Veggie in a steak town?
Ok, I'm going to be in Chicago a lot on business for the next few years, and I've just recently become an official vegetarian - great timing, I know!
I'm working on Lake Shore around Erie, and at the moment I'm staying up on Bellevue and State. I'm looking for great vegetarian-friendly joints - both sit-down for nice meals with colleagues, and quick places for take-out to go chow in my hotel. I'm from LA where the options are plentiful, but at the moment I'm struggling to find something here that isn't begging me to cheat, and most people look at me cross-eyed when I ask for good vegetarian cuisine locally.
Thanks for keeping me from subsistance dining on salads and (so far crappy) veggie sandwiches! Help!
Gaylord's (678 N. Clark) - my favorite Indian restaurant downtown.
Indian Garden (247 E. Ontario) - another good Indian place, close to where you are working.
Vermillion (Hubbard and State) - delicious, adventurous chowish food. Lots of vegetarian options. Beware of slow service.
Coco Pazzo (300 W. Hubbard) - very good Italian food. Their pastas and risottos are great. There is also a Coco Pazzo Cafe close to your hotel, but I've never been there.
- Ben Pao (Illinois and Dearborn) - there are lots of good vegetarian options here. It is not the most authetic chinese food around, but its good.
- Star of Siam (Illinois and State) - I've gotten slammed for recommending this Thai place in the past, but I enjoy the food. Also, they deliver.
Pretty much anywhere in Greektown you will be able to get the Greek vegetarian standards - spanikopita, the various cold dips, vegetarian stuffed grapeleaves, etc. My favorite is Parthenon.
Green Zebra - I put this at the end only because I haven't actually been there myself. It is an almost all vegetarian restaurant featuring mostly small plates, run by one of Chicago's star chefs. People rave. Like I said, I haven't been.
Chicago Diner! Okay, I always have to recommend this to any vegetarian in the Chicago area, even though it's really not good for a meal with colleagues or for take-out for a hotel, which were the things you mentioned... It's sort of a "chill" place, so maybe some evening if you're in the mood to go and have a little adventure, you can hop on over to their location at 3411 N Halsted and have some crazy vegetarian or vegan food. It's actually my very favorite restaurant in the entire country, so I really hope you give it a try.
I like the May Street Market for a sit-down dinner. On the corner of Grand and May St - maybe a 10 minute cab ride from your hotel. Excellent food and an interesting and reasonable wine list. Its not vegetarian, but there are quite a few vegetarian selections in appetizers, salads and soups, and entrees. It would be a good place for a mixed crowd.
Kan Zaman is a Lebanese place on Wells. Great veggie platter.
If you're ever in the loop, Taza on Franklin and Randolph is a very good middle-eastern lunch place. I'm also addicted to the Potbelly's Veggie sub on wheat bread. That's my favorite quick lunch.
You might also consider Japanese food - lots of tofu, veggie maki rolls, tempura, miso soup, etc. There are quite a few Japanese places around. Tokyo Ginza is the closest that I can think of. Tsunami in the Gold Coast. FYI, Japanese often use fish to make broths in what would otherwise seem to be pure vegetarian food, so if you are a strict veg, keep that in mind. Dashi, one of the primary Japanese ingredients, is a broth made from seaweed and dried fish flakes.
1901 N. Halsted St.
(this is a raw food place)
738 N. Wells St.
(this is a "how many ways can you cook seitan" place)
Ethiopian is always an interesting option. The are good places in Chicago, but I have only been to one: Ethiopian Diamond @ 6120 N. Broadway. Delicious variety of well-seasoned foods. Very much a "casbah" atmosphere. Every time I have been there more than half the patrons were either Ethiopian. Well worth the effort if you don't mind coming that far north.