Tag Archives: Mexican food

New Vegan Eats In Chicago: Quesadilla – La Reyna del Sur

Thanks to one of our readers we recently found out about a new vegetarian Mexican place in Logan Square called Quesadilla, La Reyna del Sur (2235 N. Western, Chicago, IL 773-235-8807), so of course we had to go check the place out right away. According to our reader, Quesadilla used to be on the south side a few years ago before they disappeared. Now they’re back with a menu filled with food which can be veganized, since their soy-based meats are TVP and they offer both dairy cheese and non-dairy cheese (Follow Your Heart), all at taqueria prices!

When we first walked in we went up to the counter to check out the menu and ask questions. When it was established that we were eating in, the friendly woman behind the counter gave us menus and asked us to take a seat at a table. She brought out chips and two types of salsa, both of which were delicious, though she warned us that the chunkier of the two was pretty hot and it was. We munched on chips while we checked out the menu and I was a bit disappointed because the chips were greasy and not very good, but bad chips don’t necessarily mean bad food.

Of course we couldn’t write a good review unless we sampled a little bit of everything, so we did. We ordered a Huarache de Rajas, which is a large piece of fried corn dough topped with beans, lettuce, roasted Poblano pepper strips, tomato, cilantro and in our case Follow Your Heart mozzarella. I used to eat huaraches on a weekly basis at a market after school when I was a kid in Mexico and this one was just as large and delicious as those. Unlike the chips, it wasn’t super greasy and all the toppings were fresh, plus who can beat it at $4.75?

Huarache

We also ordered two tacos, 1 chorizo and 1 Al Pastor ($2 each). When they brought out the tacos they both looked exactly the same, so I wasn’t sure which was which and after taking a bite of both I still couldn’t distinguish between the two, which was unfortunate, because I love tacos Al Pastor (so far El Faro is the only restaurant I’ve tried that’s been able to make the perfect vegan Al Pastor taco). However, both tacos were good despite their uniformity. They had a chorizo-like flavor and were slightly spicy. They were served with onion, cilantro, lettuce and tomato and two small tortillas, just like they serve them in Mexico.

Finally, we also ordered a Veggie Cubana torta ($5.75) which was filled with soy-sausage, bacon and chicken, as well as beans, avocado, tomato and lettuce. Normally they also top them with mayo they make themselves from almonds, but they were out of mayo last night. Even though the huarache was delicious, this was our favorite item. Nothing beats a warm bolillo filled with delicious food.

On top of huaraches, tortas and tacos, Quesadilla also offers quesadillas, of course, as well as, a wide variety of fruit and vegetable juices.┬áThe woman I spoke with there knew what was up when it came to veganism (she marked our ticket – no butter, soy cheese and no sour cream – for the cook, even though we’d forgotten to ask about butter). She said they’ve only been in their new location for two weeks, but that they’ve been well received. So be sure to pay them a visit soon. They’re located on the corner of Lyndale and Western and are currently open from 10am-10pm Sun-Fri.

They’re so close to Second City Vegan headquarters I’ve got a feeling we’ll be getting take-out from them on a regular basis!

*Special thanks to David S. for giving us the heads up on this place. As always, if any of you know of any hidden vegan/vegan friendly gems within the city we don’t have listed on our restaurant page, or of any new places opening up, let us know so we can spread the word.

El Nuevo Mexicano’s New Vegan Menu

Last Thursday, El Nuevo Mexicano (2914 N Clark Street, 773-528-2131) premiered their new vegan menu with a benefit for Mercy for Animals. Nick and I were so excited we made a reservation a week in advance in order to make sure we’d get to try it out.

El Nuevo Mexicano, is a small restaurant which has been serving Mexican food in Lakeview since 1983. I had never been there until last week, because my family typically went to the Little Village to get Mexican food when I was growing up, so I wasn’t sure what to expect (other than that their vegan menu would include Daiya cheese and Upton’s Naturals seitan). Since we knew we would be reviewing the place and part of the proceeds were going to charity we decided to go all out and get an appetizer, 2 entrees and a dessert.

Appetizer:

Botana Combinada

We chose the Botana Combinada, which consists of two flautas filled with Upton’s chorizo, carrots and potatoes served with guacamole. It was delicious! I liked it so much I wasn’t entirely sure I’d made the right call not ordering the Flautas de Verduras con Papa y Chorizo Vegano as my entree (next time!). The flautas were flavorful and they weren’t bathed in grease, which can often be the case. The guacamole was fresh and we had an abundance of tortilla chips and salsa to finish off what we didn’t eat with the flautas.

