Tag Archives: restaurants

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

Tagged , , , , ,

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.

photo 2

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.

photo 1

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.

photo 3

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

Tagged , , , , ,

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



Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

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!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Adventures in Dining Out: Noon-O-Kabab

Noon-O-Kabab has been one of my favorite Chicago restaurants for several years. It’s a Persian restaurant in the Albany Park neighborhood. It’s grown in size and even has a separate location a few doors down for carry-out orders. My usual order at Noon-O-Kabab was their excellent Lamb Shank, cooked and seasoned to perfection. Other favorites were their rib eye and seasoned ground sirloin. Obviously, I had to find something new to try when I went there for dinner recently.

I’m usually disappointed when I figure out what my limited choices are at a restaurant, but I knew Noon-O-Kabab wouldn’t let me down. They have a handful of vegetarian and vegan options, plus several vegan-friendly appetizers. I chose the Adass Polo: a mix of lentils, raisins, caramelized onions, saffron and Persian barberry served with Persian white rice.

You guys, this was excellent. The rice alone is worth the trip, and you can rest easy knowing that they don’t use butter in their cooking. The mix of lentils with raisins and saffron and the barberry gives the dish an sweet and somewhat tangy mix of flavors. It was served with grilled tomato, onion, and bell pepper. I’m looking forward to trying to make this in my own kitchen.

All my dining experiences at Noon-O-Kabab have been pleasant and there are a few servers who have been there since I first went there years ago. The food is always fresh, the restaurant is casual but cozy, and the demographic of the diners is always diverse. As the restaurant has grown, the quality of the food has remained high.

I’m looking forward to trying out another vegan dish next time I go to Noon-O-Kabab. If you’re in the Chicago area, try it out! –Melissa

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: