As a vegetarian, choosing a restaurant that both accommodates your dietary restrictions and pleases the meat-loving friends accompanying you can be frustrating. We’ve rounded up some of the best vegetarian and vegan dishes (and recommendations for meat eaters) at non-vegetarian restaurants around Chicago. With these picks, everybody wins.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken
3361 N. Elston Ave.773-478-4000
This Avondale patio-gem strives to make its menu as approachable to those with dietary restrictions as possible. Swap out chicken for fried tofu on any of their sandwiches, salads, or other specialty dishes—or get straight-up fried tofu “strips” with a side of one of the house-made dipping sauces like garlic aioli or honey buffalo sauce ($8.50). Make it a meal with a side of roasted garlic grits with scallion and fried crunchies ($4) or a vegan Honey Butter Fried Chicken side salad with spiced sunflower seeds, pickled carrots, celery, crunchy mandarin oranges and sweet tea vinaigrette ($5).
Meat eaters: Try the “OG” fried chicken sandwich with chicken strips, candied jalapeno mayo and crunchy slaw ($8.50) or the buffalo mac ‘n cheese with pimento, fried chicken, buffalo sauce and fried crunchies ($10).
Tandoor Char House
2652 N. Halsted St. 773-327-2652
If you’re a vegetarian, you know finding a good Indian restaurant is like finding a gold mine. Tandoor Char House specializes in dishes drawing influence from both India and Pakistan, with a lengthy list of vegetarian options. Try the mutter paneer tikka masala, a dish using soft South Asian cheese, with fresh green peas and tikka cream sauce ($12) or the chana masala—sauteed with an assortment of herbs and spices—made with chickpeas, onions and tomatoes ($12). Don’t skip out on an order of garlic naan, a traditional Indian flatbread ($3) that is as addicting as the main courses.
Meat eaters: Try the lamb saag stewed in spinach and cream sauce ($16) or the tamarind wings marinated in house spices and topped with chutney ($16).
802 W. Randolph St. 312-265-1745
Herbivore or not, this cleverly named veggie-centric restaurant is one that anyone can appreciate. Start with the charred snap peas with almond wakame butter ($7) and the grilled sourdough with sunflower crema ($4). For the main course, dig into the saffron farfalle with a vegetarian root Bolognese sauce, Parmesan and grapefruit breadcrumbs ($16) or the rye gnocchetti with wood ear mushrooms, Thai basil, Brazil nuts and English peas ($16). (Note: The menu changes daily.)
Meat eaters: Try the seafood hotpot with green garlic broth and perilla seeds ($19) or the chicken thigh kebab with currant, parsley and preserved lemon yogurt ($11).
837 W. Fulton Market 312-733-9555
Though The Publican in the West Loop specializes in a variety of meats, their “vegetable” menu is fresh and interesting, sourcing produce from farms throughout the Midwest. Try the barbecue carrots with herb dressing, dill and pecan ($10) or the avocado salad with summer squash, valencia orange and sunflower sprout ($14). With all the nutrition in your meal, you won’t feel bad indulging in one of The Publican’s many delicious dessert options from pastry chef Dana Cree, a two-time James Beard Award “Outstanding Pastry Chef” finalist. Try Dana’s cookie jar, a daily assortment of fresh baked cookies ($10).
Meat eaters: Try the pork belly with wild onion, sungold tomato, kohlrabi and chimichurri ($27) or the black bass with wild onion, plum and sesame seed ($32).
Pleasant House Pub
2119 S. Halsted St. 773-523-7437
Pleasant House Pub, from the owners of Pleasant House Bakery, specializes in British savory pies and offers an incredible mushroom and kale pie with white wine and Parmesan cream sauce in a flaky crust ($10.50). They also offer the option to “crown” your pies with mashed potatoes (add $4.75), which is a must for ultimate decadence. Their side of vegan curry chips ($7) are not to be overlooked, as well as their pub snack of a “Wee Pot o’ Pickles” ($3). Their wide selection of beer pairs perfectly with the richness of their food, and alcohol is vegetarian, right?
Meat eaters: Try the steak and ale pie with carrots, shallots and herbs ($10.50) or the bangers and mash with two house-made pork sausages, bubble cake, pea shoots and onion gravy ($12.50).
