I’ve always admired how vegetarian food has so much flavor without relying on meat to be the focus. But my appreciation has usually been from a distance, like saying “wow, that’s impressive!” while chomping on a mouthful of bacon cheeseburger and duck-fat fries.
That is, until I went to Bad Hunter.
After going twice in a month, Bad Hunter has convinced me of two things: one, I could be vegetarian if all meals were as delicious as they are here, and two, Bad Hunter is on its way to being one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago.
Bad Hunter Gives New Meaning to Meatless Meals…
… But Bad Hunter is actually not a vegetarian restaurant.
Before I dive into the depths of vegetarian dishes at Bad Hunter, let me first say that it is not, in fact, a vegetarian restaurant. Half the menu is meat dishes, but I happily avoided that part to play vegetarian for an evening.
Bad Hunter, whose clever name is only compounded by its even better instagram handle, @Good_Drinker, is ironically next door to one of the most famous burger joints in the country. You’ll have to wade through the crowds of people waiting three hours for a cheeseburger, but don’t think you’ll be walking right in at Bad Hunter, either. Word has gotten around Chicago and Bad Hunter joins the ranks of the hard-to-get-into West Loop restaurants.
Bad Hunter / Good Drinker
There’s a reason Bad Hunter’s instagram handle is @Good_Drinker: they know how to handle their booze. Aside from excellent cocktails like The Low & Sloe Cosmo (Sloe gin, strawberry, cappelletti, campari, lime, $13), their wine list is shockingly awesome. They have a huge variety of wine with dozens of affordable options, plus plenty of wine by the glass. I love when I’m wandering around a wine list and several bottles make me excited (like an Austrian rose!).
Settle in with a nice cocktail or a glass of rose and let’s look at the food.
As noted above, Bad Hunter is not strictly a vegetarian restaurant. I can only imagine how the soft shell crab ($17), lamb kofta ($14), and sirloin skewer ($15) dishes are — and I mean that both literally and figuratively. I stayed vegetarian on both dinners at Bad Hunter, but based on their veggy dishes, I bet their meat ones are equally as impressive.
Two Dishes You need to Order
Have you ever ordered a dish at a restaurant that was so good you knew you’d have to have it every time you came to the restaurant? Two dishes blew me away on my first night at Bad Hunter so much that when I returned I informed my friend we’d be ordering the Tempura Lemons and the Butter Dumplings no matter what.
Tempura fried lemons and sweet potatoes ($15) admittedly sounds a little sketchy, but somehow the lemons (their tartness reduced by the light batter surrounding them) mixed with the carolina sweet potatoes simply works. Our server suggested getting a bite of each dipped in the fish caramel sauce and viola, perfection. She was right.
On the other end of the flavor spectrum, the Butter Dumplings ($18) are like lovely pouches of savory deliciousness. Miniature pasta packets filled with charred fava beans, fresh cucumber kimchi for tanginess and a bit of seaweed, are one of the dishes I now dream about.
They definitely out-shined the Rye Gnoccheti ($16), even though the spring-like dish was delicious, with wood ear mushrooms, thai basil, brazil nuts and english peas.
The Charred snap peas ($7), in an almond wakame “butter” (actually more of a hummus) were refreshingly crunchy and light. But the Charred Asparagus ($14) in a garlic-mushroom broth was another contender for our favorite dish.
Another pleasant surprise was the grilled sourdough ($4). Fresh, fluffy sourdough with a lightly toasted crunch to dip in the hummus-like sunflower crema, which I enjoyed but my friend wasn’t a fan.
Because You Practically Have to Order Carrot Cake
Carrot cake, in my opinion, is the perfect way to end an all-veggy meal, even though the Strawberry & Chamomile Cream Tart ($10) and the Chocolate Avocado Mousse ($10) were tempting. The Coffee-Roasted Carrot Cake ($10) with pecan cracker jack has beautiful hints of coffee in a not-too-rich dessert.
Go to Bad Hunter for :: a vegetable focused meal that will change the way you think about vegetarian food. Notes :: Open for lunch Monday-Friday 2-5 pm; Dinner Sunday-Thursday 5-10:30 pm and Friday-Saturday 5-11:30 pm; and Brunch on weekends from 10 am-2 pm. Reservations are available online here.