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Vegetarian/Vegetable Tasting Menu

Hi Chowhounds,

Spouse and I will be visiting Chicago and are looking for a great meal. We are both vegetarian, but not particularly interested in a heavy mock meat menu like many all vegetarian places offer (e.g., Chicago Diner), but in creative, vegetable-centered dishes. I have been looking at the vegetarian tasting menu at both Charlie Trotter's and at Green Zebra. Can Chowhounds weigh in on these two options or offer other suggestions?

Thanks!

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Charlie Trotter's
816 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, IL 60614

Green Zebra
1460 W Chicago, Chicago, IL 60622

Chicago Diner
3411 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60657

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  1. Any high-end restaurant that offers tasting menus will be able to prepare a vegetarian version for you; they just don't all show it on their website. Since you're considering Charlie Trotter's and you presumably don't mind the downsides of high-end restaurants (high price and dressy attire), you may want to also consider our other high-end restaurants, led by Alinea and also including Everest, TRU, Avenues, and Spiaggia. If you contact them, they can probably send you a sample vegetarian menu. (Everest used to show theirs on their website, but it's not there any more.)

    Hopefully others here can provide feedback based on specific experience with the vegetarian menus at these and other places.

    1. I had the vegetable tasting menu at Trotter's. I didn't find the experience to be especially memorable. Very good, but it's not a meal that stands out (and there are many that do). Arun's will also do a vegetarian meal (with advance notice). A lot of people are unimpressed but I've always enjoyed it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ferret

        In case you're not familiar with Arun's, it's a high-end Thai restaurant on the far north side.

      2. Blue 13 has a vegetarian tasting menu. Here is the link: http://www.blue13chicago.com/menu.html
        A disclaimer - I've not tried it, or the regular tasting menu but we were recently there, eating off the a la carte menu and the food was excellent - well prepared and inventive, in a very convivial setting.

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        Blue 13
        416 W. Ontario Street, Chicago, IL 60610

        1. Not a local. My wife and I are both vegetarian. We really had a great time and meal at Green Zebra. We liked the Chicago Diner, too. I understand what you are asking and think you will really like Green Zebra. I haven't been back in two years, so YMMV.

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          Green Zebra
          1460 W Chicago, Chicago, IL 60622

          Chicago Diner
          3411 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60657

          2 Replies
          1. re: 2000man

            It's also worth noting that Green Zebra is the only upscale restaurant in the area that's almost entirely vegetarian (sometimes they have one dish on the menu that's not, sometimes it's all veg). So it's pretty much THE place to go...

            1. re: nsxtasy

              I've never been a big fan. It's good, but it's not great. My son just met some friends there for dinner and immediately hit the fridge when he got home (and he's not a big eater) because the portions are pretty small. He also has no intention of going back.

          2. There's an article in today's New York Times - see the link provided at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/775384 - and it says this about the vegetarian cuisine there:

            "Mr. Trotter is particularly virtuosic with vegetables. A plate arrives bearing what looks like a cross-section of slab bacon, but it’s really a terrine of three separate beet purées — red, golden and chioggia — that have been set in a mold and then sauced with another purée, of horseradish and roasted parsnips: a root-crop tour of the five taste sensations. A porridge of amaranth is enlivened with green cardamom, toasted pistachios and a slice of raw persimmon: a dish at once vaguely South Asian and satisfyingly Moosewood-y. Charlie Trotter’s offers a more traditional Grand Menu, but it’s the Vegetable Menu — an ever-changing, never-boring meatless dégustation — that is his crowning culinary achievement.

            'Alice Waters may have discovered vegetables, but Trotter was the first man I know who cooked them beautifully,' said Alan Richman, the longtime restaurant critic for GQ."

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            Charlie Trotter's
            816 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, IL 60614

            1. We've done many dinners at Green Zebra and always enjoyed it - creative smart food and interesting choices. Serving size varies - your server can guide you and I and my guests have never left hungry.

              Last visit they had really steped up the desert menu so leave room for a selection ... aso good cocktails!

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              Green Zebra
              1460 W Chicago, Chicago, IL 60622

              1. Not a tasting menu, but a true vegetarian restaurant (would be vegan, but they do use honey) and not in a trendy neighborhood: Soul Vegetarian East. Here's a link to the TRibune's MetroMix entry:

                Soul Vegetarian East Restaurant - Chatham/Avalon Park - Chicago, IL 60619 | Metromix Chicago

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                Soul Vegetarian East
                203 E 75th St, Chicago, IL 60619

                1. I had the vegetable menu at Trotters this past weekend. It is, by the way, a vegtable menu, not a vegetarian menu, as they use meat products. However, they will happily make it vegetarian.

                  As for the food, it was one of the best meals I've ever had in Chicago. I don't think anyone in town has a better hand with vegetables. Indeed, even the regular menu uses vegetable broths and purees for many of the dishes. Different from many other places, there is no molecular grastronmy, and in many respects, Trotters' dishes are more subtle and nuanced than many other places in town. His dishes have great depth and balance, but don't slap you in the face with a big bold flavor. Just my opinion!