*Updated 5/28/2021* Chicago has a plethora of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants. If you’re a Chicagoan, or a frequent visitor you’ll find some classics on this list, but you might find a few options you didn’t know about.
I’ve done some reorganizing to this post because I realize that many visitors don’t have time to eat at my twenty favorite places. It was painful, though, because this city has so much to offer the cruelty-free foodie!
If you’re a local and you think I missed something great, feel free to say so in the comments. There are some well-known/often-recommended things I have left off this list on purpose – maybe they’ve been known to food poison folks, or are owned by a total d-bag. I try to focus on the positive, so I’m not going to air their dirty laundry here – but if you ever have questions about a specific business feel free to DM me on Instagram!
Note: I try to update this regularly, but if you’re in doubt please call ahead to make sure vegan options are still available at the omni places listed here. This especially recommended during COVID-19 restrictions as many restaurants are operating with a limited menu, and/or as carry-out only while others are closed all together. Follow me on Instagram to see where I’m eating today!
Coming Soon/On My List:
These are places I haven’t tried yet either because they’re still on my to-do list or they aren’t open yet.
Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat – Burgers, pizza puffs, shakes and other vegan comfort foods.
Veggie House – A new vegetarian-with-vegan-options spot in China Town.
Healthy Substance – Vegan comfort food in the Garfield Ridge community.
La Esperanza Restaurant Oficial – Authentic Mexican cuisine with a massive vegan menu
These are the places that, in my opinion, you cannot miss. They range from absolute classics to some sleepier gems that only true Chicago vegans know about.
Casa Yari – Tony and I tried this Latin-inspired restaurant (for carry out because, you know, COVID) after seeing our friend Max, the chef from Herbivore Chicago, post about it a bunch of times. Nearly everything on the menu has a creative vegan option (by which I mean, it’s not just “without the cheese”) and if you follow them on Instagram you can get a heads up on new additions. We’ve been back several times, eating our way around the menu and every single time we can’t say enough about how much we love it.
Alice and Friends – One of the few restaurants where all three members of my human family can find something they like. Lots of Korean-inspired dishes, but also one of Tony’s favorite cheeseburgers in the city so there’s truly something for everyone. The ingredients are fresh, the dishes flavorful and creative and dare I say – healthy! Desserts are made in house, and the owner is maybe the nicest person alive.
Paulie Gee’s – Although this is an omni spot, Paulie Gee’s is a Chicago vegan cult favorite because they have an entire vegan pizza menu complete with housemade veggie sausage and two types of vegan cheese. They also offer vegan desserts and, the owner has been super awesome to the vegan community, coming out to vegan pop-ups and other events to show support and to learn about new options for his menu. They also recently opened a slice shop in Wicker Park with vegan options.
Duck Duck Goat – All of Top Chef champion Stephanie Izard’s restaurants have an entirely separate vegetarian and/or vegan menu. just ask when you’re being seated. Duck Duck Goat is my husband’s favorite place, all but 2-3 items on the vegetarian menu can be made vegan. You’ll need reservations for a Friday or Saturday so plan ahead!
I’m Vegan and Vegetarian – A brand-new, all vegan Thai spot in Lakeview. The dishes flavorful and not too expensive! This quickly became a top pick thanks to the steamed bao and the crispy tofu salad. Chicago has a good number of vegan Thai restaurants but this one stands out with it’s unique menu and super fresh ingredients.
Majani – This spot jumped from one a bunch of you told me to check out to a favorite during the COVID-19 pandemic. With dishes like the crab cake sandwich this 100% vegan soul food restaurant stands out from some of the long-established vegan soul options. When the dining room is open it’s cute and cozy, but we like to get take out and head to the nearby beach to eat on the lake. You can also take a quick walk around the block to all-vegan Bot Bakery which is listed in more detail below!
Liberation Donuts – OK, I helped open this place so let’s not pretend this is a totally unbiased listing. Brought to you by the folks behind Upton’s Naturals and Upton’s Breakroom (listed below) this all-vegan donut shop is operated by a former Donut Friend employee, so the flavors are awesome and the animal rights-forward marketing is relevant to my interests.
