The Chicago Diner is the polar opposite of a typical diner. Awesome ambience and decor hidden by a plain storefront, delicious food, and, if the crowd was any indication, the place to be.
We arrived a little before 1pm, and the place was packed. There was an approximately 10 minute wait for a table, so we sat at the bar to check out the menu and order a drink. My cousin and I split a large Cookie Dough Peanut Butter vegan shake. I could have and would have drank an entire shake by myself. It was to die for. The shake itself tasted like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cereal, and it was topped with whipped cream, a couple of chocolate chips, and bits of peanut. Already this restaurant was on my good side.
They brought us the menus, which are entirely meat free, and mostly vegan, with the exception of rBST-free cheese from grain-fed cows, and hormone/antibiotic free eggs from grain-fed and cage-free chickens. If you ask to see a gluten free menu, it tells you what items are corn free and soy free as well. I ended up ordering the Mexicana plate with eggs and Daiya cheese. This dish comes with scrambled eggs or tofu topped with dairy or non-dairy cheese, black beans, Mexican-style rice, guacamole, and salsa. You can also add corn tortillas for an extra charge. When it came out it didn’t look like a lot of food, but I wasn’t able to finish the whole thing. That could have been due to the half a milkshake I devoured beforehand OR perhaps it was the fact that my first meal of the day was being eaten at 1 in the afternoon. Either way, I had no issues whatsoever with the portion size. And it was delicious! Everything was spiced perfectly, and it all went together very well.
The diner has an overwhelmingly young and attractive staff. They play great music (I heard The Beatles, Neil Diamond, and The Temptations), although it was hard to hear the music over the noise of people talking. The plain, if a little beat down storefront is completely misleading, as when you go inside you are met with brick walls, awesome art displays, and the type of decor you might expect in uptown New York (or maybe Chicago, but then, I wouldn’t know that). The food is on the pricy side, but for me, it was worth the splurge. And that is coming from someone on a pretty tight budget for this next year. Overall, I paid about $16 for my meal with the shake cost split down the middle.