Vegan Nom Noms Does America: Chicago, Illinois

Chicago The Bean Millenium Park | Vegan Nom Noms“The Bean” in Millennium Park was pretty cool to look at and a hot spot for selfies, it seemed.

My first time to Chicago and I had a pretty awesome time. Shoutout to my friend Claire for taking me in and showing me the true Chicago experience! I went to house parties, Shakespeare in the Park, got some books at the amazing Newberry Library’s annual book sale, ate a lot of noms and drank some good coffee.

Public Transportation

I found the public transportation pretty great in Chicago, so I opted to stash my car with some on-street parking and buy a week pass for the pub transit, “The L”. I tested out the metro and the bus while I was there and it all went pretty smoothly.

If it’s not the winter, Chicago also seems pretty bike-able. Lots of bike lanes about and I noticed that there was often indoor bike racks in the L stations:

Chicago Bike Racks in Metro L | Vegan Nom NomsIndoor racks in the “L” stations to store your bike, pretty cool!

Where to Stay:

My first few days I was working so I booked a cheap AirBnB (only $15 per night). If you’re not a member of AirBnB yet, check it out! AirBnB has been the cheapest and nicest option when I need a homebase for a bit, but plan to do my own thing. I’ve met a ton of interesting people so far, really helps give you a better feeling of what it’s like to actually live in the area you’re visiting. If you sign up through this link, you get a $25 credit to your account (and so do I, full disclosure), that’s enough for a free night or two some places!

I’ve been using a combination of Couchsurfing, AirBnB and cheap hotels (we’re talking $60 per night or less cheap) booked through Booking.com on this trip.

Cafes

Sip Cafe Chicago Wifi | Vegan Nom Noms My first few days I was working so I set out in search of a good working cafe. Sip Coffee House, was possibly one of the best cafes for working I’ve ever been to. Lots of tables, tons of outlets, good coffee and a big back room away from the counter and ordering traffic. There were lots of other people working there so I didn’t feel guilty. Not a ton of vegan options, but they did have vegan cookies, granola bars and oatmeal.

Atomix Vegan Tofu Cream Cheese Bagel | Vegan Nom Noms This was my second favorite place I went to work, Atomix Cafe. Very laid-back atmosphere with booths, free wifi, outlets and lots of vegan options for food and baked goods. I got filter coffee and the bagel with vegan vegetable cream cheese that looked homemade. They also had a bottomless coffee options for a little bit more. Coffee was good!Atomix Blueberry Bran Muffin | Vegan Nom NomsAfter reading all the rave reviews about the blueberry bran muffins at Atomix, I had to try one of those too. It was delicious.

Restaurants

Chicago Diner Reuben Mac and Cheese | Vegan Nom Noms Of course I had to check out the Chicago Diner (two locations at Logan Square and Halstead Sreet) and get the Radical Reuben. After all the hype, I wasn’t sure if it would live up to my expectations, but holy crap, it totally exceeded them! The reuben was amazing, best I’ve had in my life. I personally wasn’t a big fan of their mac and cheese though, so next time I’ll just get fries or a salad as the side dish. Chicago Diner Ranch Salad | Vegan Nom Noms I got an additional side salad with vegan ranch dressing as I was feeling the need for some vegetables. So yum and the ranch was awesome.Chicago Diner Peanut Butter Cookie Dessert | Vegan Nom NomsI packed up half of my reuben for later so I’d have room for dessert. I chose the peanut butter cookie sundae. This was incredible. I’m still dreaming of it. There is so much on the menu I wanted to try, especially brunch, so I’ll have to go back to Chicago sometime!

Events

My friend took me to the Glenwood Sunday Market on the North side of Chicago and it was great. It wasn’t super big so it wasn’t that overwhelming, I only had to decide between two stands where I could buy my tomatoes. They had an empanada stand too and one of the options was vegan, yum!

Empanadas Chicago Farmer's Market | Vegan Nom Noms Vegan empanada from the Glenwood Sunday Market

Tofu Stand Chicago Farmer's Market | Vegan Nom Noms There was also a stand called Phoenix Bean that sold all different types of homemade tofu plain and in marinades, it was epic. A bit pricey at about $8-9 for a container, it tasted amazing. We got a delicous marinated tofu and served it over cous cous, farmer’s market tomatoes and lettuce mix for lunch. Yum.

Some other great stands at the market sold vegan chocolates, cold-brewed coffee with almond milk, baked goods with alternative flours and there was even a local distillery called Koval.

