Whether or not we want to admit it, vegetable-focused restaurants in this city have a pretty big disadvantage to overcome. While most Chicagoans like vegetables just fine, many of us are more acquainted with the meat sweats. This means that if a place specializing in vegetarian or vegan food wants attention, they need to be doing something pretty interesting. On top of that, a lot of really good vegetable spots have opened recently, so the competition is stiff. While Clever Rabbit’s vegetarian food is good for people who already really like vegetables, it might not be inventive enough to impress anyone else.
The restaurant itself is enjoyable, and has a lot going for it in terms of atmosphere. The inside is dark, with dangly lightbulb lights and loudish music that gives it a clubby feel. There’s a huge outdoor patio that’s great for hanging out with a group in warmer weather, and an accent wall covered in faux grass that we can only assume is trying to let you know what you’re in for food-wise.
Most of the items here are gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, or vegetarian - but that doesn’t mean they’re all healthy. Many dishes are fried, and we can’t blame them for this: it’s an easy way to make everything taste better. There’s a kale salad, and they take the extra step of frying some of the leaves, but it still tastes like something easily made at home. Flash-fried brussels sprouts also make an appearance, served with yogurt and honey, and they’re good but not too memorable. In fact, overall, “good but not too memorable” is how we’d describe most of the dishes here.
A few items do stand out, like the mother of all crudite platters, which comes with seasonal accoutrements like eggplant agrodolce, various spreads, and naan (the accompaniments are tasty, but the size of this dish alone makes it interesting - it’s huge). And while there are meat and seafood options available (the burger is good), you get the sense they’re just there to round out the otherwise very vegetable-focused menu.
The food at Clever Rabbit is perfectly good, and certainly dietary-restriction-friendly - it’s just a little boring. If you’re a Chicagoan who gravitates towards meat, this place won’t inspire you to give it up. And if you’re not a meat-lover, it still won’t blow you away, but you won’t leave angry.
If you’re here, you need to order this. It looks like a f*cking garden landed on your table.
This comes tossed with a lemon vinaigrette and peaches. It’s fine.
Served with blue cheese, almonds, and some greens. There aren’t enough greens to make it a salad, so it really just tastes like a plate of good, but boring, beets.
These are basically carrot pot stickers The slightly sweet, gingery sauce makes this one of the stronger dishes on the menu.
These brussels sprouts are roasted, fried, and served with yogurt, honey, and a little horseradish. It’s a tasty dish, but more yogurt and honey would make it better.
This dish tastes like it’s missing something. The roasted cauliflower is underseasoned, and the puree (also made from cauliflower) is thin.
This is a solid burger - two juicy patties, Swiss cheese, mushrooms, and onions - and it reminds us of a patty melt. If you eat meat, this is what you should order.