When we arrived at Karyn's Fresh Corner & Raw Cafe, which has recently re-opened in the Lincoln Park area after a fire, we discovered that in addition to having a small gourmet restaurant, they also have a little specialty grocery store with food bar. We slipped into the dining area, which was cozy and cleanly decorated.
We were the only ones there at the time, and a server came to our table right away with menus and water for the table. The water had been infused with cucumber slices, which was refreshing and always makes me feel like I'm sitting at a spa. The featured drink option of the day was coconut water, fresh from a young coconut and served in a wine glass.
For an appetizer, we ordered the cheese plate, which includes a variety of nut-based cheeses in different flavors alongside dehydrated crackers, dried fruit and nuts. We took turns sampling the different cheeses and then pressing them into the various toppings. We each attempted to pick our favorite, but that kept changing with each bite - sometimes it was the one with a prominent flavor of basil, then it would be the garlicky one, then the more spicy one... They gave a generous amount of each of the cheeses, and I had to remind myself that I still had a main course coming.
For the main course, I ordered the Pad Thai. I generally see kelp noodles or spiralized zucchini in raw noodle dishes, but for this entrée coconut meat was used. They cut the inner meat from a young coconut into long strips and tossed it in a creamy curry sauce with bean sprouts, peas, scallions, carrots, and marinated mushrooms. The sauce definitely had a spicy kick, and I liked the crunch of the bean sprouts against the softness of the coconut meat noodles.
My friend ordered the empanadas, which were made with flax and corn masa pastry dough and then stuffed with chorizo and served with raw chocolate mole and salsa verde. I stopped myself from reaching across with a fork to sample one of his empanadas, which he was clearly enjoying. Instead I asked if he'd have raw food again sometime, to which he said, "Well, if raw food is like this then I would."
If I lived in Chicago, all of Karyn's restaurants would definitely be in my regular rotation, including her raw cafe where I'd love to make it my mission to sample the menu from top to bottom (leaving out the menu items with honey, of course).
fresh, inventive, creative