Category Archives: Dining Out

Naf Naf Grill: Delicious and Vegan-Friendly!

Naf Naf Falafel Salad

Did you just lick your monitor or tablet or phone screen? I don’t blame you. I mean, look at the deliciousness in front of your eyes! It truly is as delicious as it looks, and you can get your very own at Naf Naf Grill.

I have loved Naf Naf from the moment they opened one of their O.G. locations in Niles. And now I’m going to get really fat and spoiled because they opened a location right by work a few months ago. Naf Naf Grill will please vegans and meat-eaters alike with a selection that includes chicken shwarma, steak shwarma and falafel.

It’s a super simple concept — think of it as a Middle Eastern Chipotle. You pick your meat/protein, then decide whether you want it in a pita, with rice, with salad, or with hummus, choose garnishes and then finish with sauces. The garnishes include a chopped salad of tomato and cucumber, cabbage and cilantro; purple cabbage salad; sumac onions; and pickles. THEY ARE ALL GOOD. GET ALL OF THEM! Sauces include tahini, garlic sauce (unfortunately NOT vegan), and hot sauce (the location by me has green and red options).

That’s not all! You can also get a side of fries (which are more like potato chips), lentil soup, or rice. I’m impressed whenever I see someone with a side because the standard Naf Naf serving is plenty of food.

I love this place. They’re fast and the food is fresh. The pita bread is nice and light, the falafel has a great, almost fluffy texture, and is tasty in its own right. SO good! And the best part is that they are super clear about their vegan options. I could get used to eating like this…

If you live in or find yourself in the Chicagoland area, be sure to check out Naf Naf Grill!-Melissa

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Dining Out: Karma


We all have our favorite dining spots, but I’m always open to trying something new. In fact, I’ve really been making an effort to go to restaurants that I’ve never been to before. There are so many food establishments out there, especially in and around Chicago. Of course, dining out can be difficult when you’re vegan. It can be difficult when you’re vegetarian! I still see menus that have zero vegetarian options.

This was not the case at Karma, a Pan Asian restaurant located in Mundelein, which is about 35 miles northwest from Chicago.


This was my first time at Karma. Karma has a really great vibe. It’s located within a suburban hotel. The restaurant itself is very contemporary without being pretentious. There’s a great fountain running along the middle of the restaurant. I dined with my sister, but all the other diners were clearly on dates, and there was one lone hotel guest having dinner by himself.


Upon sitting down, we were given a plate of fried wontons (pictured above) that were coated in a sauce with some sort of chili powder. These were really tasty and had a nice kick. I was thrilled to see that they had a delicious-sounding vegetarian entree (and it sounds perfectly vegan-friendly). More on that later.


We decided to order an appetizer. There were other vegetarian options, but I definitely wanted to try the shiitake pot stickers. The mushrooms were blended with ginger, garlic, scallions, and sesame oil and came with a soy dipping sauce and some other mystery sauce. These were so freaking delicious! Not only was the mushroom filling super tasty, they were stuffed really well and had a great texture. I could have easily eaten 4 plates of this.

(Side note: our server informed us that the shiitake pot stickers were recently added back to the menu after being replaced by pork pot stickers for a few years. I’m so glad they brought back the shiitake pot stickers. If anyone from Karma is reading this, keep these on the menu!)


I decided to go with the Udon Winter Stew for my entree. The dish was made up of Kabocha squash, Shiitake mushrooms, ginger, mirin, leeks, carrots, tofu, kombu, and rice. The veggies were fresh and I was especially in love with the squash. I won’t say I was disappointed, but I had to ask for soy sauce to add some flavor. It was a good dish, but a tiny bit of a let down after eating the flavorful pot stickers.

I definitely plan to dine at Karma again. I want to try their salad and eat more of those pot stickers! I liked the atmosphere and the service was great. One more thing: the coffee that they serve at Karma deserves an honorable mention. I don’t know what it was, but it was damn good coffee! Yum! –Melissa

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Dining Out: Duke’s Alehouse & Kitchen

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.

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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.

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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.

