Evanston's Blind Faith Cafe
Evanston's Blind Faith Cafe Credit: <a href=http://www.flickr.com/photos/swanksalot/3627170847/>Seth Anderson</a>/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike Generic 2.0

Alice and Friends Vegetarian Cafe

5812 N. Broadway | 773-275-8797


vegetarian/healthy | Dinner: seven days

The name refers to Alice in Wonderland; the menu consists primarily of vegan versions of pan-Asian food—Almond UnChicken, Korean BBQ, Japanese Don Ka Su—plus items like a veggie burger and UnChicken Drumsticks. Most entrees come with rice and salad; there’s a large selection of appetizers, drinks, and vegan desserts. The interior was renovated earlier this month, and there are plans to start lunch in November. —Holly Greenhagen


6207 N. Milwaukee | 773-774-0276


asian, vegetarian/healthy | Lunch, Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday | Closed Sunday, Monday

If you’re looking to impress the vegan in your life, this is the place for you. Amitabul offers an eye-popping array of vegetarian and vegan maki, stir-fries, pancakes, and noodle soups prepared with organic vegetables, tofu, legumes, and minimal oil. Dishes such as Dr. K’s Cure-All (spicy noodle soup touted as, among other things, a hangover remedy), Chef Dave’s Energy Nut (almonds, peanuts, and walnuts stir-fried with honey and plum sauce over noodles), and Nine Ways to Nirvana (whole-wheat noodle soup with nine-grain miso beans) illustrate the belief of owner Bill Choi in the healing power of food. —Martha Bayne

Blind Faith Cafe

525 Dempster, Evanston | 847-328-6875



“Vegetarian and Proud” is the motto at this Evanston establishment. There’s self-service, with a case of tasty baked goods—including vegan cake—and the dining area, adorned with handmade quilts and other colorful local art, is bright and cheerful. Breakfast offers innovative takes on standards like a tofu and egg scramble with potato, onion, and pepper hash; huge portions of fluffy French toast; and a nondairy Mexican scramble with tofu, soy cheese, and salsa. Homemade corn or blueberry muffins are a meal on their own, as is the granola, especially when topped with fresh berries. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Chicago Diner

3411 N. Halsted | 773-935-6696



Chicago Diner offers creative veggie, vegan, and gluten-free dishes in a comfortable space lined with old-fashioned wooden booths. Brunch, served till 3:30 daily, is very popular, with offerings including biscuits and gravy, a veggie Monte Cristo, and an award-winning veggie Reuben. The diner is now taking reservations and carryout orders for its 27th annual vegan Thanksgiving. —Martha Bayne

Cousin’s Incredible Vitality

3038 W. Irving Park | 773-478-6868



A few years back chef Mehmet Ak traded in his kebab grill for two dehydrating cabinets, transforming the Irving Park location of Cousin’s Turkish Cuisine into Cousin’s Incredible Vitality, a vegan restaurant specializing in raw (or “living”) foods. The menu still nods to his Turkish heritage: there’s flaxseed hummus and tabbouleh made from soaked and sprouted quinoa; samplers of “living mezes” feature stuffed grape leaves, shepherd’s salad, and house-marinated olives alongside “not tamales,” “not tuna” wraps, and minipizzas on flaxseed flatbread. Mediterranean “pasta” has angel-hair made from zucchini, raw marinara, and “Parmesan” made from pine nuts. The restaurant also offers an all-you-can eat salad bar for $7.95 or your choice of three appetizers for $14. —Susannah J. Felts


2056 W. Division | 773-235-5511


pizza | Lunch, Dinner: seven days | Open Late: Friday & Saturday till midnight

Chef Michael Altenberg’s casual flatbread-pizza joint, the city’s first certified organic restaurant, is a sleek modern dining hall with bright orange molded plastic chairs and trippy Formica tables. The pizzas—er, flatbreads—have an airy, chewy, well-proofed crust and are topped with everything from savory silver dollars of pepperoni to a sunny-side-up egg to a take on an Alsatian Flammkuchen (caramelized onion, bacon, and caraway seeds with a bechamel sauce). All, meat included, tastes shockingly fresh; the baby greens in my Sun Salad (a tasty mix of greens and seaweed in a creamy sesame-ginger dressing) had to have had their lives cut violently short that same day. The bar offers a respectable mostly organic wine and beer list, plus a selection of cocktails with infused organic vodka. —Martha Bayne

