Illinois, Dining

Vegan Options in McHenry County, IL

During a press trip to McHenry County, Illinois we were most impressed with the vegan options that were available to us. If there’s one thing we’ve learned since switching to a vegan diet is that eating out can be a challenge, if not impossible to find a vegan option on the menu.  Rest assured, there are plenty of vegan options in McHenry County, IL. 

For reference,  here is a map of McHenry County, IL. The train to Chicago runs through McHenry County. Depending on your location in the county, Chicago is approximately an hour away! Also, the drive from Mankato, MN was only a short 5 1/2 hours making for a great weekend getaway for anyone in the Twin Cities area!

We haven’t always been vegan but we’ve always loved to eat out and try new, local restaurants. We know first-hand what a challenge it can be to find vegan options on the menu. We’ve gathered some options to get you started when you visit McHenry County, IL. We’re told there are other places with vegan options. This list comes with our personal recommendation.

Local Supporting Local

A great thing about the restaurants in McHenry County is they buy local ingredients whenever they can. It was common to hear that they support each other and it left a really great impression. It’s also a great environmental impact to buy local.

Vegan Options in McHenry County, IL

Conscious Cup 

A family-owned coffee shop with two locations in Crystal Lake & Barrington, IL,  Conscious Cup has been around for 12 years. Their mission is simply to provide simple, great coffee!

Sustainability is important at Conscious Cup. They find excellent importers with high-quality beans that are certified Fair Trade and then roast those beans in-house. Coffee truly does have a global impact. Mike, an owner, explained that the craft coffee is as big as the craft beer movement. At Conscious Cup, they want to make the connection to ethically traded coffee. Another philosophy the owners embrace is how they treat their baristas. They’re fully aware that the baristas are the face and brand of their company so that is what they invest in. 

The philosophy of their food menu is to keep the ingredients simple. Everything is made in-house including their drink syrups and sandwiches. 

They also have a coffee subscription. Good coffee delivered to our door every month? Yes, please!


Dukes on the Water

McHenry County has a Quarry Cable Park that you’ll want to check out. Dukes On The Water is the on-site restaurant that looks over the Quarry. Dukes on the Water is another business that believes in working with local farmers to create their menu.  Local growers and ingredients are so important to them they’re even featured on the menu!  For instance, Duke’s uses three local lettuce growers that they use as well as growing some of their own produce. 

Some of the vegan menu options available during our visit: jalapeno hummus, vegan chili, veggie burger with vegan mayo & potato bun. We ordered the Mexican Grain Bowl which had brown rice, quinoa, chickpeas, pinto beans, sweet corn, roasted chiles, kale chips, avocado and chipotle veganaise.

Perhaps the most impressive thing we noticed was a Meatless Monday specials are 50% off. We’re positive this is the first vegan special we’ve seen in a restaurant anywhere!

Dukes on the Water also has another location called Dukes Alehouse, in Crystal Lake, IL which comes highly recommended by the locals. 


Ethereal Confections

If you’re vegan and love chocolate- you’re going to lose your mind in this shop! All of the chocolates at Ethereal Confections are made in-house and perhaps the best part- they’re VEGAN! 

When the owners began the concept of a “Bean to Bar” they were the first of about 20 bean-to-bars across the US. Today, there are still under 200 in the entire US!  They’ve been dairy-free since opening their doors and say that the secret to the creaminess they achieve is olive oil.

Just like coffee or wine, the quality and flavor depend on the ingredients used. Their beans in Central & South America as well as the Carribean. 

In addition to the impressive vegan chocolate options, they also created a Cocoa Tea that uses the shells & husks that are discarded from the chocolate making process! All the tea consists of is the raw cocoa shells and it’s completely wonderful! We left with some tea to have at home.


They have a variety of ‘chocolate education’ classes. Some of these include chocolate & food, beer & wine pairings. They also serve food, tea, coffee, small-plates & craft cocktails.

Happy #worldchocolateday 🍫! We had the good fortunate to attend a “Bean to Bar Chocolate Class”at @etherealconfections last month on a #hosted trip to @visitmchenrycounty The class was informative and delicious! It was tough duty but we tried all these chocolates and also enjoyed the most delicious chocolate tea. The ingenious part is the makers thought they could do something with the leftover cocoa bean shells and that they did! They combined the organic shells with organic cocoa nibs and created the most delightful tea. Of course we came home with some! Best part is that almost all of their chocolate is vegan! It was so good. You know you’re in for a treat when you get near the building and can already smell chocolate! #chocolate #tea #beantobar #beantobarchocolate #therealwoodstock #woodstockil #enjoyillinois #veganchocolate #chocolatetea #chocolatesampling #veganconfections #organiccacao #artisan #artisanchocolate #finechocolate #findingfinechocolate #shopsmall #confections #veganconfections #chocoholic #craftchocolate #specialtychocolate #fineflavorcacao #chocolatier

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Manny’s Handcrafted Gelato & Cafe

Since switching to vegan, we definitely miss the occasional ice cream treat when dining out. Have no fear in Huntly, IL because Manny’s Handcrafted Gelato & Cafe will take care of you! They have a dairy-free selection of gelato called Sorbetto. During our visit, the flavors included: mango, coconut, strawberry, lemon. We may have tried them all and loved them!! They also have a nice selection of loose leaf teas for purchase. We love the tea we purchased to bring home with us. 

