The words “raw food” and “fine dining” haven’t been mentioned together a whole lot just yet, but they fit together quite nicely at Karyn’s Fresh Corner (and raw gourmet restaurant), a leading raw vegan place in Chicago’s north side.
The complex was founded by 66-year-old Karyn Calabrese, a former Oprah Winfrey guest who’s made waves across the Internet for her youthful appearance, which is of course attributed to her raw vegan-based eating style.
At the cafe this past week, I found the place’s namesake casually stocking new items at her fresh corner shop, which features an incredible array of raw vegan dishes ranging from hummus and raw sushi to nut “cheeses” and even a raw vegan ice cream bar and other desserts. She stopped to chat a little bit about her growing businesses in the Windy City and was quite friendly overall, not to mention as fresh and surprisingly young-looking as she does in her pictures.
It was hard to resist buying up half of the cafe at first sight because of how inventive and delicious everything looked, and how scarce raw, already prepared vegan dishes like these are in the Detroit area where I live, but I made my way to the dining area and began to order some food.
I started off with some fresh young Thai coconut water served in a wine-style glass, which was thoroughly refreshing and delicious as usual. The cost? Five bucks, but it was definitely worth it.
The waitress was kind enough to offer me a sample of the raw hummus and, coming from someone who’s been to quite a few Middle Eastern restaurants, I must say it was just about as good as any cooked hummus I’ve had. I bought a tub of it a bit later.
As for the meal, I ordered the Pad Thai dish, which utilized coconut noodles instead of the traditional zucchini I’ve sampled at other raw places. The lighter flavor paired well with toppings: A creamy curry sauce, peas, bean sprouts, mushrooms, carrots and scallions.
Other than a raw spaghetti dish I had earlier this year at the Creative Health Institute in Michigan, I must say this was my favorite raw pasta dish and one of my favorite raw dishes overall.
I also tried part of the raw tamale which had an excellent cornbread-like base to it. The dish’s ingredients: Organic, non-GMO corn husks filled with organic masa, tomato puree, mushrooms, asparagus, olives, extra virgin olive oil with a raw béchamel sauce and side of chipotle salsa. It seemed like another must-try item
Even though I was pretty full, I also ordered the raw vanilla ice cream and was once again thoroughly impressed. The only thing lacking in comparison to a mainstream vanilla ice cream dish or sorbet was the texture, which is a bit chalky for my tastes at times, but that’s just the way it always is when it comes to raw ice cream. It still makes for a top-notch dessert, however, and one that leaves me feeling a whole lot better than “regular” ice cream.
The dining room is a bit smallish but tucked away in a comfortable corner of the facility with window views of passers-by in a lively neighborhood with lots of foot and considerable auto traffic. Overall, the laid-back and friendly atmosphere was impressive and the dining room was nicely decorated. I came just after the lunch rush, but the waitress was friendly and the customers seemed to greatly enjoy their food.
Suffice it to say, I enjoyed just about everything I got my taste buds on as well, and felt a lot better after my meal than I did the previous night at Giordano’s (Chicago Style Pizza…Hey, we all have our cheat meals).
At the end of the day, Karyn’s of Chicago is easily one of the best raw, organic and (mostly as they do serve organic honey) vegan restaurants you’ll ever come across, and it’s certainly worth stopping into the next time you’re near Chicago. I know I’ll be back the next time I make that trip in the near future.
You can find more info on the restaurant as well as the attached holistic wellness center at
You can also check out her popular recipe book ‘Soak your Nuts: Karyn’s Conscious Comfort Foods’ at this link.
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