One of the Chicago vegan community’s most respected chefs will begin serving dinner Thursday at his Lakeview cafe. Kevin Schuder opened up Fancy Plants Cafe in January in Lakeview, a casual spot for coffee, breakfast burritos, and pastries. But the chef, who hosted a well received meat- and dairy-free dinner series, yearned to return to cooking more composed dishes.
While Schuder wants to give vegans something to be excited about, he’s also trying to attract omnivores to giving his food a try. Dishes include beet tartare; cauliflower gratin baked in a clay pot with chopped Mandarin supremes; saag paneer spinach dip; and arancini made with a cashew mozzarella. 10 core items cost $9 each and Schuder can make them gluten free. Schuder’s star item may be his trumpet mushroom bourguignon. That’s mushrooms braised with a red wine reduction sauce and served with herb-braised potatoes, carrots, button mushrooms, and pearl onions. Schuder called it a “very refined, veganized, classic French dish.”
“They’re well-executed plates that happen to be vegan,” he wrote via email.
Besides the fancier dinner items, Schuder has also started to work with Jamie Podgorny, the baker behind Lincoln Park’s Fritz Pastry. The vegan-friendly bakery closed in 2016 and was known for doughnuts, fritters, and other pastries. Podgorny has already begun stocking a pastry case on Sundays with treats like a vegan Pop Tart stuffed with chocolate, coffee cake, and various glazed doughnuts. Most customers won’t tell the difference between the vegan versions and the textures of traditional offerings. Podgorny has teamed up with Caytlyn Walker on a new endeavor called Cake and Jam. Walker worked at Arbor in Lakeview and Schuder expects the duo to contribute mightily to Fancy Plants pastry program. For paczki day on Tuesday, Fancy Plants rolled out vegan versions of the Polish hole-less doughnuts (the traditional versions are made with animal fats).
Dinner service will from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday through Sunday. Check it out starting on Thursday.