Address: 1626 East Boulevard
Order: Build-your-own black bean burger or salad. You can swap out the beef for a black bean patty on any of their specialty burgers. But I prefer to build my own (either on a bun as a burger or in a bowl as a salad) from their list of 13 meat-free toppings and 10 cheeses. Most salads suck but Bad Daddy’s does it right with generous toppings and a fat bean-based burger that fills me up. They’ll give you the option to have the black bean patty grilled or fried. Always go with fried. Sometimes I get the grilled one when I want to be healthy but I always regret it.
Bang Bang Burgers
Address: 2001 E. 7th Street
Order: Quinoa black bean veggie burger ($10.50). Yeah, they’re known for their special Pat Lafrieda beef but don’t let that distract you from the meat-free options because their black bean burger is the truth. I learned the hard way that Bang Bang’s salad option doesn’t hold its own against the burgers so now I only get the burger on a bun. You shouldn’t really be passing up locally made buns from Duke’s Bread anyway. I special order it plain without any of the toppings because I happen to hate pepperjack, cilantro, mayo and sweet pickles but if that’s your thing, do you.
Address: 2007 Commowealth Avenue | 1515 South Tryon Street
Order: Straight Jacket Soy sandwich ($7.25). Common Market is super accommodating when it comes to their veggie options. I go for the Straight Jacket (sliced tofu, baby spinach, tomato, onion, carrot, cucumber, red pepper) and add hummus, avocado and pickles. If you’re not down with tofu, the Tree Hugger (cream cheese, avocado, cucumber, red pepper, tomato, cabbage, sprouts) is popular too. Keep an eye out for the soups of the day, which always include vegetarian and/or vegan options.
Address: 4310 Sharon Road
Order: Build your own veggie sushi. Start with a base price of $4 and then choose your wrapper (seaweed or soy paper), rice (brown or white) and fillings (21 meat-free options). I also love the Greek salad ($13) with grilled (or fried) tofu instead of grilled chicken. It’s topped with a fat block of fried feta. Hello.
Address: 1901 Commonwealth Avenue
Order: Meatless loaf and mashed potatoes ($8.95).This dish is meat-free comfort food at its finest. The Diamond turned the humble loaf of meat into a hearty veg-friendly entree served with vegan rice milk mashed potatoes and veggie gravy. If you can’t wrap your head around how all of this is made without animals, just try it.
Address: 222 E. Bland Street
Order: Niwa vegan ramen ($12). One thing that sucks about being vegetarian is that sometimes you can’t partake in a restaurant’s specialty because you’re relegated to ordering off the salad or sides menu. Not so at Futo Buta. The Niwa vegan ramen gives you the whole noodle slurping experience without using any animal products.
Address: 1427 E. 10th Street.
Order: Spinach and cheese burek ($13.95). First of all, you should be getting pizza. The Garden Fresh and Grilled Veggie are both excellent. But it’d be a crime not to partake in their Serbian specialties too, especially considering there’s a vegetarian version of the burek. The house-made phyllo dough is usually stuffed with ground beef and onions but you can also get it with spinach and cheese.
Address: 1514 East Boulevard
Order: Joliet Jake veggie dog ($3.99). I never even ate hot dogs back when I was a meat eater but now that I can get a vegetarian version, I’m down. Since I grew up in Illinois I go Chicago style with tomatoes, sport peppers, diced onions, pickle relish, deli mustard, celery salt and a pickle spear.
Address: 1235 East Boulevard
Order: Vegetarian combo ($18). I could not be less interested in whatever meat pita pocket you’re eating because here I can get all my favorite things on one plate: hummus, tabbouleh, baba ghannouj, falafel, spinach pie, yalanji (AKA dolma or stuffed grape leaves) and potato harra. I sub out the grape leaves for extra falafel because I am an addict.
Address: 1608 East Boulevard
Order: Mac & 5-cheese gratin ($8.50), beet & arugula salad ($9.50), brussels sprouts ($7.50). Yeah, your meat-eating dinner mates are for sure going to eat piles of meat from the “butcher” section of the menu, but the joke’s on them because the mac and cheese is the star of the show. Round it it with some veggie sides and a salad. If you’re looking for a lighter lunch option, the Super Grain salad ($9) is legit.
