The holidays have a way of picking you up in their whirlwind. They spin you around, and all of a sudden you land with a thump in January.
Dazed and disoriented you wonder, “How did that happen?”
Well, before November gets any farther away (or any closer), I have a couple of meals to share from our Chicago Thanksgiving trip.
Thanksgiving dinner at Native Foods
Surprisingly, even though I’ve spent many holidays away from extended family, I’d never gone to a restaurant for my Thanksgiving meal.
Like Valentine’s Day, prices are often inflated that day. I can make a full spread at home with mashed potatoes, gravy, and the rest of the fixings for far less money.
However, this year we were going to be in Chicago that weekend anyway. So it made sense to extend our trip by a day to have a holiday without dishes to clean or pies to bake.
When looking at the vegan Chicago Thanksgiving options, there were several choices.
We finally landed on Native Foods in Wicker Park. They were offering a buffet-style meal for $24.95/per person (alcohol not included).
As you may recall from my earlier posts about Native Foods in Costa Mesa and Santa Monica, they top the list for me when it comes to fast casual vegan chains. They’re a great option when looking for a place that would be unintimidating to those who are hesitant about a “vegan dinner.”
Their menu is loaded with lots of comfort food options – sandwiches, bowls, salads, and interesting specials.
I sampled their Native Wellington last year, which is the main entrée of their Thanksgiving meal, and I was looking forward to seeing what one of their full holiday meals would be like.
Since we were driving in from Iowa, I wanted to allow plenty of time for us to get there. So I opted for the last seating of the day at 7:05 pm.
We ended up getting there about twenty minutes before our reservation. I was worried they wouldn’t be able to squeeze us in early, but it was no problem. While there were several tables full, there was also plenty of space available.
We paid at the counter and ordered a couple of glasses of wine. Behind the counter, things were in a bit of disarray. It was clear that they’d been going since 11 am, and the day had gotten away from them.
We were told that they were out of stuffing, which disappointed David since that’s his favorite Thanksgiving dish, but they had everything else.
For the buffet they had: mashed potatoes, cranberry compote, green bean casserole, polenta butternut squash terrine, mushroom shallot gravy, wheatberry Waldorf salad, a green salad with pomegranate and pecans, cornbread, and a slicing table with their Native Wellington.
The Wellington was filled with seitan, kale, Portobello mushrooms, and yams and wrapped in a puff pastry.
For dessert they had trays of chocolate brownies, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin cheesecake.
Looking over the buffet, things were picked over with half full trays of mashed potatoes and green beans, sticky serving spoons, and desserts that looked like they’d been out for a long time.
There was a wait before the Wellington came back out, and so we filled our plates and went back up when it was out again.
Our surprise favorite of the meal was the polenta butternut squash terrine, which was topped with pesto. The polenta had a mildly sweet flavor that melded well with the basil and garlic of the pesto.
Unfortunately, except for the Wellington, all of the dishes were only lukewarm in temperature.
The mashed potatoes tasted more of cashew cream than they did of potatoes. Although I’ve had their Wellington before and thought it was terrific, this day everything was just okay.
After wine, tip, and dinner, the meal for two came out to over $70. All things considered, if I were to go to Native Foods again for their Thanksgiving buffet, I’d go earlier in the day when things are fresher (and the serving spoons less sticky).
That said, I have visited that Chicago location and others on non-holidays, and the food has been every bit as good as I’ve had at any other Native Foods locations.
Other meals at Native Foods in Chicago
Here’s my all-time favorite Native Foods sandwich, the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger topped with thinly sliced seitan, fried dill pickle chips, melty vegan cheese, romaine, onions, and tomato on a barbecue sauce-topped bun.
And here’s the Greek Gyro bowl made with a flavorful peppered seitan on quinoa with steamed vegetables, kale, and hummus. It’s topped with a divine lemon garlic sauce and served with grilled flatbread.
So while I probably won’t be visiting them next year on the fourth Thursday of November, I’d be happy to stop by any other day of the year.