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Staff Picks - Eat Your Vegetables!

By John DiGilio in Food on Oct 25, 2011 9:00PM

Caitlin's favorite - The Pick Me Up Cafe.
Did you know that October is Vegetarian Awareness Month? OK, so it is the end of October and we are a little late to the table on this one. This tenth month on the calendar, it turns out, is more than just about carving pumpkins, dressing up like former presidents (or presidential wannabes), and hitting up the neighbors for candy. It is also the time to reflect on the benefits of a plant-based diet. Of course, those benefits (which include everything from lower rates of heart disease to slower global warming) are up for debate. Nonetheless, October is a great time to back away from the Italian beef and try something a little less . . . eh . . . "meaty".

In honor of Vegetarian Awareness Month, we asked the Chicagoist foodies for their favorite flesh-free meal recommendations here in the Windy City. Feel free to share your own in the comments below. And yes, we do know that October is also National Pork Month. Go figure.

Caitlin Klein:
No!!! Don't make me!!! I cook all my vegetables in bacon fat or chicken stock for god's sake. Vegetarian is not in my vocabulary.

Sigh. Fine.

Pick Me Up Cafe, Wrigleyville: This Cafe serves breakfast all day, but if sizzling breakfast meats aren't your idea of a good time, you can get the "Gorp" Omelet, which is a huge envelope of goat cheese, onion and red pepper. Uhhh... I don't know if vegetarians eat eggs. Do you? If you don't, and you want a late-night (or very late night) dinner, opt for a bowl of Pick Me Up's well-known vegetarian chili with a grilled cheese for dunking.


John DiGilio:
I am not sure that a city known for its hotdogs, Italian beef sandwiches, and sausages is ready for a whole month of meatless fun. What will Harold's Chicken Shack afficionadoes do? Still, with the utmost love and respect for my carcas-consuming friends, I encourage everyone to try a meal free of meat once in a while. Your hearts will thank you for it!

Chicago Curry House, South Loop: Not only do they serve an awesome mutter paneer worth mackin' on as a meal in itself, but this hidden gem of a restuarant offers a fine selection of Nepalese dishes that are sure to please vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Start with the veggie samosas, they are crisp, plump, and spicy!

And Caitlin, this is Chicago . . . Every month IS meat month. ;-)

Molly Durham:
Here's a veggie-thing-at-very-non-veggie-place pick!

Bangers & Lace, Wicker Park: This sausage-specializing gastropub offers much to the meat-minded, but veggie lovers can find great options as well. Get the Truffled Grilled Cheese with black truffle, taleggio, raclette, Irish white cheddar and tomato basil bisque for dipping. It's gooey, it's smokey, and you won't be sorry. They'll also let you substitute a vegetarian dog for any of their hot dog dishes, including a deep fried variety and Chicago-style.

Amy Cavanaugh:
Handlebar, Wicker Park: The bar serves up vegetarian, vegan, and seafood dishes amidst bicycle-themed decor and an abundance of mustaches. There's a great beer list, but if you go in just to drink, you'll miss out on options like the fried pickles, spears coated with golden cornmeal batter and served with a tasty vegan ranch dressing, or a "Chicago-style" tofu sandwich, topped with giardiniera, arugula, tomato, and celery salt.

Roger Kamholz:
I second Molly's veg@non-veg pick of the truffled grilled cheese. Pretty. Fantastic. Stuff. Here's another:

The Gage, Loop: At first glance, the lunch menu at the Gage doesn't look great for grazers. But hiding in plain sight among brisket, elk poutine, ribeye and the like is the Roasted Woodland Mushrooms sandwich, a vegetarian diamond in the roasted rough. Rich, smoky and - dare I say - meaty mushrooms are joined by sharp watercress, radicchio, salty pecorino cheese and a tangy truffle aioli. This sandwich runneth over with flavor. It's not just good vegetarian food, it's good food.