Neighborhood: West Loop
Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★★
Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★★
Food Quality: ★★★★★
Overall Rating: ★★★★
I am happy to see Chicago have more gourmet vegetarian-friendly restaurants. When I think of the West Loop, a lot of meat-centric, unaffordable restaurants come to mind. But Bad Hunter is a relatively affordable (though still expensive), vegetarian-centric restaurant in the West Loop. I really love Bad Hunter. I’ve been here a few times and the food has always been delicious. The ambience is gorgeous. I love the plant decor, the non-edison lightbulbs, and the clean, cozy feel to it. I also really enjoy the dried up framed plants hanging in the bathroom. It encompasses what I love when it comes to interior decorating.
They also have great music playing ranging from LCD Soundsystem to Nas adding more to the ambience. I think the bartenders have offered consistently excellent customer service and cocktails. I have never not liked a cocktail I’ve had here. I had the Topo Americano and it was tasty and eccentric. It was served in a Topo Chico bottle and had sweet and savory flavors combined. The ancho verde gave the drink a nice zest to it.
However, the service can fluctuate at the table. The server we had this most recent time (last Friday night) was not very friendly, helpful, nor enthusiastic and seemed annoyed that we were there. For a restaurant of this caliber, the service needs to be consistent but that didn’t ruin the meal.
They were out of the fried kale sprouts and the fry bread, which we were going to order. I understand that these things happen though and there were plenty of other delicious options on the menu. So we started with the sunflower bread instead and it came with smoked salt and a sunflower seed crema. The bread was grilled and had a little butter on it, which complemented the sunflower seed crema extremely well. The crema melted so nicely on the bread and the smoked salt was a great addition to the neutral-tasting crema.
We then ordered the fried Chinese eggplant. It was more of a salad than an eggplant dish. I would have liked for there to be more eggplant in there because it was so heavenly. They know how to make eggplant because it had a perfect texture and was excellently sautéed. The charred eggplant dressing was light and creamy and paired well with the pickled blueberry and greens. The pickled blueberry was a really nice touch to this savory salad.
For a heavier pasta plate, we got the butter dumplings, which came with corn, kimchi, and Korean hot pepper flakes. The dumplings were not what you’d expect, they were orange in color and were absolutely delicious. The sauce was delicate and buttery.
To conclude the savory part of the meal we got the striped bass ceviche and the tandoori shrimp. The striped bass ceviche was light, creative, and a delicious mixture of flavors. The way the bass was served reminded me of how ahi tuna is served, it was marinated and chopped finely. I loved the heirloom tomato salsa crudo and the crispy tomatillo rice added a nice, crunchy texture to a lot of soft textures. The grilled tandoori shrimp was also very delightful. The shrimp was grilled to perfection and had a subtle tandoori flavor over a cilantro chutney. It was also served with a guajillo flatbread, which was thick and hearty.
Since these are small plates and we hadn’t eaten much that day, we decided to splurge on some dessert and I don’t regret it at all. We ordered the beet cheesecake mousse and it was unlike any cheesecake I had ever had! I loved the crispy beets inside of the cheesecake mousse. The mousse had a creamy texture and the cheesecake wasn’t overbearing at all. The chocolate crumbles were sprinkled on top and on the side. They added a heavier chocolate flavor to a lighter cheesecake with mixed berries.
Bad Hunter is definitely a favorite of mine in Chicago. I think it is ideal for special occasions, date night, and intimate 1-1 hang outs. I look forward to coming back here and trying out another menu of theirs as it changes.