10 top spots for meat-free Lenten fare

With the onset of Lent, many folks are counting down the days until they cook up their Easter hams, but in the meantime, many will give up vices, avoid worldly temptations and give back to their communities in a myriad of ways. Honoring the 40 days leading up to Easter is a serious business and abstaining from eating meat on Fridays during Lent is an important part of this time of reflection.

While it may be hard to resist a bounty of burgers and steaks, restaurants are offering up memorable fish-focused and vegetarian meals suitable for enjoying during Lent. Read on to discover what some of my favorite west suburban haunts are prepared to offer during Lent to make abstaining downright delicious.

1. Autre Monde Cafe, 6727 W. Roosevelt Road, Berwyn; AutreMondeCafe.net

The deft and confident chefs at the helm of this beloved local hot spot are capable of turning out memorable dishes like roasted Idaho rainbow trout with herb salad, citrus buerre blanc and marcona almonds ($17) with ease, but a batch of their decadent goat cheese tortellacci with truffle and Parmesan ($15) will fit the Lenten bill, too.

2. Prasino, 93 S. La Grange Road, La Grange; Prasino.com

Eco-conscious Prasino offers diners an array of gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options suitable for Lenten dining. Check out their signature lobster avocado ($16) or dive into a vegan maki roll featuring marinated tofu, spicy carrot slaw, daikon, and sesame ginger dressing ($16).

3. Zenwich, 416 N. York St., Elmhurst; EatMyZenwich.com

Zenwich elevates lunch fare to a spiritual level. In addition to a host a vegetarian mainstays, Zenwich is offering a Spicy Garlic Shrimp Sandwich featuring lightly breaded fried shrimp, crunchy garlic, arugula and cilantro with homemade spicy mayo on Fridays and Saturdays in March ($8).

4. Poor Phil’s, 139 S. Marion St., Oak Park; PoorPhils.com

Poor Phil’s seafood focused menu makes it a perfect restaurant choice for meat-free meals. Check out their shrimp po’boy with tempura shrimp and wasabi-mayo ($11.95) or snag a dozen raw oysters ($21).

5. Tuscany, 1415 W. 22nd St., Oak Brook; PoorPhils.com

Tuscany’s tasty Italian classics include the Linguine Vongole with fresh Manila clams in a sauce of white wine, garlic sauce and fresh herbs (lunch $15/dinner $17).

6. Chinn’s 34th Street Fishery, 3011 Ogden Ave., Lisle; Chinnsfishery.com

Since there isn’t an alcohol restriction during Lent, why not sip on one of Chinn’s signature Mai Tai’s and order some of freshest fish in town? Hawaiian Tuna is seared and served rare alongside rice and a lightly dressed Napa cabbage salad ($17.99), while indulgent appetizers like the salt n’ pepper calamari ($8.99) keep traditionalists happy.

7. Burger Boss, 7512 W. North Ave., Elmwood Park; TheBurgerBoss.com

For some family-friendly fare, the Pepper and Egg Boss serves as the perfect alternative to fish during Lent. Pillowy eggs are paired with savory grilled peppers and served inside a toasted brioche bun ($3.99).

8. Scratch Kitchen and Lounge, 7445 W. Madison, Forest Park; Scratchfp.com

A revolving menu gives Scratch Kitchen ample opportunity to offer special Lenten menu items. Take advantage of their popular fish fry or creative daily specials like potato gnocchi and roasted mushrooms in a tomato Parmesan cream sauce (approximately $10/entree).

9. Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House, 55 S. Main St., Naperville; HugosFrogBar.com

Fish seekers will land in an upscale paradise at Hugo’s. While suitable Lenten menu items abound on the fish-focused restaurant’s thoughtfully crafted menu, I have always been a fan of their pan roasted Chilean sea bass with miso marinade, wild mushrooms and sweet peas ($38.50).

10. Irish Times Pub & Restaurant, 8869 Burlington Ave., Brookfield; IrishTimesPub.com

The Friday night fish fry never goes out of style and Irish Times know how to throw down some crispy fish. Generous portions of battered Atlantic cod are partnered with fries and coleslaw and served up in a homey and family-friendly environment (entrees range from $11-$30). Be prepared to wait for a table; this place is packed on Friday nights!

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