Delicious Cafe

3827 N. Lincoln | 773-477-9840



Husband-and-wife team Chelsea Waldrop and Kevin Porter worked together as baristas for a year before opening this North Center coffee shop with the help of family and friends. There’s an extensive menu of specialty coffee drinks and an all-vegan lineup of pastries and sandwiches like grilled cheese (made with cashew cheese), grilled peanut butter and banana, and tofu eggless salad. —Kate Schmidt

Drew’s Eatery

2207 W. Montrose | 773-463-7397


vegetarian/healthy, ice cream | Lunch, Dinner: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday | Closed Monday | reservations not accepted

This little organic hot dog and ice cream shop across from Welles Park offers a kid-friendly menu of sausages and well-pedigreed sweets. The dogs themselves come in pork, two different combos of chicken and turkey, and classic nitrite-free beef; there are also vegan versions of a Polish and an Italian sausage. Cookies and pastries are parbaked by Sweet Dreams Organic Bakery in Glenview and finished on-site; Chicago Soy Dairy provides vegan frozen desserts. Owner Andrew Baker carries through on his commitment to sustainability with furnishings as green as they come, all the way down to the biodegradable cornstarch takeout containers. —Martha Bayne

The Handlebar

2311 W. North | 773-384-9546


global/fusion/eclectic, vegetarian/healthy, bar/lounge | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner: seven days | Open Late: Friday & Saturday till 2, Monday-Thursday till midnight, Sunday till 11

A cyclist hangout—the bar stools are made from chrome rims, vintage bikes hang from the patio fencing, and there are specials for messengers on Mondays—this is a theme restaurant that doesn’t feel precious. The food is cheap and vegetarian friendly: most entrees are under $10, and the only meat option is fish. The chefs don’t do anything flashy, but they do a little bit of everything and do it well—the samosas with tamarind chutney, for example, are on par with any you’d find on Devon. The kitchen also does a bang-up job with comfort food: seitan and tofu sandwiches come with a variety of sides including a respectable vegetarian version of southern collard greens and a totally addictive smoked Gouda mac ‘n’ cheese I’ll crave on my deathbed. —David Wilcox

Heartland Cafe

7000 N. Glenwood | 773-465-8005


American, vegetarian/healthy, bar/lounge | breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | open late: friday & saturday till 11

The Heartland serves a mean buffalo burger, plus salads, sandwiches, and enough hearty vegetarian entrees to satisfy the pickiest eater, from veggie chili to tofu scrambles, barbecue seitan, and a macrobiotic plate. Fine dining it’s not (though specials like steamed artichokes show some aspiration), but it is a north-side sanctuary for hungry bohemians of all stripes, with live music (funk, folk, and jazz) and a Wednesday-night poetry open mike. While service can be erratic, most who frequent the Heartland know what they’re getting into. —Martha Bayne

Karyn’s Fresh Corner

1901 N. Halsted | 312- 255-1590



When they yanked my rotten tooth a few years back I lived on beer and Potato Buds for a week; when I forgot where my house was and became dizzy with nausea, it seemed like a decent excuse to duck inside Karyn Calabrese’s raw food restaurant. I scarfed down a slightly sweet, soft sea-lettuce-and-macadamia-filled crepe made from dehydrated young green coconut meat. It was strange and delicious, and after a few minutes I realized that I didn’t have a stomachache and—what ho?—my hangover was gone! When I could chew I came back, curious about the firmer stuff on the menu. Nuts and legumes are soaked in water and pureed, sprouted, or fermented to make “cheeses,” pastes, sauces, even a delicate cashew “sour cream”; grains are soaked, sometimes sprouted, and dried to make dense, cakelike bread products. Calabrese’s pasta primavera with rich, savory nut sauce, “meatballs,” and mushrooms is a favorite among her waitstaff (the “pasta” is julienned vegetables). —Ann Sterzinger

