Vegetarians Rejoice

The summer after freshman year of college, I decided to omit meat from my diet for a week just to see how I felt. That week turned into seven years of vegetarianism. Although I am quite certain I will never go back, my changed eating habits turned me on to foods that I had previously avoided. My brother likes to say I am a recovering vegetarian. There is no doubt I’ve fully recovered. That is not to say that I don’t enjoy dabbling in my old ways by eating meatless meals now and then. In fact, Mana Food Bar, a strictly vegetarian restaurant in Wicker Park is one of my favorites.

I was so pleased that my friend suggested we go to Mana for a casual dinner a few nights ago. Everything was so delicious that I am convinced even vegetarian skeptics would be pleasantly surprised by their satisfaction with the food.

We started our meal with the Salad Sampler consisting of:

Avocado, arugula and tomato with pickled onion and roasted garlic chili dressing

Five spice tofu salad with shallots, basil, cucumber, and tomato in a soy balsamic vinaigrette

Quinoa with almonds, currants, mint and tangerine dressing

Everything in our sampler was so light and refreshing; I swear I could eat this combo every single day!

Salad Sampler

For those of you who don’t know, Bi Bim Bop is a traditional Korean dish consisting of rice and veggies topped with a sunny side up egg that is customarily mixed into the dish before eating. Mana’s version is served with hot pepper miso and brown rice. The sauce is rich in flavor with the chili pepper paste bringing the right amount of heat.

Bi Bim Bop

The Mana Sliders are a must-order! The brown rice and mushrooms give the burgers a nutty heartiness and the spicy mayo is an essential accompaniment.

Mana Sliders

The tamales made from black beans, corn and goat cheese with tomato lime sauce was a new pick for me. Traditionally made with corn-based dough, Mana also incorporates ground black beans to create the soft outside of the tamale. My only complaint was that it was rather crumbly and did not hold together well.

Black Bean Tamale

The Mushroom Sauté over Creamy Polenta is a dish I dream about often. The mushroom assortment makes this dish exceptional and whatever they add to the polenta, whether mascarpone or parmesan, is pure decadence. I’ve talked about recreating this dish at home several times, so this reminded me that I need to make that happen sometime soon.

Mushroom Saute over Creamy Polenta

When going to Mana, keep in mind the restaurant is the size of a shoebox, therefore not conducive to large groups or quick seating when arriving at prime dining times. An outside patio provides additional seating in the summertime.

Carnivores, this is worth a visit!

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