3463 N. Clark St. 773-525-4580
Call up some neighborhood chain pizzerias and ask for a vegan pie and they will either: A) laugh in your face or B) be so confused they won’t know what to say. Dimo’s in Wrigleyville offers vegan slices and appetizers of many varieties across their very extensive menu. Try the vegan artichoke heartthrob pizza with Roma tomatoes, red onions and Kalamata olives ($14) or the vegan “Naked 3Veg” with cremini mushrooms, sauteed spinach and roasted red peppers ($13). Don’t forget to order a side of vegan cheesy bread for $9, because what are carbs anyway?
Meat eaters: Try the “BBQChickenBaconCheddarRanchh” with grilled chicken and mozzarella on a barbecue sauce base with cheddar, bacon and homemade ranch ($16) or the “Flaming Hot Sausage Fest” with a trio of house-made sausages ($16).
1140 W. Madison St. 312-243-2097
Head to Mad Social for a variety of small-bite vegetarian options and delicious cocktails. Try the Havarti mac and cheese with sweet corn, wild mushrooms and crispy Brussels sprouts ($14), the kale salad with roasted beets, chives, candied walnuts, garlic bread crumbs and apple vinaigrette ($12) or the crispy Brussels sprouts with red cabbage, carrot, cilantro, toasted garlic chips, scallions, wonton strips, sesame seeds and yuzu soy vinaigrette ($14). All of these items come from their “Madness” menu, which is half-priced on Tuesdays during happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m.
Meat eaters: Try the duck confit bao buns with carrots, Napa cabbage, tangy cucumbers and sriracha aioli ($14) or the chicken and waffles on a churro waffle with MAD hot sauce and crisp pork belly ($21).
True Food Kitchen
1 W. Erie St. 312-204-6981
True Food Kitchen’s first Midwestern location in River North is a dream for those with dietary restrictions—or anyone who appreciates refreshing, healthy, and delicious meals made from seasonal ingredients. Start with the vegetarian edamame dumplings with white truffle oil ($10) or the vegan kale guacamole with pink grapefruit, cilantro, roasted poblano, and sunflower seeds ($11). For the main course, the heirloom tomato pizza with grilled artichoke, roasted garlic, vegan almond ricotta and black truffle will win over even the biggest meat lover (16).
Meat eaters: Try the poke bowl with albacore, avocado, quinoa rice, mushrooms, snow peas, cucumber, cashews and turmeric ponzu ($22) or the lasagna Bolognese with house-made chicken sausage, mushrooms, spinach and lemon ricotta ($16).
201 N. Morgan St. 312-888-9485
Located in the Fulton Market District, this Latin-inspired shared-plate restaurant offers many options for those who love Mexican and South American food, but want to skip the meat. Try the blue corn tortilla cheese tacos with goat cheese croquette, cherry tomato sofrito, serrano and epazote ($9.90) and order a couple of shared plates like the esquites roasted corn with queso fresco, cilantro, corn custard and chile flakes ($9.50) or the corn and cheese arepa with Columbian-style corn cake, mushrooms, pickled vegetables, cilantro and aji peanut sauce ($14.75).
Meat eaters: Try the spiced beef barbacoa tacos in a popcorn tortilla with chile de arbol, queso fresco, pickled jicama and cilantro peanuts ($18) or the shrimp ceviche and tostadas with salsa verde, avocado, jicama, cilantro, pea shoots, corn nuts and Spanish olive oil ($12).
2537 N. Kedzie Ave. 773-489-9554
It’s no surprise that Lula Café, one of Chicago’s most essential farm-to-table restaurants, has a beautiful and extensive variety of vegetarian options. Try the chilled peanut satay noodles with marinated tofu and seasonal pickles ($13) or the chickpea sweet potato tagine with green harissa, fennel, pickled golden raisins and grilled bread ($12). Want to take the stress off yourself and let the chef choose for you? Lula offers a six-course vegetarian tasting menu for $60.
Meat eaters: Try the Gunthorp Farm pan-roasted chicken with crispy potato, kale and sourdough lemon vinaigrette ($19) or the nettle crusted New York strip with black lentils, fennel, smoked dates and feta ($29).
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