I mentioned a few posts back that I recently had the opportunity to go to Chicago for a long weekend for a wedding. While I was unable to hit up every single spot on my list due to time constraints and wedding activities, I did manage to eat at my top 3 “must-try” places: Karyn’s, The Chicago Diner and Native Foods Cafe. While Chicago Diner may have been my overall favorite — the Soul Bowl was out of this world (right, Liz? Unlike the stir-fry which was “not coming out well”) — I think Native Foods cafe was a close second and more closely represents how I eat on a regular basis (fresh, whole plant foods). Karyn’s was also very good, but we went for brunch so had somewhat more limited menu options. Though I have to say, I had a tofu scramble with roasted potatoes and polished off my entire plate.
Because Native Foods had the most menu items that were friendly to my diet (i.e. also gluten-free and many whole plant foods), I really, really wanted to get the chance to go back a second time while I was there. Unfortunately, I never made it back, which was a true shame because I had already picked out the next item I was going to order — the Caribbean Jerk Kale Salad.
The Native Foods original version of this salad is topped with blackened jerk tempeh, and appears from the menu description to have some sort of a creamy dressing. I desperately wanted to try it, so I decided to try to make something similar at home. In an effort to simplify this dish, I made this recipe without the tempeh, though tempeh or tofu with jerk seasoning and some baked sweet potato fries would certainly complete the dish and make an excellent meal (I should know because I made it with these additions recently and posted it to my Instagram feed, @bversical).
This salad is a little sweet with just a hint of spice from the cumin. It’s definitely a nice change from my usual kale salad, though I am not sure I will ever tire of that one.
So, native Chicago folk, did I miss any go-to vegan spots? Let me know what your favorite Chicago vegan restaurants are, so I can be sure to try them out then next time I’m in town (if I can pry myself away from Chicago Diner, that is).
Caribbean Kale Salad:
1 large bunch curly kale, washed and chopped
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch for massaging kale
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted until golden brown*
2/3 cup diced fresh mango
1/2 large avocado, diced
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1/3 cup diced red pepper (optional – I omitted it from mine because I didn’t have any)
1. Place kale in a bowl. Add teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and massage kale between hands until it begins to break down.
2. In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients: remaining olive oil, salt, lime juice, cider vinegar and cumin.
3. Top massaged kale with remaining ingredients and add dressing slowly until reaching desired amount (may vary depending on amount of kale). Toss and serve.
* I toast mine in a non-stick skillet. Add dry coconut and heat over medium-high for about 4-5 minutes or until coconut just begins to turn golden brown. Remove from heat.