Chicago Vegetarian Restaurants
Animal-Friendly Spots to Pig Out

In a city that is synonymous with meat-stuffed pizzas and sports fans devoutly double-fisting sausages, the prim and trim culture of vegetarian dining seems decidedly off-brand. But don't let tired clichés fool you—while perhaps not a hotbed for vegan and vegetarian cuisine, Chicago is hardly negligent of its meat-averse denizens. Whether nestled quietly in the frenzied streets of Wrigleyville or perched in a cozy corner of Wicker Park, restaurants run by some of Chicago's top culinary talents have set out to change the Second City's gastronomic reputation.
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Vegan and Gluten-Free Small Plates in Wicker Park

Small plates and a cozy space belie the globe-tracing, multidimensional menu of meat-free options served in Mana Food Bar. Grab a group of friends and take your palate on a walk with Mana's meditations on everything from comfort food classics—seared collard greens dashed with lemon and garlic, please and thank you—to butternut squash ravioli and spanikopita stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. Appointed with stools handcrafted from recycled birch, the 30-person dining room is a haven for vegan and gluten-free enthusiasts.

Boystown: A Classic Diner, with a Twist

The Chicago Diner's owner Mickey Hornick remembers being dismissed as a renegade "going against apple pie and mom," when he opened his all-vegetarian and vegan-friendly diner. Today, his early detractors can eat their words, along with some home fries and a seitan Salisbury steak.

Noble Square: Vegetarian Fine Dining

With lime-hued walls, bamboo stalks, and miniature potted palms, Green Zebra seems like it's in a constant state of photosynthesis. Fresh, locally-sourced produce drives the seasonal menu of simple-but-robust small plates, which guests can savor while tippling pours from an expansive wine list. The restaurant continues to execute the haute vision of owner and chef Shawn McClain, whose work as a culinary showrunner has earned him numerous plaudits, including Esquire's Chef of the Year designation.

Bucktown: Low-key, Alfresco Dining

In warm months, the fenced-in back patio at Handlebar is a haven for cyclists looking to catch a breeze while they unwind after a long ride. Furniture made from old bicycle parts adorns the space, which serves mostly vegan, international cuisine and a reputable selection of microbrews.

Roscoe Village: Invigorating Breakfast Stop

Fluffy omelets forged from free-range, hormone-free eggs and decadent French toast glazed in peach butter anchor the early morning powerhouse at Victory's Banner. Along with strong coffee and a bright, uplifting space, the menu features vegetarian, made-from-scratch eats.

Greater Grand Crossing: Delicious Vegan Barbecue

Meat-free comfort food is a culinary high-wire act that, when executed properly, can be a rare pleasure for recent vegan and vegetarian converts. Soul Vegetarian East boasts delicious fake-chicken potpie and a barbecue sandwich TimeOut says is “as close to real barbecue pulled pork as the vegetarians will get.”

Near West Side: Healthy, Raw Food

Two self-described “foodies” founded this stand in the Chicago French Market to spread the gospel of healthy eating with a menu of uncooked, vegan dishes. Try “spaghetti and meatballs”—seed-based meatballs over a bed of zucchini ribbons—or the fiber-rich sweet potato pancake and wash it down with a bottle of fresh coconut water.

Greektown: Upscale Vegan with a Vibrant Bar

The most upscale offering from renaissance woman Karyn Calabrese, whose oeuvre includes four health-conscious, eponymous restaurants, a holistic therapy center, and her own natural makeup line. The earthy but chic space includes a 22-seat full bar with an extensive wine list to pair with vegetarian, homestyle dishes, such as okra chicken legs and portabello steaks.

Wrigleyville: Late Night Retro Kitsch

The colorful string lights of Pick Me Up Café cast their neon glow onto the streets of Wrigleyville until least 3 a.m. seven days a week. True to its name, the distinctly decorated spot serves coffee along with breakfast all day, veggie burgers, a host of vegan and gluten-free desserts, and a full slate of alcoholic beverages.