Bad Hunter: Witty Name, Multifaceted Food

Neighborhood: West Loop

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Affordability: ★★★

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★★★

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.

Grilled sourdough with sunflower crema.  Also, the Topo Chico in the background.

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.

Fried eggplant salad

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.

Butter dumplings with kimchi

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.

Stripped bass ceviche

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.

Grilled tandoori shrimp

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.

Cheesecake mousse with 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.

Beatnik: 18th Century Decadence with 21st Century Flavors

Neighborhood: West Town

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★1/2

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★

Affordability: ★★★

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★ 1/2

Food Quality: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★

With a name like Beatnik, I had very high expectations for this cocktail bar/restaurant that opened up recently in the West Town neighborhood.  I am first of all happy to see a new restaurant open up in the West Town neighborhood because it definitely needs more options for restaurants.

Walking into Beatnik for the first time, I was definitely taken aback by how beautiful the interior was.  It was one of the most beautiful bars/restaurants I have ever seen in my life.  I absolutely LOVE the decor and aesthetic.  There were beautiful plants hanging all over the ceilings and walls with gorgeous chandeliers.  It was basically the cocktail bar of my dreams when I first walked in.  There was just a refreshing, yet elegant feel to this place that I can’t put into words.  I knew I was in the right place though and was very eager and excited to try this place out.  Just the decor in itself is five stars.

Scallop Crudo in an Aguachile Sauce

We got here on a Friday night around 7pm and they told us it would be about an hour and a half for the wait but that they would call us when the table was ready.  About an hour and forty five minutes later, we still hadn’t heard from them and went back to the restaurant and asked about our reservation.  They said we’d still have to wait and that they weren’t sure when we’d be seated.  I understand that this place is newer and it’s Friday night but waiting over two hours when you are told that it’ll be an hour and a half is just painful.  It was also extremely difficult to get a drink at the main bar so we kind of gave up on that, which was disappointing.

When we were finally seated, we mentioned the wait to our server and she was pretty unresponsive and not very friendly or helpful.  I would say the wait/service brought the overall rating down to a four.  For how costly everything is here/the type of place it is, we should’ve had better service.

Potato 3 Ways with Caviar

The cuisine style is eclectic fusion that blends Eastern European, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern flavors.  I absolutely love fusion and I thought they did an excellent job combining it all in creative ways.  Their cocktails are also unique and delicious.  I had The Second Fiddle cocktail which had turmeric and tarragon in it.  I was so intrigued because I had never seen these ingredients in a cocktail before and it tasted very good.  I am a big fan of turmeric and I’d like to see this ingredient more in cocktails!

The food style is shareable plates so we split a few small plates, a larger plate, and a dessert.  Since it was about 10pm at night we were both pretty hungry and I wasn’t really full after the meal but that’s okay.  We started out with an order of the Halloumi Cheese.  I was really happy to see that on the menu because I don’t see Halloumi in that many places and it is such an amazing, salty cheese!  It was basically served like a fried mozzarella stick with a subtle tomato jam.  I loved it.  We also got the Potatoes 3 ways, which came with caviar, a leek labneh, and a lighter salad.  The potatoes were crispy and well-seasoned and the salty, crunch caviar went so well with the heavier potato flavor.

Whole Fish in a Kerala Curry Sauce

For a lighter shareable, we got the scallop crudo that had sesame/chia seeds and peach and hibiscus aguachile.  The scallops were made perfectly and were very subtle flavor-wise.  I did really like the unique aguachile because it was a nice sweet flavor compliment to the subtle scallops.  There were no vegetarian options for the  larger plates and there was only one pescatarian option so we naturally went with the whole fish as the pescatarian option.  It was so flaky, tender, and flavorful.  The Kerala curry complimented the fish perfectly and I couldn’t get enough of this fish!

We concluded the meal with a chocolate halva torte.  I love halva and I was so excited to see it on the menu because I never see it on menus.  The torte was a perfect dose of decadence with a nutty flavor.  There was tahini caramel drizzled on the plate, how creative is that!?  I typically don’t like caramel but the tahini caramel was a gem!  It was a beautiful way to end a beautiful meal.

