegan options include Grilled Vegetable Flatbread Pizza, Raw Spaghetti Salad (Sun-dried tomato pesto tossed with zucchini “noodles” and served with olive tapenade), Vegan Chili, and Coconut Curried Butternut Squash (Nichols Farm squash braised with onions and golden raisins in a coconut-curry broth, served with roasted antique apples, toasted almonds, brown rice, and fresh cilantro). I opted for the pizza.
Look at that arugula!!! The one downfall with flatbread is that it can get soggy pretty quickly, but this crust stayed crisp and held up hours later when I ate the leftovers. The vegetables were grilled and seasoned well. Maybe it’s because I’m turning veganese, but I can tell a fresh vegetable from one that’s been sitting in a cooler somewhere, and these veggies were FRESH. Duke’s doesn’t specify the vegan cheese they use, but this had the taste and texture of Daiya shredded mozzarella.
I would love to go back and try out every other vegan option that Duke’s has. The squash sounded really good, but seemed too heavy for lunch, especially before an activity-filled afternoon. I eavesdropped on a couple of ladies going over the menu, and one commented that the squash was really good.
Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen has a great vibe, a large beer menu, and is vegan-friendly. The service was friendly and it’s in a great location. Definitely check it out if you find yourself in the area. Or, plan a trip out there!
Visit Duke’s online at http://thedukeabides.com. –Melissa