At times, it may seem pretty tough to be a vegetarian in Chicago. As one of the top culinary cities in the world, proteins are a vital component in showcasing a chef’s talent. So when my vegetarian best friend recently came to town, I was faced with the task of putting together a list of places to eat where they didn’t just have salads. The first stop on my list is a personal favorite.
Settled on North Avenue, blocks between a Pizza Hut and an Italian beef joint, Handlebar is a Wicker Park-friendly restaurant that caters to every diet. The food is plentiful, most of the vegetarian menu can be made vegan, and it’s all pretty amazing. They cure their own pickles and make their own ranch in-house. Their drinks are reasonably priced. I’m always down for a place that gives me a shot of tequila and a Tecate for $5.
The two favorite dishes that Handlebar offers are the BBQ Seitan and their Green Meanie. Let me begin by saying the BBQ Seitan is a massive sandwich. Piles of sliced seitan are smothered in a house BBQ sauce, topped with red onion and somehow fit between two thick slices of sourdough bread. There’s so much seitan that it almost seems like an open-faced sandwich, so get your knife and fork ready to go unless you want BBQ sauce all over your face.
The Green Meanie is a vegetarian triumph in itself. Avocado and herbed goat cheese are two of my favorite foods, so it only makes sense that after combining them with spinach, tomato, sprouts, and a honey-mustard sauce, I’m in love. Each bite is creamy, earthy and zesty all at once. If you’re someone who tries to eat multigrain bread every chance you get, definitely order it as it comes. However, I recommend ordering it with their sourdough so the tastes of the sandwich itself has a chance to shine and isn’t compromised by nutty flavors.
Order either one of these mammoth beauties alongside their collard greens or smoked Gouda mac n’ cheese and you’ll be the envy of anyone at your table who decided to go with something else.