Conscious Comfort Food: Karyn’s Cooked
With the cold winter days in Chicago, I wanted to stuff my face with mashed potatoes and meatloaf. I didn’t want the heaviness and fat that typically accompanies this dish so I decided to go to Karyn’s Cooked in Chicago’s River North neighborhood located at 738 North Wells Street. Note: Karyn’s Cooked is easily accessible by public transportation (You can take the bus as well as the Brown & Purple elevated train to the Chicago stop).
An acquaintance had been telling me about this restaurant since I moved back to Chicago a few years ago. I tested out a recipe from the owner’s cookbook; but I had not made my way over to the cozy warm restaurant specializing in conscious comfort food.
Karyn’s Cooked offers a variety of vegan/vegetarian options that resemble non-vegan/non-vegetarian dishes that I am familiar with. Chili, Sloppy Joe’s, Mac & Cheese, Pecan Pie, and Bread Pudding are only a small sample of items on the menu.
WARNING: Honey is used in some of the desserts. If you are a vegan who does not consider honey vegan; be sure to ask which dishes are made with honey.
I didn’t order an appetizer. I dived right into ordering the Homestyle Meat Loaf served with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Shitake Mushroom Gravy, Steamed Broccoli, and Garlic Bread.
As a meat eater, the vegan meatloaf does not have the same texture of the meat version; but this vegan version from Karyn’s Cooked is packed with flavor and isn’t dry. NOTE: The recipe for the Vegan Meatloaf is in the owner’s cookbook, Soak Your Nuts by Karen Calabrese.
The sides rounded out the meatloaf nicely. It only makes sense to offer mashed potatoes and gravy with meatloaf. I must confess that I don’t eat traditional gravy. As a child, gravy was synonymous with Gravy Train dog food. I stepped out of my comfort zone and experienced the shitake mushroom gravy. This gravy isn’t smooth. It is filled with chunks of mushrooms and other veggies. I could have eaten a full bowl of the shitake mushroom gravy and mashed potatoes by itself.
Since I didn’t get an appetizer, I ordered dessert to take home. I chose the Lemon Meringue Pie at the suggestion of my server. I was too stuffed to eat the pie at home. Yep, you read it correctly, I was more than satisfied. I even took leftover meatloaf & gravy home.
The next day, the pie was fabulous. The topping wasn’t too sweet; and it resembled a vegan whipped topping that I had made before. I must say that with each bite, I was amazed how the filling and crust tasted like my mother had made them.
Karyn’s Cooked is a restaurant that I will frequent as I travel the road of adding more meatless options to my diet. I am upset that it took me this long to get there. When my brothers come to visit, I am going to treat them to Karyn’s Cooked. I want to know what hard core carnivores have to say about Karyn’s Cooked. Be sure to check out Karyn’s Cooked for yourself and tell me what you think.