Restaurant Review: The Chicago Diner
In this assignment, we were instructed to critique and explore multiple aspects of the restaurant of our choosing. With a limited word count and the specific instruction to model our paper after a New York Times restaurant review, the assignment was challenging, yet fun. The assignment was successful in opening up our creative and analytical minds to outside food culture.
I chose to highlight this assignment because not only did I love the dining and writing experience, but I favored the personal, specific evaluation process over the previous papers written this quarter.
*No additional drafts for the assignment were made.*
Meat Free Since '83...
TABLES FOR TWO
THE CHICAGO DINER
2333 N. Milwaukee Ave. (773-252-3211) – Centered in the vibrant, lively area of Logan Square—a hotspot for college-aged Chicagoans looking for excellent food, drinks, and entertainment—The Chicago Diner opens its doors to meatless food lovers, or anyone willing to indulge in vegan cuisine. That’s right—contrary to its name, this popular food hub serves anything but the typical “diner food”. From Cookie Dough Peanut Butter Vegan Shakes to Gyros made with Seitan, a meat substitute, diners are swept away on a meat-free dining experience.
Upon arrival to the rather small yet crowded “earth friendly” establishment, diners are blindingly welcomed by the fluorescent sign, “Meat Free Since ’83” which lights up the elongated booths stationed horizontally in the center of the room and the prevalent bar located to the right of the entrance. Diners in their mid-twenties, many flaunting their visible tattoos and dread-locked hair, lean casually over the perfectly stained wood bar exchanging stories of old pastimes while slurping down milk-less shakes from chocolate drizzled malt glasses. These diners wisely choose to skip the twenty to twenty-five minute wait to cram into one of the booths or tables, missing their opportunity to be served by one of the numerous extremely smiley and approachable waiters.
The servers’ sunny personalities go hand-in-hand with the food they so graciously place on the black wooden tables in front of the mouth-watering diners; a similar physical reaction which accompanies the tub of perfectly seasoned sweet potato fries, offered as an appetizer. Finger-licking, crispy, salty, sweet, and paired brilliantly, suggested by the smiley waiter, with a creamy, zesty mustard cream sauce, these thin slices of sweet potato heaven sing to every foodie’s taste buds and set extremely high-standards for any other course to come, that is, if one is still hungry by then.
Those standards, unfortunately, cannot be met by the peculiarity that is the Pierogi Quesadilla. Sandwiched between two tomato basil tortillas lies a relatively thick layer of what can be considered sauerkraut mashed potatoes. Unlike the all-American creamy, savory Thanksgiving mashed potatoes that center most tables during the holiday, the diner’s “quesadilla” takes advantage of popular side-dish by combining sauerkraut to the potatoes, as well as green onions, sautéed mushrooms and Daiya cheddar (dairy-free cheese).
If the uniqueness of the quesadilla is too distinct for one’s pallet, diners suggest one of The Chicago Diner’s vegan shakes to wash it down. Just as impossible as it is to stop from inhaling every last one of the sweet potato fries, the shakes trigger a similar uncontrollability. Specifically with the Cookie Dough Peanut Butter vegan shake, difficulty comes along with attempting to suck down the treat in one sitting due to its pudding-like thickness. The struggle, however, is quickly ignored once the decadent combination of silky chocolate, peanut butter, and chucks of soft chocolaty cookie dough squeeze its way through the straw and onto the tongue. Made with Chicago Soy Dairy’s Temptation Ice Cream and beet sugar, the completing flavors of salty and sweet joined with the undeniable creaminess leaves one forgetting that the dessert-in-a-glass contains no dairy products whatsoever. With the cold, rich, creamy, blend of the various flavors, the amount of calories that nestle in the malt glass are effortlessly forgotten as well.
Malt glasses clinking, calming music playing, and laughs sharing, The Chicago Diner is an experience that every Chicagoan and every visitor must have. From the earth-friendly atmosphere that surrounds the diner to the earth-friendly people that dine in it, The Chicago Diner steps out of the “ordinary diner” stereotype and brings its guests into a meat-free eating exploration. So, explore the bar, try the finger-licking sweet potato fries, struggle to capture that last piece of cookie dough down at the bottom of the glass, but a bit of advice—if you enjoy your image of the perfect bowl of Thanksgiving mashed potatoes, stay away from the Pierogi Quesadilla. (Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dishes $7 – $12.)
To view the final product, click the attachment below.
In-class notes and yes, I kept the menu :)
Notes I took while at The Chicago Diner