Best Vegan Restaurants In Chicago
When it comes to dining out, vegetarians are often left with limited options. Not in Chicago. The city has always been known for its diverse dining scene, and in recent years more and more places have embraced a more plant-powered philosophy. There are vegan diners touting comfort food classics, elevated vegetable-forward tasting menus, and piles of international food without a piece of meat in sight. Here are just a few of our favourite vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Chicago.
Why Choose Vegan Restaurants In Chicago?
There are so many varieties of meatless food on the menu that diners are sure to find something for everyone. Vegetarians have a myriad of options, while vegans are spoilt for choice. In Chicago you won’t find fusion dishes – everything is traditional, familiar, and delicious.
The vegan options are just as varied. In fact, there are more restaurants here that offer a vegan menu than a non-vegan one. The availability of vegan restaurants and food is driven by the thriving Chicago-area vegan community. It’s made up of the most compassionate, knowledgeable, and experienced people in the vegan food community.
The United States was ranked the ninth-best country for vegans, and the number one vegan nation in the world by PETA. From a plethora of vegetarian and vegan options at fine dining restaurants to the latest new developments for vegans at all price points, Chicago is the go-to destination for those looking for an unforgettable dining experience.
Eating vegan or vegetarian does not mean giving up on any kind of food, but simply opting to serve food without meat, dairy, eggs, and fish. Since some traditional meat dishes are staples for vegans and vegetarians, diners often have to readjust when they step into a new spot. Many veg-focused restaurants in Chicago do not take this as an insult.
Not only is plant-based food much more tasty and satisfying, but it is easier on the wallet as well. In an area like the West Loop, where soaring rents can easily push out veg-focused eateries, newer spots are still opening their doors and eager to welcome vegans and vegetarians alike. We also don’t mean to discount any of the meat-centric establishments in the area either.
Sure, Chicago might be a long way from the coasts of California, but the menu choices here are definitely cutting edge. The standard vegetarian options are no longer a one-note meal of soup and salad. There are exciting dishes like avocado toast and kale bowls, and exotic curries and Thai dishes.
Some restaurants cater to other vegan diets, like those made of cultured or dairy-free milk, nut butter, or even mock meat (i.e., tempeh). It’s impossible to be a vegetarian in a meat-loving city without wanting a little delicious meat in your life. But eating vegan in Chicago means not missing out on all the great, innovative plant-based food that Chicago’s food scene has to offer.
What’s especially great about the Chicago vegan and vegetarian scene is that it’s got something for everyone. For the savoury eaters, there are places like Divvy Eatery and Dinette, with high-end fare like vegan wagyu sliders, cauliflower “bacon,” and mushroom rösti fries. For those who are looking for something a little lighter, there’s also Betty’s Bistro with its grilled polenta with apples and parsnips.
For those who love vegetarian-themed desserts, there’s an impressive selection of vegan cupcakes, chocolate tarts, and confections. Many of Chicago’s best restaurants serve vegan food — from local hotspots like Green Zebra and Compass Rose to more vegan-friendly spots like Dark Matter and Superette.
V-Eater recently added an entire category to our list of vegetarian restaurants in Chicago, and Vegan ‘fest and VegChicago taking place in April 2018 is poised to be the year of the plant-based eater. Vegetarian options abound in Chicago. While eating vegan isn’t a rule, it’s a common practice for a number of its diners. From tender tofu to crispy tacos, vegans don’t have much to worry about when it comes to enjoying a healthy meal.
The Chicago Diner is known for serving hearty comfort food such as creamy mac and cheese and chicken pot pie to anyone and everyone looking for a slice of home. The diner recently opened a second location in Lincoln Square, but the original still serves the same comforting diner food with a side of personal service. “Our food is designed to satisfy and not worry about pleasing,” says Vincent. “Our food is meant to nourish.” If Vincent’s emphasis on comfort food is enough to get you in the door, then the personal service he provides will. Vincent has been volunteering at the diner since he was in college.
He currently works there on weekends and is also a private chef on weekdays. The Chicago Diner has been a Chicago favourite since the 1970s when it first opened as a gas station with a hot dog counter and a row of meat-eating booths. Though its namesake gas station days are long gone, the Chicago Diner is still an old-school diner where the full menu is composed of diner staples like eggs, pancakes, and meatloaf.
