Veggie Grill, America’s largest vegetarian restaurant chain, is revamping its two Chicago restaurants to concentrate on meat-free burgers. This spring, Lakeview and the Loop will say goodbye to Veggie Grill and hellow to Stand-Up Burgers, a Veggie Grill spinoff that debuted earlier this month in Berkeley, California.
Stand-Up Burgers caters to junk food-craving vegans and vegetarians. There’s a riff on In-N-Out Burger with the “Save the Animals-Style Fries” (crispy onions, special sauce) and six different Impossible Burgers (including a chili-cheese burger with pickles, crispy onion strings, and doused in ranch dressing). Fans can wash it all down with an oat-based vegan shake (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, or coffee) or a cane sugar root beer float with vanilla ice cream.
While Veggie Grill served burgers, the menu was varied and Stand-Up Grill represents a big change for the chain that permanently closed locations in West Loop and River North during the pandemic. The company had long-term plans to branch out with various vegan and vegetarian sub-brands, but the financial pressures of the pandemic ended up expediting the process, according to Veggie Grill co-founder T.K. Pillan. “We already had a plan for what we’d call a smaller footprint Veggie Grill-lite type model, which was really the burger side of the business,” he says.
The chain’s first Chicago outpost opened to great fanfare in February 2018 in Lakeview as local herbivores formed long lines for meat-free Italian meatball subs and spicy faux-chicken tenders. Veggie Grill later expanded to four city locations, all of which closed last March with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s restaurant shutdown order that went into effect on March 17, 2020.
The vegetarian chain has also launched a new virtual restaurant, Mas Veggies Taqueria that’s open in Souther California, Boston, New York, and Seattle. Pillan says he wants to give Chicago’s Stand-Up Burgers locations time to find a groove before introducing the vegetarian taco spot to the midwest.
Stand-Up Burgers, 614 W. Diversey Parkway, Scheduled to open April 26; 204 N. Wells Street, Scheduled to open the second week of May.