Though it's becoming easier and easier to find great vegan eateries in Chicago, I've always found it helpful when others blog about their favorite spots. With that in mind, below are some of my "go to" places, listed in no particular order. I've also just added some favorite restaurants outside of The Windy City. Scroll to the bottom for amazing dining options in NYC, Philadelphia, Boulder, Los Angeles, Rome, Turin, and more. Enjoy!
Note: From Fall 2017-2018, I mostly stuck to a gluten-free diet (in addition to a 100% plant-based diet of course). You'll thus find information on gluten-free options if I visited one of these locations during that period.
This list was originally published on May 9, 2016 and most recently updated on June 12, 2019.
1. La Cantina - This South Loop hotspot has recently jumped to the top of my favorite restaurant list. It's right in my backyard, they have a full vegan menu, and my go to dish - the Grilled Veggie Fajitas (below) - are gluten-free when accompanied by corn tortillas (as opposed to the flour tortilla option). The margaritas are fantastic and the pervading festive atmosphere makes this a great locale for celebrations (like a recent marathon PR for example :-). Fun Fact: since going gluten-free in August of 2017, I've enjoyed La Cantina more than ever. Why? Well, like most Mexican restaurants, an endless supply of chips and salsa hit the table from the moment you sit down; but all too often, these irresistible snacks leave me either full by the time my actual meal comes, or feeling gluttonous on my way out the door. Anyway, the chips aren't gluten-free, so for the last four months, I've very happily been forced to lay off of them, saving myself for the main event, and feeling much healthier and fortified when it's all said and done. Highly recommended! Located at: 1911 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60616; (312) 842-1911.
2. Amitabul - Although not as accessible nor sleek as some of the other places mentioned here, Amitabul serves Korean cuisine of the highest quality. It's absolutely amazing, all vegan, and if it were closer to my home, I'd be there all of the time. Located at: 6207 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60646; (773) 774-0276.
3. Alice and Friends Vegan Kitchen - Goodness abounds at this Korean vegan eatery and I always leave smiling. Favorite dishes include "Dol Sot Bi Bim Bop" and the "Love Letter From the Earth" salad (below). Desserts are fantastic and if I had a "Top 3" list, this would be on it!! Located at: 5812 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL 60660; (773) 275-8797. Check out their menu here.
4. Left Coast - A hip, casual vibe awaits you at this popular neighborhood destination offering "simple, fresh, nutritious and convenient food and juice solutions." Vegan and gluten-free options are clearly labeled and it's the perfect hang on a beautiful summer afternoon. My go-to dish is the "Cadillac Curry." Located at: 2878 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60657; (773) 880-5338 (Lincoln Park). A second location has recently opened in River North at 717 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654; (312) 877-5500.
5. Paulie Gee's Pizzeria - One of the few things that I initially missed when I went vegan was the pizza experience. That cherished tradition of gathering with family and friends for a pizza and beer was at first a little hard to replicate. Sure, my wife and I found a place here and there that was ok, and we could always put together some sort of cheeseless pie, but it was never quite the same. Enter Paulie Gee's! With a wood burning oven, a hip Logan Square location, and most importantly, eight different types of vegan pizzas, we're back in business!!! Featuring dollops of cashew ricotta, my pie of choice is the "In Ricotta Da Vegan." They take a lot of care in what they do at Paulie Gee's and each of my visits has been outstanding. Located at: 2451 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647; (773) 360-1072.
We love Paulie Gee's so much, that we rented out the whole place for our Chicago wedding reception!
6. Roka Akor - If you’re looking for an elegant and sophisticated fine dining experience, this is your spot! Best to call ahead to be certain that they can accommodate your vegan request, but on two separate occasions they’ve prepared an exquisite, special, all vegan multi-course menu that far exceeded our expectations. The second time - for my birthday this year - our dinner was not only vegan, but completely gluten-free as well. The dishes were absolutely incredible, the presentations fun and unique, and on both of our visits there were so many courses that we had to wave the white flag and confess that we were full! I don’t think that’s ever happened!! Highly recommended for special occasions and well worth the expense. Located at: 456 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654; (312) 248-7164 | Chicago@RokaAkor.com.
7. Handelbar - I've only recently learned of this casual neighborhood hang, but I absolutely love it! Located in Wicker Park, they serve "made-from-scratch vegetarian and vegan comfort food for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week." They also offer a separate gluten-free menu, gluten-free beer (Glutenberg), Pie, Pie My Darling desserts, an outdoor patio, and a super cool and relaxed vibe. They don't take reservations, so you may catch a wait, but, it's definitely worth it! My favorite dish is the Black Bean Maduro!! Located at: 2311 W. North Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60647; (773) 384-9546.
