With my shredding for the wedding strategy in full fledge, I’ve been obviously trying to eat lighter and healthier meals, although it has been EXTREMELY hard. While I love my meats and super fattening foods like any other human being, there have been a lot of times while on date night where I just CRAVE some veggie dishes (See my last few IG posts regarding my current brussels sprout obsession). Although a lot of restaurants typically have vegetarian items, most of those involve some sort of a salad or just a collection of oily vegetables, nothing along the lines of being healthy and filling. However, after a bunch of research and a lot of eating, I found five locations that I deem as my top veggie spots around the city:
Mana Food Bar
You probably have heard or seen this Bucktown beauty while on the good old “70” bus, but have you ever gone in? Well here are three great reasons why you should stop by
#1 There is a daily slider special a.k.a. $7.50 for two sliders + beer. Although the burgers are smaller, three biters, they are extremely delicious and filling for a date night – any night of the week.
#2 The menu offers small or large vegan/gluten free portions which are perfect to share with your significant other.
#3 And finally, raw CARBLESS maki. Yes ladies (and gents), maki that you don’t have to feel guilty about AT ALL. The raw veggies are wrapped with collard greens and served up with some awesome ponzu sauce.
For a woman who has been vegan for more than 30 years, Karyn Calabrese looks AWESOME for her age. Besides being a holistic teacher and a giant advocate for healthy eating and detoxification, Karyn created restaurant concepts (raw, cooked, and fresh corner with grocery items) where Chicago vegans to gather. Being highly addicted to Mexican food, I stuck with my favorites: the “fishless tacos” and the Enchiladas. Although I don’t exactly know what was in the “fishless” tacos (probably tofu), they were super light and fresh AND it even had the consistency of fish. Of course it cannot replace a “real deal” fish taco, but it is a certainly a great contender. Being a huge black bean lover, the enchiladas were equally delicious. The rumors are true, Karyn’s restaurants and programs definitely “make vegan look sexy!”
Unite URBAN Grill
Created by a veggie-centric wife and a meat-eating hubby ( like my current situation!), Unite Urban Grill is a great date night option where both herbivores and carnivores can equally find great options on the same menu. Located right along Chicago Avenue in our favorite neighborhood, Unite is a small, intimate spot to grab a table anytime. Although my hubs-to-be immediately ordered and devoured his favorite item – chicken wings (sigh), he did enjoy the rest of his veggie based meal which soon followed. Pro Veggie Tip: order the veggie flatbread as an app and the infamous veggie burger for your main, you won’t be disappointed!
Located in the heart of River North, Beatrix has a reputation around town of serving up fresh, fast, and healthy menu items. Besides an extensive menu of veggie options, house made juices, meatier dishes, and cocktails, Beatrix also has a mini cafe in the front of the restaurant where you can grab-and-go baked items or a even cup of bulletproof coffee. This is perfect for a bulletproof drinker like myself. In my opinion, for the most veggie options, opt for the breakfast or brunch menu. Although it does not photograph well, the cauliflower grits and eggs taste anything but bland-it’s actually unexpectedly delicious. Other standouts were the savory quoina cakes and the crunchy pumpkin/avocado toast. Word to the wise, make sure you have a reservation, otherwise you could be waiting a LONG time.
On top of Chicago’s Athletic Association, Cindy’s Rooftop offers insanely spectacular views alongside a larger-than-life menu. Open all year round for dinner, cocktails, and weekend brunch, there’s never a bad time to stop by to enjoy the views. Although the prices appear to be higher, the menu specifies that all platters are built to share between 3-4 people (take a breather!) Made with chicories, fennel, grilled trumpets, blood orange, ricotta salata, and honey vinaigrette, the fregola salad is a fresh and wise starter. For a heartier dish to combat the cold weather, order the acorn squash, filled with roasted mushrooms, cipollini onions, marcona almonds, apricots, and spiced spatzle. If you still have room for dessert (let’s be honest , who doesn’t?), go for the milk stout nitro chocolate cake to satisfy that sweet tooth.
Located nationwide, this modernized dining “chain” focuses on delivering healthy tasty, but extremely tasty food. Although meat is served in the restaurant, there is an array of vegetarian/vegan dishes to choose from. The menu is even colorfully labeled to identify the calorie count, “naturally vegan,” “contains nuts,” or “naturally gluten free” to make the experience easier on the diner. Isn’t that a relief? Truth be told, I can really eat anything on the menu and be 100% satisfied and guilt free. However, my veggie/vegan top picks were the margherita flatbread, the mahi fish tacos – because who doesn’t like tacos!?! , and my personal favorite: the quinoa crunch bowl, loaded with quinoa, crunchy vegetables, avocado, hummus, and a few different sauces.