Chicago. Sunday. It is late morning. My stomach is talking to me — lucky for me no one else can hear the voice. I am thinking of something contemporary. I am experiencing a want for something with kick, which goes without saying. And then a flash comes to mind. I will satisfy my craving with some vegetarian food. There is a saying, “It is never as good as the first time.” I remember a certain restaurant and how my mouth burst with flavour when I went the first time. Well, let me be the first to say that during this second trip to this particular eatery, the old saying no longer applies when it comes to Green Zebra. It is so much better — better by leaps and bounds — the second time. Located at 1460 W. Chicago Avenue on the corner of Chicago Avenue and Greenview Avenue is perhaps one of Chicago’s top vegetarian restaurants. I must admit that with this being my second visit and being thoroughly satisfied with my dining experience, Green Zebra ranks as one of my top restaurants in the city. Now, New York City may be known for bringing the concept of brunches to mainstream midday fellowship. Green Zebra is the first to take it up a notch.
Upon entering what looks very art-deco and stylish, a hostess greeted me with a genuine welcome and showed me to a window seat. She must have been reading my mind because I wanted a seat where I could have enough light for photographing the dishes I had planned to order. I was now ready for action. I placed my order and while I waited for the goodness of the kitchen to be delivered to my table, I had complimentary mandeleines with honey butter and raspberry jam. Usually you find the French biscuits baked using flour. These were baked with corn meal. I had to be decent because two were simply not enough. I was well aware that they were complementary, but after spreading the honey butter and raspberry jam on the two heavenly treats, my mind was rambling as to why they were not main items on the menu. If you want to diffuse a confrontation, I recommend mandeleines with the spreads from Green Zebra.
The first time I had gone to Green Zebra I had ordered a German pancake and I had enjoyed it so much that I wanted it again. On my initial visit the pancake was prepared with caramelized squash. Yes, surprise, surprise! This time the pancake was prepared with pears. Who moved my cheese? Whose idea was it to sample with the German pancake by adding pears and make it even more tasty than it was the first time I went? Whose idea was it to change their menu to indulge seasonal culinary wonder, definitely making me want to see what will be on their winter menu since I was pleased with their spring menu and found that the autumn menu today was top? Oh the delight. Oh the rapture. Oh the happiness from it all. Chicago is also becoming home of flatbread dishes. Instead of ordering just one dish to journal, I wanted one more to describe as well. While ordering my brunch meal I asked the waiter for recommendation of another dish that would complement the German pancake without being too overwhelming. Granted I have an incredible appetite, walking bent over like an upside down letter L is not cute. So he offered the breakfast flatbread. The crispy flatbread was served under sautéed onions and mushrooms with shreds of Romaine lettuce, all cooked in a bourbon sauce, and served with an egg sunny side up. I have never been a fan of my eggs being done any way other than scrambled — maybe with cheddar cheese or cream cheese. It takes having your eggs sunny side up done correctly for you to appreciate just how fantastic they are that way. The only regret I have for having eaten this dish is that I enjoyed it so much that I may burn in hell from finding excessive pleasure in each bite.
The cranberry juice that I had with the brunch was not from a can, carton, or bottle. I would debate that notion even if they were to pull the carton from the icebox and show it to me. Well, it may have been, but I have not had cranberry juice as fresh as what I had at Green Zebra. Whatever they did to it or wherever they got it from, I hope that they have it again when I go back. For an after-brunch drink, I settled for green tea with no sugar. One of the things I grew to appreciate as a wrap-up to my meals when I was in Australia was a cup of green tea, which helps digestion. Even better is that the green tea was loose leaf, which panders well to my British sensibilities. And while sipping my tea and reading Chicago Tribune on my Kindle about the political landscape with the Chicago mayoral race the waiter offered some suggestions as to other vegetarian restaurants and other eateries in the neighbourhood where I live in Chicago proper. I shall visit them, but I shall return to Green Zebra and quite possibly for dinner since I know they have fantastic brunches.
Having a disposable income is an outstanding thing and when you go to awesome restaurants like Green Zebra and get the tab, you automatically flag such restaurants as regular stops for your culinary adventures. Not only is the price one that will keep you returning but the ambience, community, and top service will have you running back without hesitation. Oh, and let me not forget about the food. The first time was a charm for me. This second time was a slice of heaven. It was heaven. It was heaven on earth. Did I say that it was heaven? Yes, then let me burn in hell. And I am confident that the third, forth, fifth, and nth times will get progressively better.
14 November 2010