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Best of Chicago 2009: Best Vegetarian Restaurant

Best Vegetarian Restaurant

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The Reader's Choice: Green Zebra

Years ago, the first vegetarian restaurant I visited in Chicago was a spare room serving variations on stir-fried vegetables over brown rice. At Green Zebra, now approaching its five-year anniversary, Shawn McClain (Custom House, Spring) elevates meatless cuisine into the realm of fine dining.

The menu changes seasonally; on our last visit we enjoyed blue cheese agnolotti, which delivers a powerful cheesy punch, and a Napoleon-like stack of interleaved red and golden beets, garnished with sweet mascarpone that was balanced by aged balsamic vinegar. Servings tend toward the small, so you'll need to select a few plates per person from the long list of globally influenced options: Thai-spiced carrot soup with crispy noodle; miso risotto with glazed turnips, bok choy, and baby carrots; ricotta gnocchi with heirloom squash, rapini, and preserved lemon. There's also the option of a chef's tasting menu—oh, and one or two selections that involve fish or poultry.

The wine list nods to vegetable-based cuisine by offering significantly more whites than reds; nonalcoholic beverages include some unusual choices, like pink peppercorn-thyme soda and cilantro limeade. Servers are uniformly knowledgeable, fun, and eager to guide.  1460 W. Chicago, 312-243-7100, greenzebrachicago.com. —David Hammond

&Our readers' choice: Chicago Diner

 3411 N. Halsted, 773-935-6696, veggiediner.com.

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