Best vegetarian restaurants in Chicago

For everything from seitan to vegan brunches, these are the best vegetarian restaurants in Chicago.

Photograph: Martha Williams
Bacon mac and cheese at Upton's Breakroom.

Despite our reputation as a meat-loving city, Chicago has an abundance of great vegetarian restaurants. If you're looking for incredible vegan milkshakes, head to the Chicago Diner. Want a great vegetarian brunch? Green Zebra is your spot. A tiny restaurant that serves small plates of hot and cold vegetable dishes? That's Mana Food Bar. Here are the best vegetarian restaurants in Chicago.

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Best vegetarian restaurants in Chicago

Chicago Diner

Even non-vegetarians know Chicago Diner. The vibe is normal, everyday diner, albeit with soy milk, tofu and tempeh on the giant menu. Waits for weekend brunch can get painful (even though the menu is served daily), but patient non-meat-eaters are rewarded with dense (and fairly flaky) soy margarine biscuits. French toast is a little soggy and lackluster—but after all, this is diner food. If you still have room, try the vegan caramel crunch torte for dessert.

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Boystown

Green Zebra

Critics' pick

Shawn McClain’s moss-colored, Asian-tinged house of Zen is one of the only upscale dining experiences Chicago vegetarians can truly call their own. This is a great thing for dinners out, but it may be an even better thing for brunch. Here, there’s no worrying that bacon will be strewn over every plate (unless you count shiitake bacon). And with dishes like hen of the woods mushroom pate with Vidalia onion marmalade, and an organic duck egg with smoked potato puree, bacon is the last thing you’ll miss.

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West Town

Karyn’s Cooked

Karyn Calabrese is known for her 100% organic, vegan and raw cuisine (see: Karyn’s Fresh Corner). But here she turns up the heat. These dishes are still vegan and organic but appeal to those who aren’t ready for raw with hummus, pizza, salads and entrées made with fake meats. The restaurant serves organic wines and beer and yummy Sunday brunch, with a “conscious comfort food” vibe. Remember: In addition to meatless, vegan means no dairy or refined sugar.

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River North

Kitchen 17

This vegan cafe in Lakeview focuses on food made with their house-made seitan, like a meatball sub or pizzas with seitan pepperoni. A very good veggie burger is made hearty with quinoa flour and soy protein added to roasted herbs and vegetables, while a weekly selection of desserts ranges from cake slices to cupcakes to fudge.

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Lakeview

Mana Food Bar

Critics' pick

At this shoebox-size meatless mecca, global vegetarian fare is gobbled up by lanky diners lounging on chunky wood stools and in dark booths under dim lights. Since prices are somewhere between Green Zebra and Chicago Diner, two people will spend around $60 to leave full, so to leave both full and satisfied, choose wisely. We recommend sampling among small portions of sesame noodles, bibimbap and the brown rice-mushroom sliders. Apricot cheesecake is a great ending, unless you’re looking to drink dessert, in which case go for the cucumber Sakerita.

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Wicker Park

Upton's Breakroom

House-made seitan is the base for most menu items at Upton’s Breakroom, a bright little café attached to Upton’s Naturals, a company that makes seitan and sells it in stores across the country. The café has a small menu, including a pastrami seitan sandwich, grilled rosemary tempeh sandwich, baked goods and vegan soft serve. The employee meal, which is a rotating bowl of grains, greens and proteins, had a base of brown rice, a layer of raw kale, a generous helping of warm seitan chunks and a small container of bright-green nut pesto. There’s a great interplay of textures and flavors, and at $6 for a good-sized serving, it’s a satisfying lunch.

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Comments

1 comments
Allen S
Allen S

Chicago Diner is more expensive than indicated above and is not in the same category, food-quality wise, as the other restaurants covered in this article.