Where can a group, half of whom don't eat meat, get awesome cheap food in Chicago?
June 4, 2008 10:49 AM   Subscribe

Help me find places to eat in Chicago. I don't think I've been to a bad restaurant there, but I'm looking for new places, plus I'm looking to save money on this trip. For added difficulty, 2/3 of my entourage will be vegetarian, so a variety for them would be nice.

We won't have a car, so it needs to be near the train, too. Or for extraordinarily good food, the bus.
posted by Stylus Happenstance to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Where are you staying? I'm a big fan of India House on Grand, with Gaylord being shut down for their move at the moment. Plenty of vegetarian stuff on the buffet.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:06 AM on June 4, 2008

Oh! I almost forgot. Sultan's Market on North Avenue or Clark. Plenty of vegan stuff, and it's cheap and delicious.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:08 AM on June 4, 2008

I think I've recommended it before, but CPOG has the best salads and bread I've ever had. Also the Original Pancake Houses in Chicago are different and better than the ones in the rest of the country.
posted by zazerr at 11:21 AM on June 4, 2008

hmm don't know that much about veg restaurants but check out yelp.com
posted by Twinedog at 11:24 AM on June 4, 2008

Vegetarian Places
Green Zebra
Chicago Diner

Veggie Friendly
Flying Saucer
Thai Village
posted by cuando at 11:28 AM on June 4, 2008

Response by poster: We're staying just north of the loop. And I'm not looking for anything especially vegetarian, just places where you don't have to order the one meat-free offering on the menu, or order the chicken whatever with out the chicken.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 11:41 AM on June 4, 2008

As a non vegetarian, I can vouch for the Chicago Diner being a pretty darned good place to accomodate vegetarian friends.. it's vegetarian-focused, but had plenty of stuff I liked.
posted by twiggy at 11:51 AM on June 4, 2008

If you're game for a quick train ride to Evanston, there's Lulu's. Their food is light and fresh, and they will make any dish vegetarian. Penny's is good too and really cheap (many locations).
posted by answergrape at 12:16 PM on June 4, 2008

Lulu's is near the Evanston (purple) line, and Penny's has many Chicago locations in very populated northside areas.
posted by answergrape at 12:18 PM on June 4, 2008

stay clear of the Chicago Diner no matter how loud the vegans praise it. the staff is snooty and slow and the food is just awful. I love many of the brooklyn vegan restaurants but this does not compare. there is another rather popular vegan place called karen's (karyn's?) that's sadly just mediocre as well, so beware.

there was one nice diner offering lots of vegetarian food near the double door (next to where bank of america moved in and close to cafe absynth, which is off limits to you but very nice). perhaps someone else on here knows which one I'm talking about...
posted by krautland at 12:35 PM on June 4, 2008

One of my favorites in River North is Quartino — it's Italian small plates (to share), and the house wine comes in $5 quarter liters. If you don't get the olive/cheeses/sausage that they push before the meal, you can eat inexpensively. It's north of the Loop @ State & Ontario. If you really want go cheap and stock up on snacks for the room, there's a Trader Joe's on Ontario, one block east of the restaurant.
posted by limeswirltart at 12:40 PM on June 4, 2008

I also have a soft spot for Pompei, which is counter service Italian. There's a new Streeterville location, one block east of Michigan Ave. on Ohio.

Nothing to go out of your way for, but terrific if you need cheap eats near Michigan Ave.
posted by limeswirltart at 12:55 PM on June 4, 2008

Semiramis (Kedzie stop) is amazing Lebanese food with some veg entrees. (I can't get enough of their babaganoush.)
posted by jeanmari at 12:55 PM on June 4, 2008

I agree with krautland. Chicago Diner is terrible for nonvegetarians. We go there all the time I agree that the staff is terrible and the place is crowded and uncomfortable cause Guy likes it, but it is for nonvegetarians like a steak place is for vegetarians. There is no middle-ground. On the other hand, Green Zebra is tremendously wonderful for vegetarians and nonvegetarians (although there is no beef, there is usually a fish or poultry option), albeit pricey.

To go with the Penny's suggestions, Noodles in the Pot or Joy's are both cheap and good and vegetarian-friendly. The Third Coast is reasonably priced and although skewed to the salads for non-meat foods, a good choice.

For lunch, the Spa Cafe in the Loop is an awesome veggie and nonveggie meeting ground. I love that place.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:57 PM on June 4, 2008

If you're willing to trek to Evanston for Lulu's (which is awesome) you should absolutely be willing to go there for Blind Faith Cafe. Blind Faith is 100% vegetarian, and I, a huge lover of meat, find amazing things to eat there every time I go.
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:00 PM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Devon is fantastic, but it might take you near 1.5 hours with Train + Bus.

