I mentioned Chicago French Market in my Chicago Vegan Eats Guide, but beyond the two specifically vegan restaurants inside, I didn’t even know how many options a vegan might find. Recently my friend Melissa and I were given a guided tour and even got to try a few “secret menu” items. But before we get to the food, what is the Chicago French Market?
Chicago French Market is an indoor marketplace featuring more than 30 vendors, with a focus on local foods. If you’ve been to Chelsea Market in New York City or the Ferry Building in San Francisco it’s a similar vibe. It’s the perfect place to bring omnivorous friends because everyone can get what they want – or if you just like to have a side of fries with your raw lasagna and chocolate truffles. You do you. The market is located in the Ogilvie Transportation Center’s Suburban Concourse, so it’s easily accessible by CTA. During the week, the market is open from 7 am until 7:30 pm but lunchtime is slammed. I like to stop in on Saturdays, when they’re open from 8:30 am until 5:30 pm, and not as crowded.
While this is a pretty thorough round-up of vegan offerings, there are always new vendors and new menu items so don’t be shy about popping in and asking vendors what they can make for you. I’m going to do this alphabetically, but I’ve called out my *personal favorites*.
Aloha Poke Co – Chicago’s Poke craze is in full effect, and even though it’s traditionally made with fish it’s pretty easy to veganize. You can build your own bowl, or veganize any of the house options – the employees have an ingredient book so they can help you choose. Melissa and I tried the Aloha bowl with tofu and agreed we’d build our own next time, but definitely get that sesame vinaigrette on whatever we built.
B.I. Tea – A bubble tea house was my first wholesale customer for Bake and Destroy so I have a special place for it in my heart. The “bubbles” are tapioca, and vegan-friendly. The menu at B.I. Tea calls out the vegan options (Melissa and I squealed to see the word “vegan” on the menu). Just swap almond or coconut milk into any of the milk tea or fruit tea options.
City Fresh Market – You’ll likely enter the French Market by walking through City Fresh Market. It’s a produce-heavy market with some grab n’ go options and packaged goods from local brands. If you just need a quick fruit salad or some greens you can get in and out quickly.
Buen Apetito – We didn’t have a chance to try anything here (we were stuffed) but this Mexican food stand has several vegetarian options that would be vegan if you hold the cheese and sour cream.
*Frietkoten* – Gurl those fries, tho! I could not wait to share a cone of these hand cut fries with Melissa. I usually get a side of curry ketchup, but one of these days I’m going to pack my own Just Mayo and live it up. Check out Barnivore’s listings for vegan-friendly Belgium beers before you hit this stand.
Klay Oven Kitchen – This Indian spot keeps local office workers in mind, swapping in olive oil for a lot of cream and butter traditionally used in these dishes – thus preventing a workplace food coma. This also helps us vegans, as we can try some dishes we typically don’t have access to. The menu here calls out vegan items, but definitely check with employees when you order.
*Loop Juice* – When I feel a cold coming on, I head to Loop Juice and order a Cold Fighter with extra ginger. Melissa had the Around the World smoothie. Smoothies are made with 100% fruit, unlike a lot of smoothie places that use yogurt or even sherbert in theirs (wtf?)
*Pastoral* – I admit to walking past this stand dozens of times because, well, it’s a cheese shop! Little did I know they have a secret menu item for vegans. Order the Farmhouse Veggie Deluxe and swap in spiced almond butter for cheese. It’s delicious! They also seemed very interested in making vegan cheeses, so if you go, let them know you’d buy those!
Polpetti Espresso Bar – It’s pretty hard to go wrong with coffee…but Starbucks finds a way. I didn’t take note of what the non-dairy swap options but I have to assume they have them on hand for soy lattes.
*RAW* – I damn near had to drag Melissa to this one, as a San Francisco vegan she’s had her share of raw food and doesn’t typically love it. But the dishes we sampled here changed her mind – we both loved the Riding the Wave kelp noodles and of course all of the desserts. I was on my own drinking the Spirulina Grapefruit smoothie, but we both walked away converted into raw food believers… who still also eat French fries.
*Saigon Sisters* – This one was a surprise to me, as I am very loyal to my local Banh mi spot in Albany Park. You can get a teriyaki tofu Banh mi, but I recommend the tofu and veggie pho. I believe the owner also said the tofu banh bao and tofu spring rolls are vegan, but it seems like her staff knows their stuff so feel free to ask.
*Vegan Now* – Soul Veg lovers rejoice, you can now enjoy this South Side’s greatest hits in the heart of the city. Favorites like mac n’ cheese, broccoli casserole and “drumsticks” are sold by weight, so you can try a scoop of each. There’s a rotating daily menu, so keep an eye out for your favorites. Plus, they offer a Saturday brunch for only $11 featuring tofu scramble, grist, hashbrowns, French toast and more.
I was really excited to learn about all the options I never knew I had, and hope that you guys will go in and support these vendors who make it easy for us to sample the vegan world under one roof! Did I miss your faves? Tell me in the comments!