Mystery Diner in Lake in the Hills: UpRising delights with vegan ‘pulled pork’ mac and cheese and more

UpRising Bakery and Cafe in Lake in the Hills impresses with its vegan and gluten free menu, as well as its variety of baked goods and pastries.

The staff of the new Lake in the Hills restaurant UpRising generally doesn’t tell patrons its recipes are almost exclusively vegan and gluten-free, unless they ask, our waiter told us on a recent evening.

Judging from our experience with the amazing food, they can get away with that, and some of their diners will never know they didn’t ingest a bite of meat after having a huge portion of one of UpRising Bakery and Café’s stellar menu items.

The place opened its doors in late October, and since we tried it out, it’s become our go-to spot when we want to head out to dinner with friends or family on diets that restrict meat or dairy consumption. In addition to serving great food, it’s an appealing hangout, with alcoholic beverages, tea and more drinks available, as well as many different board games and activities for those looking to enjoy some time out of the house.

On our dinner date, we started with one of our favorite appetizers, the garlic and spinach artichoke dip ($10). UpRising’s version of this classic dip came with some brittle sourdough crostini, and it was an absolutely mouthwatering starter.

The vegan cheese consisted of a creamy substance that was perfect for a dip, and had a delightful taste. This was the ideal warmup fare.

UpRising's garlic and spinach artichoke dip came with some crunchy sourdough crostini and it was an absolutely mouthwatering starter for our recent meal there.

Once we dug into our entrees, we were especially impressed by UpRising’s “pulled pork” mac and cheese recipe ($16).

It stands out as one of the top vegan dishes either of us have ever tried, and we had the hardest time believing the “meat” was indeed plant-based. The flavor and texture were identical to a pulled pork dish made with the real thing.

The entree was elevated by a homemade barbecue sauce, and was topped with fried and fresh green onion to provide a solid crunch. Even bites of just the pasta with the dairy-free cheese all by itself were very pleasing. The taste of the mac and cheese actually outdid the flavor of what some might call the authentic variety.

UpRising's vegan pulled 'pork' mac and cheese dish had a wonderful flavor, enhanced by homemade BBQ sauce,  and topped with fried and fresh green onion, that made it impossible to decipher the meat was plant-based.

Next, I bit into my main dish, the bagels and “lox.” This one was crafted on a gluten-free everything bagel that came with a cream cheesy spread beneath the sweet pickled carrots on top. This combo made for a filling, healthful entree, and combined flavors that I hadn’t experienced together before.

In particular, the sweetness of the pickled carrots that acted as the lox, along with the garlic in the spread, ended up joining in a spicy-sweet kick that I found enticing and new, something I wanted to keep experiencing. The fresh fruit served on the side offered a way to cleanse the palate with the familiar flavors of apples and berries, so I could go back in for another “first” taste of that interesting combination.

The bagels and lox at UpRising in Lake in the Hills came with a side of fresh fruit and vegan garlic herb cream cheese beneath the sweet pickled carrots, and made for a filling, healthy entree.

We look forward to heading back to explore more of UpRising’s offerings, including its baked goods. In addition to being a cafe, it is also a bakery that makes a variety of gluten-free items, including cakes, cookies and pastries we are eager to sample.

• The Mystery Diner is an employee at the Northwest Herald. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.


WHAT: UpRising Bakery and Café

WHERE: 2104 Algonquin Road, Lake in the Hills

PHONE: 224-209-8695