One of the advantages of living in the third largest city in our country is the wide variety of dishes. In my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky, Olympic swimmer Peter Wetzlar says it’s incredibly hard to find a restaurant with vegan options. It is difficult for him to find the carbohydrates and proteins he needs for training. I had the same problem until I moved here. Luckily for us, Chicago has a plethora of options.
Veganism has become a popular option for animal lovers and health freaks. According to the Vegan Society, “Veganism is a philosophy and way of life that seeks to exclude – where possible and possible – all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose…” More precisely for dietary reasons, “it designates the practice of dispensing with all products derived in whole or in part from animals”. This involves avoiding all animal meats, dairy products, eggs, and sometimes honey.
For health reasons, many adopt the diet to lose weight, lower blood sugar, improve kidney function, reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation and avoid the negative effects of lactose intolerance. For Sydney Verwilst, the owner of Ingrained, she “grew up being fascinated by the manipulation of what we feel via what they put in their body”. As a result, her vegan snack shop was born with the aim of healing that relationship we have with food.
When it comes to finding restaurants, vegans tend to vary in their specific wants and needs. For another DePaul student, she searches for menu items that mimic meat and dairy. She’s able to find a vegan salad anywhere, so she’s more inclined to “go for dishes that aren’t traditionally vegan like macaroni and cheese or a nice burger.”
Whether you’re craving plant-based meat, dairy-free carbs, or guilt-free sweets, here are some places to check out in the Windy City.
Urban Vegan Thai Food
1601 W Montrose Ave
This cozy Ravenswood spot offers large, plant-based plates and friendly service. It will completely transform your notion of Thai and Asian cuisine.
The vegan orange chicken is a popular menu item that comes in a massive serving. It will take you back to your days of meat eating without the added guilt, if that’s what you’re aiming for. The all-vegan menu also features soups, salads, noodles and rice, curries, burgers and wraps, all made with seitan and soy “meat”. This place is sure to leave you with a happy belly and wallet.
1911 S Michigan Avenue
If you’re in the mood for Mexican but not the heavy, incendiary meat and cheese that comes with it, La Cantina in South Loop offers an all-vegan portion of its extensive menu. The atmosphere is quaint yet vibrant and it’s the perfect place to catch up with friends.
The menu features quesadillas, chimichangas, tacos, burritos, tortas, chiles rellenos, enchiladas, nachos, and salads. They all come with seitan chorizo or ground beef, vegan mozzarella cheese, vegan sour cream, and vegan chicken base. According to Diego, La Cantina’s bartender, the vegan chorizo ”makes a meat eater think they might just go vegan.”
108 Chicago Ave West
Ingrained is a woman owned gem in the River North/Old Town area. Their Facebook page calls them “a natural vegan and gluten-free food brand at the intersection of superfood apothecary and tasty, fun snacks.” Owner Sydney Verwilst says, “We are a snack shop that focuses on the whole experience of snacking and the emotional connection you have with your food. »
According to Verwilst, the best sellers are raw bars. She calls them “nutritious, balanced and clean, vegan, gluten-free, refined and sugar-free frozen bars that help curb cravings with balanced levels of protein, fat fiber and carbohydrates.” After trying my first raw Ingrained bar, I completely support that sentiment. They taste like the perfect mix of ice cream and brownies without the heaviness that normally comes with them. Midnight cravings vanquished! Some of the flavors include bday peanut butter cup, gingerbread cookie, oreo twix, and snickerdoodle cake batter.
Verwilst focuses on “very small batches ranging from cinnamon rolls packed with gluten-free protein fermented for 48 hours [and] flatbreads and protein butter cups, truffles…” Their menu also features puppy food, cookies, cream pies and more.
I can’t believe it’s not meat
1368 E 53rd St & 1143 N Wells St
This black-owned business is a staple of vegan and vegetarian comfort food in Chicago. According to their website, their restaurants are “modern and tasty” for “flexitarians or transitioning vegetarians.” They want to make the transition to a plant-based diet easier by “creating healthier versions of your favorite foods.”
The menu consists of burgers, wings, philly cheese steaks, pizzas, hot dogs, tacos, nachos and more. They also offer non-dairy milkshakes.
They have locations in Gold Coast, Hyde Park and Orland Park.
Pictured are the famous Chik’n Nuggets and Cookie Monster Shake.