On Tuesday, Chicago vegans will get a new, fast-casual dining option—and this outpost of Native Foods Cafe is just the first. Native Foods, which was founded in California and now headquartered in Chicago, will open its first location here in Wicker Park.
They will quickly follow that with two more spots, the first in Lakeview (1024 W. Belmont) in three weeks and the next in the Loop at 218 S. Clark just after Labor Day. Once these are up and running, the environmentally concious chain has plans to open future locations in River North, the Gold Coast and in Evanston, ultimately bringing approximately 200 jobs to the city.
All menu items are under $10 and include dishes like sweet potato taquitos; white-bean chili; gyro made with seitan, quinoa and vegetables; veggie pizza with creamy pesto and kale; and the scorpion burger made with tempeh. The one item that differs from the California locations is the Chicago Dip au jus, Native Foods' take on a French Dip. The counter-service spot also features six local beers (Two Brothers, Metropolitan and Bell's) and six wines.
And like their seven other California locations, the 75-seat Native Foods, which is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., will focus on becoming part of the local community. This is evident in the decor created in part by local artists and through events to support local charities. Chicago may seem like an odd first expansion choice considering its West Coast roots, but, according to co-owner Andrea McGinty, it's what the people wanted.
"All the market research we did said Chicago should be the city we should do it in," she said. "It's a great restaurant town. Chicago is so ripe for a concept like this: plant-based food that tastes good."
· Native Foods Cafe [website]