Even the garden burger is meaty enough to satisfy meat-eaters, with bacon, cheese, and mushrooms on top of a potato bun. For those looking for a change, try the multigrain wheat bread. You can't talk about veganism and not mention The Chicago Diner. Serving vegetarian and vegan food alongside classics like meatloaf and chicken pot pie, it's hard to beat the Chicago staple.
The menu changes often, but you can always count on the iconic house-made hummus, served with garden veggies and pita bread, or loaded pancakes—with a full stack of four pancakes stuffed with the restaurant's cinnamon raisin pancakes, which offer 18 grams of protein and only 55 calories per serving.
Other classics, like the biscuits and gravy, are also served. With their signature “chicken-style” omelet, who needs animal products? The Chicago Diner makes a mean egg dish, but the vegan rendition—smothered in vegan cheese and smothered in bacon—is just as decadent. Wash it down with some of their tasty coffees, espresso, and smoothies.
This Near North Chicago restaurant serves up tasty, creative vegan fare with a menu that is as much Southern as Northern. The spot has a simple but distinct design and decor that provides a fresh vibe and comfortable space. Diners can pair any entrée with a pint of Red or White IPA or Pinkberry Latte. Although the menu is great, the real star of the show here is the Vegan Burger.
Urban Vegan's version comes with avocado, pickled onion, vegan mayo, garlic aioli, and special sauce on a toasted bun. We highly recommend the French Dip—thick-cut sandwiches, roasted carrots and cauliflower croquettes, and collard greens are just a few of the sides on the expansive menu. In a city that swarms with vegan options, Urban Vegan stands out from the pack.
Owned by Julie Zukowski, the restaurant uses animal byproducts, such as milk and butter, in many of its signature dishes. It also serves a variety of amazing pizzas, desserts, and unique smoothies. Walking into Urban Vegan's Ashburn neighborhood spot is like stumbling upon a vegetable-centric one-stop shop, which is basically what it is.
Owner Greg Seckman fills the tiny space with a barrage of different dishes from a juice bar, to freshly made baked goods, and a daily vegetable dish section that gives more information about the food, including a calorie count. The vegetarian Black Bean Lasagna is a hearty favourite of many who visit the casual shop, which is packed with visitors during lunch and dinner. While you're there, be sure to try the super tasty Kimchi Fried Rice, the Roasted Vegetable Paella, or the Chipotle-Dill Spread over Pumpkin seeds.
Urban Vegan Pizza has been going strong since 2007, serving customers vegan pizza made with tofu, cheese, and a generous portion of plant-based cheese slices. The pizzeria's crusts are crafted from chickpea flour and organic jasmine rice. Whether you come for dinner or grab a slice on the fly, you'll be pleased with the innovative toppings and finish. Urban Vegan Cafe in Lincoln Square, an Alinea alumna, offers a rotating list of vegan comfort-food classics like kale and quinoa pancakes with gooey chocolate chips and curry black bean burgers, alongside healthier options like veggie burgers and black bean and portobello frittatas.
No matter what's on the menu, each meal is gluten-free, and all of the bread and pasta are made from natural ingredients like buckwheat and quinoa flour. Two buzzy nights a week the cafe hosts wine tastings and vegetarian and vegan beer tastings. Upcoming events include a spring food festival and a five-course chef-driven tasting dinner.
Beatrix opened in January in Uptown and it's quickly become an indispensable part of the city's Vietnamese dining scene. The restaurant features vegan pho made in-house every day and a menu of some of the best Vietnamese options in the city. But that's not all: be sure to order the bun cha (Vietnamese pork-filled steamed buns served with beef brisket, provolone, herbs, and cilantro), the big spend-worthy French toast (served with coconut whipped cream, banana, and chai) or the crispy rice bowl (served with tofu, cilantro, sprouts, and jicama with cumin).
Pro tip: Beatrix also has a second location in Bucktown that offers more limited food options, such as desserts and Vietnamese noodle soups. For an elegant night out, Beatrix is all you need. Located on East Chicago Avenue, the lounge and restaurant is a chic fine-dining destination with a killer menu of sophisticated vegan cuisine. Favourites include porcini mushroom ravioli with brown butter polenta and pecorino cheese sauce, and the guajillo BBQ tempeh bao, an eggplant bun stuffed with guajillo chilli tofu, fried rice, and smoky Asian slaw.