Maxwell’s at the Club

500 N. Kingsbury | 312-527-5800



The East Bank Club has a “members only” sign out front, but Maxwell’s at the Club, the in-house bar and restaurant, is open to the public. In keeping with vigorously gymnastic surroundings, Maxwell’s dishes up health-conscious fare, including a hefty bunch of salads and sides like roasted brussels sprouts, grilled broccolini, and sauteed or steamed spinach. The menu lists the cal/fat/carb profile for some dishes, and there’s a solid focus on the wholesome: chicken is free-range, salmon organic. The bar, which has an extensive drinks menu heavy on martinis, fills with folks rewarding themselves for their workouts. —David Hammond


3267 S. Halsted | 312-929-2486



Cafe 28 pastry chef Maria Solis (aka Nana) and her sons, Omar and Christian, preside over this genuinely friendly, slightly crunchy upscale diner, which generally adheres to the standards set by the USDA’s National Organic Program. Menu selections include a breakfast burger crowned with a runny egg and smeared with aioli and the “Nanadict,” two cheese-stuffed pupusas topped with poached eggs and house-made chorizo in poblano sauce, a colorful and creative take on the standard. Banana-hemp buckwheat pancakes (see “crunchy”) were remarkably light and airy. Soyrizo is a surprisingly successful vegetarian alternative to the real thing, and we also enjoyed the mascarpone-stuffed French toast. The accompanying sweet agave sauce is as close as you’ll get to tequila here for now: alcohol is currently prohibited, though there’s a liquor license in the works. Instead there are fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices—we dug the carrot-Granny Smith apple combo. The inventive chow and positive energy outweigh the occasional service bumps—and when you think about it, really, if you’re in a rush you probably shouldn’t be doing brunch. Lunch brings sandwiches, more burgers, a house-made soup of the day, and salads including a wheatberry side salad. —David Hammond

Soul Vegetarian East

205 E. 75th | 773-224-0104


SOUTHERN/SOUL FOOD, VEGETARIAN/HEALTHY | BREAKFAST: saturday-sunday; lunch, dinner: seven days

The menu at this unique restaurant, around for more than 25 years, offers vegan and vegetarian soul food—barbecued wheat gluten, stir-fried meatless “steak,” tofu tidbits, and many other reasonably priced dishes. The dining room is casual, but has a comfortable familylike feel—one gets the sense that many people eating there know each other. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Uncommon Ground

1401 W. Devon | 773-465-9801


Contemporary Regional, Global/Fusion/Eclectic | breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days  | Saturday & sunday brunch | open late: friday & saturday till midnight

It’s on a flat stretch of Devon in the old Speakeasy space, but somehow the Rogers Park outpost of the Wrigleyville hangout Uncommon Ground has an Alpine feel—must be the fireplaces, upscale-rustic decor, and leather easy chairs. It’s also site of the city’s first certified organic rooftop garden. As at the original, the seasonal menu emphasizes locally produced, family farmed, and organic products including house-infused vodkas. (Order a “TreeTini,” made with the pear vodka, and the restaurant pledges to plant a tree.) The menu’s surprisingly carnivore-centric given the crunchy mantras: large plates include pork loin, a duck duo, Gunthorp Farm chicken, and several meaty entrees featuring Slagel Farms beef, though there’s also pumpkin ravioli and a three-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese. Breakfast and brunch feature standards like huevos and a breakfast burrito but also chilaquiles with house-made chorizo and a breakfast melt with Nueske peppercorn bacon served on Red Hen black bread. There’s live entertainment most nights of the week. —Kate Schmidt

Veggie Bite

1300 N. Milwaukee | 773-772-2483



When Veggie Bite opened its first location in far-southwest-side Mount Greenwood a few years ago, “We had a lot of walkouts,” says co-owner Sylvia Watycha—people weren’t sure what to make of an 100 percent vegan fast-food joint. That location has now closed, but in the meantime Watycha and her partner, Moshe Shalom, have brought their vegan versions of buffalo wings, gyros, meatballs, and Philly cheese steaks to Wicker Park. The pair won’t reveal their recipes or suppliers, but will confirm that most of the items are made of seasoned, textured wheat gluten. What’s in the “golden sauce”—a bright yellow, slightly grainy substitute for cheese in the chili-cheese fries—remains a mystery. —Kate Schmidt