A few weeks ago, my past room mate/fashion model/actress/songstress/great friend and I were at a vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Chicago’s Wicker Park. The guy who was working behind the counter had mentioned that people had started coming to the shop for food because a nearby vegetarian restaurant had closed its doors temporarily. The previous chef had quit and taken his recipes with him. The guy had mentioned the name Earwax Cafe and my ex room mate had then told me how the menu was on like a light, how delicious the food was, and that we should try it. Far be it from me to turn down any recommendation that she would make for any vegetarian eatery in the city. So we made a date for a Saturday lunch at Earwax Cafe.
Found at 1561 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park just a few steps south of North Avenue — along the Milwaukee/North/Damen intersection — is a fantastic independent cafe where all of the local and visiting hipsters, goths, emo youth, nerds, indies, artists, musicians, and food addicts frequent. A cultural hot spot, if you will, and one that knows what it takes to keep those with growling bellies coming back again, once more, and any time they are in the area. We arrived around noon so that we were there after the die-hard breakfast crowd had cleared and before the mid afternoon roaming crowd began to pour in. With it being such a pleasant day outside — that with Chicago coming off of six months of winter — we opted to sit on the backyard patio and enjoy the weather.
While looking over our menus, my friend and I had tea, she taking ginger tea and I taking jasmine tea. As a removed Brit, I prefer loose leaf tea and Earl Grey for breakfast — albeit it tastes like dishwater — but the jasmine tea in the bag was “on like a light,” to quote my friend. Since I drink my green tea without sugar, I was surprised at how strong the tea was, unlike the flavoured water you have brought to you when you are at most eateries that have tea on the bill of fare. With a bit of a breeze blowing across the back patio, the warmth of the tea was a plus.
My great friend had a seitan sandwich prepared in the likeness of an Italian beef sandwich and spicy French fries. Like me, my friend is vegetarian primarily. And looking at that sandwich, had I not been inducted into the society of vegetarianism, I would have thought she were getting natural on a rather serious meat sandwich. Being a breakfast and brunch fanatic, I went the traditional route — French toast and scrambled eggs. The French toast came with the usual sprinkle of cinnamon, confectioner sugar, and a side of raspberry jam. Surprisingly, the four thin slices were slightly filling. Can you say optical illusion, boys and girls? I cannot say that the bread used were the stock slabs of bread served at many restaurants, but it was something perhaps along the lines of wheat and tastier than the expected. Married with the scrambled eggs that had enough seasoning without salt-overload, I was quite a satisfied man. For a drink, I had a natural smoothie: pineapple juice with pineapples and ginger. Talk about loving the whole concept of natural juices, the ginger gave the pineapple juice a great kick that makes me love the combination even more every time I drink it together.
Much like Ma-and-Pop, independent, and small restaurants, the price was enough to make a bitter spinster or a grumpy old man smile with glee. I know I was smiling right up until my friend said that she was going to pay the tab because I had paid for lunch the previous week. Then I was smiling wider. Haha. We agreed that if she paid for the lunch, then I would be gracious enough to pay for a treat of yogurt at a nearby yogurt shop. Although Earwax Cafe has undergone a change in management and the menu is supposedly more condensed than it was with the past chef in charge, it looks like they may be off to good “new” beginning. The constant flow of people coming and going had to be an indication that the restaurant still has its charm. I, for one, will not hesitate to take the short trip from Logan Square to Wicker Park for a stint of feet-under-the-table to get natural on some vegetarian goodies.
As for yogurt, my darling friend and I walked over to Forever Yogurt, located at 1924 W. North Avenue. She had introduced me to Forever Yogurt a few weeks prior, the same day that we had wandered into the neighbouring vegetarian cafe where we had found out about the change in management at Earwax Cafe, and I was addicted thoroughly then. Seems that they entertain the concept of a changing yogurt menu. She indulged yogurt flavoured like cake batter and red velvet cake and topped it with strawberries. I had a cup full of Dutch chocolate flavoured yogurt and cake batter yogurt buried nicely under crumble Oreo cookies, granola, and hot fudge.
Where does all the food go? I know I work out, run several miles every morning, and do kickboxing, but other than I have a high metabolism, there has to be a reason I am not battling an overweight problem because I eat like someone who has an eating disorder that it way past out of control. I must admit that I may have to start seeing a therapist if I find myself being manipulated with ease after having had a significant fill of food. Food is my lover. That is true. But I cannot have myself become a puppet immediately after succumbing to the rapture of some savoury food.