Last week I got the opportunity to join the Windy City Bloggers and try out the newly revamped menu at their Wicker Park location (1484 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago). I used to live not too far from this location, so Mike & I went several times from when it opened in 2011 or 2012 until we moved in late 2014. We liked the vegan food, and often went here when we were having a “burger and fries” type of craving, or if one of us had that and the other person had a “salad only please” desire for dinner.
This was the first time I’d been back since moving, and Native Foods underwent an amazing transformation! The physical space is much lighter now, and looks a bit more grown up from the original cafe. There’s a “snack section” (my words) that you can quickly get a beverage or pre-made foods from, without having to wait for a cooked-on-order meal.
And what I remembered most about the original design was a big blackboard that they had drawings, specials and sayings all written and drawn onto. That’s grown up into a classy “found pieces” art display. All of the items on the wall were found in alleys around Wicker Park. Pretty cool!
We started with appetizers, and I was hungry from the workout I’d just finished earlier! (Pro Tip: if you’re working out, always have a protein bar in your gym bag in case you end up starving right when you finish.) I tried the chili cauliflower, which was very reminiscent of buffalo sauce flavoring with a ranch dip.
We also had a salad with fake bacon, and tempura brussels sprouts. I really enjoyed the tempura brussels sprouts, very light, and they hit the Asian flavor profile right on the spot.
I actually thought that was all the food, and was pretty decently satisfied, despite my less than stellar pre-and post-workout fueling. And then someone came around with menus and we ordered off of the main dinner menu! I picked out the portabello jibarito, as I love all things jibarito and was excited to try out the Latin flavors in Native Foods. They’d already done buffalo spice and Asian, they couldn’t possibly get the Latin flavors right too, could they?
With my jibarito they brought out Arize Kombucha. I am in love with this drink! It’s minty, Kombucha is healthy, and Arize is from Chicago, and local Kombucha is always better. #kombuchalove
A jibarito is a Puerto Rican sandwich using fried plantains instead of sandwich bread or a bun. And fried plantains are pretty close to the Dominican tostones which I love too. Native Foods’ jibarito had a portabello mushroom as the main “meat” for the sandwich, and also had onion, pickled cucumber, tomato and avocado on the sandwich. While I missed the meat that is traditional on a jibarito, I loved how hearty this felt while I was getting a healthier sandwich!
I had to leave before the dessert round was served (probably for the best — I was stuffed!) but I heard that they had some great cupcakes as well as gluten-free peanut butter rice krispie treats. Those all sound delicious and I think I’ll be stopping back later to eat again and make sure to splurge on dessert!
Native Foods Cafe has several locations in the Chicago area, as well as in California, Colorado and Oregon. Check out their website to find a location near you as well as the menu! The Wicker Park location is the flagship and test location for new dishes, so they’ll have the newest items on the menu if you’re looking to try something you haven’t had before.
Have you been to Native Foods Cafe?