As a vegetarian in a sea of carnivores, I am always searching for a place where we can all get a delicious meal that doesn’t involve me (the vegetarian of the group) eating yet another salad. Don’t get me wrong, I love salad, but sometimes I just want a burger and fries like everyone else. Crane Alley is one of those places that fits my criteria. Not only can I get an amazing meal, but my carnivorous friends can, too.
The very first time I went to Crane Alley, I had the black bean burger with a side of their seitan chili cheese fries. It was honestly one of the best black bean burgers I’ve ever had. It was cooked perfectly with just the right amount of crunch and the perfect amount of seasoning. My favorite part though, is that the burger is topped with cajun coleslaw which gives it a little bit of a kick to help elevate the burger above others I’ve had.
All of the burgers and sandwiches come with a side of fries, but trust me when I say, add the seitan chili and cheese on top. While it does cost a little extra, you will not be disappointed. The seitan chili has a spicy kick to it, but it pairs so nicely with the cheese sauce and fries. Just make sure you have a glass of water (or sparkling rosé) next to you to put out the fire in your mouth when you finish that last chili and cheese covered fry.
Another standout favorite for me is the seitan chili mac (I know, again with the seitan chili!). But believe me when I say, I would add it to the top of my salad if they would let me. The seitan chili mac is a generous portion of mac and cheese topped with chili and breadcrumbs. The first time I ordered it, I wanted to try something other than my normal burger and fries, and I honestly wasn’t sure what I was getting in to. But when they brought my meal out, I was shocked at how much food there was and how delicious it was. The spicy chili pairs wonderfully with the flavor of the mac and cheese. Then, they add the breadcrumbs on top which gives a nice little crunch. If you’re wanting to treat yourself to an over the top meal, I highly recommend the seitan chili mac.
When I found out I was writing this review, I knew I needed to try one of Crane Alley’s salads. But, to be honest, I am not a fan of mixed greens, there is something about the flavor of them that I cannot get behind. However, for the sake of this article, I gave it a try and subbed out fries for a side salad when I ordered the gourmet grilled cheese. The side salad was honestly one of the best mixed greens salads I’ve ever had. It had a nice flavor, a good variety of vegetables (although I got mine without tomatoes), and a delicious red wine vinaigrette. On those days when I want to be a little healthier and not eat fries, I would happily get the side salad again.
Not only does Crane Alley have a beautifully diverse menu for vegetarians and carnivores, they also have a beautiful outdoor seating area. If you get the chance, be sure to ask to be seated in the alley outside. It is one of the calmest atmospheres I’ve ever experienced when enjoying a meal. They have string lights up above and you get a nice little breeze coming through the alley. However, if you can’t eat outside (because honestly, who knows what the weather will be like in Illinois on any given day), inside is just as warm and inviting as the outside. In other words, no matter where you sit, or what you eat, you’re sure to have a great dining experience.
115 W Main St
11 a.m. to 2 a.m., daily
Photos by Siarah Flanagan