8. Mana Food Bar - An all vegetarian restaurant located on the very happening Division St., Mana has been a Michelin Bib Gourmand Recipient every year since 2014. The vibe is very cool, and the food is absolutely delicious. Consider the Baby Kale and Panzanella to start. Located at: 1742 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622; (773) 342-1742.
9. The Chicago Diner - "Meat Free Since '83" is how one of Chicago's oldest and best vegan institutions bills itself. Thinking that the menu leaned too heavily on faux meats like seitan, The Chicago Diner wasn't initially in our restaurant rotation, but since visiting about a year ago (and being proven wrong), my wife and I are regulars. The "Cajun Black Bean Burger" is my go to dish, while my wife's favorite is the "Portabella Truffle Melt" sandwich (and their amazing milkshakes - see below). They offer a separate gluten free menu, a kid's menu, and vegan desserts are plentiful. The original location is at 3411 N. Halsted St., Chicago, IL 60657; (773) 935-6696. The newer Logan Square location is at 2333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60647; (773) 252-3211, ext. 1.
The Korean Vegan enjoying one of Chicago Diner's award-winning vegan milkshakes! Pure bliss!
10. True Food Kitchen - Located right off of Michigan Ave., True Food Kitchen is a most welcome addition to the downtown restaurant scene. It has something for everyone and a host of vegan options that are clearly labeled (including desserts). The decor is clean and inviting and it's the perfect place to visit after a day of shopping on the Magnificent Mile, or before a night on the town. Some of my favorite dishes include Charred Cauliflower, Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Butternut Squash Pizza, and the Teriyaki Quinoa Bowl. Located at: 1 W Erie St, Chicago, IL 60654; (312) 204-6981.
11. 3 Greens Market - I learned about this West Loop hotspot from a friend a few years ago, and it immediately become one of my favorites, especially for lunch. It's uniquely hip and features a cold and hot buffet. Vegan items are plentiful and clearly labeled and the food is amazing and healthy! Though not as affordable as when I first started going (now $12.00/pound, was $9.95), the price is still reasonable. They also have an outstanding coffee bar, but please note that - from what I've heard - vegan breakfast and dinner options are limited. Lunch is the thing! Located at: 354 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654; (312) 888-9195.
12. FruVe Express Juicery - After falling in love with acai bowls in southern California a few years ago (and assuming that there was nothing similar in Chicago), I couldn't believe it when my now wife discovered FruVe Express Juicery right under our nose in the South Loop. Even better, they make an acai bowl as good if not better than any juicery that I've been to. My go to item is the "Balance Bowl" minus the honey (below). They also offer "nutrient rich, organic, fresh cold press juices, smoothies, cleanses, salads, soups, and paninis for those looking for a healthy alternative to fuel their bodies." Located at: 1130 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 1108 W. Madison Chicago, IL 60607; 312.763.2616. Note: A West Loop location has recently opened, though I have not been there yet.
13. Girl and the Goat - Voted best new restaurant by the James Beard Foundation in 2011, it might come as a bit of a surprise to learn that one of Chicago's hottest restaurants offers a "secret" all vegan menu. In fact, I have been told that all of chef Stephanie Izard's restaurants have a vegan menu. You just have to ask for it - pretty cool! I took Joanne here on her birthday in 2017 and we had a great time. Reservations are hard to score, but it appeared to us that you might very well be able to walk-in if you plan on dining early in the evening as we often do. Stephanie Izard won the Beard award for Best Chef Great Lakes in 2013 and was also named one of Food Magazine’s “Best New Chefs” in 2010. Located at: 809 W. Randolph St, Chicago, IL; (312) 492-6262.
14. Coalfire Pizza - Though they have considerably fewer vegan options than Paulie Gee's Pizzeria, Coalfire is consistently listed as one of the top pizzerias in Chicago. I especially enjoy the Southport location because it's a few doors down from The Music Box Theater and the perfect place to grab a pizza and drink before a movie. And recently, before Raiders of the Lost Ark, we happily discovered that they had added a second vegan pizza option to the menu, the Vegan Pesto. It was delicious and I will soon be back. Located at: 3707 N. Southport Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60613; (773) 477-2625.
15. Beatrix - Elegant, yet casual, Beatrix now has four Chicago locations: in River North, Streeterville, Fulton Market and Oak Brook (suburb). There are a handful of delicious vegan dishes, and I've generally found the wait staff to be knowledgable and helpful in explaining the options. A fine choice if you're looking for a stylish hang that caters to a wide array of palates.
