Chicago VVC Research Trip


Last week, Jess, Michele and I woke up bright and early and headed to the PDX Airport.

Destination: Chicago!






In January!




Our four goals were simple:


1. Eat Chicago Pizza and Chicago-style Hot Dogs.



Chicago unfortunately has a severe shortage of deep dish vegan pizza (Really, Chicago? Not one place?) but luckily for us, our friend The Snarky Vegan put out a call for best vegan pizza place and we all decided on The Boiler Room. Ian’s, the other options that came up, didn’t carry Daiya, and that’s what we were jonesing for.

The Boiler Room has the coolest bathrooms on the planet (see Get Sconed’s Facebook page for a little video tour), a rad cocktail list and Upton Natural’s bacon. None of us had tried bacon on pizza before, so we had to check it out. This pizza is basic—red sauce with mozzarella Daiya, Upton’s bacon and basil. Yurm.

Could have used more basil, but I’m a basil fiend and could always eat more basil.




The Whole Foods in Lincoln Park has two unique distinctions:

1. It is the best place in the world and one can drink bubbles while grocery shopping and I want to live in the aisles forever.

2. There’s a little diner called River View that offers vegan Chicago-style hot dogs for $3.50.



Michele stuck with the classic hot dog. I opted for one with sauerkraut and mozzarella Daiya.


It looks gross, I know. When I saw the picture, I seriously questioned myself as to why I would eat that. But guys, it was really good. I ate about half the kraut/cheese topping, and a few of the fries. YURM!


Oh, and we had milkshakes in Chicago, too!


Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Milkshake at The Chicago Diner.


Jess and I split the small one, and between the two of us, we almost finished it.


Jess ordered a cookies and cream milkshake at the fine River View café in Whole Foods.


This is Michele, with her glass of bubbly and Jess’ milkshake in the background.

We came, we ate, we conquered.



2. Meet up with awesome Chicago vegan peeps.


Dan and Nicole from Upton’s spent a few hours with us on Saturday. They’re the nicest people. They picked us up at our Travelodge and drove us through Boystown to The Chicago Diner. We had a fun chat over lunch.


Nicole, me and Jess outside the Chicago Diner

After lunch, we checked out a few other places on the (un)official Upton’s Driving Tour. Dan and Nicole were the perfect welcoming wagon to us VVC ladies in Chicago. Thanks, guys!


The magnificent Kelly Peloza (who is my younger doppelganger.) came up for dinner and shenanigans with us on Saturday night. She’s so talented and peaceful and fun. I love her.


Kelly and Jess at Native Foods.


On Sunday, we had a small meet up at the Boiler Room. Marla from Chicago Vegan Mania, Julia from The Snarky Vegan and Michelle (Jess’ friend—not sure if she has a blog?) got together for pizza and talks about Chicago locations and probability of a future event here.


This is what we did all weekend. Bloggers gotta blog.



3. Research potential venues for 

Vida Vegan Con 2013.








We saw several spots—ranging from UIC which would be big enough to host everything except the Galarama, to Loft on Lake (perfect for Galarama??) to Pulaski Park to Roosevelt University. We loved all we saw. While some locations had drawbacks, they each had a lot of singular benefits. We will be weighing out the pros and cons this weekend.

Decisions, decisions!


4. Get familiar with the feel of Chicago, the public

transportation, and the vegan food options.



This is the view from our hotel room. Chicago is a pretty city.



The public transportation was ridiculously easy to understand, navigate and afford.



Jess and Michele will probably kill me for posting this blue-light bus picture. But I love it.


I’m not sure why, but I really like this picture.



We had coffee at Intelligentsia, Chicago’s famous coffee shop.


My soy cappuccino was alright. It looked beautiful, but (*puts on coffee snob hipster glasses*) notes of banana overwhelmed the flavor of the cup for me.



I call this “The Jess Collection”.


<3 <3 <3


We ate lunch at Quesadilla La Reyna del Sur, an all-vegan soy-saturated taco place.


I loved it. I tried three different tacos and a bite of Jess’ Cuban Torta. I wish there was a Quesadilla location in Portland, but failing that, I am just getting more and more excited for El Nutri to open its Brick and Mortar location (Anyone know when that will be?)


Walking around in the cold. Brrrrrrr. I loved the weather. I don’t know how I’d feel after five solid months of bone-seeping cold, but four days wasn’t so bad. Plus, it was snowy. <3



Fresh warm bread. Never say no to fresh warm bread.



I enjoyed this Ebel’s Weiss. It tasted like a floral Hefeweizen.



The Handlebar, a crowded vegetarian restaurant, offered an  excellent beer: Blueberry Stout. My new favorite. Wow. This was so good. I had two. I don’t think I could do more than two—it’s so rich—but two was the perfect amount.


And, just look: rosehip liqueur? Want.


Further down on the cocktail menu was a beermosa with White ale and orange juice. Super intriguing, but stuck to my baby, the Blueberry Stout.


We visited the top of the John Hancock building.





96 stories up, our ears popped and our whistles wetted, we would have had a stunning view of Chicago, I’m sure, but all we saw out of the windows was fog and shadows of falling ice. It was so cool.

Downtown Chicago at dusk.



Whole Foods bubbles for shopping. Two of my favorite things: grocery shopping and sparkling wine. I am going to move in to this Whole Foods.




I brought all this back on the plane with me.  Soul Vegan Mac and Cheese, Ste Marteen pepperjack cheese, cucumber dill hummus, and a vegan gyro wrap from Upton’s. Not pictured: cookies from the Chicago Diner purchased as gifts for a few of the vegan staff at my day job.


The mac and cheese was decent, the hummus is nice, I’m really enjoying the cheese so far and I want those gyros wraps available in Portland.




Overall, it was a fun, busy and successful trip. We haven’t made our final decision yet, but this trip definitely answered a few questions for us.





I love Chicago.


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About Janessa

I'm a travelin' vegan gal, event planner & writer who loves eating, drinking, hiking, biking, reading, writing, loving, scheming, learning, laughing, champagne-ing and gerunds.
  • 1) You guys are all so damn cute.
    2) That milkshake! Good god, that milkshake.
    3) I am rooting for Chicago as the next location. FYI.
    4) That Whole Foods gives all other Whole Foods stores something to aspire to.
    5) Jess’ hair!! It’s so LONG and so pretty!

    • Janessa


      YOU are damn cute!


  • Never wanted to go to Chicago before now, but NOW I do!! How fun…what an amazing Whole Foods store!! WOOHOO!!

    • Janessa

      Jen, Chicago was so great!! You gotta go experience it at least once!

  • Surely you’ve learned the dangers of ordering booze/beer mixed cocktails by now, right?

    • Janessa

      But this one looked so gooooooood!

  • Adorable. I can’t believe how many photos of Michele you snuck in!

    • Janessa

      Gabrielle! Ssssshhhh!

      I tried my best to make them as nondescript as possible. Plus, she’s just adorable, it’s hard not to take photos of her!

  • ah! so adorable. its fun to see someones perspective on my city!
    and that would BE SO AMAZING if your vida con came here!!!
    And i love jess 🙂 If i knew she was coming, i would have met up with you guys!