The Best Restaurants For Vegetarians In Chicago
By Chicagoist_Guest in Food on Sep 25, 2017 8:34PM
When most people think of Chicago food, it’s steak-and-potatoes-type fare that usually comes to mind. Not fair. Fortunately for vegetarians, there’s a whole lot more than meets the eye around town to enjoy. Between top-tier eateries with plant-based dishes to restaurants focused on specific national cuisines that simply don’t make meat their focus, one thing is for certain: They make it easy to hold the beef.
By Jennifer Olvera
Mana Food Bar
Calling all carb lovers: gyoza, sesame-peanut noodles and sautéed mushroom-topped polenta await at this sleek, meat-free haunt with a global bent. Brown rice-mushroom sliders? Check. Potato gnocchi graced with grilled zucchini? You bet. Don’t miss the daily happy hour either, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Two sliders and a beer will set you back just $8.50.
Mana Food Bar is located at 1742 W. Division St.
Dishing up top-tier Mediterranean and Middle Eastern eats, there’s something for everyone at this super Bridgeport spot, known for its flatbreads, wraps stuffed with sizzling veggies, falafel and uber-garlicky, herb-laced fries. Seriously, they’re all good, so point, pick and repeat—often. And more good news is, the shawarma options will also appease your meat-eating friends.
Zaytune is located at 3129 S. Morgan St.
Image via Imperial Lamain's Facebook page.
Veggie-centric diners rejoice at this stylish, modern Chinese restaurant in River North, where you can get your dishes prepared with vegetarian “fish sauce.” Finds range from straightforward pickles made with Japanese cucumbers, red Thai chile and sesame seeds to Instagram-worthy salads and spicy, hand-pulled noodles with shiitake and enoki mushrooms, carrots, bean sprouts and snow peas.
Imperial Lamian is located at 6 W. Hubbard St.
"Acorn Squash Potstickers, soy caramel, carrot sesame purée, shaved radish" at Green Zebra (Photo by Stephanie/Creative Commons)
This date-worthy West Town stunner woos vegetarians with an impressive tasting menu and elegant a la carte offerings that happen not to contain meat. That translates to sesame seed-studded scarlet beet poke with mandarin oranges, wakame seaweed, macadamia nuts and avocado mousse, as well as crispy sunchoke “tartare,” plated with cashew pudding and caper-raisin sauce. A noteworthy wine list, specialty beers, creative cocktails and booze-free bevs, like one with pink peppercorn and thyme, add to the special occasion feel.
Green Zebra is located at 1460 W. Chicago Ave.
Score meatless South Indian faves for a song at this Devon Street go-to, starting with the masala dosa-potato crepes with sambar and chutney-or pleasantly sour, tongue-singeing cilantro-tamarind rasam soup. Tame the flames with poofy, fried poori. Alternately, sample curries when ordering the Royal Thali-it comes with soup, an assortment of apps, chapati, two kinds of rice and chana and three vegetable curries, plus curd, pickles papad, dessert and a drink.
Mysore Woodlands is located at 2548 W. Devon Ave.
Take a trip to Costa Rica-no passport required-at this casual, cash-only, BYOB hub where must-haves include garlicky yuka fries with mojo; soul-warming vegetarian paella with plantains; and tropical-feeling palmetto salad with hearts of palm, beets, cucumber, tomatoes, avocado and radishes atop greens. Be sure to score a banana or passion fruit shake made with milk, water or soy.
Irazu is located at 1865 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Korean and Polish fare collide at this off-kilter, counter-service offshoot of Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar. Prepare your taste buds for street food-inspired finds like sauerkraut-mushroom-filled potskis with farmer’s cheese, soy cream, pickled onions and herb salad. Then, go another round with sesame seed-showered rice cakes in spicy-sweet chile sauce with kapusta and sesame leaves. Enjoy them on the patio when weather allows.
Kimski is located at 954-960 W. 31st St.
Local, organic and sustainable ingredients — they’re order of the day at this lively New American-meets-Mexican eatery serving three squares daily in Bridgeport. Although not vegetarian-exclusive, there are loads of meat-free options, whether you favor avocado fries with chipotle-lime aioli or a crispy plantain sandwich—hold the chicken—piled high with, cilantro-lime slaw, pickled red onions, melted cheddar, Cuban black beans and rice.
Nana is located at 3267 S. Halsted St.
From its well-stocked bar to its inviting patio, this vegetarian and vegan haven has something to please fans of straight-up appealing comfort food (even if they just so happen to eat meat). That’s true whether you order the gooey Gouda mac and cheese; the black bean maduro with plantains, pico de gallo and brown rice with chipotle tomato sauce; or the Green Meanie sandwich, which is loaded with avocado, spinach, herbed goat cheese and sprouts. Feeling hungover? The breakfast burrito will cure what ails you.
Handlebar is located at 2311 W. North Ave.
Shrimp at Opart Thai. Photo via Facebook.
Opart Thai House
With outposts in West Town, South Loop and Lincoln Square, this catchall Thai joint is a great choice for anyone who has vegetarians and carnivores in tow. That is to say, the menu has tofu satay and fried tofu with peanuts and cilantro for the former, as well as chicken satay and spicy tofu with ground chicken for the latter. Among meat-free entrees, the vibrant veggie pad paak ruam mit gets top props.
Opart Thai House is located at 4658 N. Western Ave., 1906 S. State St. and 1371 W. Chicago Ave.
Original Soul Vegetarian
Feel-good soul food is a reality at this globally inspired favorite with a menu that jaunts from Mediterranean to Asian, Southern and comfort food-driven American fare. Even omnivores will appreciate the seitan sloppy Joe, falafel platter and steamed vegetables and tofu served many ways.
Original Soul Vegetarian is located at 203 E. 75th St.