Today I woke up craving almond milk but with no desire to make it. Ah life without Whole Foods at my fingertips…so hard. While grocery conveniences like store-bought Almond Milk were a regular thing on our trip, the real goods came in the form of delicious restaurants and of course home-cooked meals. I will do a separate post on the home-cooked delights, but below are my top 5 favorite foodie stops from our trip. We had so many delicious meals along the way that it feels criminal to narrow it all down, but what I liked about the ones listed, is that they were all pretty specialized restaurants but at the same time “everyone-friendly” without feeling like they were trying too hard.
(yes. that is an American flag made out of various Bud cans. cheers, Bub City! source)
1) Hummus Place– NYC
Hummus Place was a Middle Eastern restaurant that we sort of stumbled upon our last day in New York. We had a few splurges restaurant-wise prior to this meal, but this place was very wallet-friendly and surprised us by being one of our favorite meals. The restaurant serves simple Mediterranean cuisine but with a healthy flair. The Tabbouleh was served with quinoa and fresh veggies, and the babaganush was so fresh and delicious, I was practically eating it with a spoon. Favorite part: they made Mojitos with anise wine. First of all, I didn’t even know such a thing existed, but wow, how delicious and different.
2) Pure Food and Wine– NYC
This place was my MUST restaurant prior to the trip. I have such a girl crush on Sarma Melngailis and have read through her cookbooks several times over. She is a genius and one of the original raw foodies of NYC. Pure Food and Wine is raw organic restaurant but it is SO not what you’d expect. The vibe in the restaurant is very nice (not hippy at all) and the food is to die for. You could take any raw foods skeptic to this restaurant and definitely turn them. We tried several dishes, but my favorite had to be the Philly Roll of avocado, kimchee, and creamy cashew cheese with tatsoi, scallions, hijiki and sweet chili sauce. When I saw it on the menu I thought “oh, veggie sushi, no thanks”, but good thing my boyfriend ordered it. I’d also recommend the Lasagna and Purple Haze martini (FRESH grape juice and sake. You read that right).
3) Frontera Grill– Chicago
I LOVE Mexican food, but it has to be done right. Frontera Grill does it better than right. The owner and chef, Rick Bayless was an anthropologist who went to Mexico to do field research and published a book on the regional cuisine. Today he is one of the leading chefs of Mexican cuisine in the United States and has built an mini empire. Frontera Grill is his more casual restaurant and the food is known for being Mexican but with a twist. My favorite dishes had to be the tamales and goat enchiladas, but truthfully, everything was absolutely delicious. Also, the margaritas there are PROPER and even sweetened with agave. Divine.
4) Big Grove Tavern– Champaign, IL
Big Grove is one of downtown Champaign’s newest installations and it is really a sweet new spot. The restaurant is based on sustainability principles and keeps its menu seasonal while trying to source all its ingredients from local farmers and butchers. I think you can understand why I was nearly running to this restaurant when I heard about it. On top of building its business on principles I whole-heartedly support, the food is delicious! Win-win and definitely a spot to check out should you ever find yourself in Champaign, Illinois.
5) Bub City– Chicago
My boyfriend wanted a country night before we left the States and he wanted to try BBQ. Cue Bub City. Bub City is a country music spot in the River North area of Chicago and the fare is of the good old American BBQ variety. I’m talking pulled pork, ribs, waffle fries, you name it. So while the boy got his fix of American BBQ, I found a delicious salad that still fit with that American BBQ genre but completely satisfied my diet preferences that evening (it was vegan!). If you’re in Chicago and want a fun American experience, go to Bub City, they won’t disappoint.
All the above were special meals with special people, resulting in some amazing memories. We had fun 🙂
Now, someone get me an anise wine mojito.