Reviews

My Response: Brazil (1985)

The fear of technology grows as the advancements of machines continue to rise. The concept of robots taking over the world is not as uncommon and unrealistic as many would expect. I am not talking about the robots with a cold, metal framework, or the kinds that speak and walk like humans, I am talking about the ones that we as a society have allowed ourselves to become. Although not all machinery is harmful, many of the gadgets have infiltrated our lives in ways that suppress our humanistic qualities, such as building connections with real people, having empathy, or even completing simple tasks. This phenomenon is showcased in Terry Gilliam’s 1985 dystopian film, Brazil, where the world has been consumed by technology. It is a film that is unexpectedly terrifying because despite its fantasy-like genre, people in today’s world are able to resonate with the film’s main character, Sam Lowry. Brazil follows the life of a man who not only is bewitched by recurring dreams, but also gets involved in a system error that eventually makes him an enemy of a corrupted administration. Through his many complications, it becomes more clear that much of the chaos in the world is caused by the overconsumption of technology.

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Jonathan Pryce in Brazil © Universal Pictures

Many might argue that some machines are as intelligent as, if not more, than humans. Both are flawed, capable of doing tasks, and have the capacity for improvement, however, machines lack emotion and the ability to empathize with others. In Brazil, many people mimic machines by exhibiting cold, robot-like behavior in situations of tragedy and terrorism. As Sam sits at a dinner with his mom and her friend, a bomb explodes in the back of the restaurant, killing and harming a crowd of people. Sam and everyone else sitting at the table glance at the explosion but carry on with their conversation, completely unfazed by the event that has just happened. A person with real emotions and empathy would either run to safety, or help the injured individuals within a safe proximity, but those actions did not cross their minds. The constant need to look through a computer screen or the use of absurd gadgets designed to complete basic tasks are other examples in the film that dehumanize people, transforming them into the robots they allowed themselves to be.

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Jonathan Pryce in Brazil © Universal Pictures

For every nightmare, there must be some way to escape. For Sam Lowry, his recurring dreams are a way for him to escape from the madness of the real world. In his dreams, Sam soars through the clouds and valleys of deep green forests, eliciting a vast sense of freedom. There, he is free from civilization, industrial cities, and capitalistic corporations. A detail that stands out is the absence of technology in his fantasy world, and it suggests that technology could be the source of his stress and anxiety. Sam wakes up every day surrounded by various malfunctioning gadgets and his apartment walls are full of ducts and wires; technology is everywhere. On top of it all, the advancements of machines are races that humans just are not able to keep up with. As seen in the film, all of these things can add immense amounts of pressure on a person mentally and physically, and it is ultimately what drives Sam to insanity.  

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Jim Broadbent and Katherine Helmond in Brazil © Universal Pictures

Not only is Brazil a terrifying reflection of humanity and technology’s role in society, but it also evokes several questions. If technology seems to be the source of many problems, why do people keep turning back to it? Is the main blame on laziness or are people the inevitable accessories of what will eventually be the end of time? Those who fear that robots are going to take over the world should perhaps consider the likelihood of the “robots” taking control from within, as technology overrides every bit of humanity that is left.

 

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Reviews

My Response: Midnight Cowboy (1969)

The first things that come mind when hearing the word, “cowboy,” typically falls around the image of a tall, confident, strong man wearing a flat-brimmed hat, the epitome of masculinity. In John Schlesinger’s 1969 film, Midnight Cowboy, a man named Joe Buck who identifies himself as a model Texan cowboy, voyages to New York City in hopes of fulfilling a prosperous life as a hustler. There is nothing more attractive than a city that exudes sex and wealth for a lonely man looking to escape the slums of an unsatisfying life. As he arrives to the city, he quickly begins to realize how inaccurate his expectations are. The city is not just a cornucopia of sex and wealth, it is a damaged place that conceals its dirt, crime, and corruption from the outside world. The one thing Joe Buck continues to fall back on is his cowboy identity. As I began to analyze the pride he has from his self image and the way he interacts with the men around him, I realized that he is the way he is because of a deeper issue, fragile masculinity. Joe’s flamboyant persona and the deep-rooted homophobia he expresses throughout the film are both results of a man who struggles from the vulnerability of masculinity.

