*Updated 2/27/2017* 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’m writing this with the visitor in mind, though, so I might skip a few places that have a few (lame) veg options but aren’t really worth wasting your precious time at. I’m separating this list into:
- Cheap Eats – All veggie and/or vegan. Entrees average <$10, ideal for travelers on a budget or people staying a few days who don’t want to blow the bank on food.
- Don’t Miss – These businesses cater especially to vegans & vegetarians. The average entree tends to be $10+ but are well-worth it.
- Fantastic Options – Omnivore businesses with better-than-average options for vegans. You don’t win friends with salad, and you won’t get stuck eating salad at any of these places.
- Honorable Mentions – Not necessarily a destination if you only have a few hours in Chicago, but worth checking out if you can!
- Pop Ups – Vegan-friendly markets and events to plan your Chicago trip around
- Road Trip – If you’re up for a drive, these joints are anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours away from Chicago
- New Section: Vegan Shopping & Services – Need something to do besides eat? Check out these veg-friendly spots.
If you’re a local and you think I missed something great, feel free to say so in the comments – this is preferable over a series of extremely nasty Facebook messages – you know who you are. Let’s get started!
**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!**
Kāl’ish – This is Chicago’s newest vegan spot (at the time of the last update to this list) and it’s already jammin’ with Uptown locals. 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.
Upton’s Break Room – From the folks who brought you Upton’s seitan and jackfruit! This is a literal break room – there are three seats – 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.
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!
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.
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.
Native Foods – This is a chain, so check here to see if there’s one near you – we have multiple locations in Chicago. This place is 100% vegan, and the menu is mostly American-style sandwiches and salads, with a healthy vegan twist. They make their own soy meats and cashew-based cheese and the vegan ranch on the Chicken Run Ranch Burger is nothing short of amazing.
Vegetarian Express – With it’s somewhat odd mix of Mexican and “other” dishes (panini, Thai-inspired smoothies, etc) Veg Express isn’t necessarily my favorite, but it’s dirt ass cheap and if you’re in Lakeview and killing time before you head to Chicago Diner or another less-cheap place, it’s a good choice.
Kitchen 17 – K17 recently introduced vegan deep dish pizza to the menu – keep an eye on their social media to see when it’s being served. They also offer vegan doughnuts, nachos, house-made seitan and lots of their quick dishes. This is also a pick-up spot for Pie, Pie My Darling (read more about them below).
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! Full disclosure, I have not been here yet, but it was opened 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.
Chicago Diner – This is an absolute classic. 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.)
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 – Handlebar is a bit of a sleeper – if you don’t live in Wicker Park you might not go often but when you do it’s all “Fuck yes, vegan nachos!” They recently introduced a vegan nacho cheese to their menu which means chili cheese fries forever. My personal favorite is their avocado tacos. There’s not a ton of seating in the winter, but in warmer weather there’s a big back patio that’s fun to hang on. Note that they do also serve some seafood – but the majority of the menu is vegan and veggie. Handlebar also now serves Pie, Pie My Darling pie by the slice.
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.
Little Goat Diner – I almost stuck this in “fantastic options” because the Girl and the Goat family of eateries are not vegan by any means. However, Little Goat Diner actually offers a fully vegan menu – just ask for it at the hostess stand. I’ve sampled more than half of the winter menu and everything was absolutely delicious – they even have a vegan chocolate milkshake. For that reason, I consider Little Goat more than an option – it’s a don’t miss for sure.
Duck Duck Goat – Another amazing Stephanie Izard restaurant with an entirely separate vegetarian menu. All but 2-3 items on the menu can be made vegan, and when we dined here recently there was even a vegan dessert option. This is a well-earned “don’t miss” – but you’ll need reservations for a Friday or Saturday so plan ahead!
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.
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.
Amitabul Vegan – Koren-inspired vegan food that’s a little off the beaten path, which means a super chill atmosphere. Good spot for lunch or take-out.
Mana Food Bar – A cozy little spot with lots of small dishes for sharing. Most dishes can be made vegan so just ask.
I just want to say, this is my favorite section. 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 (and remind them that they are not carnivores, that really annoys me,) or just go for the veggie stuff because it’s that awesome.
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.
Red Door Chicago – Every Tuesday you can enjoy a $29 prix fixe vegan menu. Red Door calls it #TradeOffTuesday. I personally enjoy watching the chefs walk out to the backyard garden and pick ingredients for my meal – for real! It’s as fresh as it gets and truly delicious. (I recommend calling ahead, they don’t really advertise this menu and I’m always paranoid it won’t be available when I go.)
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 – OK, the punk rock decor is a little much, but the vegan breakfast options are legit, and there’s always a few vegan pastries in the case as well so I’m willing to embrace my inner mall punk while I’m there.
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. Stan’s Donut fans take note: their vegan donut is fried in the same oil as the donuts that contain lard.
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 if you’re just in Chicago for a two days it’s worth a long Lyft ride to the south side for some vegan soul food.
- 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, but I had to mention them because they rule.
- 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 – Pros: Open super late, really good vegan French toast. Cons: Way overpriced, apparently does not own a mop.
- Loving Hut Chicago – Most major cities have a Loving Hut, Chicago has two. Not necessarily a destination, but good for something different if you happen to find yourself in Uptown.
- 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!
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.
- Betty Bot Bakery – Betty is the hardest working woman in Chicago. Check her out on Facebook to see where she’s selling her vegan, gluten-free goods this week!
- 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!
- The Long Room – This coffee shop/bar hosts a rotating selection of chefs. Keep an eye on their social media because every few months chef Nate Meads does a vegan brunch pop-up here that will blow your mind for real.
- Bad Day Donuts – Vegan donuts available at select coffee shops and pop-ups throughout the city!
- 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.
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 – A lot of people snicker when I say I go to a vegan salon, but those are people who don’t realize how many hair products contain animal products. 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. On Saturdays they have free vegan doughnuts from Bad Day Donuts and they offer Dark Matter coffee every day.
Noktivo – This is a boutique, eco-friendly, vegan-friendly nail salon in Lincoln Square. Jenny won’t use any products that contain carcinogens – so she’s a great option for pregnant and nursing women, or anyone looking for a healthier mani pedi. Just let her know you’re vegan and she’ll steer you toward the right products.
Amour de la Terre – A vegan shoes and accessories shop in Oak Park with styles from favorites like Matt & Nat and many others. Plus, they host pop-up events, and are located in a really cute neighborhood with lots to do.
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. It’s also the only place in Chicago where you can buy Rescue Chocolate!
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!