*Updated 10/21/2017* Believe it or not, Chicago has a plethora of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants. If you’re a Chicagoan, or a frequent visitor you’ll find some classics on this list, but you might find a few places you didn’t know about.
I’ve done some reorganizing to this post because I realize that many visitors don’t have time to eat at my twenty favorite places. It was painful, though, because this city has so much to offer the cruelty-free foodie!
If you’re a local and you think I missed something great, feel free to say so in the comments.**Note: I try to update this regularly, but if you’re in doubt please call ahead to make sure vegan options are still available at the omni places listed here. Also, follow me on Instagram to see where I’m eating today!**
These are the places that, in my opinion, you cannot miss. They range from absolute classics like The Chicago Diner to some sleepier gems that only true Chicagoans know about.
Alice and Friends – If it’s been awhile since you checked out this Uptown Korean-inspired spot, you need to go back. It’s no longer affiliated with Loving Hut, and as such, the ingredients are fresh, the dishes flavorful and creative and dare I say – healthy! Desserts are made in house, and the owner is maybe the nicest person alive.
Kāl’ish – Kāl’ish features all-day breakfast (with vegan eggs and everything!), killer burgers, and other quick-service faves like “tuna salad” and my favorite French fries in the whole city. Plus, a pastry case of housemade desserts, cakes from Pie, Pie My Darling and they even have ice cream cones!
Paulie Gee’s – Although this is an omni spot, Paulie Gee’s is a Chicago vegan cult favorite because they have an entire vegan pizza menu complete with housemade veggie sausage and two types of vegan cheese. They also offer vegan desserts from Pie, Pie My Darling and Temptation vegan ice cream – and, the owner has been super awesome to the vegan community, coming out to Veganmania and other events to show support and to learn about new options for his menu.
Duck Duck Goat – All of Top Chef champion Stephanie Izard’s restaurants have an entirely separate vegetarian and/or vegan menu. just ask when you’re being seated. Duck Duck Goat is my husband’s favorite place, all but 2-3 items on the vegetarian menu can be made vegan, and when we dined here recently there was even a vegan dessert option. You’ll need reservations for a Friday or Saturday so plan ahead!
Chicago Diner – Since 1983 The Diner has been serving up meat-free comfort foods in the city best known for Italian beef. I am obsessed with the Country Fried Steak, whereas my husband always goes for the Radical Reuben. You get a ton of food for your money, but don’t stuff yourself with dinner because you’re going to want to get a vegan shake at the end of the meal. Take my advice, and get the Cookie Dough Peanut Butter. Oh, and they also have beer, booze and a gluten-free menu. Oh, and did I mention that I got married there? Because I did. (Chicago Diner now has two locations – check the site to find them both.)
These are mostly counter-service joints that offer quick, usually inexpensive, vegan options that are just as Instagrammable as the rest.
Upton’s Break Room – From the folks who brought you Upton’s seitan and jackfruit! In cooler weather when the patio isn’t an option seating can be limited, so I tend to order delivery or just stop in on off hours for vegan soft serve. The fried bacon mac n’ cheese is absolutely unreal and I appreciate how closely this company pays attention to ingredients making sure they are not only vegan, but also sustainably sourced.
Vegetarian Express – I’m so glad I gave this place another shot after being underwhelmed with my first experience. All vegetarian, with many vegan options, this is a great place to grab a quick sandwich (or, if you need a hug, try the African Peanut Stew – so comforting) and not break the bank.
Quesadilla La Reyna del Sur – Super authentic vegan and vegetarian Mexican food for cheap. Seriously. If you’re a fake meat fan, this is your joint – fake goat, sheep, even pork skin – get it with your choice or dairy or vegan cheese in a quesadilla, huarache, taco or torta. Don’t worry, they also have soy-based chicken, beef, and other “normal” fake meats too. Not a fake meat fan? Try the mushroom, corn truffle or cactus. I usually go for the Veggie Cubana, which is soy-based Mexican sausage with soy bacon and soy-based chicken for $5.75! They also do a ton of fresh juices and vegan desserts too.
Delicious Cafe – I have a love-hate relationship with Delicious Cafe. I love that it’s all vegan, and that the breakfast sandwiches are delicious. But I hate that they don’t open until 8am, which is like two hours after I am in desperate need of coffee and breakfast! Still, it’s worth a trip to Lincoln Square to support this tiny little vegan coffee shop.