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Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy ©United Artists

Men are constantly being reminded to be strong, dismiss emotions, and to “man up” during any obstacles in life. For a man who identifies himself as a cowboy, the embodiment of these principles, it is clear that Joe Buck has these ideals ingrained into his mind. In the first scenes of the film, Joe pep-talks himself in the mirror and gloats to his coworkers about the extraordinary life he will have in New York City. Even though he already radiates confidence and optimism, the detail and carefulness of his cowboy attire enhances his character. As he begins to face hardships in the city, he uses all his power to maintain the persona, because a real cowboy would not show any weaknesses regardless of how difficult the situations are. Even though he barely eats, makes money, or has a stable place to live, he wears his shiny leather boots proudly, and refuses to acknowledge the fact that his dreams are collapsing right before his eyes.

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 Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy ©United Artists

In Joe Buck’s world, there is no such thing as a cowardly cowboy, especially a gay one. As he hustles through New York City looking for potential clients, he discovers the abundance of closeted gay men. Even though he allows their sexual advances and agrees to partake in homosexual favors, he recoils at anything suggesting that he might also be gay. During these particular scenes, Joe’s uncomfort triggers various flashbacks exposing traumatic events from his childhood and romantic relationships. The flashbacks indicate sexual abuse, especially his memory of being gang raped by a group of men, which have shown to not only build unhealthy foundations in his sex life, but perhaps became the source of his homophobia. Whether or not he is aware of the severity of these events, he dismisses them as if they are nothing to him. The mental separation and homophobia are his defense mechanisms and the need to preserve his masculinity is what blocks him from being able to deal with his emotional trauma.

From the beginning of the film, Joe Buck gives the impression that he is just a happy-go-lucky cowboy with big dream, but through his experiences in New York City, it can be concluded that he is quite the opposite. The culture that glorifies masculinity is one that is familiar to men all over the world. In Joe Buck’s case, the delicacy of his manhood gives rise to the complications he has with his identity and sexuality. There are heroic cowboys, courageous cowboys, and triumphant cowboys, but Midnight Cowboy offers a new category: the emotionally distressed and suppressed cowboy.

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Reviews

My Response: Ladri di Biciclette

Hope, it is the underlying source of determination, perseverance, and optimism. It can be derived from a dream, an opportunity, or even a human connection. In Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 film, Ladri di Biciclette, the strength of hope is explored through the journey of a poor working man’s stolen bicycle. Antonio Ricci, a man who has just received a job position requiring the use of a bicycle, goes through great lengths with his young son, Bruno, to retrieve his bicycle after it has been stolen.  Initially, the bicycle represents the opportunity to move forward, to be a part of the progressive class of workers in a strenuous time. But as the film goes on, the absence of Antonio’s bicycle is what brings him to the realization that Bruno is all the hope he will ever need.

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Lamberto Maggiorani and Enzo Staiola in Bicycle Thieves 

There is something so pure about children in that their innocence and genuineness allows them to see past flawed human beings. This phenomena is observed through Bruno Ricci. Bruno continues to idolize his father despite the family’s current social and economical situation. When Antonio goes to work, Bruno puts on an outfit similar to his father’s and even tags along the commute to work. Bruno is able to see past his father’s flaws because he knows that Antonio is doing everything he possibly can to help the family get by. In return, Bruno’s very existence is what pushes Antonio to move forward in a stagnant, difficult time. After his bicycle is stolen, Antonio’s initial explanation to Bruno is that the bicycle is broken, but not gone. I thought this was interesting because although Bruno is fully capable of understanding what has happened, Antonio does everything he can to avoid any additional worry and stress. This father-son bond is what keeps Antonio grounded. He does not lose hope for as long as Bruno never gives up on him.

The one scene that absolutely broke me is when Antonio takes Bruno to a restaurant to eat all the food he could ever want, after many unsuccessful attempts of catching the thief and with the remaining portion of money he has in his wallet. In this moment, it is as if Antonio has lost all hope. He says, “Why should I kill myself worrying when I’ll end up just as dead?” As they sit down the restaurant to enjoy their food, the disparity between their social class and the upper class becomes prominent. Antonio watches Bruno’s face rise and fall after he notices that disparity. He tells Bruno, “To think if I had my bicycle, how much I’d earn. We could live again.” Watching his son devour the food with a smile on his face, Antonio’s sense of optimism slowly returns because he does not want this to be a one time meal, he wants Bruno to experience this kind of joy every single day.

