My only trip this past summer was a visit to the Midwest, the city of Chicago to be exact. I visited an old friend who lives there and who also isn’t vegan. My friend escorted me around the city to many vegan-friendly and vegan restaurants during my five day stay. I had a great time and really enjoyed my first visit to the Windy City– there was so much to do and see, especially for a small town country bumpkin like me. The architecture was fascinating, the different neighborhoods, the shopping, but perhaps the most memorable was of course, the FOOD!
Just before I left on my trip I was in touch with Natalie Slater, vegan cookbook author and creator of the well-known vegan blog, Bake and Destroy. Natalie shared one of her past blog posts with me that included some of her favorite vegan to-do’s. I referred to the blog post daily on my trip as it helped me navigate where to explore next. Once I returned home from my travels, I had full intention of writing up a review of my favorite spots, but that was around the same time that I asked Natalie to be a guest on my blog. I decided to hold off in sharing my experiences since Natalie is the true Chicago vegan expert.
So…without further adieu, please help me welcome Natalie to the blog (today she’s sharing a 24 hour guide to some of her suggested must-see/must-eats in and around Chicago!). Many thanks for joining us Natalie!
When I travel to new cities I always seek out vegan food recommendations from the locals. I don’t want just any vegan food, I want the best vegan food that destination has to offer. And, while I’m at it, I want to see weird stuff, shop in cool places, and drink good coffee.
I get hit up a lot for Chicago recommendations, which is why I put together my Chicago’s Best Vegan Eats post – but even then I always call out what I consider to be “must eats” and a few non-food stops along the way.
Kayle recently visited Chicago and I definitely sent her some urgent “don’t miss” messages, so I figured I’d share a more curated guide – something for those of you who only have a day in Chicago, or who want to try something a little different while you’re here.
A few notes: In this guide I assumed your time is limited & you don’t have a car so I tried to make it easy to get from one place to the next. But, I’ve added some hacks and alternative suggestions for those of you who like to wander.
Little Goat Diner – Did you know Top Chef champ Stephanie Izard has several restaurants in Chicago, all of which have a separate vegan/vegetarian menu? Early morning is the perfect time to hit up this busy spot for Crumpets with Maple Syrup or their killer Avocado Toast.
After: You’ll be in the Fulton Market Area, which is mostly restaurants, but just a quick walk away from lots of touristy photo ops downtown by the Chicago River. Snap some pics of the Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower) and hop on the train to head north into the more fun neighborhoods.
Coffee, Snacks & Shopping – Far North Side
Yes, yes there are many amazing museums downtown but you only have one day in Chicago and you need to see it all. Head to Andersonville for lots of wandering and shopping and options for quick noshes before lunchtime.
Real talk, nitro brew at La Colombe is my favorite coffee option in this area, but in the spirit of highlighting local, I’m going to send you to Kopi Travelers Café, and eclectic spot where you’ll get to people watch, sip a soy latte and even grab a slice of vegan cake if you have room for it.
From there, wander, wander, wander. There are too many cute boutiques, antique shops and other weird finds to name but some of my favorite are:
Andersonville Galleria – a three-story collection of locally made jewelry, clothing, art, food and other good things.
Women & Children First Bookstore – A feminist bookstore with tons of hard to find books, magazines, femme-positive t-shirts and other gifty items.
Alleycat Comics – Literally through an alley, tucked behind George’s Ice Cream and Sweets (where you can get vegan ice cream & cake balls!) You won’t encounter any “comic book guys,” just friendly staff and fun reads.
Wooly Mammoth Antiques & Oddities – Taxidermy alert, if you’re sensitive to this you’ll want to steer clear, but otherwise this place is stuffed full of oddities that are fun to paw through.
Kalish – A quick walk from Andersonville you’ll find yourself in Uptown surrounded by gorgeous Art Deco architecture and home to Kalish, one of Chicago’s newest vegan spots. You’re going to want one of everything, but don’t miss the Clucker Crisp, a vegan take on juicy fried chicken that I can’t get enough of. Grab a slice of Pie, Pie My Darling cake to go and keep moving, you have lots to do!
Other favorite lunch spots: Upton’s Breakroom, Handlebar, Ground Control, Quesadilla La Reyna del Sur
Coffee, Snacks & Shopping – Wicker Park/Logan Square
I know the face people make when I mention taking the bus, but Chicago’s busses are safe, clean, and they run on a grid for the most part, making it really easy to get around. Plus, it’s a nice way to get form one neighborhood to the next while also watching neighborhoods pass by out the window. Oh, and a ride is less than $3.
What I’m trying to say, is use Google maps to figure out which bus(es) you need to hop on to get from wherever you are to Logan Square.
I always recommend Flair to quirky visitors. It’s vegan-owned, and stocks tons of vegan-themed pins and patches, as well as accessories made by women, people of color and an additional focus on queer makers. Shop owner, Melisser Elliot, is also a relatively new Chicagoan, having moved here a year ago, and can give you hot tips on her favorite spots while you’re there.
You could spend hours walking through Logan Square and Wicker Park, popping in and out of indie art galleries, boutiques, and coffee shops, so here are some of my favorites:
The Wormhole – Relive your 80s youth in this retro coffee shop that serves their house-roasted coffee and almost always has a vegan option in the pastry case
Flat Iron Arts Building – You never know what you’ll find in this collective of art studios, galleries, and oddities. A renegade hair salon? Tarot card readings? Tattoo shop? Wander in and get weird.
Quimby’s Bookstore – One of the last holdouts of zine culture. Grab a locally-made zine about pizza, feminism, bicycling, you name it. Or, find a cool graphic novel, rare magazine, or a biography of your favorite punk band.
Chicago Diner – I mean, hello, it’s Chicago’s oldest and most famous vegetarian restaurant, you can’t come here and not go. Order the world-famous Radical Rueben and the peanut butter cookie dough shake – trust me.
Other favorite dinner spots: Alice & Friends, Duck Duck Goat (ask for the veg menu), Paulie Gee’s (has an entire vegan menu + vegan dessert options)
Looking for even more suggestions? Check out my ever-growing Chicago’s Best Vegan Eats post!
Natalie Slater is a Chicago-based cookbook author and vegan blogger. Look for recipes, and other insights about vegan-friendly Chicago at BakeandDestroy.net and follow Natalie on Instagram at @bakeandddestroy