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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–Melissa

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Delicious, Indeed!


I try to keep tabs on the vegan spots around Chicagoland so it was somewhat shocking when a friend told me about Delicious, a vegan cafe that’s a five minute walk from my favorite bowling alley. I had never heard of Delicious and felt pretty dumb about that. What was this place hiding? Anyway, I was really ecstatic to know that there was a great vegan place nearby.

I like going to Delicious after an afternoon of bowling for an iced Americano. They have a full coffee/espresso/tea menu along with pastries, sweet treats, sandwiches, and smoothies. I stopped in with a non-vegan friend one time. She ordered a chai tea latte and declared it the best she had ever tasted. I love that I can add soy or almond milk or coconut milk creamer to my drink! One small but really smart and impactful choice they have made is to provide real teaspoons for customers to mix their drinks instead of disposable stirrers.

The cafe is really cozy, very bright, and colorful. The times I have been there, I’ve seen people chatting, people studying or working, and people just hanging out and enjoying their coffee. It’s a cool place with smart and charming decor; some of their chairs are exactly like the ones that were in my Grandma’s house when I was growing up. It’s very obvious that the owners of the cafe do what they can to avoid waste. They’re planet-friendly along with animal-friendly!

I usually avoid looking at the food and desserts, but I couldn’t resist after seeing a Raspberry Mocha Cheesecake today:

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The cheesecake is vegan, of course, and is a Chicago Diner product. One of the great things about Delicious is that they get products from local vegan bakeries and restaurants, and the selection is always different and fresh. They use Metropolis coffee beans which are roasted right here in Chicago. I wish I could easily stop by before or after work for coffee and food! They also offer gluten-free items.

If you’re ever in Chicago, specifically in the North Center neighborhood, you need to stop by Delicious for a treat — even if all you want is a cup of coffee. Sure, Starbucks is two blocks away, but why go there when you can support this great local business that has vegan treats?

Delicious is located at 3827 N Lincoln Ave and is open everyday from 8am to 6pm. It’s usually easy to find parking on the side streets near the cafe and there is metered parking out front. I’ll see you there. We’ll split a slice of cheesecake. –Melissa

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Adventures in Dining Out: Karyn’s Cooked

I dine out quite a bit. It’s not really healthy and I definitely should cook more and it can be really frustrating because vegan options are so limited. So it was really fresh and new and quite overwhelming when I had a late dinner at Karyn’s Cooked in River North.

It’s hard to believe that this is the first time I’ve visited one of Karyn’s restaurants. Karyn Calabrese is a very popular Chicago vegetarian and it was a really big deal when she opened a raw foods restaurant. Her empire has expanded: she has a raw cafe, a raw bistro, an inner beauty center, and her cooked foods restaurant. I’ve heard a lot about her and she seems like an amazingly positive and inspirational person.

Karyn’s Cooked is vegan, though they are quick to mention that they use honey in some of their desserts. One look at the menu and I think you will understand why I was overwhelmed. There is so much to choose from, it all sounds really good, and it’s all vegan. There’s no guessing, there’s no having to ask questions about ingredients or request that they hold the cheese. It was really refreshing!

I wasn’t super hungry but needed to nosh on something. I decided to go with the vegan pizza, mainly because I’ve been craving deep dish pizza lately. I was amused when the pizza arrived since the description basically said “vegan cheese, seitan, and veggies.” It was topped with a lot of goodies – peppers, broccoli, kalamata olives, and a ton of onions. The cheese and seitan were deceptively good, in my opinion. I would have liked to have a little more cheese on it. The crust was thin and crispy and the sauce was tasty. This is a great deal at $10, especially after I consider how much a frozen vegan pizza costs. It’s under Appetizers so it’s clearly meant for sharing. Two slices and I was stuffed!

