525 Dempster Street
I always imagined that the food served at a vegetarian restaurant would taste like hippies dancing barefoot on my tongue. The very idea of ducking into an eatery that did not serve meat seemed like subjecting myself to a dark and distorted version of a Lucky Charms commercial. Instead of getting to joyously chase that affable leprechaun through marshmallow-y forests, I would be doggedly pursued by a giant, looming block of tofu ready to send me careening into a giant puddle of soy milk, and lecture me on how eating animals is wrong.
It is a great relief to say that my experience eating at Evanston’s Blind Faith Café encompassed none of the above. Blind Faith Café — its name is deceiving, as it is more restaurant than coffee shop — is located on Dempster Street and Chicago Avenue and offers “nutritious vegetarian cuisine.” While some might not be inclined to walk more than a few blocks to eat, the trek to Blind Faith is worth it.
Composed mostly of booths and small tables, Blind Faith is ideal for couples or small groups, as it is hard to imagine seven or eight people being easily seated together. Dimmed lights, coupled with an interior flecked with dark green and wood, create a warm and lazy atmosphere.
The menu surprisingly accomodate both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. It was not dominated by imaginary items such as seaweed soufflé or wheatgrass quiche — both of which I had stereotypically conjured up in my mind before sitting down. I found myself drawn in by the “crab” cake and enchilada dishes, as if a mere allusion to meat would provide me with some respite. I didn’t find a speck of chicken or crab, but I felt comforted that the menu had items I could recognize.
Because I was not dining alone (as one never should), a wider sampling of the menu was possible. To start was hummus with pita bread, a large dish meant for at least two to split. The large ice-cream-like scoop of hummus plopped amidst an array of pita slices was tasty and filling, though the hummus itself, being somewhat dry, was hard to scoop onto the pita.
Round two saw the timely arrival of the aforementioned “crab” cake. The “crab” was tofu mixed with vegetables in a lime and cilantro sauce. More delicious than either the tofu or the sauce was the side of diced tomatoes that were light and watery –- the best I’ve had in Evanston or elsewhere.
For entrées we ordered an enchilada and a barbeque seitan sandwich. The meatless enchilada was a noble effort, but it just wasn’t the same: Potatoes and cheese can only go so far. The seitan sandwich was just as tasty as any of the meaty variety. The chefs at Blind Faith obviously have more food than they know what to do with, as this “small dish” was enough to feed a small village in Africa or, in more relatable terms, two or three hungry college students.
The back of the menu claims Blind Faith Café is dedicated to providing “foods that contribute to a healthier and more sustainable environment.” However, heaping a portion of fries on the side of the sandwich that only a famished Irishman could polish off seems wasteful and contradictory to its mission statement.
Compared to similarly priced restaurants in Evanston (Blind Faith falls into the moderate to high range right below establishments like Pete Miller’s and Davis Street Fish Market but above Tapas), Blind Faith Café gives you a full plate at a good price. I certainly bit off more than I could chew, but enjoyed every bite.