Vegan In Chicago: Handlebar

June 19, 2010 by Keri

Tuesday morning we drove by Pick Me Up Cafe, but since it wasn’t opened yet, we headed over to Handlebar.  I immediately fell in love with the place.  Okay, we were the only people eating there because it had barely opened, but it was relaxed, comfortable, and friendly.



I can’t lie, I was sad to see they serve some seafood, but the wheel symbol indicating vegan menu items made browsing easy.  As soon as I saw the fried pickles under appetizers I placed my vote for those.  I love fried pickles!

Corn meal battered fried dill pickles with house made vegan ranch dressing.

Yes!  I could eat these everyday; I’m not saying I should, but I definitely could.  The vegan ranch dressing was wonderful.  It was creamy and just a little spicy; I would love to have their recipe.


I ordered the vegan french toast, and I’m pretty sure it was the best menu decision I’ve made in a long time, possibly ever.

Maple syrup, powdered sugar, fresh seasonal fruit, and toasted pecans.

I shared with the little man again, and he was definitely back in food heaven.  In fact, Chris and my dad both tried and lovednot it, so I was glad it was a big portion with everyone eyeing my plate.  I’m not exaggerating, this was seriously french toast perfection.  Crispy on the edges, but soft in the middle.  Mmm… I’m drooling a little just thinking about it.


Chris ordered the Vegan Diablos.

Two handmade corn tostadas , scrambled tofu, seitan chorizo, and chipotle sauce with beans and rice.

He really loved the dish and said it was very spicy, making him feel full sooner.  I tasted it also and loved the flavor- plenty of spice!


Dad ordered biscuits and gravy.

Two hearty biscuits smothered in seitan sausage gravy.

He said he really liked it, but thought it might be on the salty side for some.  He was definitely in the Handlebar’s french toast is epic camp though.


As a snack (and a field trip down memory lane), I picked us up some astronaut strawberries and apples to munch on from the planetarium gift shop.  The only other space food options were a beef stew meal (Ew!) or astronaut ice cream, which sadly isn’t vegan.  I guess if I were an astronaut they’d have to make me special vegan space food.

So there ends my Chicago vegan dining adventures, for now anyway.  When we got back to the car there was a parking ticket waiting for us; how very Chicago!  We were planning on eating at Pick Me Up Cafe after visiting the Children’s Museum, but it was pouring and traffic was just so bad we had to start the drive home. A giant double rainbow saw us out of the city and safely home.

I didn’t grow up in Chicago, but it definitely holds a lot of memories for me and it was nice to be back.  The city is near enough to where I grew up that we had field trips to the museums and planetarium quite often when I was in elementary school, and one year our high school prom was held on a boat out of at Navy Pier.  It was where I spent a lot of summer days during my high school years when we all had driver’s licenses and nothing to do.  Thanks, Dad, for an awesome trip!

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I Eat Trees is a blog featuring my adventures in all things vegan. My favorite recipes, snack food finds, and restaurant trials are all on the menu so enjoy!


  1. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) says:

    I hope you guys have more fun trips to Chicago in the near future!

  2. Space food from Chicago museums is a childhood memory of my own too. 🙂 I ate at Handlebar for breakfast for the first time yesterday actually! I was intrigued by the vegan french toast and almost ordered a single slice for $3 just to try it, but my cheap and skeptical side got the better of me. Darn! Next time for sure. I was torn between the diablos and the pepita tofu scramble, and ended up choosing the scramble. It was the best vegan breakfast dish I’ve ever had–I need to figure out how to make that pumpkin seed pesto! I’m glad to see how good the diablos look, if I can resist the scramble next time I’m all over that. 🙂 Oh, and I’ve been meaning to try those pickles but haven’t yet, holy moly they look amazing!

  3. Danielle (Runs on Green) says:

    Can a Handlebar cafe please open in my town??!

    It sounded like a great trip & your son (I’m assuming) is adorable 🙂

  4. Amanda says:

    It seems like you had a fantastic trip – because I judge all my trips by the food i eat. That french toast looks worthy of replicating – it’s my favorite breakfast food and the one I most fear attempting in the kitchen in case I don’t perfect it! Thanks for sharing all the yummies!

  5. Alli says:

    Hello! I work for and I just made a free profile for the Handlebar restaurant and I was wondering if I could use your pictures of their food to spice the page up a bit. I loved the article and found that the pictures actually made me hungry and thought it would be a nice addition to our site.
    Didn’t want to take without permission, so thought I’d ask!