Herbivore Chicago – Operating out a commercial kitchen, this vegan pop-up is run by Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Max Musto. They pop up at Chicago Vegan Test Kitchen often, and you can also find out about their pick up days by following them on Instagram. I order the frozen lasagna 1-2 times per month for an easy, delicious dinner at home.
Vaca’s Vegan Creamery, from the folks behind the delicious, but now defunct All Tomorrow’s Pastries – Absolutely incredible, housemade vegan soft serve with bonkers-delicious toppings and mix-ins. Get a housemade waffle cone, or try a signature sundae. Currently only open for take-out, but you can walk across the street and chill in the park with your goodies.
Quickies & Coffee
These are mostly counter-service joints that offer quick, usually inexpensive, vegan options. I also included some coffee shops here that have better-than-average vegan options.
Panaderia Nuevo Leon – A Mexican bakery in Pilsen with an amazing assortment of vegan-friendly pastries, breads, and tortillas (clearly marked). In the summertime you can even get a vegan ice cream-stuffed concha.
Oromo Cafe – It’s not cheap, but if you honor the occasional treat yo self day, check this place out. They make all of their non-dairy milks in house (try the pistachio milk when available, good god) and feature lots of superfoods in their drinks, such as the Maple Maca Pecan Latte. They also have lots of vegan pastry options – I love the almond teff cookies.
Upton’s Breakroom – Full disclosure, I work for Upton’s Naturals, but I would have just quietly left this off the list if I didn’t really like it. It’s a great, quick option for generally healthy vegan food – with bacon mac and soft serve to balance it out. They also serve Pie, Pie My Darling Cake by the slice, and share a space with Liberation Donuts.
Quesadilla La Reyna del Sur – Super authentic vegan and vegetarian Mexican food for cheap. Seriously. If you’re a fake meat fan, this is your joint – fake goat, sheep, even pork skin. Not a fake meat fan? Try the mushroom, corn truffle or cactus. They do offer dairy cheese, eggs, and some of the mock meats are made with egg, so be sure to ask if you aren’t sure about what you’re ordering.
Moonlight Vulture – A late-night vegan sandwich shop in Avondale owned by the former owner of Atomix Cafe where I used to eat breakfast everyday when I was just a little baby vegan back in the early 2000’s. Lots of quick vegan options including desserts.
Veggie Grill & Native Foods – I lumped these together because they are essentially the same. Quick service vegan food with lots of locations all over the city. I wouldn’t go out of my way for it, but if you’re in a hotel or attending a conference nearby one, it’s a great option.
Khepri Cafe – A new coffee shop in Albany Park with a focus on CBD-infused drinks and snacks. Non-CBD options are also available. They have plenty of non-dairy milks, as well as vegan/gluten-free baked goods from Belightful Bakery and a seasonable menu that usually offers a few vegan options.
Even More Good Things
I told you this was really painful for me to organize because I love so many of these places! While My Top Picks are just that, these places also offer some gems on their menu that you should definitely check out if you have time.
Chicago Diner – Since 1983 The Diner has been serving up meat-free comfort foods in the city best known for Italian beef. I am obsessed with the Country Fried Steak, whereas my husband always goes for the Radical Reuben. You get a ton of food for your money, but don’t stuff yourself with dinner because you’re going to want to get a vegan shake at the end of the meal. Take my advice, and get the Cookie Dough Peanut Butter. (Chicago Diner now has two locations – check the site to find them both.)
Ground Control – Whereas most Chicago vegan/veggie joints have become institutions, Ground Control reminds me more of the quirky vegan restaurants in the Bay Area. My favorite dish is the Southern Breakfast, which you can get sans egg to make it vegan.
Handlebar – This mostly vegetarian (there are some fish items on the menu) place has grown it’s vegan options a lot since I originally created this post. My favorites are the nachos, avocado tacos, and for brunch, the biscuits and gravy. You can also get Pie, Pie My Darling cake by the slice for dessert.
