three bloggers walk into a whole foods…

This is a continuation of the Vida Vegan location-scouting trip to Chicago. If you’re up for the 1500-word overview, it’s right here.

We’d heard about the giant Lincoln Park Whole Foods, and we were not about to leave Chicago before checking it out. Yes, a grocery store was on our must-see list. We are a trio of vegan geeks.

As we approached the absolutely mammoth building, we threw out ideas of what could be in there: a gym, a bar, plenty of nooks where we could hide until after they closed so we could run around like we were in an ’80s movie. And what were we hit with when we walked in? A bar! Just a beer-and-wine bar, but still! We grabbed some bubbly and a cart, took off our coats (’cause we were fixin’ to stay a while), and grabbed the cameras—time to shop.

Truth be told, aside from the food court—trust me, I’ll get there—most of the store is just like any other really big Whole Foods. There’s produce, refrigerator sections, aisles with jars and boxes and bags of food…but there are also cool little extras tucked in here and there. Not only are there bulk bins, but there’s a build-your-own-trail-mix salad bar. Yes, we all have those pieces in our bulk bins, but they’ve made it something special, made it more accessible.

The Whole Body section is crazy big—I’ve been to some locations where there’s a separate store for Whole Body, but this is so much easier. I wonder if the standalone ones make more money, by luring you into this specialty shop. Are you less likely to spend $15 on incense when you’re also buying your week’s groceries?

I’m not gonna worry my pretty little head about such things. Let’s take a look around the store!

If you look closely over Jess’s sweet little beret’d head, you’ll notice we’ve reached the vegan section. Diaya and Toby’s and Wildwood, oh my! I thought we had it good in Portland. Tons of vegan cheeses, spreads, fakey meats, and some prepared foods, such as…

Upton’s grab-n-go…allllmost reason enough to move back to Chicago. They had a bunch of other vegan meals ready to go from local manufacturers and restaurants.

Known as “the vegan food truck,” Chicago’s own Ste Martaen vegan cheese. It’s nut-based, but some of their food-truck menu items have nut-free cheesy bits.

Speaking of cheesy bits, it’s Food for Lovers vegan queso! We love Chris & Crystal, the absolutely lovely couple behind this fakey cheese sauce. We love the fakey cheese sauce too.

As we walked through the food court—and there are seriously 10 or so little food stations—we were stunned by the number of vegan options. Vegan pizza, pasta, Mexican fare, sandwiches, plus the salad bar/build-a-plate area. I think they had three different kale salads.

Here’s Janessa bogarting Jess’s soyshake while we wait for our hot dogs. It was a hit, which isn’t really a gimme when you’re dealing with soy. I’ve had some nasty, heavy-tasting soyshakes.

Janessa’s special hot dog: Daiya and kraut. They melted the Daiya and mixed in the kraut, then slapped it on a charred dog. Yes, it looks disgusting (well, it did to us), but Janessa gave the taste a thumbs-up.

My Chicago-style hot dog, hold the mustard and the relish. Why? Because I don’t like ’em. I do like celery salt, onion, tomato, and pickles, however. I have to say I expected poppy seeds on my bun. Their absence made me sad…but then again, this heap of onion made up for it.

How crazy is this? All the way from NYC, Candle Cafe desserts. I found them at the Las Vegas Whole Foods too (another impressive vegan section). They had the raspberry Linzer tart and the chocolate peanut butter. And $4 ain’t too bad when you know it’s so rich you have to share it with a buddy.

And if you can’t even make it to Chicago Diner, you can still eat their tasty treats! You can finally eat the whole piece in the privacy of your own home and not feel like you’re being judged. Oh, like I’m the only one.

And more Chicago Diner goodies. Cookies and muffins. Betcha vegans aren’t the only ones grabbing these.

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