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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Deal or no deal, our editors strongly recommend these businesses based on their reputation, popularity, and quality of service.