Santullos Eatery – Vegan pizza slices, sandwiches featuring vegan mozzarella, sides of vegan potato and pasta salads. I think Santullos gets overlooked by vegans because there are so many other options in Wicker Park, but it’s an easy place to meet up with friends and shout at each other over the loud metal being piped through the dining area.
Vegan Now – From the people who brought you Soul Veg, this is a quick-service “by the pound” vegan soul food eatery inside the French market. Try the broccoli casserole! For dessert you can hit up RAW.
Moonlight Vulture – A late-night vegan sandwich shop in Avondale owned by the former owner of Atomix Cafe where I used to eat breakfast everyday when I was just a little baby vegan back in the early 2000’s. Lots of quick vegan options including desserts.
Next door to Kalish, and owned by the same folks you’ll find Longacre, a Detroit-style pizza joint with plenty of vegan options including by-the-slice.
Even More Good Things
I told you this was really painful for me to organize because I love so many of these places! While My Top Picks are just that, these places also offer some gems on their menu that you should definitely check out if you have time.
The Chicago House of ‘Za – Chicago’s first all-vegan pizza joint featuring housemade cheese sticks (Mozzers), a deep dish-like stuffed pizza and lots of other pizza parlor classics made vegan.
Ground Control – Whereas most Chicago vegan/veggie joints have become institutions, Ground Control reminds me more of the quirky vegan restaurants in the Bay Area. My favorite dish is the Southern Breakfast, which you can get sans egg to make it vegan.
Handlebar – This mostly vegetarian (there are some fish items on the menu) place has grown it’s vegan options a lot since I originally created this post. My favorites are the nachos, avocado tacos, and for brunch, the biscuits and gravy. You can also get Pie, Pie My Darling funfetti cake by the slice for dessert.
Little Goat Diner – As I mentioned, all of the “goat” family of restaurants have a seperate vegetarian and/or vegan menu with some truly remarkable options. Little Goat is the less expensive, casual little sister of Girl and the Goat, and features some stand-outs such as the scallion pancake and the smoked French fries. You can even get a vegan chocolate shake!
Urban Vegan – When my favorite Thai restaurant started charging $1 extra for tofu and an additional $1 to omit fish sauce from their dishes, Urban Vegan was there for me. Most entrees squeeze in just under $10, and although there are combos available, I recommend sharing an app and getting your own entree. My favorite is the Praram’s Plate – if you’re a peanut sauce fan you’ll agree with me.
Arya Bhavan – I live really close to Devon Street, home to a dizzying array of Indian restaurants of all sorts. If you look hard enough, you’ll actually find a ton of great vegan options, but why bother hunting when you could just go to a 100% vegan Indian restaurant? On Monday nights Arya Bhavan offers a raw menu, and on Saturdays they have a vegan buffet. It gets pretty busy so plan accordingly!
Amitabul Vegan – Koren-inspired vegan food that’s a little off the beaten path, which means a super chill atmosphere. You might need to take a Lyft, or ask a friend with a car to take you, but it’s a good lunch spot if you make it out there.
Mana Food Bar – When I was vegetarian, I was obsessed with this small-plate restaurant, but as a vegan I admit it’s slightly frustrating that some of their best dishes cannot be made vegan. Still, it’s a cozy date spot in the heart of Wicker Park, and the staff is happy to point you in the right direction for vegan options.
Bot Bakery – In the South Shore neighborhood you’ll find an all-vegan and gluten-free spot owned by “Betty Bot,” a staple at Chicago farmers markets for years. The shop features desserts, of course, but also lots of lunch and brunch options.
Omnivore With Options
As much as I love all of Chicago’s exclusively vegetarian and vegan restaurants, I love finding hidden treasure even more. These are places that you can go with your omnivore friends, or go alone to show support for restaurants that offer us more than a salad.
Budacki’s Drive In – I wish I had a video of the day my husband and I discovered this place that I could share with you. We were driving by when Tony thought he saw “veggie dogs” painted on one of the windows of this classic Chicago hot dog stand. He whipped the car around in a sweet Chicago-style U-turn and pulled into the parking lot. There it was, in bold painted letters, “We have veggie dogs.” When we made our way back for lunch the next day we were greeted with multiple $5 “Tree Hugger’s Specials.” Your choice of veggie dog with all the Chicago fixins, veggie burger or grilled cheese with fries and a pop for $5.
