After an unfortunate lunchtime run-in with some strangely salty chicken at Pizza Capri (don’t ask), I was eager to enjoy a meatless (and presumably preservative-free) meal at the new Mana Food Bar on Division Street for dinner. The vegetarian restaurant is a welcome addition to the beer, baseball cap and bar food-soaked street, and reminded me of an urban tree house with cool carved wooden bar stools, wooden light fixtures, carpeted booths and exposed brick painted white. The tiny place was packed and perhaps understaffed, so it took a while to finally place our order, but once we did, the small plates arrived at the perfect pace. There are large options of virtually everything on the menu, but the small were big enough to share, and with all of the vegetables, rice, and more vegetables, prepare yourself for a world of bloat…in a good way. We loved the baja corn, perfectly spicy, salty and buttery and cut on an interesting diagonal. Vegetarians and health nuts will worship the truly veggie maki, seasonal vegetables wrapped in collard greens. Carnivores at heart will want to douse them heavily in the ponzu sauce or mix in some of the “bulgogi” which is actually seasoned tofu. We liked the spicy sauce on the sliders but couldn’t help wanting the rice and mushroom “patty” to be an actual beef patty. The fresh asparagus ravioli in a spicy tomato cream sauce was actually the hit of the night, that and the fresh squeezed juices (carrot, orange and apple was delish, but a bit overpriced at $7 for what seemed like 8 Oz). Even without the meat, we left feeling full (but somehow still had room for bubble tea from Chinatown). But as for Mana, I’ll be back to try: sake cocktails, the avocado shake, the chickpea salad, more of the ravioli and green tea mousse for dessert. 1742 W. Division Street, 773.342.1742.
Mana Food Bar
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