McHenry County, IL lies about halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago, and I’ll admit that it’s not a place I would have ever considered visiting until I was invited to a blogger weekend. My previous post recaps the yummy plant based eats I enjoyed at the Cherry Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast, but we spent a lot of time out and about which meant a lot of other yummy food!
With a focus on local ingredients, Duke’s Alehouse in Crystal Lake, IL clearly marks vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free offerings on their menu. The group ordered the Crudité and Tempura Green Bean appetizers to share. I enjoyed the selection on the Crudité, and as you can see above, it boasts bright, fresh colors. The Tempura Green Beans come with a teriyaki ginger dipping sauce, and I could have eaten the whole plate myself.
But alas, I had to share and also save room for the delicious Fried Tofu and Kimchi Sandwich that may as well have had my name written on it. It was messy to the point that I used a fork and knife, but the tofu fell right in the middle of the firmness scale and I loved the crisp outside.
The owner of 1776 has several food allergies, so their intention with the restaurant is to accommodate pretty much anyone’s dietary needs. It’s also in Crystal Lake like Duke’s. Cadry and I had to ask several questions when sorting through the menu, and the appetizer we landed on was the Vegetarian Flatbread without cheese. The veggies were gorgeous and fresh, and I would have been happy to enjoy this as my entrée.
I selected the Veggie Grain Bowl which includes kale, wild rice, beans, and veggies. I added Beyond Meat’s Italian sausage which came sliced and seared. It added a punch of flavor that benefited the grain bowl. None of the salad dressings were vegan, which was disappointing, especially learning the balsamic vinaigrette contains honey. Why?? Our server was nice enough to mix us up some honey-free dressing.
Cadry ordered the Vegan Chef’s Choice which came with mushrooms and a carrot risotto topped with greens. I’m glad I didn’t order it because the mushrooms were much too large and chewy for my liking. While I appreciate the inclusive offerings, it was tough to eat at a place that also serves wild boar and snails, in addition to more traditional animal options.
Since it wasn’t a stop on our itinerary, Cadry and I visited Expressly Leslie in Woodstock for lunch on Sunday before heading back home. They have a takeout counter in what appears to have been a mall that now feels fairly abandoned, save for a few businesses. We didn’t explore much, though, so I’m not entirely sure. There are a few tables, and the staff will bring your food out to you.
We decided to go with a sampler of all the vegan options (it’s a vegetarian eatery but the staff knew what was vegan), and it was fun to get a sampling of so many things. Anni from Mowgli Studio highly recommended the Moroccan Eggplant, and oh my gosh it was delicious! I’m not usually an eggplant person, but they slice it thin and whatever seasonings they use are divine. The hummus was perfect, and everything was fresh. It was so much food that one sampler plate would have been plenty for the two of us, so we packed up most of it to go.
It has to be said, I was well fed over the weekend, and I was surprised that there are really good options in the area. Happy Cow showed a few other places that I wouldn’t mind checking out at some point. For more recommendations, check out this post from my friends at Dining Duster, and you can read Cadry’s post here.
Have you been to any small towns that happened to surprise you with good vegan-friendly spots? Drop a comment below!