Nhu Lan Bakery – Bánh mì oh my! (Sorry, I had to.) Bánh mì is the Vietnamese term for bread, and in the case of Nhu Lan Bakery, it’s a crusty French loaf sliced, and stuffed with crunchy veggies and amazing, pressed tofu. I’m obsessed with the lemongrass tofu, although the ginger tofu is also amazing. I did try the veggie pate and ham and wasn’t a fan, but god damn it, I’m just glad it exists! Did I mention that these gigantor sammies are under $5? Yeah, because that’s ridiculous.
90 Miles Cuban Cafe – We spend way too much time on the patio here in the summertime, but the vegan options are so good and it’s so close to our house! There are three locations so the likelihood of wandering by one is pretty high.
Yummy Yummy Asian Cuisine – Tons of gluten-based veggie options at this teeny Asian spot. I recommend take-out as it’s packed and chaotic inside. They’re open on Christmas, which is a life-saver for ill-prepared vegans such as myself.
Scone City – Scone City and I have had some epic battles. They recently started offering one vegan scone daily (they are AMAZING) but they make like, three at a time, so they sell out quickly. They will NOT hold them for you either so good luck. But if you get one, my god, you will be glad.
West Town Bakery & Diner – Lots of vegan options in the pastry case, and a few good ones on the menu, too. I love the biscuits and gravy with tofu when they make them with plain, unsweetened soy milk but I have been disappointed a few times when I could tell the biscuits were made with vanilla soy milk (so gross).
Do-Rite Donuts – Do-Rite offers one vegan flavor per day, and they bake them rather than frying them so there’s no chance of cross-contamination. My favorite is the pineapple donut they offer on Wednesday, but you might want to call ahead because the vegan options go fast.
No shade whatsoever, I totally go to and enjoy all of these places. If you text me and are nearby any of them I will tell you to go there – they just didn’t quite fit into my Top Picks or other categories either because they aren’t totally unique to Chicago, or because they’re a little out of the way, or because of some other reason I can’t explain, leave me alone, this post was hard.
Dairy Star – Technically not in Chicago, but close enough. Call ahead to make sure they have vegan soft serve the day you want to go, but if they do, my god… you’re welcome.
- Chicago Raw – If you’re staying downtown and are in dire need of something healthy, Chicago Raw is there for you with salads, entrees, juices and even desserts. Not cheap, but nutritious AF.
- Star Lounge – Tony and I love Dark Matter coffee, and I loved them even more when I found out that their Star Lounge location offers the occasional vegan scone or pastry. I’d call ahead to be sure they aren’t sold out.
- Whole Foods City – Our pet name for the Lincoln Park Whole Foods Market, one of the largest in the country. Tons of vegan options in their cafeteria including jackfruit tacos, veggie dogs, pizza by the slice and even vegan milkshakes.
- George’s Ice Cream and Sweets – A rotating selection of two vegan ice cream flavors and usually a few vegan baked goods in the pastry case – and if you’re lucky, you’ll see Puppet Bike.
- El Faro – I honestly haven’t made my way down there in years, but they have tons of soy meat options for pretty cheap.
- Pick Me Up Cafe – Open super late on weekends, and a good spot to grab brunch without having to face the two-hour wait you’ll find in Wicker Park or Logan Square.
- DönerMen is a food truck and now a tap (Dmen) featuring döner boxes and curry wurst galore. Let them know you’re vegan and they’ll hook it up – and whenever seitan is an option get it!
- The StopAlong – This is a family-friendly pizza spot in Bucktown with communal seating and a couple of videos games in the back. They have a few ready-to-go vegan options, or you can build a custom pizza with Follow Your Heart cheese.
- Soul Vegetarian – We stopped going to Soul Veg a few years ago because the service is so unpredictable and the prices started getting pretty crazy – but I do hit up the Atlanta, GA location when I’m in town. If you’re in the neighborhood do stop in, and Google to see if there’s a Soul Veg near you because they have several locations.
- There are two chain restaurants where a hungry vegan can find options – especially in downtown Chicago. Native Foods has several locations and while the food is all vegan and pretty decent, I’m not a huge fan due to a recent partnership with Shedd Aquaraium. I don’t like supporting a so-called vegan restaurant that promotes animal captivity as entertainment. Lyfe Kitchen also has a few locations, and they offer healthy vegan options – just ask for the vegan menu at the counter. True Food Kitchen is another chain, newer to Chicago, with healthy vegan options downtown.
