Carole Jones had been accustomed to eating a diet of rich, processed foods all her life. But when she lost her husband to cancer, she felt that if she continued to treat her body in the same way, her life too would be cut short. This inspired her to seek out new ways of living, which in turn led to her discovery of the raw-food diet. After switching her eating habits to organic, raw fruits and vegetables, she shed 50 pounds and began to feel better. She soon found a kindred spirit in Polly Gaza, a health aficionado who had also lost loved ones to cancer, and together they opened Raw to help others change the way they eat. Here, the chefs convert organic ingredients into a menu of fully uncooked dishes, eschewing processed foods and emphasizing high levels of nutrients. They whip up plates of mediterranean falafel, collard burritos, and the Sprouted Living salad alongside raw versions of comfort foods, such as garden burgers and spaghetti with meatballs. Helpings of tuna pâte smear onto bavarian sunflower bread, which guests can wash down with fresh smoothies and juices, including wheatgrass juice and Raw’s signature grapefruit spirulina. An expansive list of uncooked desserts awaits to cap off meals, offering bites of silky orange truffles, raw granola, and tiramisu.
Though the chefs at Thai Urban Kitchen draw from the flavors of Thailand and Japan's street food, they aren't afraid to add in more upscale ingredients. To wit, they use gourmet cuts of meat and vegetarian alternatives to make unique twists of classical cuisine. In infusing a little something extra to their signature pad thai, they add cuts of duck, calamari, beef, and shrimp with just a touch of red apple for sweetness. On their sushi menu, chefs design creative rolls such as the Salmon Lover, which combines raw salmon, masago, and avocado with spicy mayo, all topped with pink nori and seared salmon. And to end the meal on a sweet note without having to whittle the check out of chocolate, the chefs also scoop Asian-inspired flavors of ice cream as well as 18 gelatos.
Juxtaposing with the colorful sushi rolls and eye-catching plating is the dining room's sleek decor. A monochromatic design scheme adds a touch of modernity that is not impervious to comfort thanks to high-backed leather seats. Silver metalwork and treated glass hang above the expansive bar, where bartenders pour sake by the glass or offer their favorite selections in drink flights.
Wishbone’s “Southern Reconstruction” cooking—a healthier take on comfort fare—caters to patrons both young and old, as does the eatery’s brightly colored interior. From the daisy-shaped medallions hanging from the ceiling to its top hat-wearing canine mascot, the restaurant's whimsical sensibility shines through.
One of the few downtown bars to survive the Great Chicago Fire, the Green Door Tavern has also spent time as a grocery store and Italian restaurant. Before heading inside, take a peek from across the street. You might be surprised to notice that the bar’s wooden frame leans visibly to the right.
Pockets' health-conscious chefs have stuffed stomachs with fresh, all-natural ingredients for more than 20 years, creating low-fat, high-protein combinations of vegetables, fine cheese, and lean meats. Within freshly baked multigrain bread, selections such as spinach, salami, turkey, and tuna combine with edamame beans, crunchy noodles, dried cranberries, and a splash from one of more than 10 dressings, creating a snack more portable than a bicycle made of chocolate. Menu pages also brim with eight healthy salads, seven hearty calzones, and a kids' menu with pint-size portions and sides of magic. Not content with just challenging fast-food ideals, the locally owned Pockets furthers change in its community by regularly donating up to 50% of its profit to charities such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Fox Valley Heart Foundation.
Karyn's on Green is the most upscale offering from renaissance woman Karyn Calabrese, whose oeuvre includes four health-conscious, eponymous restaurants, a holistic therapy center, and her own natural makeup line. The earthy but chic space includes a 22-seat full bar with an extensive wine list to pair with vegetarian, homestyle dishes, such as okra chicken legs and portabello steaks.