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The Independent

Vegan-friendly spots in the Chicagoland area

Regina Torres, Staff Writer

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Perhaps you’re considering expanding your palate to include trying new food and drinks? Maybe you’re seeking to experiment with healthier eating while leaving a smaller carbon footprint, or already living a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle and are wishing to try Chicagoland restaurants offering many animal free menu options. Whichever the reason may be, here are several popular restaurants offering unique, healthy and delicious fare that won’t weigh your body and brain down.

The Amazing Kale Burger

This little diner was voted by Chicago Magazine as best veggie burger in 2016. The entire vegan menu is gluten-free and made from scratch with locally sourced ingredients.

The star on the menu is the kale burger that’s made with veggies, proteins and spices. The small menu is centered around innovative combinations, side dishes and burger toppings. Try the Shirley burger topped with beets and sauerkraut. Non-alcoholic drinks such as fruity spritzers are offered, as well as non-dairy versions of favorite baked cakes and cookies.

This laid-back and affordable diner offers a welcoming vibe and colorful atmosphere, as well as a weekend brunch, which is reportedly fantastic according to Facebook testimonials. They also have a small stage where they occasionally have live entertainment.

Refer to their Facebook page AmazingKaleBurger for current happenings. Their website www.amazingkaleburger.com is under construction. 741 Howard St. Evanston, IL. 847-660-4330

LYFE Kitchen

LYFE Kitchen is not an exclusively modern vegan or vegetarian spot, but what is innovative about this healthy and affordable chain is it’s single menu consisting of a labeling vegan options with a “V.” Here we have separate menus for vegans, gluten-frees and everything eaters, making gastronomic life easier for all. There is even a Little LYFERS section for kids on each menu, as well as nutritional facts listed below each item. Even dishes with nuts are labeled for those with allergies to tree nuts. Convenience and freshness are the focus as the menu offers well-balanced and quick meals, such as the quinoa crunch bowl consisting of: quinoa tabbouleh, crispy veggies, avocado, arugula, edamame hummus, spicy vinaigrette and hot sauce.

What I found unique was the shareable edamame – as opposed to traditional chickpea – hummus plate which came with an array of fresh, colorful raw veggies and toasty pita points. The bowl of sweet corn chowder with cashew cream was also delightful – and inexpensive – at under $5.  They even have fresh baked vegan and gluten-free goodies such as the chocolate budino, a concoction of pomegranate, chia seeds and toasted almonds. They also have classic veganized chocolate chip and ginger snap cookies.

Besides the vibrant microgreens display as centerpiece, a nice touch is the complementary fruit and herb infused water on tap. Alcohol is also served.

With locations downtown, Lincoln Park and Evanston, you can visit www.lyfekitchen.com for more info.

Amitabul Simply Vegan

Not too far from our main campus sits a well-loved Korean vegan restaurant. Picked as Chicagoist’s 2016’s #1 “9 Best Vegan Restaurants in Chicago.” They dish up their spicy, super healthy, homemade fare with a bit of Buddhist love by chef Bill Choi, who recreates the clean-food dishes of his grandmother from Seoul, South Korea.

Their Facebook page is filled with patrons proclaiming the Dr. K’s healing medicine soup chased their flu or hangovers away. This is a huge, shareable, complete meal of aromatic/spicy tofu, noodles, seaweed and veggies. Tofu mandu-dumplings served with a house-made spiced miso sauce proved delicious as well as fresh vegan sushi made with crispy root vegetables and wrapped in seaweed.

The menu is extensive, offering all sorts of traditional Korean pancakes, soups, specials, rice and noodle dishes and even invigorating tonic teas such as organic ginger and citron. They are open for lunch and dinner.

Find them on Facebook at AnitabulVegan1 or visit their website at www.Amitabulvegan.com. They are located at 6207 N. Milwaukee Avenue, close to the Jefferson Park blue line train station. (773) 774-0276.

The Chicago Diner

This establishment has a saying, “meat free since ’83” and they have stayed true to their veg standards since then. They offer a mouth-watering and award winning vegetarian menu of comfort food with an emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients. The emphasis at this American 50’s bebop themed diner is on vegan food offerings with dairy and meat substitutes such as Daiya cheese, a plant-based cheese. You can find rbgh/rbst-free cow dairy and hen eggs as well.

There is a reason this place has such a solid reputation all over the world. Well, there’s more than one reason. Their trademarked Radical Reuben vegan sandwich and frothy, creamy vegan shakes, with some being gluten-free, are worthy enough of being air shipped!

For an appetizer, try the Canadian style poutine dish of fries, country gravy and vegan cheese or the Thai chili wings made from seitan. In place of corned beef, the Reuben is made of plant-based seitan and is topped with a mound of grilled onions, peppers, sauerkraut, veganized thousand island dressing and cheese on typical marble rye bread.

Also on the menu: fresh varieties of soups, salads, appetizers, rotating seasonal specials, entrees such as pierogi quesadillas or truffle mushroom lentil loaf, classic and modern takes on sandwiches/burgers (the Cajun black bean burger is delish, complete with fried jalapenos). They offer daily brunch until 3pm, amazing shakes, beer, wine and cocktails. Special mention goes to the extensive bakery line and they carry Blue Sky sodas, a natural line of drinks made with cane sugar and natural flavorings. Catering and bakery orders are available for pick up only.

They have two Chicago locations on 3411 N. Halsted Street, (773) 935-6696, and 2333 N. Milwaukee Avenue, (773) 252-3211. Visit www.veggiediner.com for more information or visit TheChicagoDiner Facebook page for current listings and photos.

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