Tuesday, October 11, 2011

More Chicagoland Eats

We went to visit Loretta and her lovely family this weekend. Which is one of the reasons I thought to post about my January trip to Chicago with Loretta while I was out of town. They now live in Evanston, conveniently located within walking distance of Blind Faith Cafe, although we didn't eat there this trip. We did get a lot of Loretta's fabulous home-cooking which is so much better!
We arrived Friday evening and within minutes Josie and Teagan were doing their hair.
While the kids played, Loretta put the finishing touches on a homemade (except for the injera which was from a local restaurant) Ethiopian feast. So good! We were stuffed, but I couldn't stop eating, which was pretty much the theme for the weekend.
The kids enjoying their Ethiopian picnic style.
Saturday morning we woke up way too early since the kids stayed up way too late, but Loretta still found the energy to make some positively perfect peach pancakes. I was too stuffed from the Ethiopian the evening before to eat any, but the kids ate fruit feast and devoured the pancakes so nothing was wasted.
Playing at one of the several parks close to Loretta's place was just what the kids needed. Okay, maybe Rob needed it too. Here he is enjoying the park with Parker.
Teagan and Josie having fun.
We brought our scooters up to help us travel around the city.

We hopped on the El for a trip downtown to Chicago Diner. There are so many other restaurants I want to try (Handlebar, Green Zebra, Native Foods to name a few), but we just can't go to the Chicago area without going to the Chicago Diner. When we arrived with our four adults and five children during Saturday lunch rush, we were told it was the inevitable 40 minute wait and the kids groaned. They said things about dying of hunger, etc. but they still didn't want to leave.

The weather was perfect and David (Loretta's awesome husband) bravely took most of the kids to a nearby park. The rest of us waited and drooled over the menu. The 40 minutes either went by pretty fast or they were able to seat us early. Either way, the staff was incredible. They know how to deal with crowds and they are always sweet to the kids. Major thumbs up because this is not the case for all restaurants. We were seated outside which was perfect for everything except picture quality so just keep in mind the food doesn't all have this yellowish hue. Who cares, it was so good we stuffed ourselves silly and that was really all we needed to eat until the next day.
The Chicago Diner - Special Recipe “Wings”
We had to get appetizers since the kids were restless. The fussiness and fidgeting was completely quieted by the appearance of these seitan wings. They quickly cleared the plates. I mean every speck of garnish was gone and the guys might have drunk the remaining ranch sauce, but you didn't hear it from me.
The Chicago Diner - Pesto “Chicken” Artisan Sandwich
I ordered the Pesto "Chicken" and the "chicken" was a tad too tough and dry, but my
Sesame Kale Salad on the side was wonderful. The key to eating at The Chicago Diner is don't get a fried side. 
Always try to sneak some kale in your meal.
The Chicago Diner - The Titanic BLT Burger
Josie totally caved into marketing on her order. As we were waiting outside for a table, I distracted the kids by perusing the menu and looking at the pictures of food on the window. The Titanic BLT Burger was one of the pictures and she knew she wanted it exactly as displayed. I couldn't talk her into getting a different side or anything. Too much fried with the fried onions on the sandwich, but we don't do fried often so its cool. Josie said it was very good, but it was a lot of food. Even with Rob and I helping her a bit, she had leftovers for the next day.
The Chicago Diner - The Radical Reuben™ 
Rob went with The Radical Reuben™ with the sweet potato fries which he seemed to enjoy, but he was looking longingly at my kale salad and said he'd go with that next time. I think the reuben might have been my first taste of Chicago Diner many years ago (pre-kids). I don't think I ever ate a reuben in my pregan (pre-vegan) days, but in my early years as a vegan reubens were a staple. We were introduced to avocado reubens (the best, no seitan or tofu, just avocado) by Terry at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary. The Radical Reuben™ will always come in second to Terry's reubens eaten in their house after taking care of the wonderful animals.
The Chicago Diner - BBQ “Bacon” Cheezeburger
Parker couldn't decide between brunch or lunch, but ended up ordering this cheesy plate and he devoured it all! 
He took the pictures of his food so you get a bonus shot of his Macaroni and Cheeze side.
The Chicago Diner - The Dagwood
Dema's Dagwood sandwich was the best of all the sandwiches I tasted (I didn't get a bite of Parker's since he inhaled it). Loretta also ordered the Dagwood and gave it a thumbs up. It is not for those with a messy aversion (Parker), but for those who don't mind getting a little sauce on their chin or freak when a bit of their sandwich falls on the plate (Parker) this is the sandwich I recommend. Dema went with the Mashed Potatoes and Gravy side and surprisingly ended up giving most of it to Josie. I guess the sandwich was quite large and, except for a couple bites for me/Rob, Dema ate it all. The waiter was impressed with how most of the plates were completely cleaned. We only put some of Josie and Teagan's food in the To-Go container to save for later.
To sustain our little ones on the walk to the El, they each ordered a famous shake to go. Chicago Diner milkshakes always remind me of this Pulp Fiction scene.
Loretta's amazing kids downed there milkshakes by the time we arrived back to their place (they wisely ate much smaller meals than my kids). Mine finally finished theirs the next evening (they were still good after melting on the way home and then cooling down again in the refrigerator).
Loretta and I worked off our Chicago Diner lunch by walking around Evanston window shopping. She lives in a really cool area within walking distance of many great shops (Hot Mama - attractive clothes for the post-kid set, Argo Tea - they have almond milk, The Mexican Shop - cute jewelry and clothes which won't break the bank, Turin Bicycle - they have the Kona Ute which was mighty tempting, and Healthy Green Goods - cool store with a lot of products I used to sell when I had my business). It was great to stretch our legs and have some time to chat while the guys played with the kids back at the apartment. Even with the walking, we were still too stuffed to eat dinner so the kids ate leftover Ethiopian, veggies and hummus, etc. and the guys went to a movie after getting the kids ready for bed. I'll cover our last day in Evanston tomorrow.

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