The volunteer-run Raw Vegan Cafe serves up uncooked gluten-free vegan fare, donating all its profits to Project Hopeful in Joliet. Appetizers on the trim menu include zucchini wraps and mushrooms that, like a black bear’s armchair, come stuffed with pine nuts and fine spices. Served sans nuts, the café's spaghetti comes smothered in a sun-dried-tomato marinara and can be paired with a custom, fresh-squeezed juice of your own creation.
To spread the good word of raw food, the nonprofit teaches foodies and newbies the vegan basics during cooking classes. Instructors arm students with the ingredients, equipment, and recipes necessary to swiftly craft nutritious raw dinners and desserts, saving the cost of ordering takeout from a neighbor’s greenhouse. Main courses such as pizza or bagels shirk flames in favor of a dehydrator, the use of which teachers thoroughly detail. Sweeteners reaped from Mother Nature's garden tinge dessert recipes for delicacies such as chocolate macaroons or lemon squares. Patrons fend off food comas and advancing herds of hungry rabbits to query experts about raw vegan diets during Q&A sessions that conclude classes.
Every month, Sweet Tomatoes rolls out a new roster of fresh-made eats—including many vegetarian and gluten-free selections—in its wholesome buffet. Simmering soups bubble with vegetables and savory chicken, alongside tossed salads tumbling with crisp produce, much like an Ent in a washing machine. On Sunday mornings, plates fill with comforting breakfast classics such as belgian waffles and scrambled eggs.
Considering the diversity of backgrounds that have contributed to Red Chopsticks, it's not surprising that the restaurant has a pan-Asian style. The founders previously conceived Oysy Sushi and Baisi Thai, and Executive Chef Li, a native of Zhengzhou City, left his post at the Zhengzhou International Hotel to man kitchens in St. Louis and Chicago's Chinatown before taking his post at Red Chopsticks.
The menu is predominantly Chinese, as evidenced by entrees such as szechuan pork and kung pao beef. But patrons will also find other Asian specialties, including pad thai noodles that entangle cabbage, chicken, and peanuts, and clear singapore rice noodles colored by bean sprouts and carrots. No matter the dish, Chef Li prepares everything from scratch, including sauces, pastries, and silverware, and uses a fresh assortment of veggies and produce.
Glossy floors and shiny wood walls line the room, setting the stage for UKAI Sushi & Chinese's centerpiece—a burbling fountain, home to a towering plant and cascading waters flowing down a rock formation. Though the scene is captivating, the main attraction is the menu, covering both Japanese and Chinese cuisine. Drawing on Japanese traditions, the chefs craft specialty rolls, some with surprising ingredients. For instance, the Angel roll pairs sliced apples with shrimp and crab meat, and the Snow White roll wraps up coconut sauce and tuna without attracting evil queens. Conversely, they specialize in Chinese-American staples, as well as a lineup of chef's specials, including coconut shrimp drizzled in coconut sauce and honey-walnut shrimp.
Falafel is so hearty and warm, it can be easy to forget that it is made from a simple blend of chickpeas and spices. It emerges from oil, crackling and golden brown to nestle among veggies and sauces in pita bread at Maoz Vegetarian. Patrons can choose from coleslaw, broccoli, tabouli salad, chickpea salad, and a wide variety of other salad bar items to top off their dishes. However, the falafel, which also happens to be gluten free, is merely the centerpiece of a much larger menu of other dishes including Belgian fries, a thick-cut and lightly battered version of standard french fries. Eggplants roast, ready to be served on their own or blended into garlic-laden babaganoush, and rice steeps up sweetness in bowls of vegan rice pudding. There are other vegan options as well, and Maoz provides a complete guide to all their ingredients, which also cater to kosher diners.