Fast-casual chain Veggie Grill ( various locations; www.veggiegrill.com/chicago.html ) may become the new Starbucks.
While a friend and I recently went to the Lake View location at 614 W. Diversey Pkwy., at least three more sites are slated to open by the end of the year, including one that debuted this week in the Loop at 204 W. Lake St. ( Overall, it's the brand's 30th location throughout the country. ) Other restaurants are also scheduled to open in the River North area ( 629 N. Wells St. ) and the restaurant corridor in the West Loop ( 911 W. Randolph St. ).
And just like Starbucks, Veggie Grill has its devoted fansand deservedly so.
I'm not personally a vegetarian or veganalthough I'm beyond declaring the lettuce on a traditional burger as the extent of my consuming of greens. Thankfully, vegan/vegetarian food has evolved in taste over the years, and Veggie Grill is a prime example of that.
At the Lake View location ( where we witnessed a constant stream of people entering and ordering items, even during the mid-afternoon ), there is an impressive variety of burgers, sandwiches, bowls, tacos and, of course, salads.
Regarding burgers, we tried the very popular VG Beyond Burger and the Buffalo Bomber. Although no one's going to confuse Beyond with, say, a Big Mac, this sandwich is pretty tasty on its own; I would order it again. As for the Buffalo Bomber ( crispy "chickin" tossed with spicy Buffalo sauce, tomato, red onion, lettuce and creamy ranch dressing on a wheat roll ), my friend ate it with relish ( no pun intended ).
Other items also hit high spots while simultaneously convincing me that vegetarian/vegan items might be the way to goat least occasionally. The tempura green beans are practically addictive, as are the Southeast Asian lettuce wraps ( which come unassembled, just so you know ). As someone who was raised in the South, Veggie Grill's mac 'n' cheese is not exactly up to snuffbut it still tasted better than I thought it would.
And, believe it or not, manager Denis Luebke said that desserts are particularly popularand after sampling the carrot cake, I believe him.
Luebke ( who's so dedicated to veganism that he has the word "vegan" tattooed on a wrist ) also said, "We don't cater to vegetarians and vegans, specifically. We cater to people who want more veggies in their diet." And with the offerings at Veggie Grill, people will certainly want to do so.
And Veggie Grill is closer than you think, as it's on several delivery apps. Enjoy!
Baptiste & Bottle brunch
Recently, Windy City Times had an opportunity to sample the new brunch items at Baptiste & Bottle, in the Conrad Chicago hotel ( 85 E. Upper Wacker Dr.; www.baptisteandbottle.com/ )and the offerings are enticing, indeed.
Among the items served were one of the best patty melts this writer has ever had ( practically up there with the truffle patty melt at 20 East ), along with sweet and savory waffles, biscuits and gravy and other treats.
However, the centerpiece has to be the $50 chef-driven Bloody Mary, made with Baptiste's new private-label Maker's Mark Bourbon. Reflecting hotel chef Tommy Hines' New Orleans heritage, the drink was served in a large hurricane glass, with toppings like shrimp, caperberries, okra, spicy beans and hush puppies. It's a drinkand a meal.