Brazilian Bowl

Since I am always willing to try new things, I decided to make my second-to-last Chicago meal of the summer something new. The Brazilian Bowl is located on Belmont and Broadway conveniently across from a Chipotle. I sat and ate my meal watching the line only get bigger out the door of the famous Mexican establishment.

I ordered the mini vegetarian Brazilian bowl because I also wanted a smoothie. I got the carnival which was acai, coconut milk, agave, and strawberries because I thought it would be most similar to the smoothies I have had. I didn’t want to be too adventurous with a $5 smoothie.

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The bowl came with rice, black beans, pico de gallo, tomatoes, corn, collard greens, sauteed vegetables, cheese, and a mango sauce. I could only laugh at the fools across the street waiting for the average burrito bowls while I enjoyed this incredible dish. Why would you ever go to Chipotle when this is beckoning you from across the street for the same price? I wanted to go over and tell them, but I felt that would be intrusive. Instead, I enjoyed the flavors of everything mixed together.. the unique tang that the mango sauce brought with the creamy melted cheese, and the fresh vegetables creating an awesome food experience. I really love it when adventure leads you somewhere amazing!

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And all that isn’t even mentioning the smoothie which did not cease to blow me away. The fruity mixture was not too sweet and had a natural taste from the agave and acai combination. The strawberries did add a level of familiarity, and the coconut milk made it taste like a tropical milkshake. I love the Brazilian Bowl, and my only request would be for them to acquire more space for customers because pretty soon all those naive Chipotle customers will be lining up here.

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Vegetarian Express

I love this place. I will just start out with that. As if you couldn’t tell by the name, they specialize in vegetarian food. And as always, I had a huge amount of trouble with the menu trying to decide what I wanted. Fortunately, the server was very nice, and I ended up getting the nachos with seitan and sweet potato fries.

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Number one, the nachos were huge. I am talking a plate the size of a laptop. I am not complaining, quite the opposite actually. The warm tortilla chips were topped with cheese, black beans, tomatoes, avocado, and house-made seitan with two salsas on the side. I’m drooling just reminiscing. The seitan was incredible, and all of the ingredients were fresh and delicious! The sweet potato fries were not like most restaurants. They were not fried or deep-fried, just baked which made them less crispy, but the freshness and wholesomeness was refreshing.

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I love this place, and despite their run-down-looking exterior, the inside is beaming with delectable possibilities that make it impossible to choose. Do make up your mind though because everything is fantastic!

Blaze Pizza

Throughout my Chicago food adventures, I have seen many places that have adopted the Chipotle-style ordering system where customers pick one option and then customize it how they want. I have seen many of these done mediterranean style, but today it was pizza.

Blaze Fast and Fire’d Pizza’s claim to fame is 100% customized pizza cooked for you in 180 seconds (three minutes). For $8, you can get your own 11″ pizza with unlimited toppings fire’d in a coal-burning oven. So if you are sick of Chicago’s deep dish, Blaze might just be calling your name.

I personalized mine with almost every vegetable they had, fresh mozzarella and ricotta, and their tomato sauce. I also added the chopped garlic and oregano. Yum! I actually ate the entire thing in one sitting. The crust is very thin, and because I got it so it wasn’t slathered in cheese, it was a pretty light meal.

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The servers were ultra friendly, and I definitely give this place five stars. Depending on what you feel like for that meal, you can get whatever you want. It is such a great idea that has been implemented to perfection! Blaze on!

Duran European Cafe

In my final week of trying everything left on my list, I finally made it to Duran. A quaint European cafe on the west side of downtown, Duran offers a variety of small open-faced sandwiches that you can pick and choose from. I love it!

They were offering a lunch special of 3 sandwiches and a drink for $10, and I had a Yelp offer that allowed me to get that for only $5. I chose the Slovak, the Caprese, and the Banana sandwiches. The Slovak featured a smoked cheese over spinach and topped with marinated mushrooms. It was super good especially on their fresh bread. The Caprese was a delicious European play on the traditional caprese with fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomato. The mozzarella was seasoned additionally and topped with some balsmic vinaigrette all over a small slice of the fresh bread. I finished with the banana for dessert. A classic of nutella, caramelized banana, and toasted coconut, one could really not go wrong with this delicious treat.

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Duran has tons of options for everyone including vegetarians, and I loved getting to sample a few different options. Most of their sandwiches are even made to order. I felt like I was fine dining with the small food, beautiful plating, and fresh ingredients. I totally recommend!

Del Seoul

Mexican and Korean never really sounded good together until I ate at Del Seoul. A fast, casual set up, Del Seoul provides a unique and creative combination of these two cuisines.

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I was still full from lunch when I went, so I ordered one blackened tofu taco and the gamja fries. The taco was spectacular. The blackened tofu was marinated with the unique Korean/Mexican flavors and topped with fresh vegetables like corn, edamame, and lettuce plus a very yummy secret sauce. I wish I had ordered more of them!

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The gamja fries were also awesome. I was not hungry enough to try their kimchi loaded fries, so I got these as a side instead. Not only were the fries crunchy, crispy, and well-seasoned, they also came with a sesame aioli that was so good I could have eaten with a spoon.

I definitely recommend this place if you like either Mexican or Korean food at all. They have options leaning both ways and some really creative options in he middle.

Trattoria Demi

Today was a quest for the perfect lunch special. I was in Evanston, so I decided to stop by Trattoria Demi, a quaint Italian restaurant on the main drag of downtown. It had kind of bad reviews on Yelp but offered a $6.99 lunch special with bread, salad, and pasta. Also if you check-in on Yelp, you get a free scoop of gelato. If you have learned anything about me, it’s that I can’t turn down free stuff.

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I ordered the rigatoni primavera which came out rather quickly. Although the portions were smaller than I expected, I began to question any faith I had had in Yelp because this was some of the best Italian food that I’ve ever had. The pasta was rigatoni with broccolini and olive oil with seasonings that made it truly unique. The small salad was served with a house dressing and the bread was warm and fresh as you would expect from an Italian restaurant. But the pasta really knocked it out of the park. An for $7! I think yes.

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I also got my free scoop of salted caramel gelato. You can’t go wrong there. The service was decent which makes me not want to totally fall in love with this place, but the prices and quality of food make it truly hard to resist!

I Dream of Falafel

I have been wary of eating too much of the same type of cuisine, so I had to spread out my mediterranean excursions over the whole summer. Unfortunately, I unknowingly saved the best for last with I Dream of Falafel. I have been trying to find the best falafel in Chicago, and I finally found it.

I ordered the salad plate with cabbage salad, tomatoes and cucumbers, onions, spinach mix, balsamic vinaigrette, and falafel. Although it was over $7, they piled on the veggies and gave me 5 big pieces of falafel. First off, the toppings were great and obviously fresh. Then, I broke up the falafel into my salad which made it absolutely incredible. Most of the falafel that I’ve had had been too spicy or too dry, but this was perfection. Just mild enough to deliciously complement the mediterranean style salad.

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The set up was similar to a Chipotle just like the other Mediterranean places I’ve been, but this time the food tops the charts. I’m sad that I waited to the end for all the best food because now I’m dreaming of falafel.