Chicago Raw Food

Better late than never, right? I stumbled upon a fabulous raw food restaurant in the Loop area of Chicago, just two weeks before moving away to Madison, Wisconsin. RAW (Raising Awareness Worldwide) is located at 131 N. Clinton, in the French Market at Ogilvie Train Station. I wish I had known about it during all of those trips to get my BlackBerries replaced! Still it was worth the wait and now I can get prepared raw yumminess just a quick Metra train ride from my apartment.

Laura Bruno at RAW in Chicago's French Market

As you can see, RAW offers a wide selection of superfoods, supplements and tricky to find staples. Carole, one of the owners who was there that day, really knows her stuff! I overheard her giving the exact same advice I often give to clients, and it was some pretty obscure advice. Kudos!

And the food … OMG … The food. Was really. Fabulous. It’s takeout, but you are welcome to sit at one of the many tables in the nearby back of the market. RAW is in the Northeast Corner, very close to the tables. If you show up around “regular” meal times, you will find a table of samples awaiting your curious and soon-to-be-delighted tastebuds:

I think I tried everything on the entree and dessert menu, mostly because I could. It all tasted amazing. Carole also handed out some samples earlier in the day, to whet appetites for the main event. A normal person might have felt full, but not me. All those samples just alerted my ravenous belly that good food was on the way. I visited with a friend, and we took advantage of the takeout nature, opting to order many items, some for there and many to go. Here’s what we tried:

Raw Lasagna at RAW

This might possibly be the best raw lasagna either of us had ever eaten. I don’t know what they do to get the texture just right, but it almost seemed cooked, and I mean that as a compliment. The sauce and spinach just sparkled with flavors, though, far outmatching any cooked counterpart. I liked that it felt so filling yet easy to digest, probably due to the relatively simple panel of ingredients: spinach, zucchini, basil, tomato, garlic, rosemary, cashews, lemon, nutritional yeast, Himalayan Sea Salt (HSS) and Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). You could taste the individual components, and yet they blended perfectly, too. Big ups for the raw lasagna!

Raw Vegan Sushi

The Raw Sushi also surprised and excited. My favorite part? The nori rolls actually contain Blue Manna. For those of you familiar with Crystal Manna, the blue green algae from Klamath Lake, Oregon, Blue Manna is like a super potent healing extract from this superfood. To find it incorprated in an entree further made my day on a day in which so many things did just that. The spiced pumpkin seeds added a nice crunch as a topping. If I hadn’t had some bizarre craving for tomatoes all day, I might have ordered the sushi, too. Instead, I just nibbled on a couple pieces of this very generous portion.

We sampled a spirulina mint dessert, as well as some sort of apple pie, a chocolate something, and a lemon square. All delicious, but I have to say I loved their savory foods so much I almost didn’t want to change flavors by segueing into the sweet stuff. Knowing my predilection for spirulina and cacao, this speaks volumes about how much I enjoyed lunch!

We ordered a bunch of things to go and then divided them up, so that we could mix and match at home, thereby trying more items. I have not tolerated gluten for many years. I ate a bit in some friends’ tabouli back in February, but it totally made my skin break out, and I got a headache afterwards. For some reason, the sandwiches at RAW looked so tasty that I decided to throw caution to the wind. I at sprouted wheat and sprouted rye dehydrated “bread” from RAW with zero negative side effects. Another making of my day!

Falafel Patties Sandwich

(Raw Vegan) Salmon Patties Sandwich

The Salmon Patties tasted so good they got me hooked on Wakame seaweed again. I dug some out of my little Macrobiotic stash and experimented with it for a few meals this week. Both the sandwiches we ordered to go came with enough onion crunchies for that sandwich, plus extra for my next day’s homemade collard-burdock wraps using their raw, sprouted hummus:

Raw Sprouted Garbonzo Bean Hummus

The best parts of the Garden Burger, in my opinion were the condiments, expecially the ketchup! By this I don’t mean to imply that the burger tasted bad; the condiments just tasted extra good:

Garden Burgers at RAW Chicago

In addition to the amazingly fresh, flavorful, filling food, I love the vibe of this place. They sell handcrafted “Prosperity Trade” goods, going a step above “Fair Trade.” Instead of providing third world workers with just enough of a wage to live upon, which is still more than many places do, RAW selects goods from people who have been paid more than just the bare minimum. This feeling of abundance spreads through the whole experience at RAW. Again, their name stands for Raising Awareness Worldwide.

With all their free samples, they are certainly doing their part to raise awareness in Chicago, too! The French Market features lots of fresh produce booths as well as more standard American and fatty European fare. RAW holds it own there. In line, several people remarked to me that they had gotten hooked on the feel-good lunches after skeptically trying the samples. They could not believe healthy could taste so good. A lot of love goes into that food, too. You can taste it and feel it, even while standing in line. The staff greets everyone with respect, taking time to answer questions, yet also keeping things moving over a busy lunch hour. It’s rare to find such caring service that remains present to the needs of the next customer behind the current chatty one.

I also discovered that the Universe had answered my plea for a nearby prepared raw vegan Thanksgiving option, as I will need to spend most of that day packing. (Due to the Chicago classes on the 20th and 21st, I can’t really start until Monday of Thanksgiving week, and I move that Saturday.) RAW offers a three course Thanksgiving Day Dinner ‘ala’ RAW, which contains:

Butternut Squash Soup
“Turkey” (faux turkey with mashed ‘potatos,” gravy, cranberry sauce and stuffing
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts
Pumpkin Pie
Rosemary Crackers
and Not ‘Eggnog’

Orders must be placed by Monday, November 22 and picked up on Tuesday the 23rd or Wednesday the 24th: 312-831-2720 or http://www.chicagorawfood.com.

I’ve already place my order, and I’m happy to say, “I’ll be back!”

Happy Gratitude Day

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