While Chicago remains a predominantly steak and potatoes kind of town, there are plenty of restaurants providing delicious meat-free alternatives. And yes, that means no fish as well. The following 20 spots give vegetarians more respect than a bland pasta or an uninspired salad. New additions to this year’s list include plant-based diner Kal’ish, tamale expert Yvolina’s Tamales, and Logan Square’s Ground Control.Read More
19 Great Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants in Chicago
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Owners Andy and Gina Kalish have created indulgent, crave-worthy fare without the use of meat at their plant-based diner. The popular Clucker Crisps are comprised of a garbanzo bean and gluten seitan mixture and seasoned with garlic, onion, and paprika. They’re available as a basket or in a sandwich.
The Chicago Diner
Meat free since ’83, this beloved diner is always near the top of any vegetarian-friendly list. Its signature Radical Reuben is loaded with corned beef seitan, grilled onions, peppers, sauerkraut, vegan thousand island dressing, and cheese on marbled rye.
The OG farm-to-table restaurant maintains its commitment to not only using local produce but also showcasing them in an assortment of veggie-forward dishes. A six-course vegetarian tasting menu is offered nightly and changes seasonally to include dishes like buckwheat gnudi, mushroom and risotto dumplings in beet dashi, and cauliflower in brown butter hollandaise.
Owner and chef Joe Frillman puts a strong emphasis on quality, sourcing ingredients from his brother’s nearby farm. There’s beauty in simplicity and all of Daisies’ pastas shine in that regard. For vegetarians and meat eaters alike, the chitarra with sun gold tomatoes, pecorino, and olive oil is exceptional.
Not only does Brooklyn’s famous Paulie Gee’s make vegetarian pies, it also has a dedicated vegan section on the menu. Don’t miss the Greenpointer (mozzarella, arugula, olive oil, lemon juice, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano).
It lacks the popularity of Chicago’s other famed foods but the jibarito certainly deserves attention. Though the Puerto Rican sandwich is traditionally made with steak, vegetarians can get a non-meat variant at this Logan Square spot. Here, housemade seitan is topped with poblano, onion, garlic, greens, tomato, garlic mayo, and American cheese in between slices of fried plantain.
Most Indian restaurants have an array of veggie options and Rangoli is no exception. The extensive meat-free menu includes bagara baingan (spicy eggplant).
Comfort food takes on a vegetarian twist at this West Side dive. Among the most popular items are the fried avocado tacos stuffed with cabbage slaw, tomatoes, refried beans, housemade ranch, brown rice, and salsa verde.
Fresh and seasonal ingredients are the focus at this veggie-forward restaurant and vegetarians should have no problem finding something to their liking. The $50 crudite platter is a splurge but arrives with enough delights to feed an entire table and justify its cost.
The Little Beet Table
This New York import strives for healthy, gluten-free choices that center on vegetables. Instead of a traditional chickpea hummus, Little Beet Table makes its version with cauliflower and dresses it with sorghum, seeds, red onion, and dill.
Lettuce Entertain You Enterprise’s all-day eatery is now up to three locations, and that’s because it pleases on many fronts. Whether folks are looking for quick and casual, healthy, or vegetarian-friendly, there are plenty of choices. On the lunch menu, the mushroom and quinoa burger with Swiss cheese and baby kale is a standout.
Diners shouldn’t let the lineup of juicy meats fool them; River Roast has enough options to accommodate all diets. The menu’s most notable herbivore-friendly entrée is dubbed ‘Boatload of Veggies’ and features a poblano pepper stuffed with roasted seasonal vegetables.
Heisler Hospitality’s plant-centric eatery has blossomed into a Restaurant Row powerhouse. Chicagoans have embraced executive chef Dan Snowden’s cooking and shown that it’s not just a meat and potatoes kind of town. A majority of veggie burgers are sad imitations that miss the mark, but the Bad Hunter burger is a bombshell. It packs two black bean patties sandwiched by oozy cheddar, tomato jam, onions, lettuce, and mustard aioli. Even carnivores will agree it’s a revelation. Note: Bad Hunter is currently closed after a fire.
Tamales are plentiful on the South Side but Chicagoans should make an effort to seek out this Pilsen shop. Mother and daughter Marcelina and Yvonney Hernandez are producing arguably the best ones in town and they come stuffed with a variety of fillings — such as eggplant, spinach, soy, and poblano pepper — and covered in mole.
Zaytune Mediterranean Grill
The flavors of the Mediterranean are on offer at this counter-service joint in Bridgeport. The falafel here is a stellar version — light, fluffy, and fried to order. It can also be enjoyed in the form of a grilled wrap, platter, or salad bowl.
This longtime healthy Mexican spot has something for everyone. Sure, there’s carne asada and al pastor for meat eaters but vegetarians can dig into a veggie Cubana torta made with soy chicken, sausage, and bacon alongside chipotle sauce, an organic egg, and more.
With a heavy emphasis on local and organic products, Nana is a Bridgeport favorite for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Avocado fries served with chipotle-lime aioli are a (slightly) healthier alternative to fried potatoes.
Two South Shore residents are providing a vegetarian oasis for South Siders. Owners Tsadakeeyah and Nasya Emmanuel are cooking a wide range of African and South American recipes that have been honed from the couple’s catering business. The BBQ cauliflower — lightly battered and fried with a bold sauce — is a crowd pleaser.
Original Soul Vegetarian
This legendary vegan restaurant has a unique story and history on Chicago’s South Side. Many swear by the ‘BBQ Twist,’ a meatless guilty pleasure made with soybean seitan and slathered in a tangy barbecue sauce.