Loving Heart Vegan Cafe, Chicago | Courtesy of Loving Heart
Long gone are the days when being vegan meant you were doomed to eat a sad-looking salad. Thankfully, chefs across Chicago have been upping their game, reimagining how vegan food should look (and taste). Whether you’re in the mood for a “not dog” or are craving vegetable-forward meals, here are four vegan spots to try in the Windy City.
The Chicago Diner
Diner, North American, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, Thai, $$$
Quinoa Chili | Courtesy of the Chicago Diner
“Meat Free Since ’83,” The Chicago Diner is one of the OGs of the vegan scene in Chicago. Everything on the expansive comfort food-focused menu is either vegan or can be prepared to be vegan. Favorites include the quinoa chili served with jalapeño corn fritters, and Thai chili wings (seitan “wingz” with a chili-lime marinade and Sriracha-ranch dipping sauce). Save room at the end of your meal for a vegan shake (choose from flavors like salted caramel, chocolate chip cookie dough, and carrot cake).
For that homemade taste without all the work, head to Kitchen 17. Everything from the hummus to the spicy seitan is made in-house by Chef Don Clements (in fact, according to Clements, the only thing the restaurant doesn’t make from scratch is the vegan cheese). Order the gyro, made with spicy seitan and topped with house-made tzatziki, onion, tomato, and cucumber, all on a fluffy Greek flatbread.
Whether you’re popping in for a quick bite or looking for tasty takeaway for an impromptu picnic at nearby Montrose Beach, Loving Heart has you covered. The pocket-sized café is 100 percent vegan and uses mostly organic ingredients. Start off with a plate of their bestselling nachos (made with non-GMO chips and topped with organic veggies and two kinds of hummus), and then order up the Happy Burger (a completely vegan creation that’s been known to satisfy meat eaters) or the Curry Bowl (sweet potato, chickpea, and red lentil curry topped with your choice of Korean BBQ veggie protein or a tasty garbanzo and black bean mix).
Vegans craving authentic Thai food should make a beeline for Urban Vegan. Fan favorites include the steamed curry dumplings, orange chicken, and the Thai basil with tofu. And all entrées come with your choice of protein (choose from soy chicken, soy pepper steak, seitan, soy fish, tofu, soy shrimp, or soy chicken nuggets). Visit mid-day to take advantage of their lunch deal, where you can fill up on a main, side of steamed brown rice, spring rolls, and a salad, all for $10.