Chef Kevin Schuder hasn’t been getting much sleep since he opened Fancy Plants Kitchen in Lincoln Park, an offshoot of his vegan catering company and Lakeview cafe. Schuder is known for his ambition and experimentation, and at 144 seats (including a patio), Fancy Plants Kitchen is his most ambitious experiment to date. Originally open during daytime hours, Fancy Plants Kitchen recently made its first foray into dinner service with a five-course vegan molecular gastronomy feast in late August.
Fancy Plants’ debut is big news for vegans who yearn for a more elevated experience — a place for celebration or to take a date. Not that these venues don’t exist in Chicago, but Schuder has given the city a welcoming restaurant that can cater those needs without sacrificing accessibility. Schuder says once patio season dies down, he’ll have more time to tweak the restaurant. He has experience working at wine bars in San Francisco and says that he likes cooking for a drinking crowd. Once they have a liquor license, Schuder and beverage director Pauline Sauer will unleash their cocktails and bar menu.
Schuder has outfitted the kitchen at the new Fancy Plants with a wok station and fermentation equipment and he’s lined up a purveyor of local produce so he can continue to expand the range of vegan cooking using Japanese and molecular gastronomy techniques he learned during his apprenticeship in San Francisco.
Fancy Plants Cafe, Schuder’s tiny Lakeview restaurant, is temporarily closed while the chef concentrates on Lincoln Park. Schuder yearned for a larger playground for his experiments, regularly holding pop-up dinners that showcased his talents for plated meals. Schuder has also played with vegan burgers, and now he’s no longer hamstrung by a small kitchen.
While the Lakeview location should reopen soon, Schuder is serving the pastries, sandwiches, bagels and carrot lox that made Fancy Plants so beloved, along with daily lunch specials in Lincoln Park. On weekends, there’s an expanded brunch menu with tofu scrambles, cashew ricotta toast, and cauliflower wings and waffles.
Vegans and omnivores have waited for Schuder to find a larger space, and it’s finally happened. Check out what Fancy Plants is cooking in Lincoln Park.
Fancy Plants Kitchen, 1443 W. Fullerton Avenue, Open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.