There’s no shortage of restaurants to try in Chicago, but sometimes narrowing it down can be quite overwhelming. When you’re looking for a healthier option or working with dietary restrictions, it can be even harder. However, after spending four years exploring Chicago as a health foodie, I’ve done some of the work for you.
I’ve put together my favorite restaurants that are both healthy and delicious, while catering specifically to gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan diets. Even though you may have never tried a vegetarian/vegan restaurant, I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you give it a shot.
Here are the best Chicago eats with bold flavor and mindful ingredients. Enjoy!
1. Chicago Diner (Lincoln Park, Wicker Park)
Occasion: When you want to trick your friends into eating vegetarian.
Consider The Chicago Diner the holy grail for vegans and vegetarians. Imagine a classic American diner with a meatless twist. The Chicago Diner has a killer brunch menu, and it’s the best place for when you need a hearty meal after a long night out. They have a variety of options that will satisfy your cravings without making you regret it after. You can never go wrong with the nachos, buddha (veggie) burger, and the chilequiles.
2. Chicago French Market (West Loop)
Occasion: When you’re indecisive and want sushi, but maybe a smoothie. And actually a crepe too…
Let me just say that once I found this place, I thought I died and went to foodie heaven. I went every single day for a week; it’s that good. Located underground in the West Loop, The French Market is a hodgepodge of small food vendors, ranging from a gluten-free crepe stand to Vietnamese and Mediterranean. With a quaint seating area accented by classic French music, you’ll feel nostalgic for France—even if you’ve never been. The best part about this place is that there are a ton of vegan and gluten-free vendors. Everything is fairly cheap, so you may end up trying a little bit of everything. Make sure to try the Aloha deconstructed sushi bowl, the nutella banana crepe, and the Saigon Sister’s Pho!
3.Lyfe Kitchen (Several Chicago locations)
Occasion: When you’re hangry and need a healthy fix ASAP.
A lot of Chicagoans seem to overlook Lyfe Kitchen, but be warned: once you try it, you’ll likely be addicted. With chains all around the city, this place shatters every false stereotype that healthy food isn’t delicious. They carry just about anything you can think of, while specifically catering to gluten-free and vegan eaters. From my experience, it is a reliable option you simply can’t go wrong with. I recommend the gluten-free flatbread, the vegan nuggets, the fish tacos, and the homemade cocktails.
4. Mana Food Bar (Wicker Park)
Occasion: When the menu’s so good, you order everything and share.
I wish I had a picture for this place, but I was so captivated by the food that I wasn’t even thinking about documenting it. Don’t underestimate this hole-in-the-wall, because Mana has some of the best food in the city, and may make you consider going vegan. The tapa-style cuisine makes it great for going with a group of people, so you can share a little bit of everything. Equally as impressive as the flavorful food is the cocktails! Imagine just-squeezed juices with a strong kick. Some of the best drinks I’ve ever had, honestly. I recommend the Vodka/plum/lemonade cocktail, the mushroom sauté, the rice noodles, and the brown rice sliders!
5. Summerhouse (Lincoln Park)
Occasion: When you’re feeling a little fancy.
There’s a reason it’s hard to walk in and get a table here; Summerhouse is one of the trendiest restaurants in Chicago. With California inspired ambiance and cuisine, this place offers an endless summer, even in winter months. I would recommend coming to Summerhouse for a special occasion, as it is a bit pricier than my other recommendations. The brunch on the weekends is out of this world, and the dinner is awesome as well. They do have a separate gluten-free menu and have many vegetarian options, although I do think there could be a few more vegan options. I would recommend the smoked salmon hash-brown benedict, the wild mushroom enchiladas, and the black rice bowl.
6.Snap Kitchen (several Chicago locations)
Occasion: when you want to pick up something light for “Netflix and Chill”.
Snap Kitchen has excellent to-go food with multiple small shops around the city. What’s nice is that everything is already packaged and prepared, with labels that easily identify what is gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan. It’s perfect for when you need to quick pick something up that isn’t Mcdonalds. I do wish that they cut down on the plastic containers with their food, though it is recyclable. I recommend the vegan Alfredo, the spring rolls, and the chia seed pudding!
Have I convinced you to try any of these places, if you haven’t already? Is there anything that didn’t make the list that you love? Please comment below!
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