Little Goat Diner – As I mentioned, all of the “goat” family of restaurants have a seperate vegetarian and/or vegan menu with some truly remarkable options. Little Goat is the less expensive, casual little sister of Girl and the Goat, and features some stand-outs such as the scallion pancake and the smoked French fries. You can even get a vegan chocolate shake!
Urban Vegan – When my favorite Thai restaurant started charging $1 extra for tofu and an additional $1 to omit fish sauce from their dishes, Urban Vegan was there for me. Most entrees squeeze in just under $10, and although there are combos available, I recommend sharing an app and getting your own entree. My favorite is the Praram’s Plate – if you’re a peanut sauce fan you’ll agree with me. If you’re in the Wicker Park area and want something similar try Vegan Plate!
Amitabul Vegan – Koren-inspired vegan food that’s a little off the beaten path, which means a super chill atmosphere. You might need to take a Lyft, or ask a friend with a car to take you, but it’s a good lunch spot if you make it out there.
Bot Bakery – In the same South Shore neighborhood as Majani, you’ll find an all-vegan and gluten-free spot owned by “Betty Bot,” a staple at Chicago farmers markets for years. The shop features desserts, of course, but also lots of lunch and brunch options, as well as a selection of vintage clothes and housewares.
Althea – This all-vegan fine dining restaurant is located inside Saks Fifth Avenue. Head up to the men’s department and you’ll find it all the way in the back. On a nice day you’ll be treated to incredible views of the Magnificent Mile. As for the food, it’s a mix of raw and cooked vegan fare, plated beautifully. We really liked the kimchi dumplings and the raw lasagna.
Brass Heart – Fine dining restaurant that offers a vegan tasting menu. It’s pricey, but definitely a nice spot for a special occasion. Keep an eye out for their Chicago Restaurant Week specials, when you can sample a smaller menu for a fraction of the price.
Omnivore With Options
As much as I love all of Chicago’s exclusively vegetarian and vegan restaurants, I love finding hidden treasure even more. These are places that you can go with your omnivore friends, or go alone to show support for restaurants that offer us more than a salad. Please note, some of the places listed in other categories above are also omnivore joints!
DönerMen is a food truck and now a tap (Dmen) featuring döner boxes and curry wurst galore. Let them know you’re vegan and they’ll hook it up – and whenever seitan is an option get it!
The Moonlighter – This sports bar has a surprisingly good vegan and vegetarian menu featuring Beyond Burgers, Beyond Sausages and vegan tacos made with Beyond as well.
Forastero Restaurant – This Old Town taco spot has lots of vegan options including flautas! It’s family-owned, and one sister is vegan so the rest of the family aka the staff knows what’s up.
Eris Brewery & Cider House – This former Masonic temple has been transformed into a beautiful space – perfect for groups, but kid-friendly, too. The vegan items are clearly marked, and much more creative than your typical bar fare.
Yvolina’s Tamales – Oh my gosh, what a gem! Your omni friends can do their thing while you enjoy a variety of vegan options in this unassuming tamale joint.
Budacki’s Drive In – This no-frills hot dog stand is right off the Brown Line, and one of my son’s favorite places. They have veggie dogs, that I believe are Smart Dogs, which you can dress up anyway you like with a side of fries and a can of pop for just a few dollars. Cash only!
Nhu Lan Bakery – I’m obsessed with the lemongrass tofu, although the ginger tofu is also amazing. I did try the veggie pate and ham and wasn’t a fan, but god damn it, I’m just glad it exists!
90 Miles Cuban Cafe – We spend way too much time on the patio here in the summertime, but the vegan options are so good and it’s so close to our house! There are three locations so the likelihood of wandering by one is pretty high.