My friend Chris, a non-vegan, ordered the jerk tofu sandwich. I’ll take his word for it when he says it was good. It looked delicious and non-intimidating and was served with potato wedges and cole slaw. The cole slaw looked really good and I couldn’t wait to try it myself. Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed and so was Chris. My response when I tried it was, “Hmmm… it tastes like… cabbage.” Now, I realize how crazy of a response that is, but it was really the most cabbage-y cole slaw I’ve ever had. Let me take a sec here and thank Chris for taking me to a vegan place. I didn’t even realize how considerate he had been until well after dinner was over. I’m grateful for thoughtful friends!

I absolutely want to visit Karyn’s Cooked again. The vibe is really laid back, the space isn’t big but it’s roomy with pleasant contemporary decor, and there were lots of tasty-looking sweets on display. There are so many things on the menu that I want to try: lasagna, enchiladas, meatball sandwich, chili, ribs… and they have beer, wine, and cocktails!

Cheers! –Melissa

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Adventures in Dining Out: Yolo Mexican Eatery

I’m going to go ahead and say that being vegan is the reason that the cold I had two days ago only lasted about 16 hours. It was the shortest bug I ever had! I’m still taking extra care of myself but I did take the opportunity to dine out for dinner tonight.

It was my first time vising Yolo Mexican Eatery in Skokie, not to be confused with #yolo.

Yolo is a small BYOB restaurant tucked away on Brown street in downtown Skokie. I’ve passed it hundreds of times but wasn’t really aware of its existence until I started researching vegan-friendly places. It’s a cozy place and, from what I could gather, it’s family owned and operated. It wasn’t exactly packed tonight, but I can imagine that it gets busy on the weekends.

We started with a guacamole appetizer which was yummy. It’s funny… I’m not used to non-spicy guacamole anymore, so it was different in that regard, but I wouldn’t describe it as bland. It was tasty and fresh!


I ordered the Enchiladas de Platanos for my entree. The enchiladas came smothered in mole sauce and was served with a side of rice and beans. This dish had very interesting flavors in it — very different but delicious. I’m no mole expert, but my best guess is that this is the most authentic mole sauce I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. I could actually taste the chocolate. It wasn’t overwhelming in any way, and  my taste buds were hit with sweetness followed by a very satisfying spicyness. The texture of the sauce was also perfect. It wasn’t too thick nor was it gritty. I think I would have preferred the plantains to be a bit more, well, slimey. They had more of a tostones texture.

I expect that I will visit Yolo again. I will probably opt for one of the salads and a vegetarian taco option. I like mole but I need to be in the mood for it. Considering that Yolo is labeled as vegan-friendly on sites like Yelp, I was hoping for more vegan and vegetarian options. That said, it’s the only place where I’ve seen plantain enchiladas on the menu, so I’m glad for that!

YOLO! –Melissa



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Adventures in Dining Out: Urban Vegan

Today, I had the pleasure of dining at a Chicago vegan spot: Urban Vegan!

I took this photo back in July before their Fullerton location opened up. I’m really glad that I had a chance to finally dine here.

Urban Vegan is a vegan Thai restaurant. The menu offers the usual Thai dishes such as Pad Thai, various curries, and noodle dishes. The protein options are tofu, soy chicken, soy pepper steak, seitan, soy fish, soy shrimp, and soy chicken nuggets. Other dishes on the menu include a lentil loaf and a pumpkin, eggplant, and tofu stir fry. In case one isn’t sure this is a vegan spot, this was a dead giveaway:

How cute is this little spray bottle of Bragg Liquid Aminos??? Soooo cute. But also so not necessary since everything we had was really tasty. I thought about ordering Pad Thai (my usual choice for a first time visit to a Thai restaurant) but I was really in the mood for soup. So I got the Won Ton Noodle Soup.

I apologize for the blurry photo which does NOT do the dish any justice. It consisted of rice noodles in veggie broth with bean sprouts, broccoli, veggie dumplings and soy chicken, topped with cilantro, green onion, and fried garlic. Soooo good and filling — I took half of it home!

It’s not exactly in my backyard, but I’m already looking forward to my next visit to Urban Vegan. If you’re in Chicago, be sure to check them out! They have locations in Lincoln Park and Lakeview. You can get all the details along with their menu at their website

I love vegan restaurants!! –Melissa

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Dining Out: Portillo’s

It is surprisingly possibly to enjoy a vegan* meal at Portillo’s without having to resort to a salad. Portillo’s is an awesome spot when you’re in the mood to pig out on hot dogs, burgers, Italian beef, Italian sausage, chili… goodness, I just had gross meat flashbacks.

