The Guide to Diary Free Comfort in Chicago

Comfort food can mean different things to different people. Sometimes the most comforting thing is mac and cheese and mashed potatoes. When you’re feeling under the weather the most comforting thing is hot soup and fresh bread.

Changing your diet changes options you have for different moods. I used to not think about food in the same way I do now because anything on the menu and everything in the store was an option. Some people will ‘cheat’ and just have dairy when they really feel they need it, and more power to you. Food and our relationship with it is extremely important in our lives. I believe having a healthy relationship with our food and bodies should be a priority. However, because I get a really undesirable reaction from eating dairy, I don’t have cheat days.

This means when I’m feeling ill or blue or celebratory, I still stick to my dairy free diet. If you’re wondering what I believe the best comfort is for these kinds of moments, look no further. This is my guide to my top comfort foods in Chicago (that I’ve discover so far).

Chicago is a city of comfort food, so I feel this is perfect.

  • Kitchen 17’s Deep Dish Pizza – Lakeview
Mediterranean Deep Dish

It might be a mistake to start with one of the best first, but I really couldn’t help myself. Obviously, Deep Dish is a Chicago signature. My personal favorite in the normcore world of pizza is Malnati’s. This is the only valid choice unless you’re a Giordano’s fan and then I guess I can understand.

I still eat Lou Malnati’s . I order it without cheese, and I know you might think I’m crazy. But I really only find it acceptable with this pizza, because the crust and the sauce are that good. They make up for it. The flavors (minus creamy mozzarella) are all there.

That said, a fully vegan deep dish that tastes just like the real thing is nothing short of a miracle. Kitchen 17 has a nice ambience especially in the summer, where their windows are open, your friends bring beer, and you can play their board games or chill out while you wait for your food.

I feel like their cheese must be home made because I’ve personally never had anything like it from a store, and they have options such as pepperoni, sausage, Mediterranean, and even cheeseburger pizza (if that’s your kinda thing).

But they almost always have a cookie dough pizza (different flavors all the time) to finish. Enough said.

  • Sultan’s Market – Wicker Park & Lincoln Park
Vegetarian Combination Plate

Sultan’s Market is fantastic Middle Eastern food, great prices, and generous portions. What I ate this day was the vegetarian combination plate. I swear I could probably eat this single $7 dish for three meals. It’s filling and they give you a lot. The falafel is hands down the best I’ve ever had, and the rest is amazing as well. Here I asked for half & half for both my rice option and my salad option. The best of all worlds. It also includes hummus and pita bread. What more could you want? To me this is definitely comfort.

Their chicken shawarma is also delicious. For a different kind of comfort, you have to try the Mama Masada Chicken Soup and order a side of Baked Spinach Pie. This winter, overrun, cold, and very very sick, I ordered this exact meal on grubhub. It was like having a big bowl of your mom’s homemade soup that she cooked just for you, and the spinach pie went perfectly. There is no better meal for when you’re truly ill. It’s my go to now.

  • Furious Spoon Ramen – Numerous Locations
Vegetable Ramen with Chicken & Pork Dumplings

If you’re looking for a different version of comfort-in-a-bowl, we all know its Ramen. I can’t claim to be any kind of ramen expert. It’s something I’ve dipped my toes into only since moving to Chicago last year. They don’t have ramen joints in small town Indiana. Shocking right?

That said, I chose Furious Spoon because it’s good and there are a few locations around Chicago – six whole locations. If you live in the city, you won’t be too far from one of them. There’s also a seventh location in Evanston.

Here I’ve ordered the vegetable ramen, but added pork & chicken dumplings. I can’t not get dumplings.

Look at the roasted garlic cloves. They’re beautiful.

  • Chicago Diner – Boystown & Logan Square
Poutine (I added the Jalapeno), and a cookie dough milkshake

Ah, Chicago Diner. A blessing to us all. Chicago Diner is – of course – a diner. Its claim to fame is that it is a fully vegetarian diner dating back to the early eighties. Now, everything is also available vegan, and many things are vegan as is.

Here is the poutine (which you can order different ways including with bacon). Some of the ingredients are hiding. But this is so good. Yes, that was my dinner. I do as I want when I want. It seems my friend was eating their buffalo wings and fries as well. They have tons of diner favorites, like Rueben, breakfast all day (love their biscuits and gravy), and meatloaf. You know every diner has meatloaf for some reason.

We shared a Cookie Dough Milkshake. Vegan. One of the best milkshakes I’ve had, dairy or non dairy, period. A must. I don’t even need to write any more about it because it will speak for itself when you go. Oh, and if you love cheese fries (or loved past tense), this is the absolute closest thing to og cheese fries cheese.

As a side note, you can get entire made-to order vegan birthday cakes, made by Chicago Diner, through Whole foods or from their Logan Square location. You can also get slices in the restaurant or at most Whole Food’s locations. My personal favorite is the Cocoa Mousse chocolate cake. If you love chocolate you’ll love this, you would be crazy not to.

I could go on for awhile longer. But these are what come to mind first when I think comfort. I hope to find more options in the future, because there’s always a reason to go for comfort food.