For the vegetarian in you, the tiny Lake Side Caf? satisfies nicely with meatless Polish sausages

The 99% organic Lake Side Caf?, 1418 W. Howard St., is the most darling spot in Rogers Park, my new favorite neighborhood, crammed onto a side street just a few blocks from the lake.

Sunshine pours in through the wall of windows, the music is mellow and the young chef has a French schoolboy air dressed in a blue denim chef’s coat.

Though I wasn’t craving meat at all?I’m an on-again, off-again vegetarian?the vegan Polish sausage sounded satisfyingly good. After I talked with the chef about it, I decided to give it a go. All that sauerkraut has to be good for my immune system, right?

I plopped down at a sunlit corner table and read the paper while the chef whipped up my lunch. I was moved to see that every little thing I look for in a meal had already been thought of and was well executed. The huge loaf of bread that my sausage was tucked into was lightly toasted and buttered, while the pickles were chopped small, just the way I like them.

The vegan Polish was cooked to perfection and the sauerkraut was just sour enough to have me eating it with my hands! The whole shebang had been doused with the exact right amount of yellow mustard and tiny peppers dotted top of the kraut.

Since the restaurant is organic, the veggies in the dog were in a slightly different league than standard caf? grub. The dish was massive and I knew I’d never be able to consume the whole thing. Veggies are way less filling than meat, but somehow I managed to slam that whole dog down in a matter of minutes.

I haven’t felt that much peace and harmony since I ate almost the entire menu of sweets at Sweet Mandy B’s, 1208 W. Webster Ave., a few months back.

THE FINAL RAVE: Every Tuesday night, the caf? offers a two-hour vegetarian cooking class for $15. That’s a steal if I’ve ever seen one.


DO IT: Tribal Belly Dance,
Attached to the caf? is I.M.U. (Inner Metamorphosis University). You might consider taking one of their belly dancing classes to work off all the food you’re sure to consume at the cafe; at least they’re good calories.

DRINK IT: Fresh Choice, 1534 N. Wells St.
CBS calls them “The Best Smoothies in Chicago,” and their veggie subs aren’t too shabby. either.

EAT IT: Hot Doug’s, 3324 N. California Ave.
This uber-popular hot dog haunt has a pretty decent veggie dog, but the real killer here is the duck fat French fries. Now, those are something to write home about.

GET CRAZY WITH IT: Cousin’s Incredible Vitality, 3038 W. Irving Park Rd.
Everyone is jumping on the raw food craze and after finally indulging in a few raw dishes in Bali, I can see what all the talk is about. This is one of the few places in Chicago offering up this type of “live” food?and there’s not a trace of meat to be found.