The vegan food selections will be slim but they have your gelato craving covered!



Yet another McHenry County, IL restaurant that embraces locally grown food! The owner of 1776 has Celiac Disease and is no stranger to needing special meal requests.

When our waitress told our table about the specials, she mentioned a special creation from the chef that was vegan. There were a couple of vegan options on the menu but our hosts said we should absolutely try the special because it will be, well, very special!  It was a work of art and absolutely amazing.

We had a fabulous dining experience we absolutely recommend eating at 1776. 



D.C. Cobbs

D.C. Cobbs has two locations- Woodstock and McHenry, IL. They have a black bean burger on the menu as well as the Impossible Burger. Dusty spotted “The Challenger” on the menu and knew immediately he’d be ordering that. The Challenger is a contest that allows you 20 minutes to eat THREE 1/2 pound patties, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and a side. If you complete the challenge (which Dusty did in 11 mins and 9 sec- NBD!) you can choose from a variety of DC Cobbs baseball caps. Let’s just say Dusty was able to walk out of there with a new hat to cover up that sunburnt head of his! For the challenge, Dusty chose the bean burger, sans mayo and cheese. Kelly opted for a black bean burger wrap and fried pickles.


Here’s a picture of Dusty and the mayor of McHenry, IL, Wayne Jett. Dusty is wearing the coveted prize, the D.C. Cobbs hat. Also, the owner commented that noone has ever done the challenge with black bean burgers. Dusty certainly went home a winner that day.


Kelly opted for a more leisure lunch and enjoyed the black bean burger in a wrap.


Public House of Woodstock

Located in a former county jail, Public House is also home to the notable film, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray. Public House is the bar his character, Phil Connors,  toasted a drink with Rita (Andy MacDowell) to world peace. We recommend checking their menu online before you go. We were able to modify a seasonal roasted asparagus salad and request pizza without cheese.


Loyola University Retreat & Ecology Campus

Though not an actual restaurant, Loyola University Retreat & Ecology Campus has foodie cooking class experiences!  We found a vegan cooking class that looked wonderful.

Farm Operations Coordinator, Rachel Catlett, gave us a tour of the campus farm and really impressed us with her mission of sustainability. Rachel was only a few months into her position on campus and explained that this is a year of transition for the campus farm. The transition that includes less waste moving forward. She is utilizing succession planting so that they are able to use what they harvest. This would be different than having all the crops come in at once and not being able to use everything. 

It was all very impressive. They also have an heirloom species orchard that includes fruits for cider making. They offer cut-your-own flowers and they also host a farmers market on site. 

Chef John Scnupp taught us to make pasta and that was a new experience for us!


Woodstock Farmers Market

If you’re lucky enough to visit Woodstock, IL during the summer we’re told there’s an amazing Farmer’s Market that is an event that cannot be missed! It’s a growers-only market which means everything is grown or produced by the vendor selling it! It’s a market that surrounds The Square in Woodstock and also meanders through.

Vegans, rest assured that you’ll find something delicious to eat during your visit to McHenry County, IL!

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Eating Vegan in McHenry County, IL

While our meals were compliments of Visit McHenry County, IL our opinions are honest and our own.

We also recommend staying at Cherry Tree Inn Bed & Breakfast where you can also enjoy vegan breakfasts upon request!


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  2. Teresa

    November 25, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    Expressly Leslie Vegetarian Specialties in Woodstock should be on here!!! Also, the Public House shouldn’t even be on here. I could do the same at any pizza place or at home. The other places at least put in more effort to have a dish that would fill up a vegan not wish that they ate at home.

    1. Dawn Zehr

      November 26, 2018 at 2:56 pm

      I came here to say this exact same thing! One of the only restaurants in the area that *specializes* in vegetarian/vegan food and it doesn’t make the list? C’mon now. (And I agree, the Public House only has a couple basic veg entrees that are worthwhile.)

  3. Katie Marie Kuch

    October 22, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    I just double checked with Cobbs, and the black bean patty is not vegan. It has egg as a binder 😔

  4. Katie Marie Kuch

    October 21, 2018 at 2:15 am

    Did you ask the staff at Cobbs if the black bean patty was vegan? I was told that the patty itself is only vegetarian, so I stopped ordering it. I would love it if they decided to make it vegan now!

  5. Jeni

    August 21, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    These meals look really really fantastic. Especially the entrees at 1776.

    1. Kelly & Dusty Ratcliff

      August 23, 2018 at 9:22 am

      They really were and 1776 was absolutely amazing!

  6. Stacy

    August 21, 2018 at 9:00 am

    It’s so neat to see so many tasty vegan options—the Mexican grain bowl, chocolate, and sorbetto look especially tempting (high five for tasting all the flavors!) And I absolutely love that Dusty found a vegan burger challenge. Congrats on the victory 🙂

    1. Kelly & Dusty Ratcliff

      August 21, 2018 at 11:31 am

      All the options were so appreciated! The Mexican grain bowl was so good. All the flavors…yeah!!! Dusty is always up for a food eating contest 🙂 It probably would have ruined the rest of the day had he lost.

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