Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t remember seeing little Vs on my menus before a couple years ago. Now vegan options are popping up all over the trendy dining scenes, and even Northwestern. In fact, Northwestern has been named PETA2's Most Vegan-Friendly Small College in America for the past two years. Still, it can still be a challenge for vegans to go out to eat with their non-vegan friends, especially if they don’t want to spend a fortune. Luckily for NU students, Evanston and the Chicago area offer a number of delicious options where vegans and omnivores can eat together.
The Chicago Diner
Located on Halsted Street in the Boystown neighborhood, the Chicago Diner is a favorite among vegans – and their omnivore counterparts.
“It's great because you can eat vegan versions of those classics you grew up with,” says vegan Communication senior Emma Carlin. It’s the perfect place for your burger-fries-and-shake fix, but with the added twist of being entirely plant-based.
Omnivore freshmen Louis Dietchweiler and Aubrey McGrath rave about the soy-based milkshakes. Even if you’re cautious about the idea of veggie “meat,” the Chicago Diner serves a black bean burger which is an easy alternative to imitation meat. And hey, who doesn’t love sweet potato fries? Watch out though, the Chicago Diner may steal your wallet as well as your heart.
Price: Ouch. Be prepared to shell out some cash for your burger and fries! An average dinner here will run you around $15 to $25.
My Rating: ★★★1/2 of 5
Location: 3411 N Halsted St Chicago, IL 60657
Easiest Transportation From NU: CTA Purple Line to Belmont, then walk or taxi.
Blind Faith Café
Evanston’s own non-meat dining experience, Blind Faith Café, can be found just five or so blocks south and a little west of Northwestern’s campus on Dempster Street. Blind Faith touts itself as a vegetarian restaurant, and indeed, they do serve dairy products in many of their dishes. However, there are vegan items on the menu, making it a great option for vegan and non-vegan friends to dine alongside one another.
Blind Faith Café features both a casual cafe and a more formal dining atmosphere, making it a solid choice no matter the crowd or occasion. Vegan Weinberg sophomore Marion Linthicum says she would definitely recommend Blind Faith to her non-vegan friends, but cites the restaurant’s high prices as a drawback. Weinberg freshman Serene Darwish ate at the Café as a part of “Dinner With Twelve Strangers.”
“They really have a certain touch,” says Darwish. “Even if it's a dish you eat all the time, Blind Faith serves it slightly differently, but it makes all the difference – everything from Japanese Miso soup to Arab hummus to Italian lasagna. Desserts are also to die for.”
Blind Faith is convenient and yummy, but it’s also not easy on the bank account.
Price: Yikes! At least it’s close to campus! $20 to $25 for dinner.
My Rating: ★★★★ of 5 Location: 525 Dempster St Evanston, IL 60201
Easiest Transportation from NU: Walk, bike or taxi.
Prasino is a trendy, earth-friendly dining experience with locations in the Wicker Park and the western Chicago suburb of LaGrange. Their website advertises their “commitment to sustainability,” and indeed, Prasino emphasizes locally grown, organic food in their cuisine. In addition, their menu features many vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, making it a very inclusive experience – great for groups of friends with differing dietary needs.
The southwest black bean burger is a highlight, and it comes with the vegan option of skipping the cheese. The fruit smoothies, teas and lemonades are equally delicious, and come in fun, tilted glasses. The flatbreads are also worth checking out
Unlike other restaurants in its genre, Prasino serves many meat and seafood dishes. The meat is promised to be “antibiotic and hormone-free,” and the seafood from “100% sustainable and environmentally friendly sources.” The atmosphere is fun, modern and clean, and the service is wonderful. It’s a great place for families, friends and couples alike, but like most eco-friendly restaurants, it’s not super cheap.
Price: Not for every day, but worth every penny. Up to $25 for dinner, but brunch is a cost effective solution.
My Rating: ★★★★1/2 of 5
Locations: Wicker Park- 1846 W Division St Chicago, IL 60622; LaGrange- 93 S La Grange Rd. La Grange, IL 60525
Easiest Transportation From NU: CTA Purple Line to Clark/Lake, transfer to Blue Line, get off at Division, then walk or cab.
Viceroy of India
Indian, Thai, Japanese, Middle Eastern, and African cuisines all offer vegan options not for the sake of being vegan, but because it is simply an integral part of the food culture. The Devon Street neighborhood of Chicago is a richly cultural area with a number of fantastic Indian and Pakistani restaurants. Viceroy of India is perfect for your spicy, curry or simply straight-up flavor fix. The nature of Indian food makes it perfect for groups of vegan and non-vegan friends, as vegetarianism is fairly common in India.
“I've found that some of the best and most easily accessible vegan food can be ethnic food," says Aileen McGraw, a vegan Weinberg freshman. "I think it's a misconception that a city needs to have explicitly "vegan" restaurants in order to have a strong vegan dining culture.”
The vegetable samosas are a tough for competing restaurants to top, and the perfect sharing appetizer. Viceroy’s menu features an extensive vegetarian section, which contains many dishes with creamy sauces and Indian cheese, but still plenty of others that are strictly vegan. It’s a great place for vegans to bring their meat-loving friends, who have countless delicious options as well. For the quality and quantity of the food and the cleanliness of the restaurant, Viceroy’s price is quite reasonable.
Price: Not bad. Not bad at all.
My Rating: ★★★★1/2 of 5 Location: 2520 W Devon Ave Chicago, IL 60659
Easiest Transportation From NU: CTA Purple Line to Howard, transfer to Red Line, get off at Loyola, then taxi.