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Not Pleased to Meat You: A Vegan Tour

A Vegan Tour of Wicker Park and Bucktown.

Throw a stone and you will find bistro fare, drunk food, deli goodness, and any number of other delicious choices.  However, if you are one of the 7.3 million Americans who eschew meat, then welcome to a veritable cornucopia of meat-free meals!

1. prasino
    1846 W. Division
    P: (312) 878-1212

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!  Exit the El at the Division Blue Line stop and walk four blocks west to Prasino Wicker Park for a warm and welcoming atmosphere and truly drool-worthy morning selections including a tofu scramble, vegan eggs benedict, or orange-almond french toast with dairy-free cream cheese. Entrees are about $10. Be sure to enjoy the reclaimed wood on the tabletops and floors.

2. Native Foods Cafe
    1484 N Milwaukee
    P: (773) 489-8480

After a leisurely breakfast, stroll back east along until Division until you hit Milwaukee, at which point you will make a left and walk north five blocks.  After expending all that energy, it's time for lunch at Native Foods! A shining beacon of vegan goodness, Native Foods has no meat, no dairy, and no animal products on its exhaustive menu.  Focusing on comfort food and staffed by insanely friendly servers and managers, this is a total bulls-eye for anyone who wants a total immersion into a meatless existence.  Entrees are about $10 and apps run $5 or so.

3. Penny's Noodle Shop
    1542 N. Damen
    P: (773) 394-0100

If you are sticking to more of a budget, progress north on Milwaukee three more blocks until you hit Damen, and make a hard left. You will immediately locate Penny’s Noodle Shop right under the Damen Blue Line El tracks. The tasty pan-Asian menu beckons with generous portions and creative recipes, and vegan dishes are already noted on the menu.  Bright and clean, Penny's is a fun and funky restaurant perfect for larger groups or anyone on a tight budget, as entrees are consistently priced under $10.

4. Irazu Costa Rican Restaurant
    1865 N. Milwaukee
    P: (‎773) 252-5687

Meatless mania for dinner continues at Irazu, a bustling Costa Rican concept with a fantastic section on the menu just for vegetarians and vegans, located four blocks north from the Milwaukee/North/Damen intersection on the east side of Milwaukee. The vegan burrito stuffed with avocados, mushrooms, and tomatoes is a monster, and if you also order the chips and guac and/or the fried plantains, feel free to have a wheelbarrow outside to help you get home.  Dinner for two clocks in around $30, and anyone who avoids dairy should absolutely get the oatmeal shake made with soymilk.

5. Cumin
    1414 N. Milwaukee
    P: (773) 342-1414

If you are really hungry after all this perambulation, head south on Milwaukee four blocks and make a beeline for Cumin, a storefront restaurant that offers an exhaustive menu of Indian and Nepalese dishes.  Aromatic and lush, Cumin's meatless offerings range from hearty vegetable tandoori to rich lentil soup to silky chickpeas festooned with tangy masala sauce.  Entrees clock in around $12 and appetizers are priced around $5.

Copyright 2011. Written by Stephanie Sack, owner of vive la femme, a Bucktown-based agency dedicated to colorful culture, exceptional events, and sparkling marketing for Chicago's small businesses.  Oh, and she is also a plus-size fashion expert, personal stylist, and curvy closet remixer.