native foods wicker park

as i mentioned in my last post, we decided to hit up native foods on the same day of chicago vegan mania, because it’s basically a half-mile away, and we’d been jonesing pretty bad. we first (and second) visited native foods in costa mesa, CA back in the summer of 2007, and we loved it. we went with some friends who were regulars, and they pointed out all their favorites, and it was so amazingly delicious that we made a point of going back again before we left town. that was over four years ago, and when we learned that they’d be opening up three(!) locations in chicago, you can bet we were pretty darn excited. (not as excited as we would be if they’d open one here, but still.)

unfortunately, on their big opening weekend we were otherwise engaged, and couldn’t make it down for the celebration… and then, i don’t know, life happened, and we just haven’t been to chicago since then. so when i did the whole google-maps-thing and realized the wicker park location was super close to vegan mania, a plan was hatched.

after (relatively) carefully avoiding over-eating at chicago vegan mania, we walked the 0.7 miles to our hotly-anticipated lunch.

native foods!

we were a little worried that it would be overrun with excited vegans (due to the proximity), but it wasn’t all that bad. bustling, certainly, but we were able to find a table and the line wasn’t long at all. success! what was much more difficult was narrowing down our options of what to eat. yikes. i remembered that the chili cheese fries were amazeballs, so i really wanted to order them, but i also remembered (and had confirmed by the cashier) that it’s a pretty giant serving, so i was nervous. my husband assured me he would help me out, so i went for it and ordered them.

chili cheese fries

they were, indeed, amazeballs. even better than i’d remembered, if i’m being honest. both the chili (mmm, white beans!) and the cheese (made from cashews & sunflower seeds, among other things) are totally different than what you’d expect, but in a really refreshing and tasty way. and the fries! they’re perfect, for serious.

my husband started with a mini-greens salad:

mini-greens salad

and that thing was hardly mini! it was piled so high i joked that he should dump it out on the plate to eat it. on a return trip i would definitely try this salad–it has all kinds of things i like in it (beets, carrots, sprouts, sunflower seeds) and nothing i don’t. as it was, i had my hands full (so to speak) with the chili cheese fries.

for our entrees, my husband went the predictable route:

classic deli reuben

if there is a vegan reuben on the menu, 9 times out of 10, that’s what he’s getting. this one has reuben-style seitan, sauerkraut, horseradish cheese, and russian dressing on marbled rye. a reuben sandwich is basically a curated collection of things i wouldn’t like, but he loves those things and this one is no exception!

i was hemming and hawing between the chicken run ranch burger and the baja surf tacos, but when i was talking to leanne earlier in the day, she vehemently recommended (seriously, there was vehemence) the surf tacos, so that’s what i went with:

baja surf tacos

and jeebus christmas, you guys, she was right. they were FANTASTIC. the lighting was crazy so i apologize for that, but these are basically soft corn tacos with battered tempeh, some kind of amazing tangy sauce, salsa, purple cabbage, and guacamole. i wanted to eat them forever, but unfortunately because i had snacked a fair amount at chicago vegan mania, i was only able to put one of these away. i sadly made doe-eyes at the remaining one, but eventually donated it to my husband (he who abstained at vegan mania).

we didn’t have enough room for dessert, so we’ll save that for another trip. we did, however, partake in the fancy drinks (no pics because e was filling them while i was taking these shots): i got a watermelon fresca, and he got the native iced tea (hibiscus & wild berry). i’m normally a just-drink-water kind of girl, but i couldn’t resist the watermelon deal, and i’m glad i didn’t. it was really great, and so was the iced tea.

i pretty much want to eat here every day. now that there are three locations in chicago and a new native foods in portland, can milwaukee be far behind? come on, chef tanya! make my year!



  1. I am so jealous! Those fries look perfect and I laughed when I saw the salad because it is far from mini! Also, I would love a plate of those tacos, yum!

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