For dinner tonight, it was either eat something from Portillo’s or eat a rotting tomato. (Okay, it wasn’t that dramatic, but still.) So I tried the Grilled Vegetable Sandwich for the first time ever. Please pardon the poor photo: I ate half the sandwich before I remembered to take a pic!

The grilled veggies in the sandwich include yellow squash, zucchini, portobello mushrooms, red peppers, and red onion, along with fresh tomato. It all comes on a multi-grain focaccia and served with a pickle. I asked them to hold the cheese.

This sandwich was very satisfying! I could barely finish it. I will definitely order it with hot peppers next time. Some fresh basil added to the mix would do wonders for it as well. The veggies and the bread were fresh. It’s definitely a great vegan or vegetarian option.

Thank you for having this on your menu, Portillo’s! –Melissa

*Yeah, the bread probably isn’t vegan. And I had some fries which probably weren’t totally vegan.

Hey, don’t forget about our giveaway! Read this post for all the details and thanks for visiting Turning Veganese. You are awesome!

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Being Vegan is Easy at Over Easy Cafe

Dining out when you’re vegan is generally a challenge, but it seems to be even more of a challenge when going out for breakfast. Pre-vegan, I would get overwhelmed at the vast breakfast/brunch selection at some restaurants. Now I go to those same places and get frustrated because the only vegan thing on the menu is a bowl of fresh fruit.

This morning, I perused several prospects in the hopes of finding a place that would please both myself and my non-vegan dining companions. I was really glad to come across Over Easy Cafe. Why? Because they have a tofu scramble on the menu! My Mom and niece didn’t have to be weirded out by menus that vegan/vegetarian places tend to have (let’s admit it… sometimes supremely vegan spots can be kind of weird for those who aren’t vegan) and I was able to enjoy a hearty vegan breakfast.

The Spicy Tofu Scramble consists of tofu scrambled with “chorizo” spiced veggie crumbles, red peppers, & jalapenos, topped with salsa verde & guacamole. It came with a red potato hash and a choice of whole wheat, multi-grain, sourdough, or rye toast. Let me pause here and mention that I’m not certain that the veggie crumbles were vegan and I didn’t think to ask when I was there.  Um, it was delicious. Here’s a close-up:

I hope that more places will follow the lead of Over Easy Cafe and come up with at least one vegan/vegetarian-friendly dish on their menu. It makes a huge difference.

If you’re in Chicago, try out Over Easy Cafe! –Melissa

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Noodles & Company: Brrring It!!!

While going vegan has resulted in my cooking more than I ever thought I would, I still eat at restaurants. A lot. I have to avoid some of my old favorites –buh bye, Portillo’s– but I’m also super jazzed when my old favorites offer vegan options without me having to sound like a crazy vegan (“uhhh, I will have a quesadilla without the cheese”).

Noodles & Company is a place that I immediately loved because the food is good, portions are the perfect size, there are a variety of options, and the people who work there are always super nice. Always. I appreciate it even more now because they are very informative about their food and have a handful of options for vegans. In addition, you can choose tofu as a protein to add to any of their dishes. I went there for dinner tonight and got the Indonesian Peanut Saute:

This yummy dish consists of a spicy peanut sauce, rice noodles, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, Asian sprouts, cilantro, crushed peanuts and lime. Beware: it’s uber-spicy. UBER-SPICY. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Looks good, right? I’ve never been let down by Noodles & Company in terms of the freshness and quality of their food. Furthermore, they are very forthcoming with their nutrition and allergen information. Click here for their nutrition information. Scroll further down the page for a list of their vegan items. One more thing to say about this place: it’s very kid-friendly, both in terms of kid-friendly food options and atmosphere.

If you’re feeling lazy and adventurous, check out Noodles &  Company! –Melissa

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