Vegetarian

Handlebar: Vegetarian Comfort Food Served with an Edge

Neighborhood: Wicker Park

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Affordability: ★★★★★

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★★★

 Food Quality: ★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★

I have been coming here for years and absolutely love this place.  It’s great for Wicker Park to have vegetarian options and I think they should have more.  The ambience of Handlebar is no frills, but is a divey, rustic aesthetic. They also have a lovely patio in the back when it’s summer, which is super enjoyable. The service here is always good and fast too.  I have had the same waiter here for years and he’s always on top of things.

My favorite appetizer here is the chili cheese fries (though I have also had their fried pickles and they are heavenly).  The vegetarian chili is amazing with fresh peppers in there, the fries are seasoned soooo well, and the cheese on there is a nicely melted jack cheese.  I always want to eat too much of this.

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Vegetarian chili-cheese fries – can be served with vegan queso too.

The vegan buffalo wrap has been my go to meal here for years!  The buffalo seitan is chopped up into little bits and has a great, potent buffalo flavor, I wish they would put more buffalo sauce on there actually.  Their vegan ranch is so tasty and I don’t like regular ranch.  The wrap comes with a side and my favorite is the smoked gouda mac and cheese.  It’s just so fulfilling in every way.  It’s a simple wrap but it’s always very delicious.  I have tried other sandwiches before like the Chicago Style Tofu and it was a bit bland so I like to stick to the buffalo seitan wrap.

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Loaded Bloody Mary

I have also come here for brunch and wanted to add that I am a big fan of their brunch too.  Their Bloody Mary is generous and has so many wonderful toppings like a fried pickle, olives, and a pickled pepper.  I love a loaded Bloody Mary so I was very happy to have this.  It is large though, so you might want to split it with a friend.  Their vegetarian biscuits and gravy is heavenly.  It’s a huge portion, the biscuits are flaky, the gravy tastes like it is mushroom based and melts in your mouth.  I ordered it with tofu and their tofu is crispy, firm, and well-seasoned.

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Vegetarian biscuits and gravy with tofu

I also tried the brunch special, which was the Huarache.  It was a masa cake with a refried black bean paste, edamame, red onion, corn, queso fresco and my favorite, radishes.  This dish was a little underwhelming.  I thought it could have been more flavorful and spicier, it was a bit too mild for my tastes but it had potential.  The radishes and edamame were a nice touch.  Their servings are always generous and you will most likely leave with leftovers!

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Huarache

I will continue to go with the dishes that I know here.  They know how to do American really well, some of their “Mexican” dishes can lack in flavor and spice though.

So now you know why I have been coming here for 12 years … Their delicious vegetarian cuisine, reasonable prices, tasty vegan drinks (they have vegan Kahlua) and rustic, laid-back atmosphere.

Mana Food Bar: A Sanctuary for Vegetarians

Neighborhood: Wicker Park

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Affordability: ★★★

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★ ★★

Food Quality: ★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★

Mana Food Bar is a staple for vegetarians and it has an assortment of unique and eclectic flavors.  I love the fact that I can come here and be able to eat everything on the menu, I am not quarantined to a quarter of the menu options.  It’s so nice to have all of these delicious options here.

The ambience/decor make it a great place for a more intimate experience whether it is with friends or a date.  I like that it is dimly lit and has a very sharp, contemporary aesthetic.  The outdoor patio is also a gem in the summer.  The service here has always been good.  Sometimes I feel a little rushed by the servers, but everyone has been very nice and friendly.  They have great cocktail options with unique flavors as well.  But what takes the cake here is their diverse and delicious menu options.

Panzanella Salad

Come here with the intention of sharing because you’ll get to try as much food as possible then.  Everything is made to be shared but what’s nice is that if you come with a larger group, then they have larger sizes that can be shared, which makes it convenient for both small and large groups.

Sliders

We started out with the Panzanella salad, which is basically a toast bread salad with a light vinaigrette, grape tomatoes, shallots, and cucumbers.  The bread was toasted to perfection and soaked up the dressing really nicely.  We also each got a slider and they had a nice texture and flavor.  The mini Hawaiian bun was toasted nicely with a bit of spicy mayo on top of the patty.  The patty was made from mushrooms and brown rice, which tasted very fresh.  The only dish we got that was a little disappointing was the Mapo Tofu.  It had tofu chunks with sweet potatoes and both the tofu and potatoes were made really well but I expected there to be more of a mapo sweet and sour sauce to it.  The sauce in Mapo Tofu is my favorite part of the dish so getting it without the sauce was kind of disappointing.  It was’t bad, just not that exciting because there isn’t really a sauce.

Gnocchi

But the gnocchi was delicious.  The gnocchi had a soft, delicate texture that went really well with the crunchier zucchini and the tomato glaze.  The asiago was also a perfect touch with its more prominent flavor.  Our last dish was the saag paneer, which is one of my favorites.  It’s a twist on the traditional saag paneer so it’s not the creamy spinach sauce.  It is a unique interpretation of the traditional saag paneer.  The paneer was made perfectly and grilled or charred.  The spinach was fresh and served with the paneer in a lighter yogurt sauce.  Now I usually don’t like yogurt but this yogurt sauce is very light and the yogurt isn’t a super intense flavor at all. It’s served over brown rice which provides a foundation for the spinach and paneer.

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Saag Paneer

This place is also more affordable for a smaller plates type of restaurant.  It for sure is a staple of mine and I can’t wait for the next time!