Tag Archives: chicago

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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Lavish Lavash Pizza

I’ve always liked the idea of homemade pizza, but I’m intimidated by the dough-making process. I just won’t make dough from scratch, okay? You’re probably thinking, “what about pizza dough from the grocery store?” Call me strange, but there’s something about Boboli that I don’t find appealing.

I visited my friend Jen last weekend. Two things from my trip inspired me to make my own pizza at home using lavash. The first inspiration came from the pizzas Jen made using flatbread from Target. The flatbread made the perfect thin crust. The second was the lavash that was served with our hummus at Crave instead of the usual pita or pita chips. Lavash is light and tastes great when it’s soft and warm as well as when it’s baked to a crisp.

I will be eating homemade pizza all the freaking time now.

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I was excited to find locally made lavash at Fresh Farms in Niles. If you’re in the Chicago area, take the trip up to Fresh Farms. They have a huge selection and you’ll find a lot of vegan products there at a lower price than those other stores. One pack of lavash costs $1.79 and I can make about six pizzas with it.

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Now, I’m not a big fan of grocery shopping so I was about to settle for dairy cheese instead of stopping someplace else to pick up daiya (I know, I know, I’m a terrible vegan). But, Fresh Farms rescued me! I found shredded cheese made by Follow Your Heart. I like Follow Your Heart vegan cheese wedges, but this is the first time I’ve seen their shredded products.


I love daiya, but I think I might like Follow Your Heart better. Daiya seems to be seasoned. I always know when I’m eating daiya because there’s a certain taste to it that isn’t found in real cheese. I didn’t notice that in the Follow Your Heart. The texture was good and the cheese melted really well.

I got my lavash. I got my cheese. All I needed now was pizza sauce (you can use your favorite pasta sauce or tomato sauce) and toppings. Top your pizza however you would like. Today, I used roasted red peppers, marinated artichokes, crushed red pepper, and italian seasoning. I can’t wait to make others using fresh tomatoes or eggplant or basil or jalapenos from my Dad’s garden. Or… pineapple and vegan bacon! Or seasoned TVP! The possibilities are endless.


So, pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees, top your pizza, and then bake it for five minutes or until the cheese melts. That’s it! So easy and quick and there’s really no way to screw it up. It’s the perfect Melissa recipe. I am gonna be so fat, you guys. –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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Christmas Pasta

This holiday season hasn’t felt very holiday-ish. I definitely wasn’t feeling very festive until a couple of days ago. What happened? The weather got frigid, I walked into the State Street Marshall Field’s Macy’s and got overwhelmed by the decor and the crowds, was given a candy cane by a bartender, and then listened to some Christmas carolers over by Cloud Gate. Yay! Christmas! All that’s missing is snow!


Now, whether or not you celebrate or care about Christmas, I’m willing to bet that you’re gathering with family or friends or, at the very least, getting inundated with baked goods by co-workers. It’s been a challenge for the past couple of weeks. I’ve given in to the cupcakes, the cheesecakes, the coffee cakes, the scrambled eggs. Today is Christmas Eve and it won’t get any easier — but I’ve planned ahead in order to avoid falling into traps. After all, there’s no excuse for me to break my vegan diet if I have perfectly delicious vegan food to eat instead.

I’m going to a gathering tonight and there will be plenty of food, none of which is vegan. So I made some pasta which I am calling Christmas Pasta! Next time, I’ll add spinach or some other green veggie so that it actually looks Christmas-y.


It’s still in draft mode until I serve it tonight. I hope everyone at the party tries it and likes it! It’s penne in a marinara sauce with lots of garlic, sliced onion, and eggplant. I’m pretty excited about it. Everyone else can have their turkey or beef or whatever!

Happy celebrations, you guys! Stay safe and don’t eat cows. Santa said so. –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: 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 www.urbanveganchicago.com.

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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Simply Vegan

I reached another milestone yesterday: I had another birthday! It was my first birthday as a vegan. I don’t know about you, but for birthdays and other holidays, I like to enjoy a decadent meal, guilt-free. This year, I knew exactly what I wanted: a Tofurky cheese pizza and a Chicago Diner cake (which you can find at Chicago-area Whole Foods in addition to the diner itself). Props to my family for getting me exactly what I wanted! My nieces even loved the cake:

She’s a goofy one! That was dinner. Lunch was pretty darn good, too. My sister treated me to falafel from Pita Inn which is the falafel that I measure all other falafel against. In other words, it’s the best.

It was such a breeze to know exactly what I wanted to eat for my birthday. Previous years have been almost annoying… do I want Chinese food? Pizza? If pizza, deep dish or thin crust? Steak? Fried chicken? Gyros? Basically, what awful and unhealthy food should I get? I love that that wasn’t an issue this year.

In other news, I think I have finally settled on the perfect vegan Filipino breakfast:

Super garlicky rice with tempeh strips and tomato salad. I have finally embraced the wondrous tempeh strip. I credit Brent and Christie for that. This breakfast is so easy, super yummy, and hearty! And it MUST be eaten Filipino-style, with a spoon containing a little bit of everything on the plate:

Now please excuse me while I have another slice of that delicious birthday cake! –Melissa

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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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