Although Chicago is a big city, it has always had a down-home vibe, which includes its preference for stick-to-your-ribs food like steaks and deep dish pizzas. However, Chicago has evolved to be a world-class, global city, with cosmopolitan cuisine to match. As a result, vegetarians and vegans can find tasty fare, not only downtown, but in far-flung areas of the city and even beyond the city’s borders.
1. Green Zebra
For upscale vegetarian fare, Green Zebra, located at 1460 West Chicago Avenue in the Noble Square area, placed first on Zagat’s 2013 list of Top Vegetarian Restaurants in Chicago. Its knowledgeable staff and inventive small plate offerings are inviting enough that even confirmed carnivores will find something to like.
2. Mana Food Bar
Ranking at number two on Zagat’s 2013 list, Mana Food Bar is located at 1742 West Division Street in the popular Wicker Park neighborhood. With friendly service and reasonable prices, Mana Food Bar offers delicious dishes that will make you forget that there is no meat included. Be prepared to wait: the small location takes no reservations, and fills up fast, especially on weekends.
3. Chicago Diner
The two locations of the Chicago Diner took the third and fourth spots on Zagat’s 2013 list of Chicago’s best vegetarian restaurants. The address of the Lakeview location is 3411 North Halsted Street; the address of the newer Logan Square location is 2333 North Milwaukee Avenue. The Lakeview location has been serving up full-flavored vegetarian and vegan fare at budget prices for the past three decades.
4. Karyn’s on Green
Located at 130 South Green Street, Karyn’s on Green is a somewhat more upscale cousin to Karyn’s Cooked and Karyn’s Fresh establishments, and earned fifth place on the 2013 Zagat’s list. This Greektown establishment serves tasty vegan fare accompanied by organic wines, craft beers and an extensive cocktail menu. Inviting décor and affordable prices make Karyn’s on Green a popular date night option.
5. Native Foods Café
The three locations of Native Foods Café round out the final three spots on the 2013 Zagat’s list of vegetarian eateries. The address of the Lakeview location is 1023 West Belmont Avenue; the Wicker Park branch is located at 1484 North Milwaukee Avenue and the downtown branch in the heart of the Loop is located at 218 South Clark Street. Part of a California based chain, all three Chicago branches of Native Foods Café serve tasty, satisfying vegan fare. An attentive staff and inviting surroundings add to the appeal.
6. Soul Vegetarian East
If you believe that soul food must be meat heavy and loaded with fat, you’ve never eaten at Soul Vegetarian East, located at 203 East 75th Street on Chicago’s South Side. The owner and proprietor, Prince Asiel Ben-Israel, is a follower of the African Hebrew Israelite faith, a variation of Judaism, and expresses his faith through tasty vegetarian soul food dishes that reflect Mediterranean, Asian influences.
7. Vegetarian Express
Fresh squeezed juices draw many diners to Vegetarian Express, located at 3109 North Halsted Street in Lakeview. The Mexican-influenced menu includes soy “chicken” enchiladas, fajitas, vegan sushi, kale salad and veggie burgers. You can also order your favorite dishes for takeout or delivery.
8. Blind Faith Café
A longtime favorite among diners in Evanston on Chicago’s North Shore, Blind Faith Café is located at 525 Dempster Street. Diners can find dishes from a variety of cuisines on the extensive menu. Sweet potato fries are a favorite for diners. This family-style restaurant has been serving customers since 1979.
9. Udupi Palace
If your palate runs to savory Indian cuisine, Udupi Palace, located at 2543 West Devon Avenue, is an ideal destination. The rich spices and flavors of dosas (filled crepes), vadas (savory doughnuts) and chutneys on offer at Udupi Palace are so satisfying that you will forget that you are not eating meat.
10. Middle East Bakery and Grocery
Middle East Bakery and Grocery, located at 1512 West Foster Avenue in the Andersonville neighborhood features dill hummus, Jerusalem salad, stuffed olives, grape leaves and other Middle Eastern fare. The authentic cuisine is made fresh, with no preservatives, fillers or artificial colors or flavoring added.