In a city known and beloved for its hot dogs and Italian beef, it must be difficult to find delicious vegetarian food, right? Wrong. Chicago has been moving beyond salads and sides of vegetables, and numerous restaurants have been offering up delicious vegetarian cuisine enjoyable for vegetarians and carnivores alike.
The Chicago Diner (2333 N. Milwaukee Ave., 3411 N. Halsted St.)
Proudly claiming to be "Meat Free since ‘83," The Chicago Diner serves up vegetarian and vegan courses for all three meals of the day. With locations that are easily accessible via the Red Line in Boystown and Blue Line in Logan Square, the restaurant offers vegetarian comfort food including a portabello truffle melt sandwich, pierogi quesadillas, country fried steak, and a breakfast country Benedict. They also serve vegan milkshakes in a variety of flavors including carrot cake, salted caramel and cookie dough peanut butter, as well as the classics - vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.
Mysore Woodlands (2548 W. Devon Ave., pictured at top)
When looking for vegetarian food, Indian restaurants are surprisingly looked over. For many Indians who follow Jainism, being a vegetarian is a hallmark of their religion, leading to many Indians partaking in a vegetarian lifestyle, and many Indian restaurants serving up vegetarian grub. This is true for the West Ridge neighborhood of Chicago, populated by many Indian restaurants on Devon Ave. Mysore Woodlands offers up traditional South Indian cuisine in a colorful and fun setting, with dishes including a variety of curries, pulav and dosai, as well as some delicious vegetable samosas.
Original Soul Vegetarian (203 E. 75th St.)
Most lists and articles on the vegetarian food scene in Chicago completely overlook the South Side. Not far from the 79th St. Red Line stop, Original Soul Vegetarian claims to serve "food as medicine," while offering up vegan and vegetarian takes on soul food classics such as Down Home Greens, collard greens topped with onions. They also have their own take on Southern barbeque by barbecuing veggie protein and adding their own seasonings. In addition to the delicious Southern cuisine, Original Soul Vegetarian also is home to the Eternity Juice Bar, which offers up shakes and fruit drinks.
Pick Me Up Cafe (3408 N. Clark St.)
Located in the heart of Lakeview, Pick Me Up Cafe has become a Chicago vegetarian staple, offering up veggie-friendly variations of traditional diner food. With a wide assortment of cakes, pies and shakes in addition to their massive menu, the restaurant has been featured on Time.com's 10 Things to Do in Chicago list. Not only is the food delicious, but the restaurant is pretty cool itself, filled with art that's for sale from local artists, and a jukebox cranking out classics of all genres until the restaurant closes at 5 a.m. on Saturdays (2 a.m. Sunday-Thursday, 4 a.m. Fridays).
Yummy Yummy Asian Cuisine (2901 N. Broadway St.)
Nestled between Surf Street and Oakdale Avenue in East Lakeview, Yummy Yummy has exceptional meat-free Asian cuisine. In addition to their menu with options including chicken, beef, pork and seafood, they also offer up a vegetarian menu with a wide range of choices, as well as bubble tea and smoothies in a wide variety of flavors. Even late at night (the restaurant stays open until 11 p.m. every night), the restaurant seems lit up and friendly due to their fun decorations and brightly colored walls.
Photos by Erin Yarnall; Original Soul Vegetarian courtesy of Facebook; Pick Me Up Cafe courtesy of Dylan T. Moore via flickr