Monday, January 01, 2007

Coming Weekday Lunch at Handlebar Needs a New Menu

Handlebar Bar & Grill: (Wicker Park) Chicago
2311 W. North Ave.

The word is that Handlebar will soon open at 10 a.m. during the weekdays, earlier than the current 4 p.m. They started opening early for brunch on the weekends long ago, and I'm a big fan of the simple vegan items that their brunch menu offer up -and their proximity to my apartment. When my parents and I rolled in yesterday, the vegan soysage and avocado burrito filled me well.

In case Handlebar hasn't firmed their weekday lunch menu, I'd like to see them bring some new types of vegan food to Chicago. Someone recently mentioned making chicken soup to me, "like all Jewish women know how to make," and I became once again inspired to bring more culturally traditional flavors to the vegan table in Chicago. Herbivore in San Francisco has offered an incredibly succulent and flavorful vegan shawarma as a special. Shawarma is all about slowly roasting flavors from a fat, onion and tomato in to some conduit, dressing it up with sauce like tahini or hummus with cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg, and serving it up fast food style. Herbivore just changed the conduit from meat (usually lamb, chicken, turkey or cow) to seitan. The conduit's purpose is to delivery the flavor that this food all about, and seitan works just fine. Shawarma at Handlebar would well accompany the falafel that Sultan's Market very successfully serves a few blocks down.

Chicago could also use vegan versions of the poor boy and muffuletta, seasoned like they just came from a kitchen in New Orleans; and messy grilled panini - one overflowing with vegetables, juicy tomatoes and nut and seed based sauces - like falafel's friend the tahini.

Since they opened in February 2003, Handlebar has been known in the Veg Community as a reliable source of quality vegan food. As vegan options expand on the Chicago scene - including Bleeding Heart Bakery due to re-open on January 8 after one week closed to change to a full cafe serving breakfast, lunch and dinner - I'd like to look to Handlebar to give us more new vegan options. All of this should go quite lovely with a drink pulled from Handlebar's coming espresso machine.


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