Chicago is known for deep dish pizzas and strong opinions on how people should eat their hot dogs. So it’s understandable if you think it might be hard to find good vegan food here. But that really isn’t the case. We have a lot of great vegan-friendly restaurants serving everything from healthy and unprocessed options to not-so-healthy comfort food. So if you want to, you can in fact get vegan deep dish pizza and a vegan Chicago-style tofu sandwich - which technically isn’t a hot dog, but we’ll take it.
Here are the best places to eat those things (and other vegan dishes of all kinds) across the city.
We’ll say it: Healthy Substance is not a very appealing name - it sounds more like item #D3 in a futuristic vending machine than a great vegan Mexican spot in Garfield Ridge. But don’t let that deter you, because the food here is fantastic. Everything from the shredded cashew cheese to the spicy al pastor, chorizo, and steak is made in house, and none of it feels overprocessed. Plus, the space is cute - bright and decorated with pictures of historical activists and Joaquin Phoenix.
If you’re celebrating a special occasion, or proposing to someone who doesn’t eat meat or dairy, The Brass Heart in Uptown is an excellent option. This small (only 22 seats) tasting-menu spot does a 10-course vegan option for $120. And while they have a $145 10-course omnivore menu too, it’s the delicious vegan food that makes this the kind of place worthy of a proposal. The menu changes, but expect things like sweet potato gnocchi, coconut bread filled with plantains and hearts of palm, and salsify with parsnips in a horchata foam. Even though this place feels upscale (i.e marble tabletops and a crystal chandelier), casual but attentive service and a playlist filled with Radiohead and The Black Keys keeps it from feeling formal.
I’m Vegan And Vegetarian is a Thai restaurant in Lakeview that (as the not-very-subtle name hints at) is completely vegan. You’ll find appetizers like mushroom steam buns and tofu satay, along with entrees like a curry (we like it with the mock duck) and khou yum made with soy chicken. Everything has a nice balance of sweet and spicy, and is generously portioned with prices ranging from about $7-12. It also works just as well for a casual date as it does for grabbing some basil fried rice on your way home from work.
We’re fans of all the vegan choices at Ras Dashen, an Ethiopian spot in Edgewater. The list is long and clearly marked, with things like the shirro (a chickpea stew) and the misserana bowmia (lentils and okra in a spicy berbere sauce). But our favorite way to try everything is to order the sampler. That way you get to choose five vegan side dishes for $15, all served on a big round of fantastic injera, which is made fresh daily. And the food is so good, even the non-vegans of the group will be happy to share.
This is the most upscale vegan spot in the city. It’s on the seventh floor of Saks Fifth Avenue downtown, and while that might not sound like an obvious destination for your next nice dinner out, know that the space has a fantastic view of Michigan Avenue. So as long as you’re not sitting in the front of the restaurant, you’ll forget that you’re only about 50 feet away from a display of John Varvatos sweaters. Start with a tasty vegan cheese plate, then follow it up with dishes like a spicy kung pao cauliflower with quinoa, and a rich “cacio e pepe” made with kelp noodles and cashew cheese sauce.
“Meat Free Since ’83” is the motto at the Chicago Diner, which has two locations - the Lakeview original, and a newer one in Logan Square. Both are very casual, and each is worth visiting (just know that the smaller Lakeview location gets more crowded). There’s a long menu with a lot of diner-style vegan options, like a reuben sandwich made with seitan and a lentil mushroom loaf. Whatever you order, get a chocolate peanut butter milkshake to go with it.
Handlebar is a mostly vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Wicker Park, and it’s an enjoyable place to eat, drink, and hang out. The menu is heavy on comfort food - so there’s a buffalo seitan wrap with ranch dressing and a Chicago-style tofu dish that’s inspired by our city’s obsession with hot dogs. Come here for a casual weeknight dinner, and in the summer, make sure to sit in the beer garden out back.
Kitchen 17′s menu is another good reminder that not all vegan food is supposed to be healthy. Don’t come here looking for something light, because what you’ll find is vegan bar food like pizza, nachos, and burgers. Everything tastes good - their housemade seitan in particular has a great texture. This Lakeview spot is BYOB, but the space feels like a bar (dark, with lots of wood and dim lighting). Just don’t look for a salad on the menu - you won’t find one.
