This article is just going to be guide to the best vegan food I found while I was in Chicago. My brother had been living in Chicago for 2 years at this point, so I was able to get some really good recommendations of where to go.
The first stop was a place called “veggie grill”. I know I mentioned this in my last post, but I wanted to make sure it gets all the attention it deserves. Veggie Grill is a fast growing chain that has had a ton of success in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and is now beginning to expand to Portland, Seattle, Boston and Chicago. The specialty here is burgers and sandwiches, but they also carry a surprisingly wide variety of products. They have some amazing bowls here and the soy-based chik’n they use here is really top-notch. We both got big bowls of the corn bisque which was phenomenal, although I would recommend getting a smaller portion because you get a little tired of the intense flavor after awhile. The huge dilemma about eating at vegan restaurants is that almost everything looks good so I never know what to get. I almost like having the limitations because when I go to a restaurant, my choices are immediately narrowed down to 5-6 options and I end up loving almost everything I get. I settled for the Nashville hot Chickin’ Sandwich which was nice and spicy. They also have some Beyond Meat products here like the Beyond Burger and the wunderbrat. We also ended up getting the Mundo Nachos to split and they were incredible! I like the feel of this place. It was a great spot to just hang out and enjoy some food with friends. The atmosphere was almost like an In-an-out burger and the food was similar to like a TGI Fridays or a Chilis.
The next stop on our vegan tour was Andy’s Thai Kitchen. I know this is not a vegan restaurant, but in most cases Thai restaurants have a ton of great vegan options. I ended up getting the pad Thai with veggies and my brother got the green curry. I tried a bit of the green curry, and although it was amazing, it was so filling and I don’t know if I could’ve eaten a full portion of it. The portions here are very large so make sure you come hungry. I really liked the pad Thai, although it was not the best I’d ever had. I normally order this when checking out a new Thai restaurant because it is a good measure of the restaurants quality. I have also had the fortune of having some really amazing pad Thai when I was in Thailand, so I know what good pad Thai tastes like. Overall, I would give this place 4 stars. The food was really good, but I wasn’t blown away by anything.
The next stop on our list was a place called “Native Foods”. This is a fast-casual vegan restaurant chain with locations in California, Oregon, Colorado and Chicago. It seems like Chicago is a good testing ground for vegan restaurants as they attempt to expand eastward. The food here was incredible. I was strongly recommended to get the Chickin and waffles, which did not disappoint. The fried chick’n that came with it was almost identical to real chicken and my brother even takes people here sometimes to trick them into eating vegan food. His non-vegan friends will often point to their plate and say “see this right here is why I could never go vegan.” The look on their faces when he tells them that the restaurant is 100% vegan is apparently priceless. I really liked the chik’n and waffles, but I wish I could’ve tried other stuff on the menu. My brother swears by it and claims it is the best vegan dish in Chicago. For me, that dish came later in the trip.
The second best meal we had on the trip was not at a restaurant at all, it was home cooked. We knew it was going to rain on one of our weekend days, so we made plans to cook an elaborate plate of nachos. I had been excited about this the entire week and we would finally have time to make them right. If you are more on the impatient side, I would not recommend doing what we did, but if you love to cook it can be a very fun afternoon. First, I skipped breakfast to save room for the nachos we would be making later. I had decided that this was the only thing I wanted to eat today. Then, we went to the grocery store to shop for some ingredients. We got some fresh peppers, vegetables and some tofu crumbles. The tofu crumbles were seasoned to taste like taco meat, and this would be the main topping for our nachos. When we got home, we began sautéing onions until they were clear and then combined them with black beans and the tofu crumbles. This was the bottom layer for the nachos, and I would later top it with my vegan mozzarella, made almost entirely out of cashews. Once the guests arrived, we poured the cashew cheese over the nachos, topped it with cilantro and jalapenos and then served it with a bowl of homemade salsa and a bowl of homemade guacamole. This was incredible, and totally worth the 2 hours it took to prepare. We then just sat there for about an hour, eating and chatting. We put on a movie and just settled in on the couch, a perfect way to spend a rainy Saturday.
The final vegan restaurant we went to had hands down one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. The place was called the Chicago Diner, and it was tucked into Boystown, a neighborhood in Chicago close to Lincoln park. The place looked just like a normal diner except all the food was vegan. I ordered the Reuben with a side of mac and cheese. The Reuben was out of this world. It was the first meal I’ve had in years that I had been talking about for days, even weeks later. The corned seitan had the exact consistency of roast beef (but tasted much better obviously) and there was some delicious sauerkraut and some type of chipotle mayo I couldn’t figure out. The taste was tangy and savory, and it makes my mouth water just thinking about it. The sandwich was topped off with two pieces of marbleized rye bread, which could have won an award in their own right. The prices here were extremely reasonable as well. If I knew what I was getting, I would total be willing to pay double, it was that good. I cannot recommend this highly enough. If you are in this are of Chicago, you have to check this out.
There you have it, some of my top picks for vegan food in Chicago. I hope you enjoyed this article. I know a lot of my followers are vegan, and because it is such a big part of my life, I’ll try to include more posts like this in the future. What are some of your favorite vegan restaurants? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below!