Going vegan isn’t just better for your health and the planet — it can even be better for your taste buds. Top Chicago chefs are heeding the call for more vegan options and seriously delivering. Far from leaving you feeling like you’ve made a sacrifice, these dishes are so flavorful and satisfying, you wouldn’t even guess they’re vegan.
302 N. Green St., Chicago, 773-645-1400
The several variations of hummus and other Middle Eastern-inspired spreads are the perfect way to start a meal at this West Loop restaurant, where the menu is very much vegetable-driven and vegan-friendly. This spring, Chef CJ Jacobson debuts a grilled green bean and sugar snap pea dip ($10.95), inspired by his travels to Tulum. “I dined at Arca and had an incredible grilled green bean dish,” he says. “It inspired me to create a grilled vegetable dip. With sorrel being my favorite herb and highly acidic, I thought it’d be a perfect base for a sauce.” He makes a sorrel green curry with cashew butter and chopped cashews on top for crunch.
51 W. Hubbard St., Chicago 312-828-0051
There’s a new vegan addition ($16.95) to the nacho lineup at this trendy River North restaurant. “Hub 51 is built around our chicken nachos,” executive partner Jerrod Melman says. “We’re famous for them! Our team wanted to create a really delicious plant-based ‘cheese’ that our vegan guests could enjoy too.” The result: crisp corn tortilla chips, piled high with guacamole, jalapenos, pico de gallo, black beans, tomato salsa, sprouts, and vegan nacho cheese made with cashews, almond milk, potatoes, poblano peppers, and a mix of spices.
601 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling, 847-777-6878
Chef Mychael Bonner‘s daughter recently became a vegan and challenged him to create some dishes for her. He came up with a roasted spring carrot salad ($14), with housemade almond ricotta, aged balsamic, and avocado. “I used nutritional yeast, which really makes the nut resemble a cheese-like flavor,” Bonner explains. The carrots come from Horcher’s Farm in Wheeling and Bonner helps with planting and harvesting.