Karyn’s On Green in Chicago

When I was in Chicago earlier this month, I took the opportunity to have a light lunch at Karyn’s On Green.  I’d visited Karyn’s raw restaurant just a couple of weeks earlier and was eager to re-visit Karyn’s gourmet location.  I’d been to Karyn’s On Green one other time a couple of years ago and had been very impressed by the calibre of the cuisine.  While there are many amazing vegan restaurants all over the globe, vegan fine dining is more elusive.  It’s a rare treat to visit the sort of place that is anniversary-worthy or birthday-worthy, that takes reservations, and where you feel like dressing up would be appropriate.  Karyn’s On Green is open and spacious with an airy quality because of the tall ceilings and large front window.

That morning I’d had an indulgent breakfast at Chicago Diner, and so I was looking for something healthier and on the lighter side.  After thinking about the fabulous raw entrée I had at Karyn’s Raw, I opted for a glass of coconut water and the chopped vegetable salad made with romaine hearts, seasonal vegetables, and tossed in an herbed vinaigrette.  The waiter asked with what looked like a little concern, “Is that all?”

When the salad arrived, I understood what he meant.  For $9.50, the salad was a bit meager.  With zucchini, carrots, and broccoli, it was fresh but not exactly substantive.  I began looking at the other diners noshing on tofu benedicts and vegan crab sliders and feeling some ordering envy.

The coconut water tasted sweet, like it came from a box, not fresh from the coconut.  I asked the waiter about it.  He kind of laughed and said, “Well, yeah.  It’s just from a box.”  As if it would be silly to think it would be cracked open fresh he said,  “We didn’t bring the coconuts in today.”  That surprised me since I’d had what tasted like fresh coconut water just a couple of weeks before at Karyn’s Raw.

I sent the coconut water back and ordered the butternut squash soup to fill out the meal since I was still hungry.  The soup was made with butternut squash, of course, coconut milk, and guajillo oil.  It was then topped with fried chickpeas.  Despite being made with coconut milk, the soup didn’t have a strong coconut flavor.  It was rich and velvety smooth.  The fried chickpeas were crunchy and a creative alternative to croutons.  I would have enjoyed more of them.

The soup was wonderful, and like I said, my prior visit had been incredible.   Also, my husband had gone earlier in the month and was blown away by his meal. While this particular meal was not a home run, I look forward to going back to Karyn’s On Green again when I’m in the area to sample some of the decadent meals I saw people around me devouring.

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17 thoughts on “Karyn’s On Green in Chicago

    • The ambience really is lovely – bright and spacious. More than anything, I was surprised that I wasn’t blown away by the meal. I’d been so eager to go again, especially after David had been able to go on his own on a business trip and gave such a glowing review. The owner has three restaurants in the area, and I’ve been to all of them at least once and always enjoyed it. So I think some of it was simply that I ordered the wrong thing.

  1. I wouldn’t have been happy with that salad either but the soup looks lovely. As difficult as it can be I also believe it’s important to be honest when reviewing a place – someone may read your review and steer clear of the salad! I had a similar experience a while ago and didn’t enjoy writing a negative review for a vegetarian eatery, particularly as I felt I hadn’t ordered well. I still feel a bit bad about it and would like to go back to try different dishes but it’s hard to drag my husband to somewhere he doesn’t have a good food memory of!

    • Yes, the salad was pretty underwhelming. I know some people would say a salad is a salad, but actually some of my favorite meals out have been salads! There’s a kale salad at Sun Cafe in Los Angeles that was so crave-worthy I went in for it regularly. I was hoping for something along those lines that would have been more like a meal and less like a small dinner salad.

      Like you, I always feel uncomfortable writing a not-so-glowing review! But if we’re not honest and candid, we lose our credibility. At some point when I’m in Chicago again, I absolutely want to go and try out more dishes and try to recreate the experience I had the first time I went.

