Eating Vegan in Chicago
Chicago is somewhere that I didn't know too much about before I visited, but having lived here for 5 months on a study abroad program I made it my goal to try out as many vegan friendly food spots as possible and this city did NOT disappoint! Aside the amazing memories and lifelong friends I have made in Chicago, one of the things that is already making me consider buying a ticket to come back is the endless supply of vegan food that doesn't even compare to so many other places I have visited so far. The only issue I've had with being vegan out here is that I don't have enough time to try all the options!! Whilst most of the cafes and restaurants listed below are independent businesses, there are also a few chain food places that I just had to include, whether they're independent to the city or across America in general. I hope you enjoy, and I recommend you visit every single place in this post if possible!!
PICK ME UP CAFE
There are often those moments in life where something you want so badly gets jumbled up in this preconceived idea of what you actually want. Pick Me Up cafe was the setting of one of these very moments, with it's late night diner aesthetic that almost makes you feel as if you're the star of your own indie movie. I was on a date with someone who fitted the exact description of my dream man.. until I actually met him. The expectation of my 'studying abroad & falls in love over a vegan milkshake in a quirky diner' didn't quite work out, but in the midst of this, I did discover the thing that had been waiting for me all along... VEGAN MOZZARELLA STICKS ??? Now, if you know me, you will know that all I ever talk about is how much I wanted to find vegan mozzarella sticks, so all I really have left to say is...thanks universe.
Aside from the mozzarella sticks, and promises of dates with cute artsy boys, this place also sells an array of vegan dishes despite the fact they're not even a vegetarian cafe, such as pizza garlic bread, brunch items and incredible milkshakes. It's also open until 2am on most days - so maybe if you hang around during late nights often you might just find your dream quirky vegan boy? It's located off the Belmont red line stop and you can view their full website here if you wanna take that chance.
NATIVE FOODS - 100% VEGAN
Native foods holds a special place in my heart because it was the first restaurant I set foot in on my first day of Chicago, and then subsequently a few days later, it was the first of many vegan food dates with one of my (now) closest pals ! It provided me comfort in the form of a bbq cheeseburger and mac & cheese when my suitcase was lost, or my heart (or bank account) was broken. It became a place of nostalgia, and to celebrate our bond to the city, in later weeks as we visited again and again, savouring the taste of double cheeseburgers, peanut butter brownies and chocolate chip cookies as we explored new parts of the city, knowing soon that we would not be able to walk a few blocks to get nachos or taste their vegan bacon & crispy onions.
Although a chain restaurant, Native Foods have an extensive vegan menu that spans all aspects of comfort food, whilst being deliciously vegan. They also have cafes in California, Oregon and Colorado so if you are visiting Chicago or from any of these states definitely check them out if you haven't already! They have 3 locations in Chicago, and you can view their full website here; http://www.nativefoods.com/.
CHICAGO DINER - 100% VEGAN
Chicago Diner is all about celebration for me. It was the one restaurant that I wanted to visit the most when I moved to Chicago, and I would often find myself scrolling through their insta or browsing their menu in the weeks leading up to my flight. When I found myself there for the first time, a celebration of my first week living in the city, I was overwhelmed with how I had read about and envisioned this place for so long and I was finally there, enjoying a peanut butter cookie dough milkshake (heart eye emoji) and chocolate mousse cake in the middle of a snowstorm 4000 miles away from what I knew as home. When I returned a few weeks later for a first date. the idea of having my first proper meal there (and vegan lasagana at that) with someone who I saw so much potential with was just fueling my 'study abroad indie romance' cliche to the max. After visiting again for my 21st breakfast brunch, surrounded the people I had become so close to in just a few months reinstated that Chicago Diner was a truly magical place for me.
Aside from the special memories, their menu is filled with BBQ wings, country fried steak with mash potatoes and gravy, a reuben sandwich, mac & cheese, and an extensive brunch menu that includes cinnamon rolls, pancakes, french toast, tofu scramble and so much more. They also have a dessert menu full of treats plus an extensive milkshake menu, but their specials menu is the real star of the show offering masterpieces such as tofu tikki masala, lasagna and a 'seafood' linguine. They have two locations in Chicago, one in Logan Square and one in Lake View, and you can visit their full menu here; http://www.veggiediner.com/.
URBAN VEGAN - 100% VEGAN
From arriving in a hurry and having to eat as much as we could in the last 15 minutes of opening, to crying with laughter on the subway home, full of delicious thai food and drunk on late night adventures through the city, Urban Vegan holds some fond memories of my time in Chicago. An amalgamation of memories of the sweet smells of a rural market in Thailand, the satay chicken skewers which rivaled my favourites back at home (which you can read about here) and racing through the streets of Ravenswood with one of my best friends, still on a high from the vegan pad thai (amazing) and spring rolls (amazing x2), makes Urban Vegan a high contender on my list of favourite places in Chicago.
Urban Vegan is located off the Montrose stop, and you can view their full website here; https://www.urbanveganchicago.com/, where they have a pretty extensive menu, full of soups, salads, spring rolls, dumplings, stir fry, chow mein, pad thai, fried rice, curry, burgers, wraps and a selection of fake meat options like orange chicken.
