Being a vegetarian doesn’t have to mean you’re subject to a life of lettuce and raw carrots on a plate. Vegetarians are hip. They’re cool. And there are a plenty of great vegetarian options in town that you might not know about - not all of them are 100% vegetarian, but they all have great, extensive vegetarian options. There are even some veggie-focused restaurants that meat eaters will like. We swear.
Consider this a vegetarian hit list, and enjoy.
Check out the rest of our Guide To Being A Little Healthier, presented in partnership with Bai (a drink that helps us be a little healthier).
Handlebar is a mostly vegetarian restaurant that even meat-eaters will appreciate because that’s just the effect fried avocado tacos will have on a person. And anyone can appreciate the friendly neighborhood atmosphere that makes Handlebar a great casual place to hang. That’s especially true when you can use their backyard garden, which will entice you to order a cocktail or two. A healthy cocktail, obviously.
“Meat Free Since ‘83.” That’s the motto at the Chicago Diner, which first opened up in Lakeview and now has a second location in Logan Square. Both are worth visiting, and whether you’re looking for something vegetarian or vegan, there are plenty of options. Think massive diner-style menu, but no meat and even some good fake-meat options. We’re not saying go on a seitan-only diet, but the seitan gyro here is pretty good, and this is coming from people who like real gyros. Make sure you get a vegan milkshake too. Makes no sense that they’re good, but they’re good.
Cumin is an excellent restaurant in Wicker Park serving Nepalese and Indian food. The lunch buffet is what every lunch should look like, and the menu is so big that it’s impossible not to find something you like. While this place serves plenty of meat, there's an extensive vegetarian section with tons of options.
Vegetarian food goes formal and sophisticated at Green Zebra. This isn’t a let’s-grab-a-salad restaurant, it’s a place to sit down over a nice dinner and elegantly plated dishes. It’s like a regular small plates menu, except most of the food is plant-focused and full of things that aren’t terrible for you. Expect things like persimmon carpaccio with avocado mousse and arugula or squash risotto with zucchini and eggplant.
Mana Food Bar is the kind of hip vegetarian and vegan restaurant that we think would fit in nicely on the streets of L.A. You have the option to order each dish on small or large plates, which means you can try a few things and figure out what you like. Try some baked goat cheese with spicy tomato sauce, tofu bulgogi, or a Mana slider mushroom burger with brown rice and spicy mayo. Just like L.A., but with fewer small dogs sitting in large purses.
Ever heard of a Thai vegan restaurant? Welcome to Urban Vegan where you can get tofu satay, a thai basil entree with soy chicken, or any number of curry dishes. This isn’t your typical vegan food, and it’s a great curveball in the vegetarian and vegan world.
Little Beet has the whole healthy and farm fresh thing going. It’s also at the bottom of a new high-end apartment building in the Gold Coast. Those two facts are fitting. But if you’re looking for healthy, mostly-veggie dishes that won’t leave you feeling starved or confused, then Little Beet is a very comfortable and enjoyable place to sit for a meal.
Old people like to reminisce about what a nickel used to buy you. We’re not that old, but we do remember a time when $5 could get you something. Now? Five dollars can get you street parking in Lincoln Park for 30 minutes. But it can also get you an awesome vegetarian Pakistani-Indian meal at Ghareeb Nawaz, a Devon Street favorite open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Try the channa masala (chickpeas cooked with tomatoes and spices) or anything really - it’s all good, fast, and cheap.
All raw everything. That’s what’s happening at Chicago Raw - fully uncooked, 100% plants. That also means 100% good for you, unlike half-assed sports drinks that claim to be good for you but are really just sugar. We may have learned that the hard way as kids. Anyway, try something creative like a garden burger with “the ultimate ratio of seeds and vegetables without an ounce of oil or nuts” or just eat a basic kale salad with lemon dressing and avocado like we often do.
Talk of a vegetarian restaurant is often geared towards people who don’t eat meat. And if you’re trying to convince meat eaters to eat at a vegetarian restaurant, usually you have to say, “Just try it, it’s not that bad.” Bad Hunter is not one of those places. It’s an excellent and cool West Loop restaurant that just happens to be mostly vegetarian. Even Ron Swanson would appreciate this type of veggie-focused menu with things like tempura fried lemons, maitake mushrooms, and a veggie burger we’re still not totally convinced isn’t partially made of meat.
High fives. Finger painting. Putting Bugles corn snacks on your fingers to pretend you have witch hands. These are three pretty awesome things things you can do with your hands. You know what else is fun to do with your hands? Eat. And at Demera, an Ethiopian restaurant in Uptown, you won’t even get silverware so you have to eat with your hands. Use the injera, a traditional Ethiopian bread, as a scooping mechanism for picking things up. The menu is heavy on vegetarian options, and if you're new to Ethiopian food, there’s a nice little glossary that will walk you through it all.