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Lamberto Maggiorani and Enzo Staiola in Bicycle Thieves 

In the final moments of the film, Antonio is faced with a predicament, one of which he must decide between doing what is morally right and what is best financially. He sees an abandoned bicycle and makes the decision to steal what was stolen from him. The irony of this situation is that he is abruptly stopped by a crowd of men, even though no one was there to stop the thief that stole his own bicycle. The one person who saves him from this situation is none other than Bruno. Bruno weeps as he watches his father, and the owner of the bicycle decides to let Antonio go. Even after Bruno has witnessed this entire situation, he embraces his father’s hand and together, they walk through the crowd, teary eyed and uncertain about the future ahead of them. This final scene is so beautiful, yet so heartbreaking because Antonio squeezes Bruno’s hand as if he is desperately holding onto the last sliver of stability. Even though Antonio never finds his bicycle in the end, watching them walk off together hand in hand offers a bittersweet representation of the underlying strength of hope between a father and his son.

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Reviews

2017 Films: Wrap-up

Hello!

It’s been a while since I’ve written on my blog, but I’m ready to get back to it (I hope). We’re already well into 2018 and lots have changed over the past year so I will give you a quick update on my life before I get to the films. I am now a Junior at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I moved out of my childhood home, I dropped the pre-med education plan (still a biology major), I’m now working towards a film minor, and life is pretty good right now. Now that that has been taken care of, let’s get into the fun, magical world that is film. A couple of years ago, I started going to the movies by myself. There were just too many things to see and I was too impatient to wait around for people to see them with. Going to the movies alone can be… mortifying at first, but after a few times it becomes the best way to screen a film. Going alone means having the freedom to experience a movie without interruptions, and the fear that the person who accompanied you didn’t enjoy the it as much as you did. This was pretty much what kickstarted my love for film and everything that revolves around film. In the past year, I watched over fifty 2017 releases and have gotten more into classic and world cinema. Hopefully by taking two film classes this semester I’ll be able to write more elaborate film essays and share my thoughts on the upcoming 2018 releases. So without further ado, here are my top 15 films of 2017:

15. Dunkirk

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Dunkirk © Warner Bros. Pictures

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Barry Keoghan, Cillian Murphy, Jack Lowden, Tom Hardy

Quick Thoughts: This film is a sensual experience and had me on the edge of my seat during its entirety. Out of all of Nolan’s work, I don’t think Dunkirk is his best, but I do believe that the technical aspects of this film are outstanding and deserve to be recognized.


14. Baby Driver

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Ansel Elgort and Lily James in Baby Driver © Sony Pictures

Director: Edgar Wright

Starring: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Eiza González, Jamie Foxx

Quick Thoughts: This is an adrenaline driven film that is so visually and audibly satisfying to watch. I don’t usually gravitate towards action/car chasing films, but Baby Driver defied all my expectations. Wild action sequences, a perfectly synchronizing soundtrack. . . who knew heists could be this stylish?


13. Good Time

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Robert Pattinson in Good Time © A24

Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Quick Thoughts: Speaking of heists, Good Time is another wild one. Robert Pattinson’s performance in this film has been extremely overlooked, but is a force to be reckoned with. This is basically the film adaptation of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie but with more running and a complicated heist.


12. The Shape of Water

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Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water © Fox Searchlight Pictures

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg

Quick Thoughts: Guillermo del Toro has created another magical masterpiece. The Shape of Water brings you into a whimsical, fairytale-like world. The story, colors, cinematography, score, and performances are not only the reasons why I enjoyed this film, but also why it has received such critical acclaim.


11. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

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Colin Farrell in The Killing of a Sacred Deer © A24

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring: Colin Farrell, Barry Keoghan, Nicole Kidman, Raffey Cassidy, Alicia Silverstone

Quick Thoughts: Watching this film invoked every feeling of discomfort in me; it was paralyzing. Yorgos Lanthimos is known for creating unsettling cinematic experiences, and he sure did succeed with this one. Barry Keoghan was perfectly… strange and was without a doubt the breakout star.


10. Coco

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Coco © Walt Disney Studios

Director: Lee Unkrich

Starring: Anthony Gonzales, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach

Quick Thoughts: Watching Coco is like having a glimpse of the Latino Culture, specifically El Dio de Los Muertos. This film is able to tell a beautiful story about family and music in such a colorful, vivid way. I’m definitely not ashamed to say that I bawled my eyes out multiple times.


9. Get Out

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Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out © Universal Pictures

Director: Jordan Peele

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Caleb Landry Jones, Lakeith Stanfield

Quick Thoughts: Get Out is one of the most original, clever, and horrifying films I have ever seen. Jordan Peele did not disappoint with his first directorial debut. He created a  film that will be remembered for many years to come. There were incredible performances all around.


8. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi © Walt Disney Studios

Director: Rian Johnson

Starring: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern

Quick Thoughts: Star Wars being one of the most loved and well-known franchises in the world, you could say that The Last Jedi drew in a pretty large (divisive) crowd. This film introduces new, refreshing sides to many of the old and new characters. There were a few scenes I felt were unnecessary, but I loved the action scenes and the humor.


7. Columbus

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Haley Lu Richardson in Columbus © Sundance Institute

Director: Kogonada

Starring: Haley Lu Richardson, John Cho, Parker Posey

Quick Thoughts: With Kogonada’s detailed vision, Columbus captures architecture in a way that is so beautiful and moving. This is a perfect coming of age film that also showcases Haley Lu Richardson’s incredible talent. I am now planning a road trip to Columbus, Indiana this summer (something I’d never thought I would be doing).


6. Blade Runner 2049

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Ana de Armas and Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049 © Warner Bros. Pictures

Director: Dennis Villenueve

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Jared Leto

Quick Thoughts: Blade Runner 2049 is such a visually striking film. Roger Deakins’s cinematography in this film is among some of his best work. On a technical aspect, this film is outstanding all around, but I also think it’s a great sequel to the original 1982 film.


5. Logan

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Dafne Keen and Hugh Jackman in Logan © 20th Century Fox

Director: James Mangold

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook

Quick Thoughts: The epic conclusion to one of my favorite super heroes of all time. X-Men, Logan specifically, have been in my life since the beginning of my childhood. This film is more than just a super hero film, it showcases the bond within a family, overcoming mistakes, and it gives Logan the send off he so clearly deserved.


4. Phantom Thread

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Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread © Universal Pictures

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville

Quick Thoughts: Phantom Thread is not your average love story. Besides the glamorous production and costume design, this film radiates beauty through its dialogue, cinematography, and acting performances. I was also pleasantly surprised by the dark humor; I definitely had a few laugh out loud moments.


3. The Florida Project

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Valeria Cotto and Brooklynn Prince in The Florida Project © A24 

Director: Sean Baker

Starring: Brooklynn Prince, Willem Dafoe, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto, Christopher Rivera

Quick Thoughts: An honest look into the lives of the hidden homeless on the outskirts of Disney World. With gorgeous cinematography and incredible performances, The Florida Project not only brings awareness to a community that is overlooked, but does so in a way that doesn’t exploit the people living in these types of situations.


2. Call Me By Your Name

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Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name © Sony Pictures Classics

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel

Quick Thoughts: I finished the novel a year ago and waited 10 months to see this film but it was so worth it. This film features the beauty of Italy, first love, the 80’s, and it ripped my heart out. TimothĂ©e Chalamet delivered one of my favorite performances of the year and absolutely broke me during the closing credits scene.


1. Lady Bird

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Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird © A24

Director: Greta Gerwig

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Beanie Feldstein, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Lois Smith

Quick Thoughts: A24 had a great year. Lady Bird was the one film that made me feel SO much. I resonated so much of Lady Bird’s life with my own and for that, I felt so deeply attached to her story. I saw this film five times in theaters because I just couldn’t get enough. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf had my favorite performances of the year, and I was so incredibly impressed by Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut.

 

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Life

It’s World Environment Day

We are so incredibly blessed to call Earth our home. I’m glad that more people are becoming aware of the issue of climate change, but awareness isn’t enough. There are more things we can do to help conserve and appreciate our environment. Here are some of the things I do to minimize the negative impact I have on the environment:

Thrift

  • Over the past year I have tried to stop myself from buying clothes from “fast fashion” stores such as Forever 21, H&M, and Zara. Besides the terrible conditions that the foreign manufacturing workers are forced to deal with, fast fashion products are not sustainable. Every season, factories mass produce cheap clothing items for new fashion trends. Anything that doesn’t sell after each season gets thrown out and piles up in our landfills. It’s hard to avoid getting swept up by every new trend, but the effect these trends have on our environment is the bigger issue. In order to stop supporting fast fashion, I started to thrift more at local resale shops, Goodwill, and Savers. Thrifting not only gives wearable clothes a second chance, but it’s also super fun to walk into a store and not know what you’re going to find.
  • If you want to learn more about fast fashion I highly recommend checking out the documentary, The True Cost (on Netflix).

