Sure, Chicago is known for its deep dish pizza and hot dogs, but that’s not all the Windy City has to offer. Bon Appetit named Chicago the 2017 Restaurant City of the Year, and we’re not surprised. Luckily for herbivores, there’s a growing community of vegan places to nosh. Across the city, here are a few favorite spots to eat meat- and dairy-free.
Veggie Grill - Lincoln Park
Other locations: The Loop, coming soon in West Loop and River North
Veggie Grill opened its first Chicago spot in Lincoln Park in February and a location in The Loop soon after; locations in West Loop and River North are on the way. The fast food chain originated in California and delivers seriously good veggie burgers, avocado toast (duh), and the Chicago-only Italian meat(less)ball sub with giardiniera. Everything on Veggie Grill’s menu is free of meat, dairy, eggs, GMOs, soy, and gluten.
Native Foods - Wicker Park
Other locations: Hyde Park, Lakeview, and The Loop
Founded in 1994, Native Foods hails from California and was one of the first fast-casual vegan restaurants. The menu is 100 percent plant-based and everything is made from scratch. Not only is Native Foods animal-friendly, it’s also eco-friendly with LEED certified stores that use biodegradable and recyclable packaging as well as reclaimed and repurposed pieces used throughout its stores. There are four Chicago locations: Wicker Park, Hyde Park, Lakeview, and The Loop.
Chicago Diner - Lakeview
Other location: Logan Square
“Meat free since ‘83” is The Chicago Diner’s tagline, and the eatery has been leading the plant-based charge in Chicago ever since. Chicago Diner has two busy locations, one in Logan Square and the original on Halsted in Lakeview. Both serve up classic comfort foods with a meatless spin, as well as vegan desserts from the bakery.
Kal'ish - Uptown
Kal’ish in Uptown opened its doors in December 2016 as an “Americana, but vegan” approach to cuisine. Originally conceptualized as a smoke shop/rotisserie, the idea behind Kal’ish shifted after the husband and wife duo behind the restaurant learned about the impact of animal-based products on the human body and the environment. The idea was solidified after realizing how satisfying vegan food could taste. Today Kal’ish is a full plant-based diner with breakfast, lunch, and dinner options as well as a bakery.
JuiceRX - Bucktown
JuiceRX is located on Damen Avenue and Cortland Street in Bucktown. Offering cold-pressed, organic juices and smoothies, JuiceRX is a great place to grab a wholesome meal, a full juice cleanse, or a decadent dessert that’s completely raw and vegan. JuiceRX has cleanses that range from one day to seven days, and they are customizable based on nutritional needs. The company was founded by Dean Kasal who used cold-pressed juices to improve his health.
Upton’s Breakroom - Ukrainian Village
Located on the corner of Grand Avenue and Hoyne Avenue in Ukrainian Village, Upton’s Breakroom is a vegan-owned business that opened in 2013. The building is also where Upton’s Naturals Seitan is created, which is sold in stores throughout the city. In 2016, Upton’s made news with its Al Pastor jackfruit tacos, using the fruit that’s hard to come by in the U.S. Owners Dan Staackmann and Nicole Sopko told Chicago Magazine that Upton’s partnered with a factory in Thailand to get the nutrition-packed fruit to their shop when it’s still immature, which is when its flavor and texture mimic pulled pork.
Loving Heart - Uptown
Also located in Uptown, Loving Heart is 100 percent vegan and almost every ingredient is USDA certified organic. It’s a small spot that offers soups, sandwiches, wraps, bowls, and smoothies, all at reasonable prices. Loving Heart uses meat alternatives like Korean barbecue vegetable protein and non-GMO chicken alternatives. The food comes out quickly, and they have vegan desserts and healthy beverages.
Ground Control - Logan Square
Almost everything on Ground Control’s menu is vegan or vegan upon request. The laid-back spot is located on Armitage Avenue in Logan Square. While there are some bar food standbys like tofu “wings” and a beet burger, there’s also some Asian, Mexican, and Cajun inspiration. Ground Control also has an impressive selection of local and craft beers, as well as cocktails and wine.
Original Soul Vegetarian - Chatham / Park Manor
Original Soul Vegetarian has been offering healthy and delicious soul food for more than 30 years, in what they call “serving food as medicine.” The restaurant serves food that is 100 percent plant based and completely free of animal products and chemicals. The family-owned and operated eatery is on East 75th Street between Chatham and Park Manor. The food is hearty and nourishing, and the spot offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.