Next up in my series of Chicago eats is the Chicago Diner. Jon found this place for me; it’s a vegetarian restaurant all decked out like a 50’s diner serving all the good old-fashioned favorites, sans the meat. They’ve got it all: burgers, fries, sandwiches, Philly cheese steaks, meatloaf, and milkshakes, all with no meat products (and often completely vegan).
In addition to the regular “diner” foods, they do have other vegetarian fare such as salads and stir fries, though most of the expansive menu is comprised of basic foods our parents grew up with, only the meat portions are replaced with creative and flavorful non-meat substitutes such as seitan, tempeh, and tofu.
The place was packed as we arrived before the Cubs game — one of the three locations is just down the street from Wrigley Field. The wait wasn’t too bad, and before long we were jammed into a tiny table not six inches from the table next to us. The place is crowded and a bit chaotic, but the experience was totally fun.
And the food was good! I ordered the famous “Radical Reuben” ($11), which won the Vegetarian Times Magazine Reader’s Choice Award for “Best in the Midwest”, and is made with corned “beef” seitan, grilled onions, peppers, sauerkraut, vegan Thousand Island, and cheese (you can choose vegan cheese or regular) on marbled rye. Whew! It was intense.
Jon ordered the Portabello Truffle Melt ($12) and a vegan chocolate peanut butter milkshake, both of which he was very happy with and looked amazing. Even the vegan shake was surprisingly delicious — sometimes that’s a hard thing to translate to a dairy-free option.
I loved this restaurant and would recommend it for vegetarians and non-veggies alike. Everything was very well executed and the meat-free menu has definitely been perfected in the 30 years since the restaurant opened. Plus, it’s not like it’s health food… you can get your fix of greasy spoon without soiling your conscience. Gotta love that, right?