Visit National Parks

  • When I pay to go to parks, it’s almost always a National Park. I think it’s important to support our National Parks in every way that we can. Over the past year I have visited the Grand Canyon, the Sequoia Forest, and many other state parks and beaches. Visiting these places not only helps fund the protection and maintenance of the parks but it also gives you a greater appreciation of Earth and its natural beauty.
  • Some other parks on my bucket list are: Yosemite National Park, Zion National Park,  Big Bend National Park, and Joshua Tree National Park.

Public transit and carpooling

  • Going to the city is one of my favorite things to do and I’m lucky to be near public transit that will take me there. Instead of driving to the city every time, I choose to ride the train. Utilize the resources that are already available to you. Besides, trains and carpooling are more fun anyway.

Being a Vegan

  • I wrote a few posts about veganism, but I’m not kidding when I say that the animal industry is a huge contributing factor of climate change. The cattle/dairy industry alone is the cause of deforestation (need acres to raise the cattle and grow the corn that feeds the cattle), mass consumption of water (for cattle), and methane emissions (worse than CO2 emissions from transportation vehicles).

Limiting the use of resources

  • There are little things you can do at home and at school to avoid wasting resources. If you don’t already, PLEASE turn the faucet off when you’re brushing your teeth. Letting the water run for your convenience wastes water and your money! Whether you’re in the shower or bath, just be aware of the amount of water you’re using. (This also goes for leaving lights on)
  • Unless I absolutely have to buy my textbooks for school, I choose to rent or purchase the e-book version of my textbooks. College textbooks come out with new versions almost every year, wasting and killing so many trees. If the new version isn’t required, I’ll always try to find an older version because they’re usually way cheaper and are still usable!

We should treat everyday as an Earth Day or Environment Day, so let’s do our part!

Much Love,

Syd

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Health

Vegan To-Go

Hey all,

It’s been a year since I went vegan and over the past 12 months, I discovered the difficulties of finding vegan “fast food”. But with extra research and effort, I was able to “veganize” a bunch of super tasty options from places such as Potbelly and Panera Bread! I also tried to find choices that provide a good source of protein to keep me full. For any other vegans out there that are also facing this obstacle, here’s a little list of what I order when I’m on the go:

Potbelly: The Mediterranean Sandwich

  • on multigrain bread
  • without feta cheese
  • (optional) I love to add avocados for the extra $1
  • the hummus and artichoke hearts are so flavorful and the cucumbers give the sandwich that extra crunch

Panera Bread: Modern Greek Salad with Quinoa

  • without feta cheese
  • the dressing is amazing and the quinoa pretty  much completes the salad

Noodles and Company: Japanese Pan Noodles

  • delicious udon noodles with soy sauce, shiitake mushrooms, other veggies, and a little kick
  • this one is definitely one of my all time favorites
  • it’s already vegan as it is, but I love to add tofu for some extra protein

Chipotle: Burrito Bowl

  • I usually ask for: brown rice, black beans, sofritas (organic tofu), mild salsa, corn salsa, and lettuce
  • this one will definitely fill you up
  • I like to order the bowl instead of the burrito because you can always put the cover back on and save the leftovers!

Einstein Bagels

  • almost all the bagels are vegan (besides french toast, asiago cheese, etc.)
  • I usually get the everything bagel with hummus, and toasted (you can never go wrong with hummus)

MOD Pizza

  • these thin crust pizzas (vegan dough) are completely customizable, so feel free to load up on whatever veggies your heart desires
  • they offer vegan (Daiya) shredded “cheese” too!
  • I usually order the “mini” (6″) pizza with red sauce, basil, mushrooms, spinach, bell peppers, and vegan cheese
  • their bbq sauce and garlic rub sauces are also vegan

Vegan Fries 

  • Chick-Fil-A waffle fries
  • Wendy’s natural cut fries

Other restaurants that aren’t really fast-food, but ones I would highly recommend:

  • If you’re in the Chicago-land area there’s a pretty good chance that you have already heard of this one, but if you haven’t, definitely go check out the Chicago Diner (there’s one on Halsted St. and one on Milwaukee Ave.). All of the choices are meat-free, vegan or vegetarian, and are DELICIOUS. I usually order a sandwich or burger, a side of sweet potato fries, and a mint-chocolate chip vegan shake.
  • Native Foods Cafe is actually a restaurant I discovered during my recent trips to California, and I was so happy when I found out that there was also one in Chicago. Like the Chicago Diner, this one is also completely plant-based. Their seitan and tempeh burgers and earth bowls are so good.

There are so many other options out there that aren’t on this list, so if you’re a vegan and have your own go-to’s, feel free to comment below! I would love to try new dishes!

Much Love,

Syd

 

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