Classic Tables: Karyn's Raw

Chicago's original raw restaurant turns 15

Even the most devout gastronome might feel a twinge of post-gluttony guilt this time of year. (It is resolution season, after all.)

One way to satisfy a desire for healthy dining: Visit Karyn's Raw, the city's oldest raw vegan destination.

Since opening in 1995, Karyn Calabrese has surprised countless meat devotees with the sophisticated flavors and techniques behind her dishes–crafted without animal products (except honey) and without being heated over 116 degrees.

The ideal introduction is at the white-tablecloth restaurant adjoining the café. Start with a nutty, bracingly garlicky ajo blanco soup of almonds, garlic and grapes ($6), or shiitake carpaccio–warm, silky mushroom caps marinated in extra-virgin olive oil and Himalayan salt ($5).

Ravioli–paper-thin turnip slices folded around ricotta-like whipped macadamia milk–are laced with garlic and basil ($14; pictured). A corn-husk tamale holds a savory jumble of organic masa, marinated vegetables and a rich béchamel-like onion-nut cream ($12).

Finish with a dense flaxseed and honey crêpe filled with figs, pecans, orange zest, coconut and mint ($9). You won't miss the butter–or the heat.

But if you do, Calabrese's newest venture–Karyn's on Green, an upscale version of Karyn's Cooked, which cooks with flames (but not butter)–is set to open on January 18 in the West Loop (at 130 S. Green St.).

Karyn's Raw Café and Gourmet Restaurant, 1901 N. Halsted St.; 312-255-1590 or karynsraw.com