Thursday, March 6, 2014

Restaurant Review: Soul Vegetarian East in Chicago...

I don’t normally like to write two restaurant review posts back to back - you know for variety’s sake - but I just have to tell you about Soul Vegetarian East. Today is not the first time I’ve eaten there, or had any of their food. I think anyone who’s living in Chicago and been vegan for a time has probably heard of them. They’re quite prominent around the Veggie Fest Circuit - always have a booth, and some of their products are even sold in Whole Foods. Anyway, Soul Vegetarian wasn’t where my husband and I were originally headed for lunch today, but the place we were headed was unexpectedly closed. Lucky for us Soul Vegetarian was just down the street, and man do we love us some down home, comforting soul food. It’s not the kind of food I eat regularly, but man, do I love it. Seriously, I could drink BBQ sauce, it’s the only condiment I could never give up or live without. Even as a kid I preferred BBQ over any other condiment, and I’ve been known to smother just about anything in a good dollop of ‘que sauce.

So happy accident that our original destination was closed, because even though I do grab a soul vegan wrap from Whole Foods on occasion, and do enjoy their booth at the local veggie fests, I actually haven’t eaten inside the restaurant in several years, and I wanted to share with you just how awesome the experience is.

Onion Rings 

For those of you who don’t know, Soul Vegetarian has been around since 1980. It’s a neighborhood place, and family run with a pretty loyal clientele. At lunch time it’s always busy, people popping in and out, people sitting in, people lining up at the juice bar, but the street always has enough parking for us to get a space. When we go there, we dine in, we take a small table in the corner and tuck in, eager with anticipation. The staff is friendly, and helpful, and despite everything being made in house, and fresh the service is rather prompt. Though I’ve heard from others that the service can also be a bit on the casual side, so maybe it depends on what time of the day you go.

Tofu Buffalo Wings and Blue Cheese Dressing 

Anyway, My husband and I have been subsiding on light, wholesome, vegan fare lately. A lot of rice and beans, a lot of salad, so coming into a place like Soul Vegetarian was like being a kid in a candy store. Everything sounded decadent and amazing, and we wanted a bit of it all!

We settled for the Onion Rings which came with BBQ sauce, and a plate of Buffalo Wings which came with a Blue Cheese Dressing, for our starters. Oh man, I’ve never been one to order onion rings in a restaurant, but man were these delicious. Something about the batter reminded me of KFC - not the taste just the smell, and yeah, I know that kind of weirds me out too if I think about it too long! - The onions were thin and tender crisp, and the batter was thick and well seasoned, so good especially dipped liberally into the ‘que sauce.

Look at that awesome! 

The Buffalo Wings were the real star though, man oh man, these take vegan wings to a whole new level y’all. Soul Vegetarian makes tofu and seitan in a way that’s so unique, there are only a few places where I’ve had tofu like this. It’s moist but chewy, and the texture is so reminiscent of chicken I have to remind myself it’s tofu. I don’t know how they do it. They cut the tofu in to thick slabs, lather it in buffalo sauce, and give you a nice cooling blue cheese dip. Personally the blue cheese dip - vegan of course - dose not taste all that amazing on it’s own, but somehow when you pair it with the wings it’s out of this world fantastic!!

Vegetable Noodle Soup and Corn Bread 

For my husband’s main meal he ordered the Mixed Basket. Which is basically your choice of three deep fried foods. He chose mushrooms, tofu, and seitan steak. He loved them all, and said that each had their own unique texture and flavor. The tofu was fluffy and soft, the seitan, chewy like steak, and the mushrooms were crisp but juicy. Overall the mushrooms won out as his favorite. The basket comes with an order of fries and a nice big dipping bowl of BBQ. He also got a bowl of the vegetable noodle soup which I took a few bites of and can attest to it’s awesomeness. I don’t know how they made this soup but it’s like no vegan soup I’ve ever had. Fantastic! It’s so good you can’t believe it’s vegan, and it comes with a tasty slice of cornbread too.

Mixed Basket
Fried Mushrooms, tofu and Seitan Steak with Fries 

For my meal I ordered the East Coast BBQ Roast Sandwich. Which was a messy ‘que sandwich of thin slabs of tofu, lettuce, and tomato, that came with extra ‘que sauce and fries. Honestly I don’t know how I ate it all, but I did, and every single bite was delicious.

East Coast BBQ Roast Sandwich 

Despite being incredibly full afterwards we decided to heave over to the Eternity Juice Bar which is connected to Soul Vegetarian and owned by the same people. This is a mostly raw juice bar, offering juices, smoothies and raw food options from salads, to desserts. I’ve never actually eaten any of the raw offerings before but I like their smoothies. Today my husband got the berry smoothie and I got the Spirulina Smoothie which is a combination of soy milk, soy ice cream, and spirulina - sound weird right? Well it’s not, it’s amazing! I dare you to try it!

In the past we’ve also gotten their BBQ Tidbits - amazing - their BBQ Twist Sandwich and Platter - Both Amazing - their smoky greens - pretty good - their Unreal Chicken Wrap - Amazing - their Jerk Seitan and Tofu wrap - amazing - the Lasagna - amazing and their macaroni and cheese which was pretty good. This is definitely a place you need to check out if you live in Chicago, and a worthy spot to stop off if you’re just visiting! Trust me, if you like comfort food, and you like soul food, and you like southern food then this is the place for you!

Left - Berry Smoothie
Right Spirulina Smoothie 

Soul Vegetarian East 
205 E 75th St (King)
Open Mon-Thur 7am-10pm,
Fri 7am-11pm,
Sat 8am-11pm,
Sun 8am-9pm.


  1. Wow!!! Looks like a great lunch!!! I also LOVE B Que Sauce on anything!!S.T.

  2. Man, I can't believe it took us so long to get back to this place! It is so good & you can't help but stuff yourself full of food. Glad we went! The pictures turned out really good. Man, it makes me want more of those Buffalo wings! haha