Also, you should ask the same question on Yelp's message board (talk). You'll get decent responses.
posted by sandmanwv at 1:15 PM on June 4, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great suggestions. It occurred to me that i should share a couple of our favorites, Reza's and Cafe Iberico. On the higher end, we love Bistrot Margot, which is one of those places where my wife looks at the menu, has to ask for something meat-free, but loves whatever she ends up getting.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 2:33 PM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yen's (Chinese) and Gino's East are two of my favorites that also have veggie options (tofu, cheese pizza). For sandwhiches, the Austrian Bakery let's you build your own veggie sandwhich. I've also heard that Sultan's market is good but haven't eaten there personally.

You might want to search chowhound.com Chicago boards and www.lthforum.com for vegetarian as well.
posted by ejaned8 at 2:46 PM on June 4, 2008

The Lobby Restaurant at the Penninsula on Superior near Rush is excellent. We ate there when my nephew was born because there wasn't much else open at that hour on the weekend and took breakfast back to the hospital for my brother-in-law. There's a lot in that part of town that is better than your average tourist fare. Bijan's Bistro is near there, too. I've had several pleasant (but not spectacular) meals there. Oysy is a popular sushi place in that part of town, but if I recall correctly, it's light on the vegetarian options. (Wakamono and Kanok up in Lakeview have a good range of vegetarian sushi). Mondays at Emilio's Sol y Nieve warning: sound on Ohio at St. Clair all wines are half-priced, and the tapas are good, too.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:52 PM on June 4, 2008

How about Thai? There's Opart and Sticky rice.

Someone mentioned the Green Zebra, which is pretty impressive, but its like 40-50 dollars a head.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:56 PM on June 4, 2008

I make a pilgrimage to Al's Deli [warning: music at website] in Evanston every time I go. There is a Jarlsberg cheese//baguette sandwich that is simple and MARVELOUS and four other nonmeat sandwiches for some variety (and of course all kinds of meaty sandwiches). It's off the Purple Line Noyes St. el stop.
posted by oldtimey at 3:16 PM on June 4, 2008

It always gets mentioned in Chicago Food questions, but Victory's Banner is vegan friendly brunch place around Roscoe and Damen. Take the brown line to Addison (contruction closed Paulina) and walk south to Roscoe and then West to the Banner. It is run by a group of Sri Chinmoy's followers, so expect terrible, hippie art and awesome veggie delights.
posted by rabbitsnake at 4:02 PM on June 4, 2008

Irazu on Milwaukee is AMAZING. Great vegetarian options... great everything. And very cheap! Near the Blue Line Western stop.

Lao Sze Chuan is one of the best Chinese restaurants I've ever eaten at. They have a huge menu with a lot of vegetarian options and they're near the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line stop.

I have a lot of other good suggestions, but most of them aren't super cheap:

check out http://atomly.com/vegan/restaurants.php?city=1
posted by atomly at 4:27 PM on June 4, 2008

Alice and Friends Cafe has the greatest fake meat ever. I don't like fake meat, my friends don't like fake meat, but Alice and Friends is awesome. 5812 N. Broadway.

Also worth the trip is Soul Vegetarian on the South Side (205 E. 75th St). Try the BBQ twists, tastes like a pulled pork sandwich.
posted by misskaz at 5:54 PM on June 4, 2008

Green Zebra came up a couple of times; for the prices they charge, I wouldn't call their food "good". It tries to do the amuse-bouche style food, comes up short, and for a few people it'll be a couple hundred bucks. Plus the portions are small, so if anyone in your group is an "eater", they'll be disappointed.

Every Chicago-food thread that I see gets a shout-out for Lula Cafe, in Logan Square. Easily accessible from the blue line Logan Square stop, the food is incredible, decently priced, and the waitstaff has always been quite nice when I've been. The downside is that they're small, and as such don't take reservations. Don't take a group on a Friday/Saturday night unless you're prepared to spend an hour downing drinks at the bar waiting for a table. Brunch is AWESOME, though.

In the Belmont/Clark area there's Mama Desta's, for Ethiopian, and the Pick-Me-Up Cafe, which you might not want to visit for a full meal, but they've got great sandwiches, hummus plates, coffees and milkshakes. Some vegan desserts which, if I recall correctly, from the Chicago Diner, so you can have the 'Chicago Diner' experience without actually having to go there. Up on Broadway there's Zad, which is great middle-eastern food. Around the corner from them (on Briar) is Cupcakes, the aptly-named cupcake shop. AWESOME CUPCAKES. Like, chocolate with merlot-frosting cupcakes. Grab one and have a coffee at Intelligentsia across the street, or a tea at Argo.

If you're doing the downtown/touristy thing, try Bistro 110 (French), Cafe Iberico (tapas), one of the Rick Bayless restaurants, or Singha (Thai).
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 8:39 PM on June 4, 2008

If you're looking for a fun (but somewhat pricey) dessert only option, Berry Chill just opened on State between Ontario and Erie. I have quite literally been there every day the last week and I love it. I recommend the original with raspberry, strawberry, and coconut. There are vegetarian and vegan options too.
posted by MeetMegan at 2:38 PM on June 5, 2008

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