8.2
CHI

Bad Hunter

Perfect For: Date Night Dining Solo Eating At The Bar First/Early in the Game Dates Girls' Night Out Lunch Private Dining Vegetarians
PHOTOS: Sandy Noto

Bad Hunter is the cool restaurant version of a Harry Potter herbology class. Remember Professor Sprout making the gang pull screaming Mandrakes out of pots in a greenhouse? That’s the scene here. There might not be screaming plants or a bunch of evil Slytherins hanging around, but it’s decorated like a trendy greenhouse and there is magic when comes to the veggie-focused food.

If the name didn’t already give it away, the idea behind Bad Hunter is that they’re bad at hunting, which means most of the meant-to-be-shared menu items are veggies. There are a couple meat specials, usually in the form of small skewers like sirloin or chicken, plus a couple of pastas. Otherwise, just vegetable dishes. It sounds boring, but the fact that Bad Hunter manages to make all of these dishes so good and interesting is what makes it great.

There are plenty of other restaurants that have a good vegetable option or two, but nobody has gone all-in like this. Wood grilled carrots and fennel? Not so exciting on paper, but the pistachio-green chile pesto, avocado crema, and queso fresco make these Bugs Bunny hall of fame worthy. Maitake mushrooms and butternut squash, grilled broccoli rabe, and beet tartar also pull through in ways you wouldn’t expect.

There’s also a veggie burger that deserves its own mention. Rarely would we order a veggie burger, but Bad Hunter really pushes you on it. And they’re right to do so because rarely is a black bean and mushroom patty this excellent. You can even add crispy bacon strips to make yourself more comfortable, but it’s not even necessary.

Let’s make two things clear: First, just because this is a veggie-focused meal does not mean it’s healthy. Don’t substitute a salad with dinner here and expect it to help your diet. And second, Bad Hunter is more than just an alternative to break the meat and carbs routine that so many Chicago restaurants offer - it’s worth getting to the top of your hit list as a whole. The magic here is real. How else can you get vegetables to taste this good?

Food Rundown

Fry Bread

Fry bread is literally fried bread, and it’s a great starter. Add in some burrata, pickled onions, and chile oil to spread on it and it’s even better. Get it.

Maitake Mushrooms A La Plancha

This dish has some mushrooms, sliced butternut squash, and ricotta sauce on the bottom of the bowl, and the flavors are excellent. You need it.

Tempura Fried Lemons

Tempura fried lemons taste mostly like fried stuff with a bit of lemon on the back end. They’re interesting and innovative and we give them an A for effort. That said, we find ourselves wishing they were onion rings instead.

Wood Grilled Carrots & Fennel

Wood grilled carrots that are really good on their own are even better with a pistachio green chile pesto, avocado crema, and queso fresco.

Butter Dumplings

Big, juicy dumplings, stuffed with corn, shiitake mushrooms, pear, and oyster kimchi. They’re awesome. You need them. And possibly even more than one order depending on how many people are at your table.

Chestnut Spaghetti Alla Chitarra

Spaghetti with wild mushrooms, leeks, and walnut oil. Also very good. You’re going to want at least one or two pastas on your table either way.

Bad Hunter Veggie Burger

This is an excellent veggie burger, and the first bite or two may even have you fooled for a second that there’s no meat in there. The patty itself is mostly black beans and mushrooms, and it’s really good. But it’s the other pieces that bring it together, like an excellent brioche bun, melty cheddar cheese, tomato jam, and mustard aioli. You can even get some crispy bacon on it as training wheels if you need. It’s a great solo meal to get for lunch or dinner.

Sirloin Skewer

The protein dishes often come in skewer form. They’re on the smaller side, but it’s a good way to mix in a bit of meat if you want. The specials often change, but if you see some sirloin with chile salt and Korean potato salad, eat it.

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