Eating My Way Through Chicago, One Vegetarian Meal at a Time

By Shubhda Hirawat, Class of 2020

By Shubhda Hirawat, Class of 2020

The biggest struggle for me while moving cities has been to figure out the ‘food scene’. In a city like Chicago, this sounds like an absurd ask, but when you are ‘vegetarian’, it starts to make a little more sense. Having lived in India, I could walk into any restaurant and have more vegetarian options to choose from than I needed, without having to read through the ingredients to gauge whether its vegetarian. I have openly embarrassed myself by asking my non-vegetarian friends whether anchovy was a vegetarian thing I could eat! Over the past six months in Chicago, I have moved on from eating just crispy lettuce with black bean sauce (essentially, boiled lettuce - not crispy) at Chinatown to finally figuring out the ‘food scene’ to my liking and it’s been a culinary delight. Some highlights:

1.     One of my favorite dinners has been at RPM Italian. The place has absolutely amazing food, and to top it off, the dim lighting and extremely busy restaurant make for a lovely setting for dinner with a small group of friends.

Recommend: Eggplant Parmesan, M Cocktail, Chocolate Torta (best dessert ever!)

2.     If you haven’t been to Chicago Diner, go now! The place is meat-free and has a huge selection of seitan dishes. I can safely eat a burger there! Also, this is reason enough for you to get out of the Loop and explore Logan Square, which has some quirky art shops to explore.

3.     For a ramen-lover, the options are few, but I recently discovered Misoya Ramen, which so far has satisfied my ramen cravings as a vegetarian. Ramen San and Kizuki Ramen both have been consistently favored by the meat lovers but they don’t do a great job for veggies, I felt. Misoya was a pleasant surprise.

Recommend: Go for lunch, Hokkaido (Spicy) with Miso

4.     Another favorite is Beatrix. They have a menu called Healthy Cocktails, but unlike everything else healthy, they are yum! Try everything (at your own risk!). I don’t usually eat salads at restaurants (because who eats salads other than in box lunches at school), but the salad selection presents some delish options.

Recommend: Turmeric Rush, Espresso Old Fashioned, Straight A Salad (the name does do justice)

Frosty Beverages first! They are healthy at Beatrix!

Frosty Beverages first! They are healthy at Beatrix!

5.     Restaurant Week is usually a great way to explore more foods than you would like to and that was what brought me to Little Beet Table, a rustic looking restaurant. The spread and portions were worth it and the crème brulee is a perfect finish.

Recommend: Shrimp Salad (minus the shrimp!), mushroom & black bean burger

Chicago definitely has a wider selection of restaurants than I was expecting. Demera, an Ethiopian restaurant in Lincoln Park, is worth a try before you cross over to Green Mill Jazz Bar for a long musical night. And if we can get out of Harper more, Noodles etc. in Hyde Park is a great place to eat at.

Asian Outpost - Eat Mie Goreng and Sushi (yes, they have veggie sushi!)

Asian Outpost - Eat Mie Goreng and Sushi (yes, they have veggie sushi!)

I am excited to try out Althea at Saks by Matthew Kenney, who brings together plant based culinary art and nutrition, along with any other recommendations that come my way. Till then, Chipotle, Naf Naf and Roti (not again!) for the win!

Some of the desserts may have egg