A Plant-Based Guide to Chicago
"Since beans are legumes, doesn't this technically make the Chicago Bean the giant legume of the Midwest?" - the most plant-based dietitian thought of all time.
I visited Chicago for this year's FNCE (Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo) aka the annual national dietitian conference. If you haven't noticed already, I LOVE conferences. It's an opportunity to have experts train you on their topic of expertise, you get to ability network, and it's a great excuse to travel to a new city. I recently traveled to Seattle (check out my Plant-Based Guide to Seattle) for a conference about SOS Feeding Therapy and to Albuquerque (wasn't making plant-based city guides when I went to this one, but planning on making one retroactively) for P-POD (Plant Based Prevention of Disease) Conference.
Chicago was so fun. There was great food and tons of plant-based options that have been around for decades! If you are traveling to Chicago looking for restaurants, I hope this guide will be helpful! You can also check out the Vegan Chicago facebook page or join the group Plant-Based Chicago.
Chicago Diner is one of the longest standing vegetarian restaurants in Chicago. It was established in 1983 and has famous vegan milkshakes (it’s October so they had a pumpkin spice milkshake that was amaaaazing), plant-based burgers and comfort food, and an entire gluten-free menu (and here's the normal one). I tried the Buddha Karma Burger (a curried sweet potato-tofu patty topped with grilled pineapple, lettuce, onion & chimichurri sauce and I added avocado). Truly one of the best vegan burgers I’ve had! Definitely a must-try for anyone visiting Chicago.
True Food Kitchen
True Food is more of a chain, but so delicious nonetheless. They have locations all over California, a few in Texas, Denver, and some other places in the east. Their menu is seasonal and is based on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet by Dr. Andrew Weil. Their menu is marked with vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. I got the Ancient Grains bowl with miso glazed sweet potato, turmeric, charred onion, snow peas, grilled portobello, avocado, hemp seeds, and I added tofu. I've heard they have a great brunch and also have really delicious desserts.
Bad Hunter is a a veg-forward restaurant and bar in the West Loop. Their menu has sections of entrees for 'Plants', 'Pasta', and 'Protein'. They also have a nice wine list and have other menus for lunch, midday, dinner, midday brunch, and dessert. They are small plates to share and they recommend to order 2-3 plates person. They have a vegan menu and a gluten-free menu as well! I went with my friend Paula and we got 3 plates to share- the Spicy Dry-Fried String Beans, Hominy Aguachile, and Coconut Ash Maltagliati (not gf). Everything was SO great and unique but all three were very spicy! It was such a fun environment and very hip. I definitely recommend it, especially if you're going with non-vegan friends who aren't totally up for a completely plant-based restaurant.
Left Coast Food + Juice
Left Coast is a trendy & hip food & juice bar. They have a great breakfast/brunch featuring a few different types of avocado toast, tostadas, pancakes, hashes, and acai bowls. Their menu also has bowls of greens, grains, and wraps. They also have great coffee and a nice smoothie list. They also have an outdoor area and upstairs that makes for a really great eating environment.
Native Foods is a completely plant-based restaurant which makes their own seitan, tempeh, sauces, and vegan cheese! Part of their mission statement is to "bring sustainable food to the heart of communities; support environmental and animal advocacy groups on a local and national level, and educate our youth to eat peace." I was craving something salty/savory when I came up on this place so I got their nachos. They're made with cashew cheese and fresh guac and were SO good. Their seitan was really tasty too. I wish I could try more of their menu before I have to leave though.
REAL GOOD JUICE Co.
REAL GOOD is a great juice and smoothie bar in Chicago. They are not limited to juice or smoothies- their menu also has toasts, warm bowls, and other things like vegan jerky and superfood bites. All of the menu items have hilariously punny names. The one I tried was the 'Bluice Wayne' which has Blue Majik (spirulina), vanilla, almonds, coconut, and sea salt. You can find them in most Whole Foods in Chicago but they also have free-standing locations,
Hi-Vibe Superfood Juicery
Hi-Vibe is a superfood juicery inside the Merchandise Market. Their menu is very extensive and they have tons of different superfood smoothies, smoothie bowls, mylks and shakes, cold-pressed juice, superfood shots, and also salads and toasts. I got the Cacao Acai bowl which had acai blended with banana, chaga tea (a tea from Chaga mushrooms- this is their base instead of dairy!), raw cacao, homemade granola, cacao nibs, and a hazelnut cacao butter drizzle. It naturally comes with honey and bee pollen, so to make it vegan just request it without these items! Very delicious and a big serving size.
Other noteworthy restaurants I didn't get to try:
The Handlebar (made-from-scratch vegetarian and vegan comfort food for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a full-service bar and beer garden)
Soul Vegetarian (have been serving vegan/vegetarian foods for over 30 years in Chicago. Fully believe in food as medicine and have no refined sugars, flours, or rice and place a lot of importance on environmental sustainability)
Annette's Homemade Italian Ice (all italian ice is dairy free! very delicious and creamy. they also have ice cream but it is not dairy-free)
Naf Naf Grill (Indian restaurant with tons of vegan options- it's almost like an Indian Chipotle. Falafel can be used on any bowl or pita)
Delicious Cafe (cafe adorned with sloths. Cozy, artsy coffee shop serving pastries, smoothies, salads & sandwiches with many vegan options)
Am I missing your favorite plant-based restaurant? Have a city request? Other suggestions or comments? Click here!
Last updated 01/11/2018