Beatrix has a distinct passion for plant-based dining. This is thanks in part to co-owners Julian Medina and Tim Murray. While this year was an especially important one for the restaurant—it expanded, gained national acclaim for its cocktails and won a James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant Design—it was also an extremely trying year for Medina.
He lost his wife to lung cancer in April, after a decade of marriage, and closed Beatrix in July to spend time with his family. While the staff kept the Beatrix menu up and running, Medina has returned as chef-owner, with plans to open a new restaurant in Wicker Park by spring 2019. But for now, take a look at the wonderful dishes you can find on his old menu.
Located in the midst of a cluster of touristy shops and restaurants along North Halsted and West Northport avenues, Native Foods stands out with its impressive array of locally sourced, vegan fare. Try the birch-smoked tempeh served with sweet potatoes, sauerkraut, and quinoa.
The rotating menu offers entrées such as the cheery, green kale Caesar salad and sweet potato waffles. If you've always wanted to try an authentic vegan diet, but the thought of going the entire day without cereal just made you sick, then Native Foods has a cure for you. Native Foods has been featured in all major food publications and has attracted several star chefs with its fresh and flavour-filled menu.
Executive Chef Erick Harcey, who's worked at some of the country's most lauded restaurants including WD-50, Big Star, and Next, has reworked some classic American comfort food classics such as mac ‘n' cheese and Buffalo cauliflower with an Eastern twist. Native Foods boasts a stellar reputation for its delicious vegan entrees. The Wicker Park location has an elevated dinner menu with many popular specials like its black bean lasagna, tacos, and cheese fries.
Be sure to check out the morning menu for a hearty smoothie or cereal bowl. At Native Foods, Hardy's menu is based on his love for hearty, soulful, hearty vegetarian comfort food. Hardy boasts a line-up of cozy vegan dishes that push the envelope on classics, with comforting dishes like macaroni and cheese covered in vegan burrata, vegan lemon ricotta gnocchi, and a vegan black bean burger with Sriracha sauce.
Plus, Native Foods is truly the only place you can get s'mores made with vegan marshmallows, tofu scramble with butternut squash and roasted kale, and bourbon brownies topped with vegan marshmallows. Native Foods is open seven days a week. Find the restaurant at 2030 W. North Ave. Native Foods started in New York but came to Chicago in 2011. “When we first opened, we didn't have a sign,” explains the restaurant's manager, Tanya Smith. “We would take our food and hand it to the person in line, they would take it, and then they would get their food.”
Due to a customer request, the sign went up, and the rest is history. As an alternative to cheesesteaks, they offer a vegan take on steak — with soy cheese, chipotle cashew “sauce,” and vegan steak sauce on a French roll with fries. We also love their homey salads and their caramelized Brussels sprouts. A vegan “vegetarian” option does the trick!
If a trip to Sally's Beauty Supply Store is something you're looking to scratch off your bucket list, head to Alice & Friends in Logan Square for a trip back in time. The indoor/outdoor restaurant has been in operation since 1992, and with classic American-styled bar food like onion rings, they've also got vegan eats.
That's right: Vegan nachos, truffle mac and cheese, and pizza are all on the menu. It doesn't hurt that they have a full bar and an eclectic cocktail list, either. With a menu filled with Asian-inspired snacks and rice plates, the rotating options here represent a rich take on vegan food that is both familiar and welcoming.
Open for breakfast and lunch, Alice & Friends is run by husband-and-wife team Lee He and Alice Wu, whose company brings vegan Asian fare to some of the city’s best vegetarian restaurants, including Lucky Cricket and Philly Vegan. The bar is a great spot for happy hour, with $6 drinks and Asian-inspired eats like fried shiitakes, Japanese-style rainbow chard, and omelets stuffed with kimchi or lotus root.
Don’t miss the pumpkin truffles with chocolate coconut milk ice cream. Alice & Friends is the plant-based option for indulgence at a downtown upscale lounge. Pair a cocktail with crispy “chicken” tacos, or go for the “Elvis salad,” a riff on the salad with fried chicken, lettuce and tomato, but made vegan with a potato masher and almond ricotta cheese. During peak happy hour, go for the maple glazed salmon, served over brown rice and vegetables.
