Food & Drink | January 24, 2020 10:29 am

11 Chicago Restaurants Serving Plant-Based Food That Doesn’t Suck

We're not talking Impossible and Beyond. We're talking veggies done right.

bad hunter carrots
This will fill you up, we swear
Bad Hunter

Earlier this month, we predicted that plant-based dieting would be the biggest health trend of 2020

To clarify: plant-based isn’t all-encompassing like vegetarianism or veganism; rather, it’s a commitment to eating a mostly omnivorous diet while still allowing room for lean meats and fish from time to time.

Presumably about half of you are considering closing this window right now because doing that in no way appeals to you, but hear us out. Eating plants doesn’t have to mean sacrificing flavor. It also doesn’t mean eating only processed meat substitutes like Beyond Meat or the Impossible Burger. There are plenty of creative plant-forward dishes being crafted by Chicago’s best chefs, you just have to know where to look.

Whether you’re sticking to a vegetarian or vegan diet or simply want to swap in more non-meat dishes, the following places are solid spots where you’ll find craveable plant-based fare. 

Clever Rabbit

2015 W. Division St. 

What you’re eating: Regardless of your preferred diet, you’re bound to enjoy a meal here. Start with the sourdough toast topped with local mushrooms, chunks of crispy brun-uusto cheese and charred scallions. Another must-try dish is the umami-rich Brussels sprouts with smoked tofu, apple and Thai chili. Larger plates include a cauliflower masala dosa with coconut chutney and an addicting creamy mint and cilantro sauce.

Bad Hunter

802 W. Randolph St.

What you’re eating: The name says it all – this is the place for vegetables of all kinds. Try the Fried Green Apples with candied almonds, apple hot sauce and tarragon or the burrata with candied turnip. The standout Butter Dumplings are a must order as are the Crispy Togarashi Carrots with takoyaki sauce, smoked coconut, and sorrel.

ALTHEA

700 N. Michigan Ave.

What you’re eating: Presentation is just as important as flavor at Chef Matthew Kenney’s ALTHEA. This upscale Gold Coast restaurant inside Saks Fifth Avenue is known for its vegan fare with a fine dining spin. Try the colorful Kimchi Dumplings with cashew cheese and ginger foam or the Barbacoa Taco that swaps in maitake and oyster mushrooms. Larger plates like the Coconut Curry Risotto with roasted delicata squash and mint-cilantro chutney pack a punch of flavor.

Mon Ami Gabi

2300 N. Lincoln Park West

What you’re eating: While Mon Ami Gabi is known for its classic French fare, that doesn’t mean it’s void of modern veggie dishes. Start with the Root Vegetable Chopped Salad with imported feta and pair it with the Spiced Cauliflower Steak & Frites with olive tapenade and lemon vinaigrette. The cavatelli with wild mushrooms, confit celery root, truffle butter, preserved lemon and imported cheese is another solid entree choice.

Leña Brava

900 W. Randolph St.

What you’re eating: A seafood-heavy restaurant might not be the first place that comes to mind for plant-based fare, but Chef Rick Bayless proves there’s something for everyone on his menu. Order the Pineapple, Goat Cheese and Salsa Macha aguachile with grilled pineapple, orange-lime broth, goat cheese, spicy hazelnut salsa macha and knob onions. The Garlic Tamal with black garlic-pasilla salsa, braised kale, black beans and winter veggies is also a no-brainer. Don’t forget about the vegetable sides, either, like salt-baked celery root with smoked sesame seed crema, cipollini onion confit or the roasted rainbow carrots with a sweet ancho chile and coffee glaze along with a pecan-panko crunch.

Galit

2429 N. Lincoln Ave.

What you’re eating: Chef Zach Engel’s menu of Mediterranean fare has a slew of veggie-friendly dishes that can be mixed and matched for a hearty meal. The falafel with mango labneh and hummus with herby tahina are must-have dishes, as are the salatim (salads) served with housemade pillowy pita. Shawarma spiced potatoes and cumin-orange carrots with creamy feta and crunchy hazelnut dukkah round out some of the best veggie options on the menu.

Pub Royale

2049 W. Division St.

What you’re eating: Pub Royale’s Indian pub fare is heavy on flavor and they recently added new dishes to their brunch menu. Try the Confit Potato Cake with curry potatoes, carrot purée, charred peppers, fried eggs and shishito hollandaise, or classics like Gobi Manchurian (battered and fried cauliflower), Spicy Chana Masala and Eggplant Biryani, all available on the brunch and dinner menus.

The Table at Crate

35 Oakbrook Center, Oakbrook, IL

What you’re eating: Chef Bill Kim is behind the helm at this suburban spot inside Crate & Barrel’s Oakbrook store. The all-day menu features veggie-forward dishes like a Mushroom Fricasse with white corn grits, Brussels sprouts and truffle oil, a hummus tartine, and a Quinoa and Lentil Poke. Feeling extra hungry? Opt for the Deep Dish Cauliflower Lasagna.

Flora Fauna

11 W. Illinois St.

What you’re eating: Explore the “flora” side of the menu at this globally-inspired River North restaurant. We recommend the Elote Cakes and Dan Dan noodles made from green papaya and topped with shredded jackfruit. Winter squash dumplings served with plantains and tofu are another tasty plant-based option.

Lula Cafe

2537 N. Kedzie Ave.

What you’re eating: Lula Cafe was a pioneer of farm-to-table and veg-forward cooking before it became the norm. On chef Jason Hammel’s dinner menu you’ll find rotating dishes like a Sunchoke French Onion Soup with fermented apples, White Sweet Potato Gnudi with king trumpet mushrooms and hearts of palm, or Chestnut Croquettes with quince yogurt. Plus there’s an option for a six-course vegetarian tasting menu.

Pacific Standard Time

141 W. Erie St.

What you’re eating: The vegetable portion of the menu at Pacific Standard Time and the laid-back ambience will have you California dreamin’. Small plates like Wood Roasted Sweet Potatoes with zhoug, pickled dates, jalapeño and pepitas and Ricotta Dumplings with sauerkraut and dill vinaigrette can be paired with larger plates like a Dandelion Greens pizza or PST’s signature wood fired pita and roasted eggplant.