Editor’s Note: This article originally contained an incorrect store name. The store referred to in the second paragraph is Shoe Source, not Dollar Town Plus.
As a vegan in a world of carnivores, I found myself hungry and eager to feel satiated. With few options outside of a side salad at the eateries my friends frequent, I became determined to discover delicious meals that don’t disrupt the lives of the animals on the farms.
Not only a resident but self-proclaimed Logan Square aficionado — oftentimes my groceries are from Sunrise Fresh Market, my home goods from Shoe Source (yes, that place with the questionable headless mannequins “dressed” in outfits far too revealing to withstand the Chicago elements), and for booze, Reno Chicago is generally my jam — I was determined to find myself meals in a neighborhood catering to the bizarre bone-marrow, rabbit-liver-loving gastro-fare crowd.
To my surprise, Logan Square has a wealth of not only vegetarian options, but vegan. Here’s my tried, tested and true short list of five places for you, fellow herbivores.
Reading through the menu, it may not seem like vegetarians or vegans are welcomed at Wyler Road (3581 W. Belden Ave.). Not even through the back door. But, dread not. The neighborhood bar quickly rising the ranks to favorite local jaunt does respect the right to paaaar-tay….without animal products. Many dishes can be made vegan or vegetarian and are still bold on flavor and don’t only involve a carrot stick or two.
Spicy Tofu, a cold sandwich, served with grilled avocado, a layer of Vegenaise, pea shoots and co-op hot sauce all on a batard, a delicious French bread that’s similar to a baguette but a little shorter. $10
Add the side salad, but skip the salt and vinegar chips, they have dairy.
More than a hookah bar and late-night dance floor, Masada (2206 N. California Ave.) offers a delightful vegan and vegetarian menu. In fact, itemizing my favorite dishes on this short list is making my mouth water.
Sweet, tangy and filling, the Fetit Betinjan, a dish made from sautéed eggplant and toasted pita chips, is tossed in pomegranate tahini lemon dressing. $7
It’s almost like someone’s grandmother whipped up the Baba Ghannouj Lebanese style, from a family recipe. It boasts a blend of fire roasted eggplant, tomatoes and jalapeno, served with lemon, olive oil, parsley and garlic. $8
Finally, you cannot leave without trying the Ful, which is braised and mashed fava bean topped with garlic, jalapeño, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice and served with a pita. $7
It’s small. It’s loud. It’s understaffed. But, one bite of the Zesty Salad, and you’ll be a resident of Ground Control (3315 W. Armitage Ave.) for life. No, really. You’ll want to take up residence at the table by the window and eat the hearty peanut-and-spicy-tofu-filled bowl until rents rise too high and moving to Indiana is the only economical choice possible.
Discovered with a meat-loving friend, the Zesty Salad packs in crispy rice, peanuts, red onion, cucumber, scallions, grape tomatoes, basil, mint, cilantro, fried tofu bits and spring greens tossed in a garlic lime chili dressing into a heaping pile of invigorating, refreshing flavor.
Did I hear tacos? Ground Control also offers a list of creative taco-style entree choices. The Nashville Hot Tofu is fascinating, the unexpected medley of flavors are quite spicy so if you’re low on the Scoville scale, stay clear. It’s crispy battered tofu rubbed with super spicy cayenne oil, served with grilled sourdough, house made pickles, garlic smashed potatoes, and beer braised kale.
Named Chicago Reader’s Runner Up to Chicago Diner for best vegan restaurant, Ground Control also delivers. So a late night Chinese fix with friends doesn’t have to only include steamed broccoli.
Remember when you were young and mom and dad were just so exhausted from driving you to your music lessons and dance lessons and friends’ houses that sometimes the only option was fast food? But what could be more enjoyable than Wendy’s? That spicy chicken sandwich with a side of fries and a frosty, obviously, to dip the fries into. A meal completely devoured before the car even turned onto the home driveway, causing your mom to only shake her head at you with simultaneous amazement and disgust.
It’s a moment that is relatable and is completely recreated at Chicago Diner (2333 N. Milwaukee Ave.) for the reformed meat-eater.
Spicy Crispy Chicken – Panko-cayenne breaded “chicken” style seitan, vegan ranch, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and onion all stacked on a wheat bun. Tack on one of the diner’s shakes — Vanilla Chai? Mint Chocolate Chip? — to finish off the recreation.
Get a side of the Macaroni and Teeze, add a little Sriracha and drift into a soothing food coma for the next few hours.
Side note, this eatery specializes in non-meat options. Almost every item is vegan or can be made vegan and truly doesn’t disappoint. Any option, really, is a good one.
The line outside the doors is not to build anticipation. The refusal for reservations isn’t to taunt our senses with unrequited meals. It really is that busy. And it’s because the meals are that gratifying.
Stick out the wait and try these dishes.
Vegan Tan Tan Men (Vegan Ramen) is made with Upton’s Seitan ragu (no GMO), mushroom and seaweed broth, buckwheat noodle, scallion, sesame,bok choy, chili oil, and chili threads. Spicy, salty, and satisfying, you’ll leave wanting more.
The Brussel Sprouts are fried, perfectly crispy, in a sweet, tangy, almost Teriyaki-like sauce. Oftentimes these are overlooked on the menu provided the wealth of options for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, but these are a definite. Do not miss out.
My go-to snack: Kale Chips
I’m not sure if everyone has stepped off the kale-motorized bandwagon, but I’m still driving it. So as a proud Kale-evangelist, here is my quick, easy, go-to recipe for when I need a spicy, salty snack.
10 oz. Kale
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Garlic salt – Sprinkle to a coat
Black pepper – Sprinkle to coat
Crushed Red Pepper – to taste
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. On a cookie sheet, place kale and drizzle with olive oil. Beware, do not over-oil. Add the dry ingredients and mix the kale so each is coated. Ensure there is enough space between each leaf, about an index-finger width. Place in oven.
In about 15 minutes, pull out sheet, flip over the kale, remove the crunchy ones and pop back in until all are crispy.
Allow them to cool, but get ready to enjoy.