Unique Vegetarian –Chicago Style

June 1, 2011 2:00 PM

Mana Food Bar
You should have seen the look on my client’s face. “I’m taking a group out to dinner, but my CEO’s wife is vegetarian. Can you recommend some place that has nice options for her too?” Little beads of sweat started to form above his eyebrow—this guy needed to pull through with something great, and fast.  Dining vegetarian doesn’t have to be boring. Can you imagine a server giving this introduction, “We have a mouth-watering special tonight—a marvelous VEGGIE BURGER topped with a succulent out-of-season tomato and a luscious, limp pickle that just melts in your mouth?” Give me a break! A classy vegetarian feast is not impossible and it’s important to know that there are several extraordinary restaurants in Chicago that don’t fluff off our veggie friends, in fact, some of the vegetarian dishes at these spots rule out the main attractions. Don’t get dusted by that over priced veggie burger.

Logman Eagle

(credit: longmanandeagle.com)

Longman & Eagle

2657 N Kedzie Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60647
(773) 276-7110

I know what you’re thinking. A good friend of mine jokingly refers to this place as the “beef & whiskey,” but many are stunned and impressed by their vegetarian menu. Signing up for a meatless meal at Longman & Eagle lives up to just as much hype as any thing else on their menu. The slow roasted cauliflower with beluga lentils, caramelized onion, golden raisins, pickled mango, and cucumber raita is a mainstay and an absolute go-to if you are undecided.  I just got a peak at their summer menu and I have to say friends, you’re in for a treat!

Hours / Mon – Fri 9am – 2am / Sat 9am – 3am / Sun 9am – 2am

Ethiopian Diamond

(credit: ethiopiandiamondcuisine.com)

Ethiopian Diamond

6120 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL 60660-2502
(773) 338-6100

I’ll tell the truth—the first time I went to the Ethiopian Diamond I was more excited about the entertainment than I was about the food. Phil Cohran, best known for his trumpet contributions in the Sun Ra Arkestra, performs a free, 2- hour set every Friday.  While I was excited to see him play, the food is what really won me over.

The Diamond’s famous red lentils are simmered with fresh onions and a homemade sauce that will make tears stream down your face. Seriously, these lentils must come from outer space, or maybe Phil Cohran makes them? In any case, the lentils alone are worth the journey.  In Ethiopia, they use a spongy, sour flatbread called Injera to scoop up meat and vegetable stews. The bread lines the trays on which your meal is served and when everything disappears, you can finally call it quits. Meat, vegetarian, and vegan options are available.

Hours / Mon-Thu 11AM-10PM / Fri-Sat 11AM-11:30PM / Sun 11am-10PM

Karyn’s on Green

130 S Green St
Chicago, IL 60607-2625
(312) 226-6155

I’m convinced that Karyn Calabrese is superwoman. I was dazzled by the food at her restaurant Karyn’s on Green, but mostly by her. The day after our dinner, my friends and I spent the better part of the morning combing the internet for her real age. This woman is in her 60’s and thanks to a mostly raw and vegan diet, looks like she just turned 30. Remarkable. If her presence alone doesn’t make you want to eat less meat, her new restaurant will! The staff is welcoming, the atmosphere is sleek, but charming—and the food is inventive and total bliss. One bite of the Shepard’s Pie and you’re hooked. There’s no meat on the menu here, but your carnivorous pals won’t miss a thing.

Hours / Tues-Thur 5PM-10PM / Fri 5PM-11PM / Sat 11:30- 11PM / Sun 10AM-9PM

Reluctant Vegetarian

(credit: Reluctant Vegetarian)

The Reluctant Vegetarian

Chicago’s Pop-Up dining scene has taken on a new form here. Chef Iccha Devi is throwing down a vegetarian spread that will make any meat-lover surrender. This is a one-of-a kind, all out, vegetarian banquet, including 7 courses of seasonal and sustainable righteousness. Past menu items have included fine cheese and almond stuffed dates, Gumbo with granny rice & “sausage,” and a salad of citrus cured scarlet and golden beets with arugula, shaved parmesan, and roasted squash. Do it.

Her next event takes place July 22 at 7:30pm, location is secret.

$98 for 7 courses of vegetarian paradise

Buy your tickets now: rvhotterthanjuly.eventbrite.com/

For more information: www.facebook.com/thereluctantvegetarian

Mana Food Bar

1742 West Division Street
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 342-1742

I could eat at Mana every day and that is no lie. Mana Food Bar is a far cry from traditional vegetarian cooking and with each plate you’ll find curiosity, perfection, and serious ingenuity. Try the Tajine—spiced green beans, apricots, oil cured olives and house dried tomatoes over couscous.  Hell, go with 10 of your friends and try everything on the menu. Just make sure you call ahead, the space is beautiful, but very small. Enjoy!

Hours / Sun-Thurs 4PM-10PM / FRI 4PM-11PM / Sat 12PM-11PM

Stephanie Lu Jokich is a corporate concierge and lover of all things food and drink. She encourages you to invite her to dinner with her project Good Food.

Watch & Listen LIVE