Vegan chef Kevin Schuder has developed quite a following since moving to Chicago from the San Francisco Bay Area. His Fancy Plants Catering company provides meat- and dairy-free meals to discerning diners using a fine dining approach rarely seen in vegan food. He’s held several pop-up dinners and worked with the owners of popular vegan restaurant Kitchen 17 in Lakeview, a restaurant known for it vegan Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. Now he’s opening Wonderland Cafe, his own spot right around the corner from K17.
Schuder is actually taking over Kitchen 17’s original space at 613 W. Briar Place and plans to open the cafe in November. Kitchen 17’s since moved to a larger space with new ownership. Wonderland and Kitchen 17 will remain intertwined and they’ll work together. The Wonderland space doesn’t have much room for kitchen equipment so Schuder will have the benefit of using Kitchen 17’s walk-in fridge. The space limitations don’t bother Schuder. He’s used to induction burners and small ovens while working at a wine bar in San Francisco. There’s room for about 20 seats inside.
Wonderland will serve items like breakfast sandwiches with Just Egg, smoked seitan bacon, and Chao cheese. It’ll offer pastries like vegan bacon and egg scones, and cinnamon rolls with cashew cream cheese frosting. It’ll have coffee (they’re still deciding on the roaster) and tea. The menu will rotate. Evening items include cauliflower baked in a pot (blood orange, chives, red curry oil) and seared polenta cake (seared fresh corn, Maitake mushrooms, tomato, black-eyed peas). The cafe will give Schuder a chance to experiment with dishes in a playful matter. He also said that he’ll invite guest chefs to through dinner pop-ups.
There’s a list of sample items on the website which also mentions a Kickstarter campaign. That website also pledges that Wonderland will “always be 100 percent vegan.” Look for a Kickstarter launch party on Friday at Emporium Arcade Bar in Wicker Park.
The space, which was once slated for vegan bakery Pie, Pie My Darling, won’t need a lot of remodeling, Schuder said. He’s excited to open the cafe’s doors to give Chicago a quality vegan option.
“What I’m most excited about is just being a regular business and getting to know new customers,” Schuder said.