This casual vegan restaurant in Edgewater, with motivational quotes like “share the world with all beings” on the wall, is probably exactly what your non-vegetarian friends expect a vegan restaurant to be like. The Asian-inspired food is great - for example, the seitan skewers, marinated in turmeric and other spices, are moist and flavorful. Plus, they have a fantastic shrimp substitute (add it to the spring rolls). The fact that you can BYOB also doesn’t hurt.
Can't Believe It's Not Meat
It’s not the most subtle name, but it definitely gets the point across. This counter-service spot in Hyde Park focuses on plant-based comfort food, meaning you can get things like nachos, a Philly cheesesteak, and chicken and waffles, and everything can be made vegan. Just know that this place is very small with limited seating, so plan on getting your vegan pizza puffs to go.
B’Gabs is another spot in Hyde Park, but this cafe focuses on healthy vegan options for breakfast and lunch. Almost everything is made on-site, and the menu includes lots of fruits and vegetables along with plenty of gluten-free and raw dishes, too. You’ll find things like smoothie bowls, breakfast scrambles made with chickpeas, and a zucchini noodle pad thai salad. Everything tastes light and healthy-ish, and it’s a good way to balance out the vegan pizza puffs you’ve been eating.
Most of the restaurants on this guide are destination spots for vegan food. The Girl & The Goat is not one of those places. But it’s worth knowing about because it’s a very popular restaurant (known for having meat-heavy dishes like pig face) that also has a separate vegan menu. And the dishes on that menu really do hold their own against the regular menu items. The vegan menu isn’t long, but things like toasted tabouli and vegan adaptations of menu staples (for example, the roasted broccoli) are excellent. So if your non-vegan friends invite you here for a celebratory dinner in the West Loop, say yes.
Majani serves very good vegan soul food on the South Shore. This means entrees like BBQ cauliflower and jerk tofu, along with sides of cornbread, greens, and black-eyed peas. The space is small and upbeat, full of reclaimed wood and tall windows that let a bunch of light in. This is a great spot on the Southside for lunch or dinner, even if you weren’t already in the neighborhood. Make sure to get a piece of carrot cake.
If you’re vegan and want to have dinner in a sceney River North spot, go to Sunda. This Asian fusion restaurant is another non-vegan place that has a separate vegan menu. You can get sushi rolls, tofu pad thai, and a version of their crispy brussels sprout salad. Will it be loud and crowded? Yes. But that’s why you’re in River North.
True Food Kitchen is a sit-down spot in River North that works well for lunch or dinner during the week, but is also nice enough to be a weekend evening option. They have lots of dietary restrictions covered - so there are vegan dishes like butternut squash pizza and quinoa grain bowls, and many things on the menu are also gluten-free.
Chicago Raw is (unsurprisingly) a 100% raw restaurant. Everything here is vegan, and even if you’re not keeping a raw diet, the food is worth seeking out. They have a pad thai dish that’s fantastic (it’s made from kelp noodles), and ravioli made with shaved turnip and cashew cheese. There are two locations, one in River North and one in the French Market. Just be aware that everything here is expensive.
This is the Chinese restaurant from the same people who own Girl & The Goat, and like that spot, Duck Duck Goat has a separate menu for vegans. In this case, though, that menu is much more extensive. This is where you go for a fun night out. You’ll be eating dishes like pecan cauliflower and glass noodles in a blueberry sauce. The bigger tables with lazy Susans make it easy to share a lot of things, so go with a big group if you want to try as much as possible.
This vegan Thai restaurant in Ravenswood used to mainly be a carryout spot, but now it’s a full sit-down restaurant. You’ll find dishes like tofu satay, soy chicken with peanut sauce, and a number of curries. It’s a fantastic neighborhood option for vegan Asian food.
Everything about this place is what you’d expect from a vegetarian spot in Logan Square. It’s a laid-back, funky spot that’s decorated with touches of ’80s space nostalgia, and the menu is eclectic. There are appetizers like fried green tomatoes, plus sandwiches like a banh mi made with tofu and a torta ahogada with seitan. It’s great for a low-key dinner during the week, and on the weekends it’s open for lunch, too. The friendly service and great food make this a good contender for your new go-to neighborhood spot.