Tuesday, October 18, 2011

MOFO - Day 18 - Vegan in the Chicago 'Burbs - Miraculous

The other night my friends and I happened upon a bar close to the train station in Crystal Lake, IL called Duke's Alehouse and Kitchen. For my non-Illinois readers, Crystal Lake is in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, very close to the Wisconsin border. This is the land of dairy, beef and many things non-vegan. We stopped in very late at night for a drink before heading home on the train. While waiting at the bar to order, I saw a sign that said they were voted the #1 vegan friendly restaurant in the northwest suburbs by Urban Spoon.

I grew up in this area and visit every year. Usually I can find a gratuitous vegetarian dish here and there on a menu if I am lucky. I was thrilled to see they actually mentioned the word vegan on the menu. Well today, my mom and I went back to check it out. I was even more excited to find out that not only did they have vegan friendly fare, but most of it is local and organic! I was swooning to say the least.

Now the first visit was late night and it was pretty much a bar scene complete with karaoke. Today we went for lunch and the vibe was more comfy bistro. The wood floors and the brickwork gave it a rustic feel. The many windows made it bright and sunny on a cold, windy day.

Duke's sources much of their food from local and organic farms. They even have their own gardens. They have a cool blackboard on the wall that displays where they get their fresh ingredients from. I am hoping next time I am in town I might have time to check out their gardens!!

The menu offered several choices for the veg set. Our server had some knowledge of what was vegan and what was not. What he didn't know, he took the time to go to the kitchen and ask. As a good blogger should, I ordered way more than I could eat, but I wanted to check out several of the vegan offerings.

The Tempura Beans ($9.00) had a very light and crispy batter on them. These are offered in a vegan and non-vegan version. I wanted to find out how they made the tempura batter. It was not very greasy (yay!), crispy and light and served with a teriyaki type sauce.

I didn't need to try these, I had to try these; the Inferno Fries ($4.00/$6.00). These hand cut golden beauties were sprinkled with a mild cajun spice. The name Inferno is a quite an over-exageration, as they weren't very spicy. There was no doubt that these were fresh cut and fantastic though. There were none left!

The next delectable dish was the Raw Spaghetti Salad ($8.00). As the name indicates it is raw. It is also vegan and gluten free. This was a huge hit for me. The fresh zucchini was sliced thinly. It appeared that the mandolin they had was not working quite right as you could see the slice marks, but it had not cut all the way through. This was truly inconsequential to the dish because the zucchini was thinly sliced, the sun dried tomatoes were juicy and flavorful and teh kalamata olives lent the perfect amount of salty yumminess to the dish. I loved the fried basic garnish.

The Grilled Vegetable Flatbread Pizza ($8.00/$10.00) was amazing (and was 1/2 price for Meatless Monday). The flatbread was thin and crispy. The arugula was crazy fresh and nutty tasting. The tomato pesto was perfectly balanced. There was no doubt that the vegetables were fresh and perfectly grilled. I asked the server about the cheese. It tasted like Daiya to me, but I thought that maybe in the land of Soy Dairy Teese, they may have been using Teese. But I was correct. It was indeed Daiya. Mom and I both loved it!

Duke's features Meatless Mondays. They offer 1/2 price on selected vegetarian items when you purchase two bevvies. So my traveling friends and my friends who live in IL, rejoice! There is a great place you can go to tantalize your tastebuds, have a nice glass of wine or one of many beers offered. I hope other restaurants in the northwest 'burbs take note of what Duke's is doing! Take a ride on the train and get of the Crystal Lake exit. Duke's will be right there when you get off of the train!


  1. I want a Duke's Ale House and Kitchen here! Sounds like you're having fun - and keeping up with the MOFO!

  2. The space looks beautiful! The food looks really nice as well. Sounds like gun.

  3. WHAAAA? I was just in Crystal Lake last weekend- I wish I new of this place, it would have been perfect for me and my two friends I was with after a long photo job. Next time-for sure!

  4. I'd love to have a place like this in PHX too! Courtney - you were in CL? Wow! What a small world!