The team behind Bad Hunter - one of the busiest spots on West Randolph these days - thought that a new restaurant in Chicago didn't necessarily have to serve steaks and chops.
"Wanted to create a menu that was focused on vegetables and plants and everything of that nature without limiting ourselves to being vegetarian; kind of offering a little bit of everything," said Chef Dan Snowden.
Butter dumplings typically feature one ingredient. In the fall it was corn, now, cabbage. But it's the salad with all the punch: sliced Asian pears, tossed with spicy kimchi sauce and chopped oysters. The dish is garnished with Ruby Streak mustard greens for additional kick.
Then there are the grilled items. In this case, carrots.
"I just wanted to focus on one vegetable - or two vegetables for that matter - simply grilled, and presented in a way that made you think of something else," said Snowden. "We went really south of the border with it. Did a pistachio and poblano pesto."
That pesto - which also has plenty of cilantro, parsley and cotija cheese - serves as a hotter counter-punch to the cool avocado puree beneath it. The blanched-and-grilled orange and purple carrots plus some fennel are scattered about, along with salty queso fresco, tiny fennel fronds and avocado oil.
"It's definitely a challenge for the Midwest because you have that stigma of being a meat-and-potatoes town but people are, I think, moving on from steakhouses every day. If you ate that way every single day you'd be sleeping every day," he said.
But hearty flavors can be coaxed by roasting turnips and adding butter infused with shoyu - a fermented soy sauce - plus bacon radish croutons and a variey of radishes called Green Meat. The ultimate goal?
"Eating a little bit lighter," said Snowden.
The menu at Bad Hunter isn't 100 percent vegetarian, but a lot of these dishes - even though they're vegetarian-forward - have a lot of flavor, including a great vegetarian burger that's worth checking out.
EXTRA COURSE: WHITE CHOCOLATE PARSNIP DESSERT AT BAD HUNTER
802 W. Randolph St., Chicago