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It is really great to see an upscale restaurant catering to vegans. I have been there a couple of times and have not been extremely impressed. The vegan items I have gotten have been pretty bland. Wouldn't highly recommend this place but give it a try if you are interested.

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rating star

Prasino is an unusually elegant, modern, innovative and vegan-friendly joint in the suburbs (they have two locations as of early 2011; one in La Grange and another in St. Charles). This might be one of few places outside of Chicago proper that offers labeled vegan items that are both unusual and tasty.

I tried a number of their vegan items. First, their tofu scramble ($3.50 for a side portion) was pretty tasty, but basic: it was tiny diced cubes of tofu sauteed with some olive oil and some unusual spices. The dish could have used some vegetables, such as bell peppers, mushrooms and onions, to give it some extra heft and flavor, but this was still a tasty dish on its own.

The vegan orange-almond stuffed french toast ($9) was excellent: soft, fluffy pieces of bread with a delicate orange creme "cheese" filling, covered in fresh berries. The portion size was huge, too, considering the low price. They also give you home-made vanilla syrup on the side which was excellent. The waitstaff and kitchen are both really savvy on vegan issues; they left off powdered sugar because they knew it was filtered through bone char. While I personally am not super-strict about the refined sugar issue (though I am about honey), I was glad that Prasino is really up to snuff when it comes to vegan sensitivities.

I also had their vegan "eggs benedict" which was chipotle tofu with mashed black beans, an english muffin, and green tomatillo sauce. I think this dish was borderline "drab" in that the tomatillo sauce had no zing, and the black bean mash was heavy, dry and woefully bland. I would suggest adding more diced tomatoes to the mix, some green chilis, and using a seitan or veggie sausage patty to liven the dish, forgoing the tofu all together.

The diced red potatoes, by the way, make an amazing side dish. These were little marvels sauteed in olive oil and fresh herbs and just tasted spectacular.

Another time I came for lunch and had their veggie burger with soy cheese. The burger was filling, but bland (it was made from a black bean mash, which is always a risk, if not flavored with enough spices). I would prefer a seitan patty, so that the burger is meatier and absorbs marinades and flavors better.

For lunch and dinner, Prasino offers far fewer vegan options, which is strange as breakfast usually is where restaurants struggle to meet vegan demand. I wish Prasino had some edgier, smarter vegan lunch and dinner options; maybe some vegan pastas with cream sauces and gardein chicken?

Prasino also lacks any vegan desserts of note (they'll give you sorbet or a fruit platter), which is again surprising, given that they have such innovative vegan brunch options. The ingredients of the vegan french toast, for example, could be rearranged and modified to be a dessert pretty easily, I imagine.

The service here was consistently friendly and attentive. I like their Prasino Rewards Card, which is free, and earns you points with each purchase; while the points don't add up to much, it's a good thought and encourages loyalty to the restaurant.

The space is modern, large, bright and lovely with comfortable seats and booths, as well as a cool bar area. You'd expect to find a place like this in an upscale hotel in downtown Chicago, not in the suburbs.

While Prasino has room to improve in the vegan department, this place still represents a gigantic leap forward for plant-based diets in the suburbs. I'm glad it's around and I look forward to returning.

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