Chicago-style hotdogs, deep-dish pizza, Italian beef sandwiches, etc. The list of foods that Chicago is most known for goes on, but it certainly does not include a whole lot of vegetables. In recent years, though, the city has evolved and is actually one of the most vegetarian-friendly cities in the entire country. Here is a list of 12 Chicago restaurants that prove that giving up meat and other animal-based foods does not mean having to give up delicious food.
Chicago Vegetarian Restaurants: The City's Top Twelve Spots for Those Who Don't Eat Meat
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1. The Chicago Diner
The Chicago Diner has all the makings of a classic diner, including one of the best Reuben sandwiches in town. The only twist? No meat, of course. This is a great place to go to impress those family members who just do not seem to understand how anyone can live without hamburgers.
Can’t-Miss Dish: Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich with a vegan Choc Chip Cookie Dough shake.
Locations: 2333 N. Milwaukee Ave. & 3411 N. Halsted St.
2. Loving Hut
Loving Hut is the “fastest growing international vegan fast food chain in the world” with locations in Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, and, luckily, Chicago. They have a great mix of pan-Asian dishes that use tofu and Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) as their main protein sources. Plus, you cannot go wrong with a menu that offers vegan ice cream for dessert.
Can’t-Miss Dishes: Korean BBQ and Alice’s Teriyaki
Location: 5812 North Broadway
3. Green Zebra
Eating vegetarian does not mean foregoing upscale dining in the Windy City. Green Zebra proves that fine dining does not have to be all seafood and steakhouses with its vegetable-based small plate menu. Award-winning Chef Shawn McClain created Green Zebra with the inspiration of focusing on local and seasonal produce. This is a great restaurant to try for a special occasion, or when you feel like really indulging.
All menu items are vegetarian, and most can be prepared vegan upon request.
Can’t-Miss Dish: Chilled Somen Noodles
Location: 1460 West Chicago Ave.
4. Urban Vegan
When you are in the mood for Thai food, look no further than Urban Vegan. You probably will not even notice this is a vegan restaurant at first glance because the menu consists of typical, authentic Thai dishes. Try the Orange Chicken or Seafood Tom Yum that feature soy substitutes instead of meat products. Urban Vegan also gets bonus points for having large portions, since it really does not get any more authentic Chicago than that!
Can’t-Miss Dish: Mango Sticky Rice
Locations: 1605 W. Montrose Ave. & 1550 W. Fullerton Ave.
5. Mana Food Bar
You probably want to make a reservation because Mana Food Bar is housed in a tiny space, but the food makes a big impact. You will also love its rustic interior design. Each menu item comes in either a large or small size so you can sample a variety of dishes even if you’re not with a large party. They have vegan and gluten free menus so you can easily see what suits your particular diet.
Can’t-Miss Dish: Panzanella (a grilled bread salad with toppings)
Location: 1742 West Division Street
6. Udupi Palace
Indian food is known for being friendly to vegetarians, but this South Indian spot guarantees that every single menu item is sans meat. Your omnivorous friends will not be complaining that it’s missing, though, once they try these flavorful dishes. Fill up on Udupi Palace’s famous dosais, a type of crepe indigenous to South India.
Can’t-Miss Dish: Masala Dosai
Location: 2543 W Devon Ave
7. Original Soul Vegetarian
Along with being completely vegan, Original Soul Vegetarian also completely avoids using refined sugars, flours, or rice in its dishes. Don’t let that scare you away, though, because healthy ingredients do not mean sacrificing flavor. The menu ranges from Southern comfort food to Mediterranean to gastro pub favorites. There is definitely a reason that customers have been returning for more than 30 years.
Can’t-Miss Dish: Battered Onion Rings
Location: 203 E. 75th street
What is better than a vegetarian restaurant? A vegetarian restaurant with a beer garden! Handlebar’s outside patio is the perfect place to enjoy a sunny summer day in Chicago. They serve vegetarian comfort food, including weekend brunch so don’t forget to order a vegan Bloody Mary.
There are plenty of dishes that can be prepared vegan, which are clearly marked on the menu.
Can’t-Miss Dish: Green Meanie (an avocado and spinach sandwich)
Location: 2311 W. North Avenue
9. Mysore Woodlands
If you have not yet had your fill of South Indian food, add Mysore Woodlands to your list of Chicago stops. You are guaranteed to leave with your craving for spice satisfied after indulging in huge portions of Chana Masala Curry, Baingan Barta (mashed eggplant dish), or Rasam (traditional spicy soup).
Can’t-Miss Dish: Manchurian Iddly (a steamed rice and lentil cake)
Location: 2548 W Devon Ave
If you have ever gone to a typical Korean BBQ restaurant, you know that the cuisine can be extremely meat heavy. At Amitabul, Chef Dave Choi brings together the culture’s veggie favorites with his all-vegan Korean restaurant. You can indulge in your favorite Asian cuisine such as dumplings, soups, and salads without any guilt. If you are really looking to go the healthy route, try one of the tofu patties with steamed vegetables.
Can’t-Miss Dish: Dry Grilled Pancakes
Location: 6207 N Milwaukee Ave
11. Native Foods Cafe
Native Foods Café is a nationwide chain restaurant, but it still makes this list for its four Chicago locations. It is one of the most popular fast-casual vegan restaurants in the entire country, and especially great for lunch. It serves a variety of burgers, sandwiches, and salads, with a few dishes thrown in that are not quite so American, like the Bangkok Curry Bowl and a Hummus appetizer.
Can’t-Miss Dish: Ensalada Azteca (a Baja-themed salad with avocado, cucumber salsa, and pumpkin seeds)
12. Karyn’s Cooked
Karyn’s Cooked is a great place for the vegan in your life, whether they are looking for comfort food or a healthier, raw option. Menu items range from a Sloppy Jo to the Mediterranean Bowl, which is a dish with a quinoa base, garlic and spinach. Restaurant founder Karen Calabrese is a health advocate who also owns two other vegan restaurants in Chicago and preaches the nutritional benefits of a vegan diet. All menu items are organic.
Can’t-Miss Dish: Jerk Tofu wrap or sandwich
Location: 1901 N. Halsted
Discover More Vegetarian Restaurants!
This article was written by Paula Ashlee Berg.
Hero image credit: Shanice Garcia