Best vegetarian restaurants in Chicago for tofu and other dishes
For everything from vegan dishes like seitan to vegetarian brunches, here are the best vegetarian restaurants in Chicago.
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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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. 3411 N Halsted St (773-935-6696, veggiediner.com). Brunch, lunch, dinner. Average main course: $11.
Green Zebra 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. 1460 W Chicago Ave (312-243-7100, greenzebrachicago.com). Dinner. Average small plate: $11.
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. 738 N Wells St (312-587-1050, karynraw.com). Brunch (Sat, Sun), lunch, dinner. Average main course: $12.
Karyn’s on Green Karyn Calabrese’s third restaurant is in the former Butter space, but her takes on “chicken” legs, “crab” cakes and peanut-butter ice “cream” are all vegan. For meat abstainers, her elegant faux-meats are godsends, and her vegetable creations, such as a pizza made of thin tortillas topped with vegan cheese or pasta made from thin strips of zucchini, will please carnivores just the same. But we admit it was the fresh, fruity cocktails and alcohol-free “elixirs,” such as the punchy Clip On, that convinced us that Calabrese had taken vegan dining in Chicago to a whole new level. 130 S Green St (312-226-6155, karynsongreen.com). Brunch (Sat, Sun); Lunch; Dinner (closed Mon). Average main course: $16.
Mana Food Bar 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. 1742 W Division St (773-342-1742, manafoodbar.com). Lunch (Sat), dinner. Average small plate: $7.