Two decades ago, you would have had a difficult time finding a vegetarian or vegan restaurant in Chicago worth its salt. Today, however, there’s a plethora of restaurants that not only cater to veggie loving patrons but also ones that design meatless meals specifically for carnivores. Many businesses these days have the environment in mind when choosing what they put on their menu and with the popularity of farm-to-table and organic fare, there’s a huge market for alternative meat sources. We’ve rounded up a list of great places to go in Chicago that are either completely meat-free or offer dishes that will work for meatless Mondays.
The Chicago Diner
The Chicago Diner has been meat-free since ’83, and boy are they proud of that fact. Local and seasonal ingredients have been used here long before those became buzz words in the restaurant industry. Visit the original Halsted location in Chicago’s Boys Town — if it’s nice, eat outside on the patio — or pop into the one in Logan Square and have a beer at Revolution Brewing afterward. Each location has a different neighborhood feel but the high quality of the food is the same. You’ll probably want to bring home a box of bakery items as well to enjoy later — choose from a variety of tortes, cakes or peanut butter cups.
Original Soul Vegetarian
The food here at Original Soul Vegetarian is 100 percent plant-based and free of chemicals plus you won’t find any refined sugars, flours or rice in any of their dishes. Stir fried vegetables, salads, falafel platters, a huge selection of veggie sandwiches and burgers, a fresh juice bar and soy ice cream make up the menu. The focus on this restaurant is steeped in health and wellness and you can’t help but feel a little better about your menu choices here.
Clever Rabbit, open for dinner Tuesday-Sunday and for brunch on the weekends, is full of style and pizzazz and the menu here is creative and innovative. Plus, you can order delicious, colorful cocktails to enhance your meal. The dishes here are veggie-forward, yet there are still meat options available should you dine with a carnivore friend or two. There’s a lovely outdoor patio that’s light and bright and perfect for people watching.
Left Coast Food + Juice
If you like fresh-squeezed juices and delicious smoothies, then Left Coast Food + Juice will be your jam. With locations in Lincoln Park, River North and The Loop, you won’t go hungry looking for a great place to fill your belly. Order an acai bowl, steel cut oatmeal, salads, wraps or hearty grain bowls. And, who doesn’t like yummy avocado toast? This place has multi-hued meals, filling beverages and as-advertised good vibes.
True Food Kitchen
True Food Kitchen has locations across the globe, including two in the Chicagoland area — one in Oak Brook and one in River North. An anti-inflammatory menu, created by owner, Dr. Andrew Weil, is what sets this restaurant apart from all of the others. Gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan, customizable dishes ensure that each customer gets exactly what they want and need. True Food Kitchen also teams up with health professionals in the area to offer guests discounts at yoga studios and other exercise facilities.
Kitchen 17, a completely vegan restaurant and bakery, is the type of place where time seems to escape you — before you know it, half of the day is gone because you’ve been having so much fun playing board games and hanging out with your friends and family. The food here is so good you might even surprise your meat-eating friends with vegan comfort food that they didn’t even know existed. Many of the dishes are created with house-made seitan, a product made out of wheat gluten. Deep-dish pizzas, and cookie pies, are the specialties here.
Chicagoans are rejoicing the reopening of Bad Hunter, which was temporarily closed for repairs. The Instagram-worthy food here is delivered in an Instagram-worthy dining room — it’s all just so, well, Instagram-y. There are a few meat dishes in this mostly vegetarian establishment but really, it’s mostly a haven for veggie lovers.
Cumin in Wicker Park is a vegetarian restaurant that serves up Indian and Nepalese favorites. If you have a picky eater among your group, this is the place to go — the menu is extensive and bursting with options. Multiple Bib Gourmand awards have been given to Cumin, for nine years in a row. Plus, you can order an Indian beer, like the Taj Mahal, to go along with your dinner.
For fast and friendly service, dine-in or carry-out, check out Urban Vegan. The menu has loads of Thai and Asian dishes. Try the soy chicken nuggets, spicy tofu, Pad See Ew, spicy glass noodles, pumpkin eggplant and more. The veggie-heavy entrees will fill you up and keep you coming back for more.
The Little Beet Table
The Little Beet Table has locations in both New York City and Chicago. This hot spot in Chicago’s Gold Coast sets the stage for a great night after work or while exploring the city. The menu includes great dishes like sunflower hummus, baby kale salad, mushroom and black bean burger, charred cauliflower, rigatoni and cauliflower and mushroom tacos. You'll walk away feeling full and satiated instead of stuffed and uncomfortable.
Chicago Raw Food
The menu is sweet and simple at Chicago Raw Food. The plant-based dishes here are served completely raw, created with your health and wellness in mind. Order the nutrient-dense Chicago Raw Rolls, Chili Croquettes, an Empanada Platter, breads and spreads, Mock Tuna Pate or any one of the green juices and smoothies. You can also get dehydrated sweets and vegan ice cream here. Why not try something new and see how you feel?
Demera Ethiopian Restaurant
Try Demera Ethiopian Restaurant for delicious Ethiopian food (and rich Ethiopian coffee), set in the vibrant Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. Order spinach, cheese or lentil Sambussas for an appetizer and then family-style Messob with vegetarian options. Another popular dish is the Vegetable Bayanetu, which is a platter filled with all nine of Demera’s veggie specialties. The platter is meant to be shared and don’t feel afraid to feed each other with your hands and bond over the meal. You'll be thinking about the airy injera bread long after the meal is over.