L.D. Pho – Tony and I have been hitting this place HARD lately. A small, casual Vietnamese spot with a large vegetarian section of the menu with a note to tell them if you’re vegan. The staff knows what’s up, and will leave out the fish sauce and swap in regular tofu for egg tofu. The vegan pho is killer, as is the pad Thai.
West Town Bakery & Diner – Lots of vegan options in the pastry case, and a few good ones on the menu, too. I love the biscuits and gravy with tofu when they make them with plain, unsweetened soy milk but I have been disappointed a few times when I could tell the biscuits were made with vanilla soy milk (so gross).
Casati’s Modern Italian – This Italian restaurant has a separate vegan menu that offers vegan cheese on pasta dishes and a few flatbread pizza options.
Buona – That’s right, this Chicago-famous Italian beef joint has a plant-based option called the Italian Beefless Sandwich. It sold out in all locations on the first day so I’d say it’s pretty tasty.
If you text me and are nearby any of them I will tell you to go there – they just didn’t quite fit into my Top Picks or other categories for some reason I can’t explain, leave me alone, this post was hard.
Dairy Star – Technically not in Chicago, but close enough. This Kosher ice cream spot offers vegan soft serve, and tons of vegan sundaes and other options – you can even get your treat topped with vegan whipped cream!
George’s Ice Cream and Sweets – A rotating selection of soy ice cream flavors and usually a few vegan baked goods in the pastry case – and if you’re lucky, you’ll see Puppet Bike. Plus, Andersonville is a cute neighborhood to wander around.
Middle East Bakery & Grocery – Also in Andersonville, the bakery here features several vegan savory pies filled with lentils, potato, spinach, and more.
The StopAlong – This is a family-friendly pizza spot in Bucktown with communal seating and a couple of videos games in the back. They have a few ready-to-go vegan options, or you can build a custom pizza with Follow Your Heart cheese.
Cinnaholic – This secretly 100% vegan cinnamon roll franchise now has two suburban locations outside of Chicago, and a newly opened Wicker Park location in the city proper. Check out their store locator online.
Chicago Raw – Raw food isn’t for everyone, I know, but once in a while Tony and I just feel like eating something super nutritious and we had to this carry-out spot. If the sampler platter is in the case, grab it to share with a friend – it’s a good sampling of their best-sellers. I’d also warn you that your eyes will be bigger than your stomach since most items are made from ground nuts and seeds – it’s very, very filling.
- Chicago Vegan Test Kitchen – A rotating array of vegan vendors pop up at The Plant every Sunday during market season.
- Mindful Baking – Located in Ravenswood, this vegan, gluten-free bakery sells its goods in cafes all over the city. You can also place special orders on their website for delivery or pick up.
- Pie, Pie My Darling – The most reliable way to try Heather’s sweet treats is to grab a cake slice from Upton’s Breakroom or Handlebar, but she also opens up pick-up orders a few times a month, so follow her on Instagram to see when the next event is happening.
- Cheeze and Thank You – A recent import to Chicago from St. Louis, Cheeze and Thank You makes artisan vegan cheeses that look and taste just like the fancy cheeses at expensive grocery stores. (Also available in some Chicago Whole Foods Market locations!)
- Bravo Vegan Tamales – I always pick up a few extra to have for lunch the next day because they’re so good. My favorite is the “chicken” with red sauce.
- Ste Martaen – Laviyah and Nahum’s talents are otherworldly. Nourishing, hearty food that will feel like a hug for your soul.
- Sacred Serve – Coconut-based vegan gelato made with superfoods and all sorts of magical ingredients (even sometimes CBD!)
- No Bones Beach Club – In 2020 No Bones transitioned from a dine-in restaurant to holding special pop-up pick up events, as well as launching take-and-bake options that can ship nationwide.
- Fox Ship Bakery – You might find them popping up at a farmers market, but even when you can’t these HUGE cookies and brownies are available for Chicago pick up, or can be shipped nationwide.
- Ritual Pastry – Don’t miss the pastry boxes, which change monthly. Each one comes packed with pastries, cookies, and cakes that all revolve around a fun theme like Twin Peaks or the Full Moon.
