Chicago ranked 2nd-best city for vegan travelers

“When you come to Chicago, you’re coming to a diverse city. You can come here and you could have different things in different ways,” one restaurateur said.

SHARE Chicago ranked 2nd-best city for vegan travelers
A festival-goer holds vegan al-pastor tacos by Healthy Substance during day one of Lollapalooza in August.

A festival-goer holds vegan al-pastor tacos by Healthy Substance during day one of Lollapalooza in August.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Deep dish pizza and hot dogs are staples in Chicago’s food culture, but a new study has set those aside and still flared the city’s culinary scene as one of the best in the nation.

Chicago was ranked the second-best city for vegan travelers in a recent report by InsureMyTrip after the company examined the number of vegan restaurants in a city, affordability and Google reviews.

New York City topped the list, with Los Angeles rounding out the top three, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas finishing fourth and fifth.

The second-place ranking was no surprise to the owners of two plant-based restaurants on the city’s South and Southwest Sides.

“When you come to Chicago, you’re coming to a diverse city… You can come here and you could have different things in different ways,” said Arel Ben Israel, co-owner of Soul Veg City, which features barbecue dishes, mac and cheese, cornbread and other comfort foods at 203 E. 75th St., in Chatham.

Siblings Arel Ben Israel and Lori Seay are co-owners of Original Soul Vegetarian Restaurant. The eatery is 100% vegan.

Siblings Arel Ben Israel and Lori Seay are co-owners of Original Soul Vegetarian Restaurant. The eatery is 100% vegan.

Leslie Adkins/For the Sun-Times, File

Even the traditional foods, such as pizza or Italian beef, can be represented in a plant-based form, he said.

And while those are the mainstream Chicago hits, Miguel Franco, owner of Healthy Substance, argues that “a more elaborate description of Chicago would be it’s an extremely well-rounded food ecosystem where you can find the best of the best dishes of almost every cuisine that exists.”

Healthy Substance, at 6852 W. Archer Ave., in Garfield Ridge, dubs itself “the vegan side of Mexico,” and its mantra is to show that “animals are not needed in Mexican food,” Franco said.

“We can create the same authentic, delicious dishes but just change one small factor of instead of coming from an animal, it comes from an alternative protein source like soy or pea protein; there’s so many now that it’s hard to list,” Franco said.

Miguel Franco of Healthy Substance works the restaurant’s tent during day one of Lollapalooza.

Miguel Franco of Healthy Substance during day one of Lollapalooza earlier this summer.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The study by InsureMyTrip also highlighted Chicago’s food options from local farmers markets, saying the city has the second-best option for local produce behind Washington, D.C. It also noted Chicago’s 64 “low-cost” restaurants, which was the second-most, behind New York’s 93.

Both Franco, who owns his restaurant with his mother, Patricia Gonzalez, and Israel, who is co-owner of Original Soul with his sister, Lori Seay, credited Chicago’s high rankings to the city’s innovativeness.

“[Chicago] is a city that knows how to renew itself,” Israel said. “It’s a city that knows how to stay relevant and a city that’s concerned, as well as it wants to participate in this challenge that the world is having right now with global warming and this whole sustainable reality that we’re going through.”

The Latest
Shane Waldron has seen an improvement in Williams’ operation of the offense, from learning the verbiage to using cadence as a weapon.
It wasn’t just one bad night, but what that bad night represents.
The shooting happened about 2:40 a.m. Sunday on Interstate 94 near 73rd Street, according to Illinois State Police.
In honor of the 20th anniversary of the park’s opening, Common and the Grant Park Orchestra transformed the packed Jay Pritzker Pavilion into a joyful party honoring hip-hop and the Windy City.