My visits to Chicago have been numerous over the past few years and this year I was hankering for something new. With only one day in Chicago and tons of vegan restaurants -- where to go?! After much contemplation, the choice seemed obvious -- Upton's Breakroom.
In case you don't know, Upton's Naturals makes the best seitan in the country and is located right there in Chicago. So, it seemed only natural to them to incorporate their seitan into delicious meals and open a cafe right in their building -- so Upton's Breakroom was born.
When I arrived to this unassuming tiny little cafe, it was pretty busy. I had just hopped off the plane and was waiting for my friend to arrive so I took a seat at one of their three tables. Their menu had so much delicious-sounding stuff on it that I found it hard to choose. And all of it is vegan!
I will disclose that I have gotten to know the owner and his partner over the years and they came to say hello while I was there. I almost felt guilty, but I was really in the mood for one of the few items on the menu that did not have seitan. They encouraged me to try the Chicago Style Italian sub along with the selection I was most interested in so I convinced my friend to order the sub. :)
I went with the Togarashi Bowl made with baked tofu, grilled kale, pickled radish, scallion, shredded seaweed and sesame seeds over purple rice with a lemon tahini miso dressing and togarashi seasoning. It was quite good -- a macrobiotic bowl with spice!
But, even better was the Fried Bacon Mac. Remember, calories don't count on vacation. I dare to say this was the best vegan mac and cheese I've ever had. A housemade mac and cheese made with nutritional yeast and fried Upton's bacon seitan all fried on the grill made-to-order -- the flavors mesh in a way that makes you want to eat a trough of it!
My friend got the "Chicago Style" Italian that featured their herbed seitan with giardiniera. This is a classic-style Chicago sandwich veganized. We liked the inside - you can't go wrong with seitan and giardiniera (pickled veggies), but felt it was a bit too much bread and not enough filling.
On the side, she got the flash grilled seasonal greens. Yum.
Other choices that sounded yummy were the Bahn Mi, Bacon Ranch Cheeseburger, Korean Tacos, and Nacho plate.
The dishes and sandwiches average $6 - $9 each with sides being $4. That's awesome pricing for excellent food. The cafe is quite small with no service, but as long as you can snag a seat, it is well worth the trip. During the warm months, outdoor seating is also available. I'd totally rate this as one of the top vegan cafes in the city -- totally worth the trip. And I'll be back next year!
2054 West Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60612