When American cuisine becomes vegan, Ground Control for Vegan Cuisine is typically the first place to head. It's also known as one of the few places to get vegan sushi in Chicago. We had a chance to check out one of their weekly Sunday cooking classes, where we watched chef-owner Tory Miller teach an interactive class on how to make Tofu Riggies (rice wiggles),
Eggplant Avocado Tacos (avocado, eggplant, peppers and onions wrapped in a flour tortilla), and Vegan Buffalo Tempeh (essentially vegan Buffalo wings), all of which are available at the restaurant.
Here's an insider tip: Try the Pizza Burger, made with lentil cheese patties on brioche. Chicago's Second City has long been known for its eclectic food scene, but Ground Control is part of a trend that may just redefine how we view food in the city. Thanks to its creative takes on classics and diverse offerings, Ground Control is like a test kitchen for modern Italian fare.
The space is an industrial reimagining of the former Brazilian space and has plenty of room to seat you with comfort food favourites, pizzas, and dishes inspired by Italy's Southern Tuscany region. Meat eaters, you may be bored by the same-old sandwich, burger, and salad options, but this is where a plant-based meal with a modern twist can be found.
Ground Control is open daily for dinner only. With the motto “food that makes you happy,” Ground Control Tavern features gluten- and dairy-free dishes along with meat-heavy sandwiches. With several gluten-free and dairy-free options and vegan options on their brunch and dinner menus, no carnivore will be disappointed.
One of Chicago's original veg-friendly spots, Upton's opened on the South Side in 2011. The lunchtime rush tends to attract older, vegan diners, but it's also a great spot for fun nights on the town. It's no wonder the restaurant gets rave reviews for its vegan takes on traditional comfort food classics. If you've never had Upton's tofu tacos, it's hard to imagine how they're possible without any meat, but it's possible.
The crispy tacos come loaded with housemade pickled red onions, green onions, melted cheddar, guacamole, pico de gallo and their signature spicy salsa, which Upton's mixes with the beans and rice for a little heat. You can't go wrong with the chilli-spiced sweet potatoes, either, and there's a wide selection of them. With its sleek modern feel and laid-back vibe, Upton's Breakroom is a perfect spot to refuel after an intense day of walking around the Magnificent Mile.
You can fuel up with the Back Yard Burger or the buffalo seitan chop, or dive right into the savoury soups and salads. But if you're looking for something a little lighter, try the rich beet quinoa bowl, or the acai bowl. While you're there, pick up a copy of Upton's new cookbook, The Upton's Cookbook, available for purchase online and in the shop.
Upton's Breakroom may not look like much from the outside, but they churn out some great food. The menu is built around hearty, meat-free options (you can tell because there is no V in their logo) and their menu changes often to include one-off specials or seasonal ingredients.
For a simple yet delectable lunch, try their potstickers, or one of their fancier versions, with garlic herb oil or pea shoots, charred fennel, roasted pumpkin seeds and a sweet and sour curry vinaigrette. Upton's also provides extensive menu descriptions that show the star ingredients with photos of the dishes themselves. You don't have to be vegan to appreciate that level of culinary finesse.
Althea’s impressive menu includes mac and cheese that’s about as good as you’ll find anywhere, as well as rotating ahi tuna, cauliflower wings, French fries and oyster mushrooms. A visit to Althea means indulging in a vegan tasting menu that changes with the seasons.
Althea is a huge market-driven restaurant, stocked with countless culinary delights. From roasted beets and mushroom tart to sweet potato gnocchi with bone marrow and tomato and sourdough garlic bread with veggies in ketchup, vegan restaurant Althea has you covered.
The vegan restaurant also offers a full raw bar with a variety of vegan seafood options, serving as a menu highlight is the restaurant's lobster roll made with vegan crumbles and herb mayo. Althea also offers creative raw or plant-based entrees like seitan kabobs with chipotle cream and pickled pepper, and kung pao tofu stuffed with mushrooms, ginger, and chiles.
Sip on specialty kombucha and matcha lemonade at Althea, and prepare to leave stuffed with every last bite. After going vegetarian, it's hard to imagine life without a piece of cheese or some lamb chops. Luckily for lovers of cheese, meat, and all things delicious, Althea Vegan Bar has you covered. This Logan Square spot features simple and delicious vegan eats like “buttermilk grilled” portobello mushroom burgers and mac and cheese with vegan cheesecake as the base.
This list is hardly exhaustive—if anything, it's just a tiny fraction of the good dining we have in Chicago. The city has plenty of great options for both carnivores and vegans. But as Chicagoans are always preaching, “it's all about the food.”
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