Chicago has such a long history as a meatpacking town that one of the city’s nicknames was once “hog butcher to the world.” The legacy of that era has evidently caused Chicago to remain a meat and potatoes kind of town, where it’s almost always easier to get a gyro, Polish sausage, or Italian beef than it is to get a good salad. But the city is also a world-class metropolis so of course there are tons of great vegetarian and vegan restaurants all over. For the non-meat eaters out there, or if you just need a break from tacos and hot dogs, here’s our list of the best vegetarian and vegan places to eat at in Chicago that go above bland salads and pasta.
1. The Little Beet Table
The Little Beet Table is the Chicago branch of a New York restaurant concept and is located on the Gold Coast. It does serve meat but features a vegetable-forward menu that focuses on nutritious, seasonal ingredients. The Little Beet Table is not only great for vegetarians and vegans, but it’s a perfect choice for anyone looking to eat a little more healthily without sacrificing flavor. There are many gluten-free options available as well.
2. Urban Vegan
Thai restaurants usually have some good vegetarian and vegan options, but Urban Vegan is whipping up exclusively vegan Thai food in Chicago. This restaurant located at the corner of Ashland and Montrose uses high-quality imitation meats and seasonal veggies to create all your favorite Thai dishes, and it succeeds admirably. From excellent homemade curries to red rice larb, Urban Vegan not only cooks authentically but caters for all.
Some vegans go above and beyond and don’t even want their food cooked. Others just know some of the best salads are served at raw restaurants. If that’s what you’re looking for, head to either of Raw’s two locations, in the French Market or on the Gold Coast. It also does great superfood smoothies, juices, and takeaway options, making them a popular lunch spot for the downtown crowd.
4. Original Soul Vegetarian
Original Soul Vegetarian on East 75th Street on the South Side has been doing 100 percent vegan soul food classics for over 30 years. Starting from a belief that food is medicine, this vegetarian institution has won over legions of loyal customers who return for favorites like mac and cheese, plates of steamed greens, and BBQ.
Uptown-based Kāl’ish calls itself a plant-based diner and one look at the menu confirms it. It’s been open since Uptown was still one of the more dangerous neighborhoods on the North Side, and it’s one of the local businesses that have helped the area to improve without losing its identity. Kāl’ish is totally vegan and has menu items guaranteed to satisfy your cravings. Vegan burgers, grilled cheese, Mexican, fried chicken sandwiches, and an all-day breakfast menu straight out of a corner diner will leave you full but ready to visit again.
6. Sultan’s Market
In the heart of the Wicker Park neighborhood, Sultan’s Market has been making great food since 1995, before the neighborhood was thought of as “cool.” Sultan’s serves meat, but its specialty, and what put it on the map in the first place, is the amazing falafel. It also does excellent homemade Middle-Eastern favorites like hummus, baba ganoush, and tahini, and it has a great salad bar. Sultan’s has a second location in Lincoln Park now, and a meal here will leave you full without emptying your wallet.
7. Clever Rabbit
Another great option that has something for meat eaters and vegans alike, Clever Rabbit along Division Street in Wicker Park has a veggie-centric menu and beautifully presented dishes. Everything about Clever Rabbit is design-forward, from the food to the decor, but the restaurant’s Instagram-worthiness doesn’t come at the expense of the food or the quality of the ingredients. It also has an innovative wine and cocktail list.
8. The Chicago Diner
With the tagline “Meat free since ‘83,” the Chicago Diner is an OG in the Chicago vegetarian dining scene. If you’re craving diner favorites like burgers, a Reuben, and milkshakes, you’ll find some of the best vegan versions here. You can find the diner at its original location in Lakeview, as well as at a new branch in Logan Square. Oh, and it has a full bar so if you’re craving a vegan White Russian, this is the place to go.
Majani serves up soulful vegan cuisine to a loyal clientele in the South Shore neighborhood on the South Side. Majani is Swahili for “green,” and this restaurant provides a seasonal menu sourced from local gardens and farms. The menu will get your mouth watering instantly with dishes such as rice and beans, collard greens, and cornbread, plus a delectable crab cake sandwich, daily specials, and a great burger. If you’re in the neighborhood (and South Shore is definitely worth checking out), you should definitely stop in.
10. Uru Swati
India might have the world’s best culture of vegetarian cuisine, so it’s no surprise that vegetarians and vegans often seek it out. Uru Swati along Devon Avenue in Chicago’s Little India neighborhood is the go-to for non-meat eaters in Chicago. Like most Indian restaurants, it does use cheese, butter, and yogurt products, but its menu is fully vegetarian. Anyone wishing to eat vegan will have no problem avoiding the dairy items, just ask the helpful staff.