(Terry Keshner/WBBM)

At Issue: An Inside Look At Chicago's Longtime Vegetarian Movement

June 07, 2019 - 5:49 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- You see it almost everywhere: plant-based alternatives to animal products.

And Chicago is no exception.

Chicago is called the “Hog Butcher for the World” but Kay Stepkin, who started the National Vegetarian Museum right here in Chicago, told WBBM's "At Issue" program that the city has a rich history of plant-based eating.

"We had quite a booming vegetarian movement back in the 1800s," said Stepkin. But the modern vegetarian movement "started in 1970 in Chicago — fairly slowly but steady, another place opened, another place, another place."

Stepkin said there are more than 50 vegetarian restaurants in Chicago now and whenever the museum prints up a pamphlet they have to add a few more.

Robbin O'Harrow owns Munch, a restaurant in Oak Park. She said many people are scared away from the term vegan because it's so strict — no animal products whatsoever — so she prefers the term plant-based, which she believes is friendlier and more open.

O'Harrow also added only about 10 percent of her customers are vegan and many others are exploring the plant-based life. And, she said Chicago is a great place for vegans because of the diversity of the food and the people.

Kay Stepkin, reporter Terry Keshner and Robbin O'Harrow. (WBBM)

Chicago has grown to be a strong staple of vegan and vegetarian restaurants. The Chicago Diner, Native Foods, Amitabul, Handlebar, Ground Control, Majani and B'Dabs Goodies are just some of the popular ven and vegetarian restaurants in the city. 

Kay Stepkin and Robbin O'Harrow are this week's guest on WBBM's "At Issue" and you can hear more of their thoughts on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.