If you’re there at the right time and are into books, check out the Newberry Library‘s annual book sale. It was epic.

Yoga

Try Nature Yoga on West Division in the Ukrainian Village. I dropped into a Hatha Yoga class here and quite enjoyed it. Friendly people, nice space and free peppermint tea afterwards.

Grocery Shopping

I went to the largest Whole Foods I’ve ever been to in my LIFE in Chicago. The Lincoln Park location is apparently the 3rd largest Whole Foods in the WORLD after London and Austin. They had guacamole as a sample, I was pleased. We bought vegan cookie dough balls and eat them all without baking them into cookies, don’t judge.

There you have it, next stop…Madison, Wisconsin and Minneapolis!

Vegan Nom Noms Does America: Kalamazoo and Detroit, Michigan

After eating everything in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I took it a bit easier in Detroit. A friend of a friend was nice enough to let me take of residence in his apartment for a couple nights, so I even had the opportunity to cook for myself, a luxury during travel. I made simple pita pizzas with Daiya in case you were wondering.

I showed up in Detroit right as an event called Slow Roll began, so at first we sat on his porch and watched a billion bikers go by for about an hour. According to their website, “Slow Roll is Michigan’s biggest weekly bicycle ride, aimed at building community and showing off the great City of Detroit.” Here’s a little video from my Instagram:

It was rad and was the first of many times I wished I somehow threw a bike in the back of my car for this trip. Next time I totally will! Cyclists literally passed by for an hour while we were on the porch drinking beers…so many people participating!

My first night in Detroit my host, Sam, took me to his local, the Woodbridge Pub. Lo and behold, they happened to have clearly labeled vegan options and yummy beer! I got this black bean burger, which sounds boring, but it was probably one of the best black bean burgers I’ve had in my life. There weren’t a ton of vegan options, but definitely a few on there. I believe a pasta dish, a burger and an appetizer were all vegan.

IMG_3532My yummy black bean burger from The Woodbridge Pub

Heidelberg Project Detroit | Vegan Nom NomsI had heard that the Heidelberg Project (above) was one of the quirky, abandoned artsy thing I needed to see in Detroit, so the next day I headed out there to check it out. According to Wikipedia,

“The Heidelberg Project is an outdoor art project in Detroit, Michigan. It was created in 1986 by artist Tyree Guyton and his grandfather Sam Mackey (“Grandpa Sam”) as an outdoor art environment in the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood on the city’s east side, just north of the city’s historically African-American Black Bottom area. The Heidelberg Project is in part a political protest, as Tyree Guyton’s childhood neighborhood began to deteriorate after the 1967 riots. Guyton described coming back to Heidelberg Street after serving in the Army; he was astonished to see that the surrounding neighborhood looked as if “a bomb went off”.”

I absolutely recommend checking out this exhibit if you’re in Detroit. You can walk right through and around it as it’s basically a whole street in a neighborhood. It’s also quite informative and gives you some insight into the situation and some history of what’s happened in Detroit.

IMG_3511 After exploring the Heidelberg Project I decided to have lunch at Detroit Vegan Soul. I got the Soul Platter, which consisted of Mac-n-cheese, tenderly smoked collards, maple glazed yams, black-eyed-peas and cornbread muffins The collards were to die for and I am determined to sneak collard seeds back into Germany now so I can grow my own collards to recreate it. This was super yummy and the whole menu, which you can find on their website, also looked fantastic.IMG_3467 I may have already mentioned that I’m working while I’m traveling throughout most of this trip, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in cafes typing away. This place, Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company in Midtown, was a recommendation from my host as well and it was a great place to work. Big communal table in the center, lots of outlets, good coffee and a vegan brownie option. Also food and they sell tons of craft beer. I believe it turns into a bar at night. I went here twice.

That’s it for food in Detroit, but I also hit up a yoga class while I was there as part of my stay active during long-term travel plan. If you’re looking for a yoga place in Detroit, I recommend where I went, Be Nice Yoga also in Midtown. Right across from Great Lakes Coffee, actually!

Now off to Kalamazoo, Michigan! This was actually just a lunch stop on the way to Chicago, but it’s a cute medium-sized city with lots of cool things. Most notably, which I was unfortunately there too early for, was the Beer Exchange. It’s a big bar that has a beer stock exchange starting at 6pm. The more a beer is ordered, the more the price goes up, so you can jump on the bandwagon or take a risk and perhaps find an awesome beer for cheap!

