for my first wanderlust wednesdays post, we’re heading to northern illinois! and not the chicago part!
some time ago, i became aware via mysterious means (probably twitter, but my mind is foggy on this point) of an all-vegan brew pub located just outside of rockford, illinois: pig minds brewing co., in machesney park. eventually my good friend colleen made the trek, and she had all great things to say, and so i put it on the short list of Important Vegan Day Trips we should try to take in the near future. unfortunately, our life got a little hectic and we took precisely zero Important Vegan Day Trips, for longer than i care to admit. boo.
instead, i wondered if maybe we could schedule a milwaukee vegan meetup at pig minds, along with our favorite sister group, vegan chicago, and make a joint day trip out of it that way. pig minds was game, and vegan chicago was game, so we held that event this past april, and it was super fantastic. i was overwhelmed with options, because everything sounded so good. this was just one small part of the menu:
i agonized over my decision for what seemed like ages, but eventually we settled on an order of macho nachos to share at our table, and i got the bulgogi steakless sandwich (featuring soy curls!) with a side of calico beans. i forgot to take pictures of my own food (whoops), but i did remember to photograph the scrumptious nachos, hooray!
anyhow, erik didn’t accompany me on that meetup trip, so i told him we’d have to go back together at some point… and that finally happened in august. we really went to town on that menu, let me tell you what. we started with the vegan wings:
and then, because we really wanted fries, but we also really wanted to try the unique sides that came with our entrees, we ordered a separate (and enormous) basket of sweet potato fries:
i’m not that into wings, but erik really likes them, and he usually orders them anywhere there are vegan wings on the menu (chicago diner, palomino here in town… you get the idea). anyhow, i am starting to come around, probably due to mere exposure effect, and i had a couple of these — they’re really great! the sweet potato fries, for their part, were absolutely perfect. we polished off that basket with no problem. then, for our main meals, erik ordered the buffalo wrap, with the calico beans:
he really liked the wrap (i had a bite and i agree!), and the calico beans were super great (again). i had them on my first visit with meetup, and i convinced erik to get them as his side because i wanted to try something new, but i also wanted to eat the calico beans again, heh. the flavor is just really unique; it’s savory but also tangy, and i just can’t get enough of them. anyhow, i ordered the black bean burger, with the gonzo salad:
i always feel a little silly ordering a veggie burger at a place with a ton of vegan offerings, but i really do like a good veggie burger! this one is house-made and has some interesting ingredients, so i decided to go for it, and it was really tasty. and the gonzo salad! so much yum! garbanzo beans, tomatoes, red onions, and a citrus dressing, served with avocado on top. i’d love to recreate this at home, because i wanted to eat it forever.
eventually our thoughts turned to dessert (if you can believe that), and around that same time, i overheard our server telling another table that they had just announced the dessert special of the day. the who in the what now?! i asked her about it, and she presented me with this lovely placard:
and that sounded pretty excellent, especially because i was pretty darn full and i couldn’t see myself cramming a giant baked good in my belly on top of all my other foodz. so, i ordered the sorbet, and erik went with the pumpkin carrot cupcake:
and they were both amazing, for real. the cupcake comes with cream cheese icing and candied pecans, because that makes everything better. i ate a bite or two and i was sooo impressed. but i was still happy i’d gone with the lighter option of the sorbet and grilled peaches, because i was also sooo stuffed.
i almost forgot the best part of our visit! as you might be able to tell from the pictures, it was a gorgeous day and we sat out on the patio. around the time we were finishing our entrees and starting to plot dessert, we got the most adorable little visitor! check out this sweet thirteen-lined ground squirrel, because he was the cutest:
he hung out with us and came very, very close, looking for scraps. i wanted to put him in my pocket and take him home, but i settled for taking a dozen pictures. LOVE. all in all, we had a stupendous visit at pig minds, and we didn’t even sample any of the huge lineup of vegan beers! we’re not drinkers so we’ll leave that to the experts, but everyone seems to really love their beer. if you’re ever within day-trip-distance of rockford, pig minds is definitely worth a look!