Elephant + Vine taps into the public’s hunger for animal-free fast food-style fare in Lincoln Park
The suburban restaurateur behind Winnetka’s first all-vegan restaurant, this month expanded her footprint into Chicago proper with the opening of a new location of her casual mini-chain in Lincoln Park. Elephant + Vine, a counter-service spinoff of owner CD Young’s two-year-old upscale spot Spirit Elephant, is positioned to tap into a proliferation of vegan and vegetarian fast food-style spots in the neighborhood with topping-heavy burgers, dairy-free milkshakes, and Buffalo cauliflower wings inside the Lincoln Common development at 2315 N. Lincoln Avenue.
Young has come a long way since opening Spirit Elephant in 2020. She’s had to navigate the trials of pandemic-induced indoor dining shutdowns and leverage what she learned from to-go operations to reach a broader swath of diners. Prior to launching her first city venture, she laid groundwork with the March debut of the first Elephant + Vine in suburban Evanston.
Elephant + Vine has seating, but it’s primarily focused on to-go operations.
It’s all part of a grander plan: “We look at it as the beginning of a very large restaurant group,” she told Eater in January. “We probably want to be international at some point, but definitely national in the coming years — you will see us pop up all over the country.”
In pursuit of that lofty goal, she and her team have honed an industrial aesthetic that softens whitewashed brick walls with light wood tables and accents and leafy plants throughout the restaurant space. Loopy, bright green neon signs encourage patrons to “eat plants, feel beautiful” as they dig into options like the Zero Clucks battered “chik’n” sandwich, the Portohouse Bowl (portobello mushrooms, roasted corn and peppers, black beans), and sweet potato fries.
The restaurant offers a handful of two- and four-top tables for dine-in patrons, but — in the hope of drawing busy, on-the-go students from nearby DePaul University — the restaurant is primarily focused on takeout and delivery. Young sees university populations as particularly open to vegan diets, especially in light of issues surrounding environmental sustainability. Her visions of massive growth will allow “In the northern suburbs, [Spirit Elephant] is not super accessible to the most people,” she told Eater. “For us, it’s easier to grow something that’s a little smaller and more nimble.”
Elephant + Vine Lincoln Common, 2315 N. Lincoln Avenue, Open 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.