- Snackie Chan – This cottage kitchen company offers 100% vegan bento boxes for pick up. Follow Ashley on Instagram to see what’s on the menu from week to week.
- Justice Cream – A WOC-led, community-owned non-profit ice cream pop-up with flavors such as Fudge the Police and Berry the Colonizer. Check their IG to see where they’re popping up next.
These are options that might be a bit out of the way for folks who are visiting without a car – or Chicagoans like me who primarily get around on the El. But if you can catch a ride, they’re worth checking out.
- Blue Sake Grill – Chicago doesn’t have a lot in the way of exciting vegan sushi, but you can drive about 45 minutes to Naperville and fine an amazing selection. Don’t settle for an undressed avocado roll when you could have alllllll this.
- Blind Faith Cafe – This was one of the first vegan/veggie restaurants I ever went to back in the Krishna-core days. It was pricer than I could really afford back then, but nowadays it’s a good date spot and a nice place to bring my mom. If you eat in the sit-down restaurant, skip the plated dessert menu and order something from the bakery instead – like the Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake – dang.
- Pig Minds Brewing – I still cannot believe this place is real. About two hours outside of Chicago in a completely industrial area you will find this vegan brewery and wonder what the eff just happened. Soy curl sandwiches and deep fried pickles are some of my favorite menu items – but mostly I just love looking around at all the non-vegans happily eating vegan food in Machesney Park, IL like it ain’t no thang.
- Vegan Cafe – Much respect to these folks for keeping a raw, vegan cafe going in CM Punk’s hometown or Lockport! Really delicious, healthy raw vegan eats. I try to go whenever I visit my mom.
- Ken’s Diner – A Kosher diner that’s been around for 42 years, with a brand-new vegan menu inspired by the owner’s herbivorous children. Diner fare goes vegan – burgers, hot dogs, even milkshakes – prepared on a separate grill by folks who truly know their ingredients and the definition of vegan!.
- Spirit Elephant – Not too far outside of city limits this upscale 100% vegan restaurant is definitely worth getting in the car or navigating your way there via public transportation. The vegetable-forward menu is a nice break from some of the meat alternative-heavy menus you’ll find throughout the city.
- Madame Zuzu’s Plant-based Emporium – Owned by The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, this 100% vegan cafe features a selection of soups, salads, sandwiches and bowls that are freshly made in-house, as well as a coffee menu and a variety of cookies, donuts, and muffins. The tea menu is the star of the show – I recommend looking at it ahead of time online so as not to get overwhelmed when you order. Eventually this space will also serve as a small venue.
Shopping & Services
Starship Salon – At Starship Salon all of the products are cruelty-free, and you can opt for an all-vegan service (just ask). It’s vegan-owned, and many of the employees are vegan so there’s always good chatter about new things to eat.
Fix Hair Studio – It checks all the boxes, really. It’s adorable, it’s easy to get to on the CTA, it’s queer-owned, eco-friendly, stocks 100% cruelty-free, and mostly vegan products, and a bunch of the stylists are vegan. I book with Alex 50% because she is incredible and 50% because she brings her dog Potato Chip to work and I love him.
Lena Rose – This Lincoln Square spot is my go-to for cruelty-free skincare, cosmetics and spa treatments. Some of the products they carry do contain honey, but the staff is very knowledgeable about veganism, and can direct you to all the 100% plant-based items. Plus, they offer 5-free no-chip manicures, pedicures and lots of other pampering treatments.
Ritual Brows – Microblading is big business now that everyone’s come to their senses about the beauty of a full brow. Jillian is an ethical vegan, and while I’m not sure that non-vegan products are involved in any cosmetic tattooing (they probably are, the world is gross) you can be sure that her services will always be 100% vegan-friendly.
So there you have it – the vegan-friendly places I recommend time and time again. Did I leave your favorite off the list? Feel free to leave a comment about it! Do you own a vegan-friendly business in Chicago? Hit up my Contact page to tell me about it.