The best way to try out a new restaurant is with a coupon deal--I don't want to go somewhere I'm unsure about unless I know I'm getting a bargain at least. Thanks to a Google Offer, last night Jesus and I checked out the "Meat free since '83" Chicago Diner at its new(ish)ly-opened second location. While neither of us is vegetarian (I see myself as more of a localtarian/I make exceptions for meat when I'm going out or if someone cooks for me and Jesus is a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore), I've heard their fake meat menu items rival the real things.
My first observation was that for sounding classic and old-timey, the Chicago Diner is pretty hip and new-agey. Their Lakeview location is decorated as one would expect a diner to be, but their Logan Square location can only be described as "hipster-posh"--environmentally-friendly lighting and recycled/upcycled furniture abound. I'm sure the waiters and hosts are required to have tattoos, piercings, and/or half-shaved heads to go along with their flannel and skinny jeans. As for the clientele, well let's just say Jesus' mustache was our only "in" (even the three tattoos and seven piercings we have between us didn't seem anti-establishment enough for this crowd).
Because it was a Saturday night and there is also a bar inside (shelves stocked with locally brewed beers, vegan wines, and organic liquor), we had time to people-watch before being seated. (I have so many new character descriptions: waif-like women with purses bigger than their bodies, thick-framed glasses on horsey faces, beautiful only because they are so unnaturally striking, men with Harry Potter-esque scarves.) It was almost surreal, these character cliches being so unironic about their cliched hipsterness.
Once seated and served, we were able to focus on the reason we came: the food. It honestly didn't disappoint. We started with barbecue "wings" and an organic root beer. Okay, so the wings' texture wasn't exactly wing-like, but it was still a tasty texture and wing-like enough when taking into consideration the awesome sauce. I followed up with the Gyros, not something I would get in pure-meat form, but surprisingly flavorful as a vegetarian option. Jesus got the Cajun Black Bean Burger, forgetting momentarily that he "can't handle" spicy. Once the offending jalapenos were removed, he was fine and we both soldiered on until our plates were empty and our bellies full. Regrettably, neither of us left room for dessert. A shame considering their vegan shakes are arguably their most popular menu items.
Altogether, we had a solid meal and a decent evening. We'd both return (it helps that their Logan Square location is literally up the street from us)...even if just to make fun of the other customers.