Small Plates, Big Taste!
Posted on 01 / 16 / 2013
MANA food bar is a small Wicker Park vegetarian tapas restaurant. I was first introduced to this gem several years ago and have yet to be disappointed. About half their menu is vegan and very inspired by Asian flavors as well as other world cuisines. You can order small plates or large plates of most dishes. I would recommend getting a variety of small plates to try out different items. Don't go overboard, though! Get a couple dishes and see if you are full and then order more if you'd like. The items can rack up in price if you don't do it that way. MANA is moderately priced so expect to pay about $50-$70 a meal with alcohol.
Be warned also that this restaurant is pretty small, so you might be waiting for a table (unless you go during good weather seasons when they have a small outside table area too).
For appetizers, we had the pickled veggies, caponata, and the sesame noodles, all small sized. The pickled veggies were good - tomatoes, green beans, and mushrooms. I didn't care for the tomatoes as much as the other two. One of my favorite dishes at MANA is the caponata. If you are not an eggplant person, do not get this dish. If you love eggplant like myself, you will thoroughly enjoy this tapas plate. I highly recommend one tries this item! The sesame noodles were pretty good as well. It was my friend's least favorite of the variety of small plates we got, but I'd get it again. In the past, I've also tried the spinach and pear salad and it is also one of my favorites on the menu.
For hot plates, we got the curry dish, ma po tofu, and gyoza, again all small sized. The gyoza are really good - just your standard fried veggie dumplings, but delicious. I preferred the curry dish over the ma po tofu. Once again, if you don't like eggplant, don't get the ma po tofu dish. The lentils in the curry plate were a nice added touch too. In the past, I've had the tofu bulgogi dish and it is one of my favorites on the menu. I highly recommend trying out that plate. My friend also had the tamale and the potato pancakes. He really enjoyed them both, particularly the potato pancakes, but be warned neither are vegan (he's a vegetarian).
If I had to go with a top three favorite dishes at MANA, I would choose: bulgogi, caponata, and gyoza. The sesame noodles run a tie with the gyoza in my opinion.
For a complete review, please see my blog here: http://veganmiss.blogspot.com/2012/10/vegan-chicago-restaurant-review-of-mana.html
small place, pricey, long wait