Back when we lived in the Humboldt Park/Logan Square neighborhood, it was pretty much a food desert for vegans. For most of the eight years we lived there, we biked to nearby Wicker Park if we wanted to go out to eat, which was not such a hardship but it would have been nice to have something nearby. One day, though, a Thai restaurant opened on Armitage west of Kedzie and there was practically rejoicing on the streets. Finally, we had pad Thai and pad siew right in our very own neighborhood. It was novel and amazing and the food was kind of just average but we still went there at least once a week. Ahh!
Years after we moved to Oak Park, our old neighborhood has gotten more and more vegan-friendly. From Flying Saucer to the Boiler Room, New Wave Coffee to the new Chicago Diner, the vegan-friendly wave has definitely started to expand its reach and roll down Chicago from east to west. Hearing about the all-vegetarian Ground Control, a mere ten-minute walk from our old apartment, was both maddening and thrilling. Maddening because, well, we don’t live as close anymore but thrilling because more meatless establishments make my heart do a happy dance.
Ground Control is just open for dinner now but they have plans to expand to a brunch as soon as they are able. (They’re still debating lunch.) It has a comfortable urban-rustic vibe and ample banquette seating. The service was friendly and helpful with pointing out what could be made gluten-free for me. I liked the unpretentious, relaxed (but not blasé) energy there.
Chef Dan Hanaway makes the tofu and seitan in-house for their eclectic menu. The menu spans the culinary globe from Spring Rolls to Southern Fried Tofu but the emphasis seems to be on Latin flavors: they have a Jibarito sandwich as well as two taco entrees. Everything is vegetarian, some are vegan as is, and anything with dairy can be made without it. The desserts, just Carrot Cake and Chocolate Mousse Pie so far, are both vegan.
When we were in on Friday night around 6:00, there was a decent size crowd there but we had no trouble getting a table. My son ordered the Cheesy Italian Beef, my husband got the Po’ Boy, and I ordered the 3 Baja Tofu Tacos. My son loved his sandwich, which featured succulent seitan, peppers and house-made giardiniera on a roll, with Garlic Smashed Potatoes and Shiitake Gravy on the side for $9.50. (Because they don’t have vegan cheese yet, it just came without the provolone that normally comes on it.) It was a filling meal for him and he ate every bite. I loved the tacos, especially the addition of pickled red onion because I am a pickle fiend. I loved the crunchy-sour element to the savory, juicy tacos on corn tortillas, which were normally served with breaded tofu but the kitchen was able to prepare without breading. The squiggle of Baja sauce was rich and a great complement to everything. The $10.00 plate came with Black Beans, Pigeon Peas and Rice, which filled out the meal nicely. My husband enjoyed his Po’ Boy sandwich (also ordered with a side of mashed potatoes), which came with lettuce, pickled red onions, tomato, cabbage and a spicy garlic mayo but he felt that if he hadn’t had a big lunch that day, he’d still be hungry afterward. The sandwich was $9.50. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay for dessert but I’ve heard good things.
So check out Ground Control. It’s another great addition to the Chicago vegetarian culinary scene and I expect more good stuff to come as the restaurant matures. Ground Control is at 3315 W. Armitage and the phone number is 773-772-9446.