Amitabul Like a Zen koan shocking the mind into enlightenment, this Korean vegan restaurant (formerly located on Southport) is an awakening—for vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike—to how delicious a meatless, eggless, dairy-free meal can be. Supposedly employing “Zen meditation cooking energy,” chefs whip up everything from vegan dumplings, organic veggies and noodle soups to spicy curry and tofu dishes. Several flavors of vegan ice cream such as cappuccino, green tea and plum are available in warmer months. 6207 N Milwaukee Ave (773-774-0276). Bus: 56A, Pace 270. Lunch, dinner (closed Sun, Mon). Average main course: $10.
Cousin’s I.V. Raw foodists are rejoicing that chef Mehmet Ak is making 100% raw, 100% vegan and mostly organic renderings of Turkish and American classics. But they’re not the only ones who will enjoy his delicious “pizza”—a flaxseed cracker topped with garlicky tomato sauce, fresh avocado and marinated mushrooms—and his lively marinated spinach. The nutty “zoom” burger and sprout-heavy tabouli, on the other hand, are probably easier to swallow for raw foodists, if only because, for them, there aren’t many other options. 3038 W Irving Park Rd (773-478-6868). Bus: 80. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $12.
de.li.cious café It’s a coffee shop with vegan tendencies, but de.li.cious doesn’t have that kumbaya vibe of spots such as Heartland Café. Instead, it appears to be just another coffee shop. The vegan breakfast sandwich (tofu, vegan sausage, soy cheddar) is a respectable (and filling) attempt; the vegan muffins could stand in for the real thing. But at the end of the day, it’s not the food you’ll come here for: It’s the Chemex coffee, brewed so smooth and silky it’s well worth the eight-minute wait to get it. 3827 N Lincoln Ave (773-477-9840). El: Brown to Irving Park. Bus: 11, 50, 80. Mon–Fri 6:30am–7pm; Sat 8am–7:30pm; Sun 9am–3pm. Average baked good: $2.50.
Karyn’s on Green Karyn Calabrese’s third restaurant is in the former Butter space, but her takes on “chicken” legs and peanut-butter ice “cream” are all vegan. For meat abstainers, her faux-meats are godsends, and her vegetable creations, such as a pizza made of tortillas topped with vegan cheese or pasta made from thin strips of zucchini, will please carnivores just the same. But it was the fresh, fruity cocktails and alcohol-free “elixirs,” such as the punchy Clip On, that convinced us Calabrese had taken vegan dining in Chicago to a whole new level. 130 S Green St (312-226-6155). El: Blue to UIC/Halsted. Bus: 8, 20, 126. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $12.
Veggie Bite The phrase vegan fast food may conjure up images of lettuce with a side of wheatgrass, but the grub here has more in common with your neighborhood burger joint than it does with a salad bar—except unlike at the neighborhood McDonald’s, the food tastes better than the photographs behind the counter make it appear. The Bite “burger” combo comes with super-crisp fries, and while the milkshakes are thinner than your average lactose-filled ones, the situation is easily remedied by the addition of crumbled cookie dough and chocolate chips. 1300 N Milwaukee Ave (773-772-2483). El: Blue to Division. Bus: 50, 56, 70. Lunch (Wed–Sun), dinner daily. Average main course: $7.
Yummy Yummy Asian Cuisine Sure, you could order a meat or seafood dish at this hole-in-a-wall joint, but why? Regulars are willing to endure slowish service to enjoy fresh, vegan mock-meat dishes. Start with flavorful tofu- and seitan-studded hot-and-sour soup and plump soy gluten pot stickers—the latter are perfectly fried and surprisingly nongreasy. You’ll need restraint to keep from inhaling the honey-kissed sautéed seitan dish in one breath, but take a pass on the sludgy-sauced mock-meat cashew entrée. Don’t leave without sampling a lychee tapioca smoothie. 2901 N Broadway (773-525-6677). El: Brown to Wellington. Bus: 22, 36, 156. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $10.