Chicago Restaurant Review, Volume I


Here are some vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Chicago. Also, I haven’t gone to any restaurant in Chicago I wouldn’t classify as vegetarian-friendly except for Bubba Gump Shrimp Palace at Navy Pier. But here are some that stick out to me for good or for bad.

1. Chicago Diner. Of course I have to list this one first because this is the restaurant everyone thinks of when you say, vegetarian restaurant in Chicago. It is nearly 30 years old, and nearly always has a wait for tables, especially in colder months when the patio is closed. They have a good amount of comfort food and a fair selection for non-vegetarians (food that “seems normal” like tostadas and chili). My complaint is that they rely heavily on “meat substitutes” like seitan. Expect to pay about $15 per person. The best thing on the menu: peanut butter cookie dough soy milkshake. This is the best milkshake I have ever had, vegan or not. It is unbelivable.

2. Nhu Lan. This is not a vegetarian restaurant, but they have 3 vegetarian sandwiches and a variety of other vegetarian foods. This is a Vietnamese sandwich shop that is so good I want to travel to Vietnam. The tasty banh-mi sandwiches are served on french bread that is baked daily. They also have delicious bubble tea. The only unfortunate thing about this place is that there are only two tables, and the small front room is usually packed with people who have ordered, are waiting to order, or are eating. Expect to pay $5 per person. The best thing on the menu: Veggie Classic Banh Mi. Carrots, taro, tofu, cucumber, cilantro, mayo on crispy french bread. Awesome.

3. Native Foods Cafe. (Purposefully not linking). Great if you like sides of bigotry and racism. Best thing on the menu: leaving without ordering.

4. Quesadilla La Reyna del Sur. (No website- located at 2235 N. Western). This is a great vegetarian Mexican restaurant. It is not pretentious. It does also lean heavily on soy meat substitutes, but has huitlacoche (corn fungus) and nopales (cactus) which are not as commonly found at many restaurants. You have the option of dairy or vegan cheese on the quesadillas. They also have many fresh juice options. Expect to pay $7 per person. Best thing on the menu: not sure yet. I need to go a few more times.

5. Handlebar. If you don’t mind hipsters and love vegetarian comfort food, this is your place. (Also serves seafood). One of the cool things about Handlebar is that, in addition to all the tempting entree and sandwich choices, you can also mix and match the sides to make a dinner of 3 sides as an entree. Expect to pay about $15 per person. The inside can be a little noisy to carry a thoughtful conversation with your dining partner, but the patio is wonderful (weather permitting). Best thing on the menu: sesame broccoli (side dish).

6. I Monelli. It’s Chicago. I had to put in at least one pizza place. See, Chicago is known for deep dish, but it’s also known for very overweight people. Yeah, I like deep dish, but I don’t like how my stomach feels afterward. That’s why when I want pizza, I get it from I Monelli. They have a delicious crust with a touch of cornmeal, not too much sauce, and traditional toppings as well as clever ones. Expect to pay about $12 per person. Best thing on the menu: Potato Rosemary Pizza.

7. Green Zebra. Chicago is also known for some innovative (read: expensive and small portioned) restaurants. Green Zebra is the vegetarian counterpart to these places. That said, it is a delicious spot. The atmosphere is cozy and inviting. The food is good, and may leave you wanting more. The soup appetizer was served in a shot glass. Expect to pay $60 per person. Best thing on the menu: I’ll have to go back and let you know.

8.Opart Thai. Ok, I don’t really know if their dishes are vegetarian or made with fish sauce and I don’t want to ask. This is my go-to Thai spot. The service is great. The decor is welcoming, and there is always a table. We had our rehearsal dinner for about 30 people here, and there was still space for the regular dinner crowd. The menu is huge, but I usually stick with the classics. Expect to pay about $9 per person. Best thing on the menu: Pad See-iew, tofu.

9. Tokyo Marina. Really? A sushi place in a vegetarian list? Yes. Though I’ve heard the fish is great here, I’m into the 14 different vegetarian sushi rolls one can choose from. This place has never disappointed me. It’s not super classy, you don’t need to dress up, they even deliver. The rolls are made to order and the service is great. They start you off with an amazing miso soup, and after the meal, you get orange slices and some other treat. Expect to pay about $13 per person. Best thing on the menu: Kaiware maki- radish sprout, avocado and mayo. I will also admit to having the dragon maki- shrimp tempura, eel, cucumber, mayo and avocado.

10. Heartland Cafe. This is another spot that has been around for over 30 years. The food is good while I’m eating it, but I feel like I get sick after I go there, and I’ve vowed not to go back. They have a cute little general store attached, and a bar attached on the other side. They also feature local musicians and artists. Expect to pay $10 per person. Best thing on the menu: Homemade cornbread.

Check the blog in the future for more Chicago reviews and reviews of other cities.


5 responses »

  1. Have you tried the Urban Vegan on Montrose and Ashland yet? Vegan Thai. Totally awesome–there is a really great pumpkin dish.

    • I have not tried it. I walked by it a few months ago, but I wasn’t hungry then. I actually had forgotten about it. Thanks!

  2. Pingback: Chicago Reader Article “Eat Your Veggies” « (Mostly) Vegetarian (Mostly) Ramblings

    • I went there once about a year or two ago- it was really good! The server assumed we spoke Spanish because she only spoke Spanish to us taking our order and everything. I would definitely go back.

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