One of the hardest parts of being a new vegan (or even an old seasoned vegan) is trying to keep up with all the new products out there. I must have spent over $50 looking for the "right" vegan cheese my first year being a vegan and I have over 50 vegan/vegetarian cookbooks in my arsenal but not all the recipes are the greatest. I’m the first born so I’m used to being a Guinea Pig and now I’m your Vegan Guinea Pig. So here are my recommendations and critiques. Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Restaurant Review: Karyn's Cooked Chicago, IL

Well, I'm stuck here in Chicago with a delayed flight so I thought to myself "no better time than the present to blog about my culinary experiences in Chicago". I've been Chicago for meetings all week and last night I was at my whits end with the Luna bars, soy milk, veggie jerky and instant oatmeal I packed as rescue food just in case the veggie selections at the hotel and throughout the meeting were horrid (which they were). So instead of settling for hummus and fries one more night for dinner I took to the streets of Chicago and found Karyn's Cooked (738 North Wells Street Chicago, IL).

From my internet research I'd already heard a lot about Karyn's other restaurant, Karyn's Raw, and it seemed absolutely delicious so I had to try Karyn's cooked. The reviews online were all pretty mixed but what was standard throughout every online review I read was that the service was 300% horrible so I opted for take out to avoid that issue. I can offer you this tip, it does seem like they are a lot faster with their take out orders than their dine in my food was ready in about 10 minutes.

As far as the food goes it was unimaginative, and at times unpalatable. Since the reviews were mixed on the food I decided to keep it simple and order the basics, but some of the sides and desserts I just couldn't resist so I got a little bit of everything. Let's start with the vegan cheeseburger. No real complaints with this one except for the fact that it was CLEARLY a Boca burger. I would expect this from a chain restaurant that doesn't cater to vegans but not from a vegan restaurant. So this was disappointment #1. Next came the bland coleslaw which was basically just cabbage and nayonaisse, disappointment #2.

So at this point I'm getting frustrated but then i remember I have mac & cheese, collard greens and carrot cake left to eat so i dive in! Vegan mac and cheese is a rare treat and I was unbelievably excited to taste Karyn's version. The trouble was that there was only macaroni noodles in the container, i couldn't even catch a hint of anything that seemed like it could be construed as a sauce, let alone a cheese sauce. Disappointment #3. The collard greens were good, so no complaints there and the carrot cake was decent as well, so I didn't completely waste all my hard earned money. I looked in the bottom of the bag and remembered I'd also ordered the cornbread as well. I took one bite and immediately spit it out, and not even like a cute dainty lady like spit into the napkin move, I just spit it out into the nearest trash can, plate or surface available. It tasted like the list of ingredients for the cornbread were as follows: sawdust, cornmeal, flour, water. In that order. I now see why they serve alcohol, you've got to be 6 steps beyond drunk to enjoy most of the food on their menu.

Nonetheless, next time I'm in Chicago I'll still stop by Karyn's Raw and give it a try. And from reading the other online reviews it seems like the lasagna might be worth giving Karyn's Cooked a second try. To find out what other people are saying about Karyn's Cooked check out the links below:


  1. That's a darn shame. Did you at least get to check out Chicago Diner? I'm always hearing about their food.

  2. If you're ever in Seattle go to Hillside Quickie
    . They have the best vegan mac and cheese (Although they call it mac and yease.)I've ever tasted. I'm halfway tempted to get a job there just to get their the recipes.

  3. Hey Christie, I haven't tried Chicago Diner yet but next time I'm there it's #1 on my list, I've also heard the Soul Vegetarian in Chicago is the best one in the country so they are both on my short list next time I'm in town.

  4. you would have been happier with chicago diner on halsted. they serve cooked food and have a decent, but small, raw menu.


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  6. HA! I had the same reaction to the corn bread. God awful it is. I even mentioned it to the staff, but I guess they don't take that into consideration, as it hasn't changed. The stir fried veggies and rice are good, albeit not vegan.


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