VeganMania – Once a year 5,000+ Chicago-area vegan gather for what has become a downright vegan expo. Tons of food vendors, plus access to vegan products and services you might not have known about.
- Pie, Pie My Darling – Heather exploded onto Chicago’s vegan scene just over a year ago with her amazing vegan pies, cookies and cupcakes. She does all kinds of pop-ups so follow her on Facebook or Instagram to see where she is now!
- Bravo Vegan Tamales – I always pick up a few extra to have for lunch the next day because they’re so good. My favorite is the “chicken” with red sauce.
- Ste Martaen – OMG the hands-down best vegan mac n’ cheese I’ve ever had. Laviyah’s talents are otherworldly. Nourishing, hearty food that will feel like a hug for your soul.
- Fancy Plants Catering – Chef Kevin Schuder created elevated vegan fare at his intimate pop-up dinners, and is available for catering as well. Keep an eye on the calendar for special events like Vegan Molecular Gastronomy and Italian Vegan Family-Style Feats.
Man oh man did I catch some shit from one Evanston (which is not Chicago) restaurant for classifying them here. Their response was so rude I actually un-listed them, so that backfired, huh? At any rate, these are options that might be a bit out of the way for folks who are visiting without a car – or Chicagoans like me who primarily get around on the El. But if you can catch a ride, they’re worth checking out.
- Blind Faith Cafe – This was one of the first vegan/veggie restaurants I ever went to back in the Krishna-core days. After a Shelter show you could pretty much count on Soul Veg and Chicago Diner would be packed so those in-the-know would pile into cars and head out of the city to nearby Evanston for some Blind Faith yums. It was pricer than I could really afford back then, but nowadays it’s a good date spot and a nice place to bring my mom. If you eat in the sit-down restaurant, skip the plated dessert menu and order something from the bakery instead – like the Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake – dang.
- Pig Minds Brewing – I still cannot believe this place is real. About two hours outside of Chicago in a completely industrial area you will find this vegan brewery and wonder what the eff just happened. Soy curl sandwiches and deep fried pickles are some of my favorite menu items – but mostly I just love looking around at all the non-vegans happily eating vegan food in Machesney Park, IL like it ain’t no thang.
- Chef Shangri-La – Depending on your starting point in the city, this 70’s tiki bar is about an hour drive, but well-worth it. The decor is Instagram-worthy to say the least, and they have a huge variety of veggie options, with all the vegan-friendly items clearly marked. I went on a Friday night for an Elvis impersonator and vowed to return often. *New ownership – please call to verify vegan options!
- Vegan Cafe – Much respect to these folks for keeping a raw, vegan cafe going in CM Punk’s hometown or Lockport! Really delicious, healthy raw vegan eats.
- Palomino Bar – Ok now we’re talking a serious road trip, but if you happen to find yourself in Milwaukee this country-ish bar has some great vegan options and even better decor.
- The Cheeze Factory – Once or twice a year we head out to the Wisconsin Dells for a weekend of go-karts, water parks and kitchy weirdness. We tend to survive on veggie dogs cooked in a bonfire for most of the trip, but we always make one stop at the somewhat confusingly-named Cheeze Factory. The menu is completely vegan (a lot of Gardein items available) and the staff is painfully nice, so we love to stop in and support the only vegan restaurant that could possibly survive The Dells.
Shopping & Services
Starship Salon – At Starship Salon all of the products are cruelty-free, and you can opt for an all-vegan service (just ask). It’s vegan-owned, and many of the employees are vegan so there’s always good chatter about new things to eat. They offer Dark Matter coffee every day, and many times on the weekends they have treats for guests like vegan donuts.
Lena Rose – This brand-new spot in Ravenswood is my new go-to for cruelty-free skincare, cosmetics and spa treatments. Some of the products they carry do contain honey, but the owner Jenny is very knowledgeable about veganism, and can direct you to all the 100% plant-based items. Plus, they offer 5-free no-chip manicures, pedicures and lots of other pampering treatments.
Flair – New to Logan Square! From the vegan dynamo behind Sabretooth Dream and the co-founder of the Girl Pin Gang, a vegan-friendly shop featuring flair, vintage clothing, kitchy housewares and pop-ups.
So there you have it – the vegan-friendly places I recommend time and time again. Did I leave your favorite off the list? Feel free to leave a comment about it! Do you own a vegan-friendly business in Chicago? Hit up my Contact page to tell me about it.