Vegan  Woodbridge Pub Food Detroit | Vegan Nom NomsFor lunch in Kalamazoo I stopped at the Crow’s Nest, which If found on foursquare. They were super helpful, knew which things were vegan and had lots of labeled vegan options on the menu, including vegan breakfast. I was on a burger kick from Detroit so got the black bean burger, yum!

That’s it for Michigan, next stop…Chicago!

Vegan Nom Noms Does America: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Next stop…Ann Arbor, Michigan! This was my second time to Michigan in my life, the first time was all the way up in the UP (Upper Penninsula). This time I was there to visit my good friend Katie, whose attending med school there. For those who are unfamiliar with the area, Ann Arbor is about 45 minutes from Detroit. It’s a cute medium-sized college town with lots of coffee shops, craft beer, cute little cafes, a pretty epic farmer’s market, and a food co-op! I ate way too much.Seva Vegan Ann Arbor | Vegan Nom NomsFirst stop was a place called Seva. I think this was my favorite meal there. We went here for brunch and I got scrambled tofu covered in Daiya vegan cheese with potatoes, a whole half of an avocado on top and toast! We also got the yam fries, which were yummy. One thing about America I appreciate is the bottomless or at least large amounts of coffee you get for your money. Anyway, definitely check out Seva if you’re in Ann Arbor. There’s also one in Detroit. They have awesome brunch and by the looks of it great lunch and dinner too!ssdsd People's Co-op Ann Arbor Salad Bar | Vegan Nom Noms After lots and lots of food I decided to be healthy my last day and just treat myself to a huge salad from the salad bar at the People’s Food Co-op in the Kerrytown area. This was also a great place to get some work done via the wifi.Cafe Verde People's Food Co-op Ann Arbor | Vegan Nom NomsI went to the Cafe Verde section of the People’s Food Co-op three times, I think. I’m working while I’m traveling, so this was my work spot. This time I got a vegan double chocolate muffin and an iced yerbe mate tea.Miki Japanese Sushi Ann Arbor | Vegan Nom Noms My last night I was trying to avoid fried or sugary things, so we went to get sushi at Miki Japanese Restaurant. They had a few interesting vegan options. I think this was called the green roll. It had about 5 different things in it, which I can’t remember now. Anyway, it was great to see vegan options besides the basic avocado roll.The Lunch Room Ann Arbor Chilaquiles | Vegan Nom NomsMy second favorite place was called The Lunch Room. We went there for brunch and were treated to live music outside! I think they are all vegan. At least the brunch and all the baked goods were vegan. I got the Chilaquiles, which was described as a “traditional Mexican scrambled tortilla dish with potatoes, seitan “chorizo,” cashew sour cream, avocados & lime”. Yum!The Lunch Room Ann Arbor Breakfast Burrito | Vegan Nom NomsMy friend got the breakfast burrito, which was housemade seitan chorizo, potatoes, sauteed onions and greens, cumin-lime rice, cashew sour cream and avocado on a large whole-grain flour tortilla with fresh pico de gallo salsa. I didn’t try it, but it also looked hella awesome.The Lunch Room Ice CreamCookie Sandwich | Vegan Nom NomsWe also had to try the desserts, of course. This is my half of the Mexican Hot Chocolate cookie sandwich with coconut ice cream. We split that and a cinnamon bun. Only downside of the place was that I asked if they could zap the cinnamon bun in the microwave for 10 seconds and they said no because they were too busy. That seemed a bit strange as it doesn’t take so long to microwave something, but oh well. (Edit: Turns out they don’t have a microwave, that explains it!)Mighty Good Coffee Ann Arbor | Vegan Nom NomsAnother work date with the wifi. This was my coffee from Mighty Good Coffee. This was also a good place to get some work done, lots of outlets, etc. They had a couple vegan baked goods as well. I had some type of salted something latte. It was yummy!Jerusalem Garden Ann Arbor | Vegan Nom Noms I was there during the yearly Art Fair and after wandering around in the crowds a bit, we headed over to a place called Jerusalem Garden. I got the falafel with hummus and a fattoush salad. It was all pretty awesome and not so expensive.

A lot of food for a weekend, but all pretty tasty! Not pictured was a big bar called Ashley’s, which had TONS of craft beer, including lots of local Michigan brews. The waiter we had was also super knowledgeable. We basically just told him “I want something medium bitter, but not X” and he immediately was able to match us with a beer. I learned that there is a TON of good microbrews and craft beer in Michigan!

Next stop…Kalamazoo and Detroit, Michigan! Check back soon or follow my adventures on Instagram!