Lula Café

Nine courses of “flora" and “fauna" at Grace & more...

It’s a wonderful time to be a vegetarian. Gone are the days of the off-menu plate or roasted eggplant and carrots as an entrée—new restaurants have interesting, creative vegetarian dishes that aren’t just a compromised version of their “regular” choices. Even so, it can be hard to find great deals on prix fixe menus that cater to veggies. Here are five vegetarian tastings that you won’t make you feel like you’re taking a gamble.

Six courses for a steal at Lula Café
Lula offers some wonderful a la carte items for vegetarian diners, including the ever-popular beet bruschetta and the favorite Pasta YiaYia, made with an unlikely sounding combination of butter, cinnamon, and feta cheese. But if you want to branch out, consider going for the $48, six-course tasting menu, combining tasting portions of several vegetarian options offered at Lula, changing seasonally. You definitely won’t feel left out at Lula.

Treat yourself to the chef’s tasting menu at Green Zebra
Green Zebra is the granddaddy of fine-dining vegetarian spots, but it’s still going strong, cranking out innovative food in one of the most calming dining rooms in town. Every night they offer a chef’s tasting menu for around $55, which includes five courses plus (if you’re lucky) a few treats. It’s crafted from what’s in season, delivering delicate dishes with striking flavors—you’ll leave happy, but not stuffed. They also offer non-alcoholic pairings with their house-made soda (the pink peppercorn is a favorite) for $20.

Go for a special tasting at Mercat a la Planxa
Mercat a la Planxa is one of the best indulgences in Chicago, and a must-try for anyone who loves vegetables. You could build your own menu out of their vegetable and tapas sections—think wild mushrooms with confit potato, truffle, and parsley or roasted cauliflower with pickled mustard seeds and paprika—but if you’re willing to put yourself in Chef Cory Morris’s hands, order a tasting. For between $65 and $85 per person (depending on how nuts you want to go), he’ll craft a unique vegetarian menu from a combination of the regular menu and some special bites.

Splurge on eight or twelve courses at Grace
There’s no need to sacrifice fanciness just because you only want to eat plants! Grace, Chicago’s newest Michelin three-star restaurant, offers two nine-course tasting menus every night, "flora" and "fauna." The flora menu highlights vegetables and can be made entirely vegetarian by request. For $205, it’s not exactly a bargain, but for dishes this innovative, it might be worth it.

A night and a meal to remember at Alinea
Another unexpected option for great vegetarian fare is the tasting menu at Alinea. Yes, you have to buy tickets and yes, it’s going to cost most of your rent money, but for a truly unforgettable night of food (that just happens to be all veg) it might be worth it.
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