Chicago is not just the home of deep-dish pizza and hot dogs. Our fair city has long been home to an exciting mix of cultures; Polish, Mexican, Indian, Korean, Senegalese, Ethiopian, and old-fashioned soul food can be found throughout the city. And although Chicago has long been a traditional meat and potatoes town, thanks to the city’s history with stockyards and the meatpacking industry, it’s also home to a growing number of vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants. And what’s even better, many of those dishes can be found at Black-owned restaurants. Here are six to seek out once you land on the Third Coast:
7167 S Exchange Ave
Just a few short blocks from the historic South Shore Cultural Center—a former country club that now houses theaters, a golf course, and a beach open to the public—Majani is a cozy, light-filled café founded this year by Tsadakeeyah and Nasya Emmanuel. The eatery specializes in vegan cuisine, with food sourced from local farms. Come by on Sunday for their all-day brunch, with healthy takes on Southern and soul food options like fried grits, lentil sausage, and soy cheese grits. Or stop by any day of the week to pick up vegan baked goods, like a generous slice of perfectly sweetened pineapple upside-down cake.
1126 E 47th St
Gorée Cuisine is a Senegalese restaurant in the Kenwood neighborhood—yes, where President Barack Obama owns a home. Most of the menu consists of roasted chicken and fish, stews, and soups—in other words, real stick-to-your-ribs homestyle cooking. Be sure to try the tiebu djeun, which is a whole fried fish served with sauteed cabbage and jollof rice, a richly flavored one-pot West African rice dish made with tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, and spices. The umber-colored dish is the likely ancestor of American dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, and hoppin’ John. Truth be told, Nigeria and Ghana can stop beefing, because as it turns out, the best jollof rice doesn’t come from either one of those countries. It comes from Senegal.
4652 S King Drive
Several dishes at Peach’s have something in common: they’re in some way peach-infused. From iced tea to coffee to French toast to pancakes served with a sweet peach compote, this 17-year-old restaurant in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood makes use of the stone fruit in some form or fashion. Fear not: the menu offers enough variety that it doesn’t get too one-note. The best non-peach-flavored dish is the salmon croquettes with a side of cheesy, buttery grits. Peach’s is only open until 3 p.m., so you’ll want to stop by this airy, vibrant eatery for breakfast or lunch before you start exploring the rest of the city.
Batter & Berries
2748 N Lincoln Ave
This family-friendly breakfast and brunch spot in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on the city’s North Side boasts 62 variations of French toast, including an indulgent Godiva chocolate option. If French toast isn’t your thing or you’re in the mood for something more savory, they also offer a chicken and waffle plate as well as wraps, salads, and omelettes. It’s also BYOB, in case you want to make your own mimosas or bellinis. And like Peach’s, Batter & Berries is open for breakfast and lunch only, and closes at 3 p.m.
Original Soul Vegetarian
203 E 75th St
For 33 years, Original Soul Vegetarian has been attracting vegetarians and meat-lovers alike on the city’s South Side. Soul Veg, as it’s affectionately known, offers healthy, vegan twists on soul food classics, like greens without the ham hocks or turkey necks and a black-eyed pea burger. And of course, there’s vegan barbeque; try the BBQ tofu wings. Looking for something lighter? Eternity Juice Bar is on site, blending up fresh smoothies and vegetable juices in addition to offering a raw food bar. The dairy-free almond malt smoothie—thick, creamy, and rich—tastes just like fresh vanilla-bean ice cream. The chickpea salad gets added depth and smokiness from sesame oil, and the kale salad has just the right amount of tartness from a vinegar-and-oil blend. The food here is seasoned so perfectly and balanced so well that you will not miss the meat and dairy at all.
8534 S Stony Island Ave
This family-owned, cash-only spot in the Avalon Park neighborhood is the home of the sweet steak sandwich, also known as the Supreme Steak sandwich. Stuffed with beef, peppers, cheese, onions, and a special sweet sauce that’s been a family secret for 51 years, this sandwich is as iconic as the Chicago hot dog or Harold’s Chicken—to the people on the South Side in the know, that is. It’s a humble takeout spot, so while there isn’t any place to sit down, you’ll still get a hearty meal and quick, friendly service. They also serve hoagies and cheesesteaks, and for people who want to satisfy their sweet tooth, milkshakes. Try the malted shake for a nice treat.