Chicago's meat-packing history, famous Chicago style hot dogs and Chicken Vesuvio don't scream vegetarian for the visitor. Yet the city by the lake is a veritable feast for those who eschew the flavours of an Italian sausage topped with shredded beef.
No visit to Chicago is complete without a Chicago-style pizza, or the corresponding arguments over which one is the most worthy to bear that title. Definitely not vegan with their huge amounts of cheese and tomatoes, all of them are known for their high edges and deep surface, fillings of cheese and whatever else you can think of. The deep dish pizza is typically credited to UNO PIZZERIA, dating back to the 1940s, although the other half of Chicago will tell you that LOU MALNATI'S is the best, named for the son of chef Rudy Malnati Sr who originally ran UNO anyway. GINO'S EAST is also a good option for this kind of pizza (and they have a terrific crust there too). GIORDANO'S pretty much owns the stuffed crust market, which is similar until you cut into it, then you'll notice the sheer amount of toppings. Don't think of it as a pizza, treat it more like a crusted lasagne: you probably wouldn't eat a whole one for yourself. Always start with the small.
THE CHICAGO DINER is a mecca for vegetarians and vegans everywhere, with locations in Logan Square and Halstead. Proudly "meat free since '83," this gets a Maximum Bearded Vegetarian rating for having an entirely vegetarian menu, and it's all killer. Their trademark is The Radical Reuben sandwich, but it's good for breakfast, lunch or dessert. Go for brunch and try the Breakfast Bowl: a potato hash topped with eggs/tofu, biscuit, and seitan sausage gravy. Whatever you do, try their vegan shakes at $6 (regular) or $7 (large). Four words: Cookie Dough Peanut Butter.
You may have noticed the beer theme on this site. Chicago has some great breweries, including the HALF ACRE , REVOLUTION, GOOSE ISLAND and of course, LAGUNITAS. Yet if you want to sample a bit of everything, HOPLEAF BAR on N Clark has the most bang for any of your bucks. Boasting around 60 taps at any given time, there's a few dozen just from Chicago and the Midwest. If you're travelling from overseas, be sure to have some ID with you in Chicago bars. It doesn't matter how old (or young) you look, Chicago tends to card just about everyone.
If you've got room for dessert, be sure to try a slice of pie at FIRST SLICE. Selections include Michigan Sour Cherry, Polka Dot, Chocolate Peanut Butter and some of the best Key Lime Pie outside of the Florida Keys.
Chicago: go for the architecture, stay for the food.