      I hope that if you are able to eventually get your husband to return to that eatery that you have a better experience next time and can update your review too! :)

  2. I always feel weird sending things back at restaurants, but good for you for doing it. I would expect fresh coconut water at a fine dining establishment, though I can just imagine all the coconuts piled up in their kitchen. :) The soup looks good as does the small salad, but I know the feeling of envy that arises when watching what everyone else is eating at a restaurant!

    • Yes, I feel weird sending things back too, but I really never would have guessed that they would bring me boxed coconut water, especially since the cost was around $3 a glass. When I’m at a restaurant serving lemonade or tea, I’ll ask if it’s bottled or fresh. However, it didn’t occur to me that with coconut water it would be an issue. After all, at so many Thai restaurants, even very casual ones, they bring the whole young coconut to your table. Boxed coconut water doesn’t taste very good to me, and so I knew I wouldn’t be drinking it.

      When you only get to visit a restaurant on rare occasions, you definitely want to pick the right thing! :)

  3. I used to work at the raw place, and they cracked fresh ones there, but that was a few years ago so who knows what she’s doing now. I could tell you all sorts of horror stories about that place… There are tons of vegan and vegan-friendly places in the city now, I would branch out if I were you. The fact that that salad cost $9.50 is atrocious, but it doesn’t surprise me.

    • I bet you’re right about the fresh coconuts at the raw place. When I was there, the coconut water tasted fresh to me and without that sweet, artificial flavor in the boxed versions. That’s too bad that you had a bad experience working there.

      Chicago definitely has no shortage of vegan options! So far in addition to Karyn’s restaurants, I’ve been to Chicago Diner, Native Foods, Handlebar, Amitabul, and Urban Vegan. Do you have any other places that you’d recommend I try when I’m there next?

      • Quesadilla La Reyna del Sur! Cheap mexican veg/vegan food, authentic as hell. They have weird weekend hours, though, so check before you go. Soul Veg is always good for soul food, but they have some… questionable practices as well, is my understanding. Most do. Ugh. Anyway. The rest of these aren’t completely vegan, but offer lots of vegan awesomeness. Westtown Bakery and Cafe [formerly Bleeding Heart] has a number of vegan things [including some vanilla bean waffles and smore's pancakes that are outstanding], as well as vegan cupcakes, donuts, cakeballs, fruit bars, you name it. Revolution Brewery has some good vegan things, and is a good microbrewery if’n you’re into that. I’ve heard the Boiler Room around the block from Revolution is also good, has vegan pizza that the [omni] Mister said was fantastic.

        • Oh, that’s good to know about Quesadilla La Reyna del Sur. Authentic Mexican food without lard or chicken broth can be hard to find outside of Southern California. I make lots of Mexican food at home, but I miss being able to go out for it.

          Dare I ask what you mean by “questionable practices?”

          Thank you for all of the recommendations! I’ll look forward to checking them out the next time I’m in Chicago.

          • Yeah, Quesadilla is pretty awesome. As for Soul Veg, they’re tied to kind of a culty church, so was Alice and Friends, but they’re closed now, which is sad because even though you had a TV playing the supreme master behind you, they made awesome vegan Asian food.

  4. How disappointing! I’ve been to KOG once and was so impressed that I count it as one of my all-time favorite restaurants. The soup looks divine, but I would have been underwhelmed as well when that salad arrived (especially for that price!).

    • Yes! It was disappointing! Like you, I would have counted it as one of my all-time favorites after my first experience a couple of years ago. Then when David went earlier in the month, he was blown away. I was really anticipating something fabulous. Still, I look forward to going another time and NOT ordering the salad! :)

  5. That soup does look pretty gorgeous, but I can understand how you might be a tad disappointed. I’ve only heard great things about Karyn’s and look forward to trying them someday. I hope your next visit is much better. :-)

    • Yes, they’re still worth checking out. Everybody has an off day/meal. With the exception of this one meal, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve had at all three of her restaurants.

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