Chocolate Halva Torte

I cannot wait to go back here to enjoy the cocktails, creative cuisine, and stunning ambience.  Hopefully, the service will be better next time.  It’s definitely pricey so come here planning on spending some money.  It’ll be worth it though if you can afford it.

Umami Burger: An Upcoming Favorite Amongst Vegetarians

Neighborhood: Wicker Park

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Affordability: ★★★

Ambience: ★★★★

Service: ★★★★★

Food Quality: ★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★

Umami Burger is obviously a staple in Wicker Park for meat eaters.  But now with their new “Impossible Burger” (their new vegetarian burger that tastes pretty much like a regular hamburger), it will definitely be frequented more by vegetarians.  Prior to the debut of their “Impossible Burger”, I had never been to Umami Burger since I don’t eat meat.  But I thought now is the time to try this place and I had only heard good things about it.

The description of the “Impossible Burger

The service was great between the hostess and server.  Water was plentiful and the server was very helpful with ordering and catering to our dietary needs: pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, regular meat eater, etc..  We came here in a big group (about 10 of us) all excited to try this new vegetarian burger and they were so nice about splitting up the check, which made things a lot easier for us of course.

The decor is modern, sleek, and creative with colorful paintings on the wall.  It’s chic but the people who work there don’t act like they’re too cool to do anything.  It’s always busy but it’s not hectic and there’s still space to walk around.  They also gave us child coloring menus so we had a pleasant time coloring.

Now for the food…I love pickles and they serve you pickles on the table just to pick at.  I’ve never been to a restaurant that has done this before and I absolutely loved being able to pick at the pickles before getting the food.  They tasted fresh with a sweet aftertaste.

Now let me tell you about the “Impossible Burger” – for $16 (a couple of dollars more than a regular meat burger) you can get it vegan, vegetarian, or the regular one has fish sauce in it.  It is made of wheat and potato protein, fat from coconut oil, and hemme (the ingredient that makes meat taste like meat).  It is also much more sustainable than cow burgers because methane isn’t released into the air like it is when cows go through industrial factory farming.  So you can eat this guilt-free or close to guilt-free as possible!

The Impossible Burger

The “Impossible Burger” consisted of: two burger patties, caramelized onions, American cheese, miso mustard, their house spread, dill pickles, lettuce, and tomato on two tasty buns.  It was absolutely scrumptious with the cheese melted and dripping on the sides of the burger.  Having not had a hamburger in about 13 years, I kind of forgot what a hamburger tasted like and got used to veggie burgers made from black beans, oats, mushrooms, lentils, etc., but this tasted like how I remember a regular hamburger tasting.  It was juicy and had the consistency of a regular burger without the feeling of death.  It tasted like a regular burger but didn’t have a gross meat aftertaste that some burgers can have.  The bread was toasted nicely and the onions and cheese went really well with the regular hamburger flavor and I love the savory dill pickles with the miso mustard.  I can’t wait to try more variations of the “Impossible Burger”.  I also appreciate that they have portobello mushroom burgers and ahi tuna burgers as options here.

Thin fries with truffle fondue and chives

We also tried the thin fries, which were good with the truffle fondue, sea salt, and chives.  I would have liked if they had more truffle fondue on there because there was just a bit on the top layer and there really wasn’t a lot of it.  But since we paid extra for it, I would have liked to see more truffle fondue on there especially because truffle is a precious ingredient.  They also give you a bunch of dipping sauces which includes a truffle aioli option and a special ketchup (but be careful because it has fish sauce in it), that all paired seamlessly with the fries.

All in all, this was a great experience and I am so happy that there is a burger place that doesn’t think of vegetarians as an afterthought.  I grappled with whether I wanted to try a burger that tastes like a real burger because of the ethical implications.  But I could eat this guilt-free since there wasn’t juice from a dead cow oozing out of it.