The Vegetarian and Vegan Food Scene in Chicago, IL

As an expert in the food industry, I have had the pleasure of exploring the diverse and vibrant food scene in Chicago, IL. This city is known for its wide range of cuisines and dining options, and it has not disappointed when it comes to vegetarian and vegan options. From cozy cafes to upscale restaurants, Chicago has a growing number of establishments that cater to all tastes and preferences.

The Rise of Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants in Chicago

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Chicago. This can be attributed to the growing awareness about the health benefits of plant-based diets, as well as the increasing demand for sustainable and ethical food choices. According to a report by the Plant Based Foods Association, sales of plant-based foods have grown by 11% in the past year, with more people choosing to incorporate plant-based options into their diets.

This trend is reflected in the restaurant scene in Chicago, with more and more establishments offering vegetarian and vegan dishes on their menus.

Top Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants in Chicago

Chicago has a plethora of vegetarian and vegan restaurants to choose from, each with its own unique offerings and flavors. Here are some of the top-rated restaurants that are a must-visit for any vegetarian or vegan food lover:

The Chicago Diner

The Chicago Diner is a popular spot for vegetarians and vegans alike, serving up delicious comfort food with a twist. Their menu features classic American dishes like burgers, sandwiches, and milkshakes, all made with plant-based ingredients. They also have gluten-free options available. Their signature dishes include the Radical Reuben, made with seitan, sauerkraut, and vegan thousand island dressing, and the BBQ Bacon Cheezeburger, made with a house-made patty and topped with vegan bacon and cheddar cheese.

The Chicago Diner also has a selection of vegan desserts, including their famous vegan milkshakes.


Handlebar is a vegetarian and vegan restaurant that offers a diverse menu with global influences. Their dishes are made with locally sourced ingredients and are bursting with flavor. They have a variety of options for both vegetarians and vegans, including gluten-free options. Some of their popular dishes include the Vegan Chorizo Tacos, made with soy chorizo, avocado, and salsa verde, and the Vegan Mac & Cheese, made with cashew cheese sauce and topped with breadcrumbs. They also have a selection of craft beers and cocktails to complement your meal.

Green Zebra

For a more upscale dining experience, Green Zebra is the place to go.

This vegetarian restaurant offers a seasonal menu that changes regularly to showcase the freshest ingredients. They also have an extensive wine list to pair with your meal. Their menu features creative dishes like the Grilled King Trumpet Mushrooms with smoked potato puree and pickled mustard seeds, and the Roasted Cauliflower Steak with black garlic puree and crispy quinoa. Green Zebra also offers a tasting menu for those who want to try a variety of dishes.

Vegan-Friendly Options at Non-Vegan Restaurants

While there are plenty of dedicated vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Chicago, many non-vegan establishments also offer delicious plant-based options on their menus. Here are some of the top restaurants that cater to vegans and vegetarians:

Girl & the Goat

Girl & the Goat is a popular restaurant in Chicago that offers a variety of dishes, including some vegan options.

Their menu changes regularly, but they always have at least one vegan dish available. Some of their past vegan dishes include the Roasted Cauliflower with pickled peppers and cashew cream, and the Grilled Broccoli with smoked tofu and chili vinaigrette.

Bad Hunter

Bad Hunter is a trendy restaurant that focuses on seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. While they are not a vegetarian or vegan restaurant, they have plenty of options for those who follow a plant-based diet. Their menu features dishes like the Charred Carrots with avocado hummus and pistachio dukkah, and the Mushroom Bolognese made with lentil ragu and cashew parmesan.

Exploring Chicago's Vegetarian and Vegan Scene

In addition to restaurants, Chicago also has a thriving vegetarian and vegan community, with events and festivals dedicated to plant-based living.

The Chicago Vegan Food & Drink Festival is an annual event that showcases some of the best vegan food and drinks in the city. The Chicago Vegandale Festival is another popular event that features vendors, speakers, and live music. There are also several vegetarian and vegan meet-up groups in Chicago, where like-minded individuals can connect and explore the city's food scene together. These groups often organize potlucks, cooking classes, and other fun events.

In Conclusion

Chicago, IL is a haven for vegetarians and vegans, with a wide range of restaurants that cater to plant-based diets. From cozy cafes to upscale dining establishments, there is something for everyone in this vibrant city.

So whether you're a vegetarian or just looking to incorporate more plant-based options into your diet, Chicago has plenty to offer.