16. Allium (at the Four Seasons Hotel) - Having traveled plenty in the months leading up to my recent 2019 spring break, Joanne and I decided on a "staycation" over another out-of-town trip. After a little research, which included inquiries regarding vegan dining options, we decided on the Four Seasons. We couldn't have made a better choice! Our stay was perfect, our dog Rudy was able to join us, and the special vegan menu at Allium was elegant, reasonably priced, and most importantly, absolutely delicious!! We shared one of everything on the menu and couldn't have been happier with the dining experience. Highly recommended! 120 E Delaware Pl, Chicago, IL 60611; (312) 799-4900.
17. Chipotle - Since I visit Chipotle more than any other restaurant, I had to list it! If you want the full blown Chipotle experience (i.e. a burrito or bowl), then the sofritas bowl or burrito is probably the way to go. I regularly do that, but I just as often get a bowl of brown rice and black beans. Not only is this one of the healthiest things you can eat, it's super fast and they only charge you for two sides, which at my Chicago location comes to $1.99! Can't beat that!! Chipotle also clearly labels all of their food on this nutritional page (vegan, vegetarian, and allergens). I love this place! Located everywhere!
Vey encouraging to see these signs featured in Chipotle locations recently!
Highly Recommended Restaurants Outside of Chicago
The places below are all highly recommended. In my opinion, "must-trys" and the best of the best among the eateries that I've visited. More restaurants and reviews coming soon.
P.S. and Co. (Philadelphia, PA) - This place is a gem and highly recommended for anyone visiting Philly, vegan or not. We loved it so much that we ate here 3 times in 24 hours while in town for the 2017 Philadelphia Marathon! It was fortunately only a few blocks from our hotel, but more importantly, the food was amazing, the staff and owner Andrea extremely friendly and knowledgeable, and the locale quaint and inviting. In addition to being all vegan, P.S. and Co. is completely gluten-free. Favorites included the scones, waffles, french toast, cheese board, and tiramisu dessert. If I lived nearby, I'd be a regular! Located at: 1706 Locust Street, Philadelphia PA, 19103; (215) 985-1706, email@example.com. Visited in November 2017.
Vedge (Philadelphia, PA) - "Is Vedge the best vegan restaurant in America? It might be one of the best restaurants, period." - Trey Popp, Philadelphia Magazine. Located at: 1221 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA; (215) 320-7500. Visited in November 2016.
Seabirds Kitchen (Costa Mesa, CA) - This was the first great vegan restaurant we went to and I hope to have the opportunity to go back soon. Like other favorites, we enjoyed our first visit so much that we made a special trip there the next day for lunch while driving from Laguna Beach to Los Angeles. Located at: the LAB, 2930 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626; (714) 549-2584. Visited in March 2016.
Ma Va'? (Rome, Italy) - Joanne and I love this restaurant so much that we hosted a private welcome dinner there for all of our guests the night before our wedding. Located in the neighborhood of Prati (not too far from the Vatican), this all vegan restaurant is an absolute gem. It's charming, authentic, everything is delicious, and if you're lucky, you might just get to meet Musetto!! Located at: Via Euclide Turba, 6/800195 Roma, Italia; +39 063729134, firstname.lastname@example.org. We are frequent visitors and were last there in August 2018.
Our Welcome Dinner at Ma Va' with all of our guests and Musetto front and center (July 2018)
Soul Kitchen (Turin, Italy) - Joanne and I decided to visit Torino on our recent honeymoon after having read that it was "Italy's first 'vegetarian city.'" Boasting over 30 meat-free restaurants, we had a difficult choice to make given that we would only be in town for one dinner (actually two, but the 2nd night was Sunday, when most of the restaurants were closed). In any case, Joanne chose well - we hit the jackpot! Simply put, Soul Kitchen was one of the best meals we've ever had. In addition, the space is hip and inviting, the staff very knowledgeable and kind, and we got the opportunity to visit with the owner and head chef, Luca M. Andrè, who was fantastic! An absolutely perfect evening!! Located at: Via Santa Giulia 2, 10124 Torino, Italia; +39 011 884700. Visited in July 2018.
Soul Kitchen with Owner and Executive Chef Luca M. Andrè (July 2018)
Avant Garden (New York, NY) - This place is a dream! From the New Yorker: "When dining at Avant Garden, you get the sense of having travelled through a wormhole to an alternate universe where animal products never existed, so they could never be missed." Located at: 130 East 7th St, New York, NY 10009 (East Village); and 188 Havemeyer St, Brooklyn, NY 11211. Visited in June 2018.
Dirt Candy (New York, NY) - Located at: 86 Allen Street between Grand and Broome Streets, New York, NY; (212) 228-7732. Visited in February 2017 (brunch) and August 2017 (dinner).