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21 SPOTS FOR VEGAN AND VEGETARIAN EATS IN CHICAGO

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Rachael Nass

APR 18, 2019

Forget Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef, and deep dish pizza (stick with us here!). The Windy City’s food scene offers so much more than the meat-filled staples it’s known for, including plenty on the vegetarian and vegan fronts. Throughout the city, you’ll find dozens of places to dine on delicious plant-based cuisine.

So, gather your vegan and vegetarian friends, and get ready to pig out — minus the pigs, that is!

A relative newcomer on the vegan scene, Uptown’s Kal’ish (which opened in 2017) is billed as “a 100 percent animal-free zone.” It doesn’t stop the plant-based diner from serving up hearty goodness in the form of its mouthwatering burgers or unique pulled pork-n-jack (pulled braised jackfruit), all of which are made from scratch.

With a hip, eclectic space, and a vegetarian menu that spans continents with multi-cultural offerings such as Vietnamese báhn mì and Nashville Hot Tofu, this Logan Square eatery is downright cool. We dare you to find a vegetarian who won’t go crazy over Ground Control’s beet burger — it looks almost exactly like a meat burger, but the taste is out of this world.

Delicious vegetarian options, yummy cocktails, and killer decor — these are all reasons to love Bad Hunter, situated smack dab in the middle of the food haven that is the West Loop’s Randolph St. The 2016 addition is putting its best veggies forward for vegans and meat-lovers alike. Fitt Tip: we definitely recommend saving some room for their beautifully-plated desserts.

This neighborhood bar and restaurant may look like your average hipster hot spot, but its extensive vegan menu is anything but ordinary. In addition to great entrees, like the Sambal Tofu (house-made sambal, kale, broccoli, collards, edamame, green beans, and brown rice), this Bucktown café offers plant-based bar favorites, too, including fried pickles, vegetarian chili cheese fries, and BBQ seitan.

Make no bones about it: this 100% vegan Seattle transplant, which is currently setting up shop in Wicker Park, evens out the score after the loss of longtime healthy go-tos such as the Green Zebra and Mana Food Bar. In addition to all the usual suspects (tofu, veggies, and beans — you name it), there will be plenty of nods to the beach club’s West Coast roots (you know, aside from the whole tiki theme) in the form of chowder soup, sushi, and more.

This authentic Mexican restaurant in Logan Square turns vegetarian and vegan food stereotypes on their head with perfectly prepared soy-based protein dishes consisting of filling Chicharron, plant-derived Asada steaks, and more. There’s also a huge fresh juice menu that offers unexpected combinations of fruits and veggies — yes, please!

Bursting onto the Chicago dining scene in 2017 with vegetarian and vegan options galore, Clever Rabbit is a surefire bet for those looking to partake in clean, simple dishes of good old fashioned greens. We’re talking beet, tomato, and lettuce salads straight from the garden (literally — many of the site’s veggies are raw). Throw in some heirloom eggplants and veggie-filled flatbreads and you’ve got a recipe for plant-eating bliss.

Kitchen 17 alum Kevin Schuder created Wonderland Cafe, a spot slinging slinging smoked seitan bacon, pot-baked cauliflower, and seared polenta cake to guests in the intimate space that once served as Kitchen 17’s original digs. Plans for a rotating chef guest list and dinner pop-ups have us even more excited: who’s with us?

Thai food is usually a safe bet for vegans, but Urban Vegan in Lakeview—along with its rebranded sister restaurant, Vegan Plate, in Lincoln Park— take things a step further by offering a wholly vegan Thai menu, complete with some of the best imitation meat you’ll find in Chicago. Plus, with its multiple locations and delivery options, you can enjoy cashew nut stir-fry and wonton noodle soup at any time!

Left Coast

Restaurant

Locally grown? Check. Overflowing with healthy fruits and veggies? Check. Growing by leaps and bounds? Triple check. Paul Kahan (Blackbird, Avec, The Publican) has truly outdone himself with Left Coast, where you can stuff yourself to the gills with avocado toast, buckwheat fruit pancakes, and dressed-up grain bowls of brown rice and garnet yams. With locations currently in Lincoln Park and River North and two more planned by 2018’s end, this is one veggie-friendly locale you’ll want to keep your eye on.

Chicago Raw

Restaurant

There’s no such thing as a dispassionate vegan, but becoming a raw vegan may be the most enthusiastic of the bunch. Take Chicago Raw: between its Gold Coast cafe and French Market outpost, you’ll find totally unique options that are uncooked, free of meat, and served with a purpose — to heal your body from the inside out. Fitt Tip: you can almost always catch free samples at the French Market stall!

Majani joined Chicago’s ranks of souful, all-vegan haunts in the summer of 2017, and we’ve all been better for it since. Here, regularly run-of-the-mill falafel gets the burger treatment with chickpea fritters in place of fries, while tofu is dressed up with a smoky jerk rub and a creamy chipotle sauce. Oh, and did we happen to mention the double chocolate cake?

Celebrity chef Matthew Kenney’s newest vegan venture, Althea, is causing a big splash. The internationally renowned cookbook author’s reputation for crafting mouthwatering vegan menus  in an upscale setting precedes him, and it’s no wonder — staples like the Kelp Noodle Cacio E. Pepe and Spicy Udon Soup sounds mighty nice indeed!

The Chicago Diner, which opened its doors in 1983, practically wrote the book on vegan and vegetarian dining in Chicago. Its decadent menu—chock-full of reuben sandwiches piled high with corned beef seitan, vegan milkshakes, and seitan barbecue wings—has been perfected over the years, with a second location opening in Logan Square in 2012.

Recent vegan convert? Take heart: Kitchen 17, which moved to a larger space under new ownership in December of 2017, serves a vegan deep dish that is actually good! Then again, the house-made seitan gyro, Philly cheesesteak, and Buffalo Cauliflower Wings at this all-vegan joint aren’t half bad, either!

The spot formerly known as Victory’s Banner may have a new name in Lucy’s Café, but the cozy vegetarian spot’s knack for dishing out “impossibly” palatable veggie-based grub—including the beloved burger of the same name, now up for grabs from Lucy’s new and improved menu—remains the same.

With the tagline “Healing Through Food,” this authentic Indian restaurant in Rogers Park serves vegan and vegetarian dishes that go well beyond rice and curry. Think chickpea omelettes and potato dumplings. This place also has a cool, eclectic interior that we totally recommend checking out. Though, if you’re more of a homebody, they also deliver.

To call B’Gabs ‘beloved’ by its Hyde Park’s community would be an understatement, and its September relaunch is sure to introduce the restaurant to a whole new generation of fans. Whether you’re vegan, raw vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, or peanut-free, B’Gabs has your back (and belly): good luck choosing just one of their Just the Fruit concoctions or Next Level Blends!

The vegan cuisine served at this longstanding North Side restaurant, which has been making its mark on Chicago’s vegan scene for more than 20 years, combines traditions of Korean food preparation with modernized Western tastes. Feeling under the weather? Try Dr. K’s Cure-All Noodle Soup, which warms the soul with spicy broth, mushrooms, seaweed, noodles, and more veggies. Alternately, the eatery’s Amitabul Energy Nut dish (whole wheat noodles with flavored veggies and tasting nuts) will give tired diners a boost.

The name says it all: OSV may do soul food even better than even most non-vegan soul food restaurants. We literally dream about this spot’s staple mac and cheese, which they’ve been serving up for more than 30 years.

 

**Updated by Nicole Briese, September 2018