Address: 2501 Central Avenue
Order: Potato cakes ($6.95) and lemongrass tofu tacos ($8.45 plus Krazy slaw, salsa and 1 side). Somehow every time I go to Krazy Fish I’m starving and grumpy so I start with potato cakes which are little fried balls of potato, peas and onion served over this insane Jamaican yellow curry that deserves to be licked right off the plate. For my meal, I’ve never gotten anything but the lemongrass tofu tacos with blueberry tamarind chutney because they are excellent. As far as I’m concerned, they don’t even serve fish here.
Meat & Fish Co.
Address: 919 S. McDowell Street.
Order: Veggie wrap ($8.50). Surprise! They have vegetables here. Lettuce, cucumber, tomato, onion, artichoke, roasted red pepper, quinoa, feta cheese. I include this option here because my meat-eating fiance opted for it over all the meat options one time when I wasn’t even there. He even texted me a picture of it.
Address: 214 N. College Street
Order: 4 veggie plate ($8.25). Ah, southern soul food. I’ve never really felt left out here because everyone knows the sides are the star of the show when it comes to meat & three. Vegetarians just trade the meat for one more side. They even indicate which foods were prepared with animal fat (green beans, for example) which is much appreciated down here where everything seems to be cooked with bacon fat. I’d go with mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, okra & tomatoes and black-eyed peas.
Address: 1401 Central Avenue
Order: Midwood grilled cheese ($7.50) with chopped broccoli ($0.50). Can we get a standing ovation for the broccoli addition? I love adding vegetables to my grilled cheese. If you’re going for a lighter option, they’ve got a surprisingly substantial build-your-own 7-ingredient salad option. Balance the health with some hushpuppies.
Address: 1537 Camden Road
Order: Tofu salad ($8.01). You can make any of the taco, burrito or quesadilla options vegetarian by going with tofu or grilled veggies as your topping. But I like the salad option because it’s basically a burrito bowl with rice, beans and toppings served in a big toasted tortilla bowl.
Address: 1500 W. Morehead Street
Order: Tofu You sandwich ($7.49). Like Common Market, Rhino has lots of vegetarian options, but I live and die by the Tofu You sandwich with BBQ tofu, pickled vegetables, lettuce and vegannaise (vegan mayo) on rustic sourdough. I want one right now. Hate tofu? Get the Chaud Legumes sandwich with grilled portobello, grilled zucchini, caramelized onions, grilled red pepper, mozzarella, arugula and garlic aioli on ciabatta.
Address: 6601 Morrison Boulevard
Order: BEP falafel wrap ($10). All hail this black-eyed pea falafel wrap with green goddess dressing, broccoli sprouts, spinach and pickled red onion. They’ve only got it on the SouthPark menu so maybe if we ask nicely we’ll get it Uptown.
Address: 415 Hawthorne Lane | 3205 N. Davidson Street (+ 2 other locations and 1 coming soon)
Order: Anything with Tofu Ranchero as your protein. You can can get tacos, burritos, nachos or quesadillas with Tofu Ranchero as your protein. If you hate tofu, additional meat-free options are cheese, black beans or grilled veggies. They’ve also got a quinoa avocado bowl ($7.95) with quinoa, cous cous, brown rice, avocado, grilled veggies and cilantro lime yogurt sauce.
Seoul Food Meat Co.
Address: 1400 S. Church Street
Order: Tofu wings ($7 for 6, $12 for 10, $19 for 20, $28 for 30) and/or a sampler plate with the veggie options File this one under surprising vegetarian-friendly restaurants. Their Korean-style double-fried wings are now available in a tofu version. Choose from soy garlic, spicy BBQ or half and half. They also have a solid selection of veggie sides that could be combined into a sampler plate. I’d go with the ramen mac & cheese (make sure you get it without pork crumbles), kimchi vinegar slaw and tomato salad.
Sir Edmond Halley’s
Address: 4151 Park Road
Order: Buffalo cauliflower ($8.95) and stuffed zucchini ($12.95). The first time I went I was fully unprepared for the number of vegetarian options available at this underground pub. The buffalo cauliflower is all the flavor you’d expect to find in buffalo wings but without the chicken. Snub it if you want, but it was approved by a meat eater. The stuffed zucchini with vegetable ragu and fried goat cheese is also a winner.
Address: 1617 Elizabeth Avenue
Order: Quinoa-stuffed avocado ($8) and Inca wrap ($6.95). If you can look past the dozens and dozens of chickens roasting on a spit, you’ll find some excellent chicken-free options here. The quinoa-stuffed avocado is probably the most popular item on the menu and the Inca wrap is a tasty mix of canary beans, avocado and salsa criolla rolled up in a sun-dried tomato wrap.