Jackfruit in Chicago: Review

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

By Alheli Garcia
A couple months ago I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I stumbled upon a friend’s post that talked about creative and innovative vegan recipes. This is how I discovered the jackfruit. When I think of vegan food, I imagine the usual fruits and vegetables, but the idea of making a fruit taste like meat was very intriguing. My curiosity ever since I stumbled upon this Facebook post led me to research the jackfruit.  It was not only the fruit’s name  that caught my attention but the claims that you can make this tropical fruit taste like pulled pork. This  seemed unusual. While I was Googling this innovation I found that there is a restaurant in Chicago, Upton’s Break Room, that serves this allegedly meat-tasting fruit.

photo by Alheli Garcia

photo by Alheli Garcia

First, a brief background on Jackfruit for those who are unfamiliar. The fruit is believed to be originated in Southern India thousands of years ago, but is currently cultivated in tropical regions around the world including Southeast Asia, South America, Australia, and the Caribbean. The Jackfruit Company, an organization who focuses on transforming healthy eating and humanity’s eco-footprint for the better claim that this surprisingly beneficial fruit is under-researched and underutilized on a global scale.

Jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world. A single tree can produce 2 to 3 tons of fruit per year with each individual jackfruit weighing up to 80 pounds. The outside texture is prickly and leathery but the inside is similar to the texture of chicken and pork, hence it is often called “vegetarian meat”.

The fruit, besides being known as “vegetarian meat” has also earned the title of the “miracle fruit “ due to its various health benefits. According to Foodfacts, the Jackfruit contains many vitamins including Vitamin A, vitamin C, and it is rich in B-complex. The minerals that the fruit has to offer include iron, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. One serving consisting of one cup or 165 grams, provides 2.5 grams of protein. It is low in calories and has no cholesterol.

Studies have found that when eaten, jackfruit may aid in digestion due to its high fiber content, optimizes immune system due to its high vitamin C content, it boosts energy levels, is responsible for healthy cardiovascular system, provides eye protection due to its high vitamin A content, and is a natural shield against free-radicals. However, this miracle fruit can also be used as a product that helps you obtain a glowing complexion, flawless skin, and fight wrinkles. You can achieve this by using the jackfruit’s seeds and dipping them in some cold milk for just a minute. Smash the seeds and rub the ending product on your face.

All these amazing benefits can lure anyone into consuming this product. The fact that it is extremely healthy and can be cooked in a way which will end up tasting like meat is too good to be true, or so I thought. Like I had mentioned earlier, while I browsed through the web discovering these incredible facts about the fruit I came across a restaurant in Chicago that serves this fruit.

Photo by Alheli Garcia

Located on 2054 W. Grand Ave., Upton’s Breakroom serves pulled pork burgers and tacos made completely from jackfruit. I had to go try it and see for myself if the rumors were true. My boyfriend and I visited the restaurant to have dinner. It is a small space but it is properly kept and has a modern design. Upton is 100% vegan but offers a wide variety of interesting options including the jackfruit which is served in many different forms. I ordered the Al Pastor Jackfruit Tacos. The jackfruit is marinated in adobo and pineapple and is served with chopped onion and cilantro. My boyfriend ordered the Bar-B-Que Plate which consists of jackfruit simmered in barbecue sauce and is place in between a burger bun. The jackfruit texture definitely resembled the texture of chicken. The taste however was a little different but it still tasted great.

The restaurant offers all kinds of interesting vegan dishes besides the jackfruit. Next time I visit the location I must try their Fried Bacon Mac. It is a house made mac and cheese with their bacon seitan. According to their menu, this item is Upton’s favorite and worth a try.

Upton’s Breakroom is located in the same building as Upton’s Naturals. Upton’s Naturals is an independently owned natural foods company. The company focuses on providing its consumers with healthy meat alternatives and real foods that have been around for thousands of years. The company’s founder, Daniel Staackmann, introduced wheat-based seitan and has recently introduced seasoned Jackfruit to the country.

Photo from Upton’s Breakroom

The benefits that this food offers are incredible. It is both a delicious and healthy product served locally. Upton’s Breakroom offers the best variety of vegan food and their products are also worth buying. I fell in love with the jackfruit and will for sure be returning.

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