Entrees:

Enchiladas de Vegetales en Salsa Bandera

I ordered the Enchiladas de Verduras en Salsa Bandera, which consisted of three corn tortillas stuffed with grilled peppers, mango, plantains, pico de gallo and Daiya cheese covered in chipotle and tomatillo salsas, served with rice and a salad made of fresh greens, jicama, strawberries and mango drizzled with a vinaigrette. I was not disappointed with my choice. I am not someone who shies away from mixing sweet and savory foods or sweet and spicy foods, if you are then this may not be the best entree for you to order. However, neither flavor overpowered the other, which is often what turns people off to such combinations and together the fruits, vegetables and salsa made a unique, healthy, delicious meal, which I look forward to eating again soon.

Fajitas Vegano Pt 1

Fajitas Vegano Pt 2

Nick, ordered the Fajitas Vegano, which consisted of sauteed onions, peppers and seasoned soy strips, served with quinoa, beans, guacamole, pico de gallo and warm corn tortillas. His entree was almost enough food for two people. He asked for the quinoa, which was seasoned like Spanish rice (yum!) instead of rice. After trying my entree and our appetizer he was a bit disappointed with the fajitas, because though they were good, he wasn’t blown away by them. He was scared away from some of the other entrees, because unlike me, he’s not really into fruit, so the idea of eating entrees which mixed fruit andspicy/savory things was a bit daunting, so he went with the safe choice. What he got was something we could have easily made at home, though, I had never thought of preparing quinoa like Spanish rice.

Dessert:

Chimichangas de Camote en Chipotle Durazno Salsa

We decided to split a dessert, because, Nick’s, entree was so large he wasn’t able to finish it all. At the time the only vegan dessert available was the Chimichangas de Camote en Chipotle Durazno Salsa, so we went with that. The chimichangas were flour tortillas filled with mashed sweet potatoes, served with a scoop of vegan ice cream and drizzled with warm peaches, chipotle powder and raisins. The chipotle powder gave the dessert a little kick and the neutral flavors of vanilla ice cream and sweet potatoes went nicely with the spiciness of the chipotle and the sweetness of the peaches.

Overall it was a very pleasant dining experience. The wait staff were friendly and attentive, never letting our water glasses go dry. The restaurant was cozy and not too loud, and the food was delicious. I’m looking forward to going back and trying more of the vegan menu. Though, we made a reservation, they are not required as the restaurant is pretty casual. Entrees range from $12-$15, which means it won’t be a weekly joint for us, but it also means it’ll be the kind of place we visit more than twice a year.

According to their Facebook page, El Nuevo Mexicano, will be adding/changing items offered on the vegan menu periodically, so check back often to see what new delicious treats are being offered! For those who are interested, they also offer drink specials 5 nights a week and can be booked for parties. Just remember to ask for the Vegan Menu.

Hibiscus Flower Enchiladas/Enchiladas de Flor de Jamaica

I had these in Mexico while I was there on vacation a few months ago and I was impressed! The combined sweetness of the flower and spiciness of the salsa were something I was skeptical about at first, but once I took that first bite I felt silly for being hesitant. I haven’t been able to replicate the ones I had exactly because it’s winter in Chicago so fresh Hibiscus flowers are hard to come by, but these come pretty close.

Ingredients:
1 bag of dried Hibiscus flowers (Flor de Jamaica)*
1/2 small finely chopped onion
1 clove of garlic
8 green tomatoes, cubed
2 Serrano peppers
1 cup vegetable stock
Cilantro
Corn tortillas

Boil the flowers in a small pot of water and strain them. If you want you can keep the water to make Agua de Jamaica or Jamaica tea (a beverage that tastes slightly like Cranberry juice). Add oil to a frying pan and sautee the onion, garlic and green tomatoes. Add Serrano peppers once veggies start to brown (you can add the pepper a little sooner if you want your salsa to be spicier). Take half of this mixture and blend it, along with the vegetable stock to make your salsa. Add salt, pepper and cilantro to salsa to taste. Add Hibiscus flower to remaining frying pan mixture and sautee. Heat up your tortillas, fill them with flour mixture and bathe them in salsa. Add vegan sour cream or cheese if you like and enjoy!

Makes about a dozen enchiladas using standard sized corn tortillas.

*Dried hibiscus flowers have a nice “meaty” consistency, but can start to feel a bit chewy after you’ve had 2-3 of these. I’m going to experiment with rehydrating the flowers before I boil them to see if this makes a difference. I’ll keep you all posted on the results!