Yes, Chicago may have a reputation as a carnivore's paradise, but that doesn't mean vegetarians should stuff their bags with dried tofu before coming here. In recent years, more and more local restaurants have made an effort to accommodate non-meat eaters. While you can order a green salad or vegetable pasta almost anywhere, here are some places where veggie offerings are the main event.
At Green Zebra (1460 W. Chicago Ave. [at Greenview St.]; tel. 312/243-7100; www.greenzebrachicago.com), the menu is almost exclusively meat-free, and the creative small-plates menu gives diners a wide range of flavors to sample. Reza's, a sprawling Middle Eastern spot in River North, may specialize in giant mixed-meat kebabs, but their vegetarian plates are generous, flavorful mixes of hummus, tabbouleh, and other traditional dishes, nicely presented in red bento boxes. At the Southern spot Wishbone, in the West Loop, veggie lovers can create their own sampler plates by selecting from a wide range of side dishes.
Going vegetarian also doesn't mean giving up on gourmet dining. Two of the city's best, most creative chefs in town -- Charlie Trotter at his namesake restaurant and Michael Taus at Zealous -- offer multicourse vegetarian tasting menus. At Crofton on Wells, in River North, chef Suzy Crofton always includes a few meat-free options on her nightly menu. (She'll customize them for vegans, too.) In Wrigleyville, chef Yoshi Katsumura of Yoshi's Café also offers a regular selection of vegetarian dishes featuring his signature blend of French and Asian flavors.
Vegans may find their options extremely limited on most menus, but local holistic health devotee Karyn Calabrese operates two vegan-friendly restaurants. Karyn's Raw, 1901 N. Halsted St. (tel. 312/255-1590), in Old Town, encompasses both a casual cafe and juice bar and a white-tablecloth restaurant specializing in raw food; Karyn's Cooked, 738 N. Wells St. (tel. 312/587-1050), in River North, offers globally inspired vegan dishes. You can check out both menus at www.karynraw.com. Farther north in Wrigleyville, The Chicago Diner, 3411 N. Halsted St. (tel. 773/935-6696; www.veggiediner.com), might sound like the kind of place you load up on greasy burgers, but it's actually one of the city's best and longest-lasting vegetarian restaurants. (Most dishes are vegan, too.) The wide-ranging menu includes salads, sandwiches (including a "California Reuben" with seitan instead of corned beef), tacos, and pastas; for dessert, try a peanut butter or vanilla chai vegan milkshake.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.