KA'LISH - 100% VEGAN
If you've read my Eating Vegan in Australia post then you will know that ever since the life altering experience that was Smith & Deli's vegan tuna cheese melt, I have been on the lookout for one just as good ever since, and Ka'lish was the place I think I found it. Ka'lish is also the first vegan place I have seen to use follow your heart vegan egg in their brunch options, as they do vegan scrambled egg, pancakes, full cooked breakfasts and so many variations! Their main menu is also full of burgers, fried chicken, mac & cheese, grilled cheese, tacos, nachos, quesadillas and so much more. They also have an extensive range of desserts such as cupcakes, brownies, cookies, pies - what more could you want really? Not to mention the interior of the cafe is the perfect place for an insta pic, complete with white walls, fairy lights and light wooden tables. Ka'lish is located just off of Wilson, and you can view their full website here; https://www.kalishvegan.com/.
KITCHEN 17 - 100% VEGAN
With only a few weeks left of our study-abroad experience - together with one of my closest pals, it was decided that we had to try deep dish pizza at least once. We dedicated an evening to it, as Kitchen 17 was a little further out than we usually went (and BYOB), we set off with our 2-for-$8 7/11 wine and were treated with the most indulgent mac & cheese deep dish, alongside a 'chicken' parm sandwich with the most fries we could ever want. Apart from the slightly creepy man sat next to us who was constantly trying to spark a conversation, and the inability to walk back to the subway station whilst full of pizza - Kitchen 17 is definitely somewhere to visit! (Also, who knew I was going to be a fan of ranch on pizza). Bring your own wine, all your best pals and feast on the array of vegan pizzas, burgers, buffalo wings - you name it, and PLEASE try the chocolate cake, you won't regret the food coma I promise. Kitchen 17 is located off Belmont and you can view their full website here; http://www.kitchen17.com/.
From late night study sessions, hungover late lunches, the tragedy that was 4/20, or just a Saturday afternoon treat - Epic Burger was always there to offer the best greasy vegan burgers. It was in Epic Burger that I first discovered the beyond meat burger - which you HAVE to try as I honestly have never tasted anything like it, and am counting down the days until they come to England. Epic Burger is basically a fast food-esque burger chain that is located all over Chicago, and they allow you to customise your burger to just how you want it! Even though this place is pretty pricey, and you can get the beyond burgers at the supermarket for a lot less, it still has a special place in my heart as it was so close to my dorm building and one of the places we always went back to. If you wanna check them out, and see their multiple locations, you can visit their website here; http://epicburger.com.
I stumbled across this place during the middle of a snowstorm in Wicker Park on the 2nd week of living in the city, and after visiting again months later with the uni's veg club - I finally got to try their vegan mac & cheese pizza. The slices are literally the size of my head, and with a variety of toppings such as buffalo 'chicken' and italian pasta dish (on pizza), for only $4 each! It's a must visit (the alcohol is cheap too!). They also have a location in Wrigleyville, and you can visit their full website here; www.dimospizza.com.
VEGGIE GRILL - 100% VEGAN
I had heard so much about veggie grill as a chain restaurant in America before I visited, and I only actually ended up going once before I left Chicago, after a busy day of studying in Lincoln Park. Their menu is extensive with options from the beyond meat burger, crispy 'chicken' sandwiches, fried 'chicken' bowls to taco salads, cauliflower wings and a selection of desserts such as cookies, brownies and cake. We both got the beyond burger (surprise surprise), but with vegan bacon, cheese and fries - amazing! The prices are pretty reasonable here as they are a chain restaurant, and they also have restaurants in California, Oregon and Washington as well as Chicago. They have a few locations in Chicago, which you can check out here; https://www.veggiegrill.com/, along with their full menus.
I have so many fond memoirs of Blaze pizza; from hanging out with friends after class or after drinks, grabbing food with a cute boy, getting takeaway and eating it whilst studying for finals, or just whilst watching skins in my apartment. Arguably the best vegan pizza in Chicago, as not only was it literally down the street from my apartment, 90% of the time it was on offer for 2 for $10, they had great vegan cheese and you can literally choose as many toppings as you want for no extra charge! My favourite combination was always vegan cheese, red onion, mushrooms, roasted garlic cloves, roasted broccoli and bbq drizzle to finish it off. This pizza place also introduced me to putting a sprinkle of salt on your pizza before it goes in the oven and honestly, its life changing. There are a few locations in Chicago, but I believe that it is exclusive to Chicago, so if you are in the city this is a MUST to check out! You can check out their full website here; http://blazepizza.com/ to see all of their locations.
I only visited this cafe once, but the sweetcorn chowder was so good that it deserves it's own special mention in this post. Filled with potatoes, creamy coconut milk, spring onions and sweetcorn, and for only $4.50 I would definitely recommend visiting. I also had the chips with salsa and guac, which was the perfect snack, and they have a lot of other vegan options, such as noodle salad, the beyond burger, buffalo cauliflower tacos, curry, and a selection of desserts such as cookies, and banana/chocolate parfaits. The food here is reasonably priced for a 'healthy food place', and they have locations all over Chicago and other states too! You can check out their full website and menus here; http://www.lyfekitchen.com/.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my favourite vegan spots in Chicago, and if you have any recommendations for when I next visit (which I am determined to do in the next few years) please let me know!!! - Sophie