“Meat-Free since ‘83” is the motto plastered all over the walls of the retro-inspired Chicago Diner. Fast forward 31 years and it still has the same retro feel, and is still the best vegetarian spot in Chicago.
Though the diner was a trailblazer when it opened, vegetarianism and veganism have gained popularity and thus brought some competition.
“In the early days they made fun of us. Now they copy us,” said owner Mickey Hornick in a recent interview with the Boston Globe.
Despite the growing competition, Chicagoans love the familiar diner as much as ever. The Radical Reuben sandwich and vegan milkshakes have been the crowd favorites since the diner’s opening, and continue to be their bestsellers.
Other items on the menu include buffalo “wingz”, “cheezeburgers”, and “chickun” sandwiches.
All of the dishes are prepared using seitan, a soy-based substitute. Guests are offered the choice of dairy or non-dairy cheese, though all of the desserts are non-dairy.
Located in the Boystown neighborhood, not far from Wrigley Field, the Chicago Diner has established itself as somewhat of an icon. It is on the first floor of a vintage 3-flat building on Halsted St., and can only seat approximately 45 people maximum.
The size certainly makes it difficult to secure a table, especially during the evenings, on weekends, and with parties of four or more. However, crowds of people still wait sometimes up to an hour to have a bite at this famous hotspot.
For those few who are unwilling to wait for a seat at the restaurant, the Diner’s “cheezecake”, along with their other desserts, became so popular that they are now sold in Whole Foods stores (exclusively in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Missouri, and Michigan).
To add to its success, the Chicago Diner has released two cookbooks: The Chicago Diner Cookbook and The New Chicago Diner Cookbook. The demand for its great vegetarian food has grown so much that the Diner has opened a second location in the Logan Square area.
For vegetarians, vegans, and foodies alike, the Chicago Diner is a true gem that never disappoints.
Do you have a vegetarian restaurant in your neighborhood? What is your favorite item on the menu?