Getting kids to eat their greens is easier said than done (by now they know broccoli isn’t a mini tree). But some Chicago restaurants make it a snap, and get families out of food ruts. Vegetarian and vegan eateries hide in plain sight in Lincoln Park, Oak Park and beyond. If your kids are meat-free or you want to dabble in a new diet, check out these spots that serve everything from cupcakes to cookies, soups to sandwiches, and all the greens in between.


photo: The Chicago Diner

The Chicago Diner
The Menu: Vegan, with gluten-free options available.

Order It: There’s usually a wait to sit down at this spot, which claims to be “meat free since ’83.” It’s a classic diner — but no greasy spoon. Everything has a healthy, vegan twist. Mac and Cheese is an eternal kid favorite here, but grown-ups appreciate the famous Radical Reuben, a sandwich packed with corned beef seitan, onions, peppers, sauerkraut, vegan cheese and Thousand Island on marbled rye. Kids and adults agree that The Chicago Diner’s hand-blended shakes are to die for, and with flavors such as Peanut Butter Cookie Dough and Carrot Cake, they are far too sinful to pass up.

Insider Tip: “My son loves Chicago Diner’s brunch,” shares local mom Marla Rose, founder of Vegan Street and Chicago’s Veganmania foodie fest. Served daily until 3 p.m., this smorgasbord wows guests with cruelty-free faves, including vegan cinnamon rolls, chilaquiles, biscuit and sausage gravy, and even country fried (seitan!) steak.

3411 N. Halsted St.
2333 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Logan Square


photo: Ground Control via Kelli A. on Yelp

Ground Control
The Menu: Vegetarian/vegan, with gluten-free options available.

Order It: When you’re not busy ogling the adjacent event space and art gallery, eye up the robust menu. You’ll find all your favorite sandwiches, and we promise you won’t miss the meat. Burgers replace beef with beets and are stacked with provolone, housemade pickles, tomato, onion, arugula and a new take on burger sauce. The Po’ Boy takes center stage with its baby portobello breaded in a flavorful crispy batter, pickled red onion and cabbage, tomato, spring greens and spicy garlic mayo. Order the Avocado Pineapple Salad on the side for a sweet and savory mix of greens, or go with a classic plate of crispy fries.

Insider Tip: Ground Control’s Tofu “Wings” are just as sweet and spicy as the real deal, and are served with ranch or Asian BBQ Style with pickled daikon and carrot. Save room for the rotating, seasonally-inspired menu of vegan desserts.

3315 W. Armitage Ave.
Logan Square


photo: Arya Bhavan

Arya Bhavan
The Menu: Vegan, with gluten-free options available.

Order It: In the heart of Chicago’s “Little India,” the casual and warm Arya Bhavan has a long list of Indian favorites are all deliciously vegan. Start with samosas and move on to Palak Panner, fresh organic spinach and pan-seared vegan cheese seasoned with cumin, onion, cinnamon, cardamom and garam masala spices; or Chana Masala, sun-dried chickpeas seasoned with cumin and fresh onion, sautéed and topped with tomato gravy. A less-adventurous but no less tasty kids’ menu features pizza made with naan and tempura-battered veggie nuggets.

Insider Tip: Even if your kids are anti-avocado, the avocado ice cream is guaranteed to turn them onto the heart-healthy fruit.

2508 W. Devon Ave.
West Rogers Park


photo: Munch

The Menu: Vegetarian/vegan

Order It: A cozy local eatery with heart, Munch makes vegan food accessible and desirable. Everything is homemade with an emphasis on fresh and local ingredients. Kids appreciate the “Beef” Nachos Supreme: crispy corn tortilla chips topped with seitan “chorizo,” queso fresco, guacamole and sour cream. You won’t even notice that the bacon is fakin’ in the BLT. Seven salads topped with housemade dressings are full of crunchy veggies.

Insider Tip: The weekend brunch, served Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., features stacked cornmeal pancakes and a signature Hippy Hemp Seed Breakfast Salad that will fuel you for a groove day of fun. Also, good to know: Munch is BYOB and cash only.

104 N. Marion St.
Oak Park


photo: Soul Vegetarian

Soul Vegetarian 
The Menu: Vegetarian/vegan

Order It: Southern and soul food gets a veggie-friendly makeover at this revered South Side eatery. Start with a basket of battered and fried cauliflower and mushrooms. The BBQ Twist Platter is best ordered with a side of greens. You’ll want more than one slice of the many vegan-friendly Southern-style cakes and pies, especially the coconut cake and sweet potato pie, which are beyond decadent.

Insider Tip: The tastiest part of this mainstay comes in a glass: Step up to the in-house Eternity Juice Bar for a Banana Moon or Peanut Butter Surge shake.

203 E. 75th St.
Greater Grand Crossing


photo: Native Foods Cafe West Loop

Native Foods Café
The Menu: Vegan, with gluten-free options available.

Order It: This fast-casual mini empire is a great place to take kids. The menu offers all the standards: nuggets, mac and cheese, mac and marinara and “chicken” quesadillas — all of which are served meat-free and with your choice of steamed brown rice, steamed seasonal veggies or seasoned fries. If you’re craving a burger, give the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger a try: Seitan takes a cruelty-free stand with melted vegan cheddar, caramelized onions, crunchy battered dill pickle chips and crispy ‘bacon’ rounding out the flavors.

Insider Tip: A rotating menu of daily sandwich specials includes a free side; add a cup of the daily soup for $1.95.

Six locations across Chicagoland

What is YOUR favorite vegetarian or vegan restaurant? Shout about it in the Comments!

— Amy Bizzarri