(Not) Missing Meat

A new vegan wonderland: Native Foods Café

Faux meat has never been friendlier than at the new Wicker Park outpost of California vegan restaurant Native Foods Café.

The casual, counter-service café's menu is littered with burgers and meaty sandwiches, even a Chicago dip au jus, but the café's proprietary seitan and tempeh–which will soon be made in-house–stand in deliciously for beef and chicken.

Cubes of seitan bobbed alongside hominy in a recent special of posole ($5), its salty broth speckled with chile oil. Meat isn't missed in the Scorpion Burger ($9), a flavorful sandwich of blackened tempeh top-loaded with an avocado half, shredded carrots, lettuce, a pile of shaved red onions and sweet, mayonnaise-like chipotle sauce. For heat, spoon on salsa de chupacabra, a fresh, verdant hot sauce made with green peppers and chiles.

Salads (pictured) are heaping and hearty; with raw cabbage, apple, almonds and avocado, the kale salad ($10) has enough greens and crunch to fill a weekly quota in one sitting. The samosa salad ($10) is a chutney-topped samosa deconstructed, with potatoes, chickpeas, cashews and impeccably ripe mango tossed with a coconut-lime-cilantro vinaigrette and airy whole wheat flour crisps.

Eat it on the long sidewalk patio with an agave-sweetened watermelon agua fresca, or a bottle plucked from the café's well-stocked cooler of Two Brothers, Metropolitan and Bell's brews.

Native Foods Café, 1484 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-489-8480 or nativefoods.com