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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Restaurant Review: The Original Soul Vegetarian Restaurant

            For my first restaurant review on my blog, I thought I’d start with the restaurant my wife and I went to today – Original Soul Vegetarian Restaurant.  Soul Vegetarian is an amazing little place located on 75th Street in Chicago’s south side.  This place has been fueling residents with amazing vegetarian southern comfort foods since 1980.  Vegetarian in Chicago for over thirty years?  WHAT??  It’s true.  Eat some of their food and you’ll see why they’ve been open for that long.
            I say it’s vegetarian but it’s basically vegan.  They may use some honey in a few dishes but otherwise it’s vegan.  (A quick side-note to non-vegetarians: some vegans consider honey okay to eat and some do not.  It’s an animal by-product so I try to avoid it whenever I can.  However, if I learn something had it after I consumed it, I’m not going to have a breakdown.)
            The first time we went to Soul Vegetarian was back when my wife was first transitioning over to a vegetarian diet.  I was still an omnivore but she came across the restaurant’s listing on the helpful website Happy Cow (seriously, you cannot be a vegetarian and not use this website).  That first trip was mind-blowing!  The food was delicious, those working there were super friendly, and the pricing was definitely worth it.
            But for whatever reason, we just never got around to returning.  We would always make it a point to eat something from their booth at vegetarian or vegan events but today was the first time we made it back to the restaurant.  We were originally going to try out a different vegan restaurant just down the street but we were surprised to see it had closed down without a word about it on their site.  Soul Vegetarian was definitely an okay second choice, however!
            This time, I came with a palette that was more open to vegan food.  I wasn’t looking at the menu and grossed out by things that had words like “collard greens” or “black-eyed peas” in them necessarily.  The first time I might’ve looked at the menu and thought, “Man… what might be good?” because I was limiting myself to the items that seemed familiar to me.  This time I was looking at the menu and thinking, “Man… what might be good?” because EVERYTHING looked good.  How was I going to prioritize what was good, better, or best??
            The restaurant is relatively small but open and relaxed, just to the side of the main counter where people can just order take-out.  To the opposite side of the main counter is yet another section that serves as a juice bar/deli called Eternity.  We sat ourselves and poured over the menu.  We usually like to starve ourselves before going out to eat so we can order a bunch of plates to eat.  Today was no exception!

            For appetizers, we ordered a basket of onion rings with barbeque sauce and a plate of Buffalo wings with blue cheese.  The barbeque is really good with the onion rings.  Their BBQ sauce isn’t that spicy and not overly sweet.  I don’t usually like to eat a lot of Buffalo wings because I find the sauce the wings are lathered in a bit too much.  However, these were delicious!  I guess it’s because my tastebuds have grown to tolerate blue cheese, too, so I could balance the Buffalo sauce with the blue cheese.  Hizzah for expanding my horizons!

            I ordered a basket for my main meal that came loaded with seitan steak pieces, thick and soft tofu squares, battered and fried mushrooms, and fries.

            I loved all of it but I think the mushrooms are my favorite out of the seitan, tofu, and mushrooms.  The seitan was good because they were tough like steak and went well with the BBQ sauce.  I liked how soft the tofu was even though they were fried.  I guess I’m just a big mushroom fan so they always win me over in the end.

            The main meal also came with a vegetable noodle soup (that seemed to have ‘chicken’ pieces shredded up in it) and cornbread.  I enjoyed the soup since it was pretty cold outside and I’ve grown to love cornbread since going vegan.  Their bread was really warm and soft and would break apart in my hands.  Eat their cornbread over your soup bowl so you can scoop out the remaining parts.  You won’t want to leave anything behind.

            We finished off by walking over to the Eternity side and getting smoothies.  What kind of super geniuses order smoothies when it’s still 30° F outside?  That’d be us!  The berry smoothie I ordered hit the spot after all the tofu and seitan that I ate.  It helped me convince myself that I wasn’t a complete slob.
            So, if you’re hankering for some comfort food, definitely check out Soul Vegetarian!  If you look online, you might see it listed as the Original Soul Vegetarian Restaurant, Soul Vegetarian Restaurant, or Soul Vegetarian East (the last one since it’s on east 75th Street most likely).  Parking is relatively easy (just right out front on the street) but that’s probably because both times we went were during the day.
            Has anyone been there?  Let me know what you thought!


  1. Such a good meal, and such a fun day!! I love a good BBQ and you can't go wrong with comfort food =)

    1. Definitely a great day! You can't complain w/ a meal that fills you up for most of the afternoon & evening. ha