Vegan Chicago: Pre-Trip Planning

grilled watermelon_vegan peasant catering

grilled watermelon_vegan peasant catering

Vegan Chicago: Pre-Trip Planning

When you think of vegan mecca’s Chicago doesn’t exactly come to mind. We tend to think of Berlin, Portland, New York, San Francisco and even London as vegan-friendly world cities. If history is anything to go by Chicago was the country’s largest meatpacking centre and the acknowledged headquarters of the industry and is home to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange live-cattle futures. So you probably won’t be surprised to know that in 1996 The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association sued Oprah when Howard Lyman, ex-cattle rancher and vegetarian activist, appeared on Oprah to tell everyone about the danger of mad cow disease. Oprah was so alarmed she said she would never eat another hamburger every again. As you can imagine the beef industry came down on Oprah like a tone of bricks even though Gary Weber, the trade group’s animal-health and food-safety expert participated in the show. Cattle ranchers everywhere were outraged and literally wanted Oprah’s head on a platter.

Even though Chicago has a not so salubrious reputation when it comes to its meat heavy culture I was surprised to find out that Chicago has the “longest–standing gourmet raw food restaurant in the United States”. Karyn’s Raw Bistro (now closed) located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. As I dug a little deeper into my pre-trip planning I found out that Chicago is a place with a varied food, art, live music and craft beer scene. There was no way I was going to get to see everything I wanted to see in a week.


First stop Amitabul, a Korean vegan restaurant. If you’ve been following Vegan Peasant you know that Korean food is one of our favourite cuisines and kimichi one of our favourite foods. London doesn’t even have a Korean vegan restaurant and it’s been years since I visited New York’s Korea town. This will really be a treat.

Chicago Diner, from what I can gather this place is pretty much an institution. I’ll try to visit in the week as I get the feeling it will be mobbed on the weekend especially as all the families will be descending on Chicago for Northwestern University’s graduations.

Karyn’s Cooked is part of the restaurant and spa group started by Karyn Calabrese. The reviews on Happy Cow seem to be pretty mixed so definitely won’t do dinner here, but lunch hopefully will be fine.

Green Zebra, a vegetarian restaurant in Chicago’s West Town area, I found on the Vegan Miam Chicago guide. They seem to have a good number of vegan options. When I land in Chicago and have a bit more time I’ll check out the menu, as it might be a good idea to call a headfirst if the vegan options seem a little thin.

Uru Swati, we love South Indian food so it will be a treat to eat from a completely vegan menu. London has no shortage of Indian and South Indian restaurants so it will be great to see what Chicago has to offer.


Trader Joe’s started out in California and has now spread like a virus across the United States. For the uninitiated it’s a chain of ‘gourmet’ food stores selling packaged foods, re-branded products and their own brand products. A trip to Trader Joe’s is obligatory even if I’ll probably just end up walking around and around the store only to walk out empty handed. Some people are evangelical when it comes to Trader Joe’s me not so much.

Whole Foods has everything and then some. I probably won’t find much that’s new as I visited a West Palm Beach WH in December. As long as the have my favourite sunshine burgers, uncheese popcorn and gelato I’m good. I’m not really into mock meats, but I guess I should at least give Upton’s Naturals a try as I’ve heard so much about them. What I’m really looking forward to are all the summer fruits: grapes, berries, watermelons, pineapples, mangos, peaches and passion fruit.

Hello Summer!


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