Best Chicago Restaurants for Dining During Lent

Lent is a time when many of the faithful forgo certain foods, usually meats, but also alcoholic beverages, sometimes even desserts.


In a city as large as Chicago, with so many exceptional restaurants, it’s not hard to find a lot of different – and wonderful – places to dine during Lent.


What people usually give up for Lent is meat, booze and sweets. Almost never do people give up seafood, fish or vegetables.


So here are five Chicago restaurants that know how to prepare stellar dishes of seafood, fish and vegetables, the usual ingredients of many Lenten repasts.


Momotaro. When it opened in 2015, Momotaro was called by Chicago Magazine “the best restaurant of the year,” and by Esquire “one of the country’s “best new restaurants.” Japanese-inspired, Momotaro has some extraordinarily inventive fish and seafood preparations, including shrimp with turnip and puffed buckwheat, octopus sashimi and an oyster with cucumber and fermented vinegar. There’s also a very good selection of thoughtful vegetable preparations, and a lot of cocktails (if those are not on your “to-be-avoided list).


Forbidden Root. Although it’s a brewpub, and you may be avoiding beer for Lent, there are a surprising number of non-meat options at Forbidden Root. If you happen to be sitting at the bar (hey, you’re not required to give up drink for Lent!), there are bar snacks like Chili Popcorn and house-made BBQ Sweet Potato Chips. For a meatless meal that will not disappoint, you can enjoy Roasted Arctic Char with green curry and trumpet mushrooms and Mussels with halibut in a cioppino broth. And here’s some good news: there’s no meat in the desserts! The Beet Cake with white chocolate ice cream is a memorable way to end a Lenten meal.


mfk. Lincoln Park’s seafood-oriented mfk has, of course, a lot of outstanding fish dishes, but it also offers many equally outstanding vegetarian items. Cantabrian salt-cured anchovies, crunchy prawn heads (yes – they’re delicious!), roasted cauliflower with pickled peppers and smoked trout roe with olive chimichurri are just some of the tongue-tingling favorites prepared in the mfk kitchens. Dishes such as these have won mfk a Jean Banchet award for Best Neighborhood Restaurant and a Bib Gourmand award from the good people at Michelin.


Greek Islands. A staple of Chicago’s Greektown since 1971, Greek Islands is still going strong, and because it offers foods of the quintessential Mediterranean diet, it is perfect for a meal during Lent. You can expect many of the traditional standards of the Greek menu, but why don’t you take this opportunity to stretch a little and try something new, though still meatless. For instance, there’s tirokafteri (feta cheese draped with red peppers), seafood croquettes in creamy horseradish sauce, or gigantic Greek lima beans. See, Lenten food can be every bit as exciting as a full-fore carnivorous repast.


Fremont. Widely known as a place for brunch, Fremont also has a comfortable and inviting dinner menu. To keep to the traditional no-meat Lenten guidelines, there are menu items like panko-crusted jumbo shrimp with togarashi lime, kale Caesar salad with spiced pumpkin seeds, and goat cheese and pear flatbread. The food is so good, you may decide to make eating meat-free a year-round habit (yes, we know that’s not likely to happen).