We’re both vegetarian, so this list is biased in favor of places with great veggie options:
This may be our favorite restaurant in the world, and it’s just down the street from us in Edgewater. Chef Zenash Beyenne is a magician with spices, and her richly flavored stews transcend the genre. There are many Ethiopian restaurants on this strip of Broadway, but after you go to Ras Dashen, it’s the only one you’ll need. Try the q’tegna appetizer and the dupa wat (spicy pumpkin stew).
Located not far from us in Uptown, this is the best place for brunch in Chicago so expect to wait if you go during peak brunch times. But waiting isn’t so bad in Tweet’s adjacent bar, Big Chicks, with free coffee and a game of Boggle. And when you finally sit down, the enormous, beautifully plated portions of food are worth it. The menu has a lot of options for veg and vegan, and they even have a separate gluten-free menu if you need it. Our favorites are the veggie bisquits and gravy and the chilaquiles. Lots of fresh fruit, coffee cake, and every flavor of Tabasco sauce imaginable are all on hand to enhance your brunch experience.
When we are feeling broke but really want to eat out, we go to El Norte, our neighborhood taqueria. The quality is good, it’s open late, and the price is right. My “the usual” is 1 order of beans, 1 order of corn tortillas, 1 order of sliced avocado, and some limes. I make my own tacos and eat dinner for about $3. When we visit our friends who moved from our neighborhood to Skokie, they often ask us to bring them veggie burritos from El Norte.
This is our neighborhood Thai place. It does all the standard Thai dishes well (we get the Pad See Eew and the Panang Curry), but what sets it apart is how incredibly friendly and warm the owners are. Even when we haven’t been in for a year, they remember us and ask us how we’ve been. If it’s in season, try their mango sticky rice for dessert.
This all veg restaurant has been around for almost 30 years, and they have my favorite sandwich – the radical reuben – and my favorite milk shake (the vegan peanut butter cookie dough, made with temptation soy ice cream.)
Of all the Napoli-style thin crust pizza places that opened in the last several years, this is our favorite. And when I’m feeling cheesed out, I order a pizza with crumbled black truffles and a fried egg. It’s not on the menu, but if they have eggs in the kitchen and you ask nicely they’ll make it for you. The Bianco Nero is another great one, with porcini mushrooms and white truffle oil. Aaron likes the Bufalina. Also, it’s a great place to eat in the summer because they have a nice outdoor patio.
This is another thin-crust style pizza place we like (that also has good outdoor seating in the summer). This one’s specialty is that they are a certified organic restaurant (which we love to support). Plus, I love one of their salads (called the sun salad, I think) that has seaweed in it.
This place is north of Chicago in Evanston, but is worth the trek for good veg entrees and more importantly, the best cake ever: their vegan chocolate peanut butter cake. We order a whole cake from them whenever one of us has a birthday.
We only went here once, but it was awesome. Small plates of really interesting veggie food.
Who would have guessed that a storefront Panamanian place would have soy chicken or empanadas with fake ground beef?
Another surprise – a taqueria at 31st and Pulaski that has an entire page of the menu devoted to tacos, tortas and platos of traditional Mexican dishes done with fake meat. The best is the fake Al pastor and carne asada.
Addendum on 2/18/12:
Quesadilla – La Reyna del Sur
Aaron and I just had dinner at another place that belongs on this list, now that it is trending toward a vegetarian-latin theme. Quesadilla – La Reyna del Sur on Western a couple blocks south of Fullerton. I don’t think they have a website, but you can get their info off of Happy Cow. Here’s a review of it on second city vegan. The quesadilla with vegan cheese and carne asada soya meat was the best. I am already wanting another one and I’m not even hungry.