As anyone who has given up meat (for any length of time) knows, eating out when meat is off the menu can be challenging. Throw in other dietary restrictions like vegan or gluten-free, and you might find yourself limited to the salad section of the menu. Thankfully, there are several restaurants in Chicago that cater to vegans, vegetarians, and diners with other dietary restrictions. Here are a few of the best options.
The Chicago Diner
The Chicago Diner has been around since 1983, and is recognized as the best place for veggie dining in Chicago. The menu is all vegetarian and mostly vegan, and there is a special gluten-free menu with several additional options. Favorites include the pumpkin ravioli, lentil cakes, black bean burger and Philly cheeze “steak.” Come early at peak times or expect to wait, as there’s nearly always a line outside the popular place.
If you’re arriving or departing Chicago via Amtrak or Megabus (or just happen to be down by Union Station after visiting the Willis Tower), do yourself a favor and swing by RAW in the Chicago French Market. Everything at the stand is made fresh each day and is made of entirely raw ingredients. There are always free samples available so you can try before you buy. Items on offer include spaghetti with meatballs, salmon pate, pizza, and garden burgers.
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Karyn’s Cooked and Karyn’s on Green
Karyn Calabrese owns a mini-empire in the holistic and all-natural industry. The Karyn’s family includes a day spa, an organic juice bar, a home-delivery service, and several restaurants where everything is vegan. Karyn’s Cooked offers comfort food favorites like vegan pizza, homestyle “meat” loaf, lasagna, fajitas, and sloppy joe’s. Karyn’s on Green offers a more upscale atmosphere and proves that vegan cuisine can be worthy of date night. The list of cocktails is long and inventive and there’s a well-thought out wine list as well. Dinner entrees include sweet corn risotto with tarragon, chive, and truffle oil; marinated portobello steak with yukon gold, red spring onions, and red wine reduction; and chicken legs with sweet potato hash, Swiss chard, and sweet barbecue sauce. Everything is vegan, and many items are also gluten free. Dinner, lunch, and brunch are served.
Wicker Park’s cyclist hangout Handlebar offers lunch, dinner, drinks, a summer beer garden, and great drink specials. Menu items lean towards vegetarian bar food – seitan and black bean nachos, hearty salads, grilled tofu sandwiches, fish tacos and tofu fajitas. Bike messengers get free fries on Mondays.
Mana Food Bar
Mana Food Bar offers small and large plates of raw, vegan and vegetarian dishes like grilled eggplant, sweet potato pancakes, pumpkin ravioli, eggplant lasagna, hummus, quinoa and big salads. Prices range from $4-$9 for small plates, so it’s a great place to come and sample a variety of dishes. There’s also a full bar offering cocktails, beer, wine and sake. There’s a fresh-squeezed juice bar, along with a selection of vegan smoothies available.
For those who crave coffee or need a pastry fix, Delicious Cafe delivers vegan treats sure to satisfy. The cafe offers an extensive selection of sandwiches, plus bagels, muffins, scones, croissants and tarts that are vegan and very tasty Plus, there’s free wi-fi.