Even with floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing the Chicago skyline, the real views at Althea are the food. Here, aesthetics are paramount; each plate is composed of colorful sauces elegantly swooshed around bright, vegetable-forward main dishes sprinkled with leafy-green garnishes. Going into this meal, my expectations were as high as the prices on the menu. After sampling a selection of entirely plant-based appetizers, entreés and desserts, we went home with some clear favorites.

Matthew Kenney Cuisine

Althea is one of Matthew Kenney’s sixty plant-based restaurants across the globe. As “plant-based pioneers,” Matthew Kenney and his team of chefs have developed an array of unique and strikingly delicious appetizers, entreés and desserts over the past twenty years for each restaurant location. Cuisine Marketing Director Michaela O'Malley described Althea’s menu as “quintessential," featuring many of the Matthew Kenney Cuisine brand’s most iconic dishes. However, their goals extend beyond crafting stunning dishes. By combining modern culinary art techniques and a drive for healthy and environmentally conscious dining, they promote plant-based diets and recognize the world's need to change its relationship to food.

Althea’s team of hosts and servers were incredibly friendly and answered all of our questions. They balanced keeping our waters filled and dishes cleared without feeling too intrusive, which we appreciated.

Touring the Menu

Although typical Chicago cuisine is quite heavy, Althea aims to prove satisfying meals made entirely from plants are possible. Rather than directly translating pre-existing recipes into plant-based ones, Althea has developed a globally-inspired menu of entirely new dishes. O'Malley explains they use terms such as “lasagna” and “dumplings” to contextualize their dishes, but depart from tradition by placing the natural flavors of fresh vegetables at the forefront of their menu.

Kimchi Dumplings

The raw kimchi dumpling's stunning presentation first caught our eye. The forest-green coconut wrapper and swirls of red cabbage puree popped out against the black bowl, which was artfully garnished with greens and dollops of white ginger foam. Its soft, pinkish filling of cashew, cilantro, and red cabbage tasted as good as the dish looked. The cashew complemented the kimchi’s nuanced spice; together, they provided a sweet, sour and earthy flavor with a punch. The filling was not completely homogenous, with bits of cashew and kimchi providing a hearty, grainy texture.

Stephanie Shields

Crab Cakes

This dish was an explosion of mouthwatering flavors and textures. These jackfruit, artichoke and quinoa fritters were layered on top of zig-zags of tangy ancho aioli and topped with zucchini relish and micro-greens as refreshing garnishes. The jackfruit soaked up the delicious sauces and the artichoke and quinoa provided a soft yet hearty texture. Although this dish does not imitate crab, it features vegetables in the best possible way and we scraped the plate clean.

Stephanie Shields

Thai Squash Soup

With a touch of vegan creme on top and a rich orange color, this nutritious soup with fresh lemongrass, ginger and black sesame was truly the best soup I have ever seen and tasted. It's spicy undertone offset the sweetness of the squash, similar to how mango tastes with tajin. The texture was perfectly creamy and each drop slipped effortlessly down our throats.

Stephanie Shields

Kelp Noodle Cacio e Pepe

The kelp noodles were cold and sharp, and I can best compare their unique texture to a slightly crunchy rice noodle. The creamy white sauce was somewhat bland as only a dusting of black pepper, and a trail of green flavoring added depth to the dish. Cacio e Pepe is typically very satisfying and filling, but this dish was unappealing and stuck to our teeth. Though Michaela described this dish as “phenomenal," we found it to be somewhat one-dimensional and anti-climactic for the taste buds.

Stephanie Shields

Mightyvine Tomato and Zucchini Lasagna

As a tower of red, white and green, the lasagna was eye-catching, to say the least. This raw vegan dish is loaded with sizable dollops of sun-dried tomato marinara sauce, basil pistachio pesto and macadamia nut ricotta layered between thick slices of fresh zucchini and tomatoes. The pesto was absolutely phenomenal: we found ourselves searching for more bites of zucchini to soak it all up. The layering of the vegetables and sauces is loosely inspired by lasagna, but it is very far removed from the hearty, cheesy, traditional version; the raw ingredients make this dish incredibly light on the stomach.

Though we found the thick-cut tomato slices to slightly overwhelm the dish, they are a perfect example of the high caliber ingredients Althea sources. The tomatoes are locally grown using hydroponics in a sustainable, climate-controlled greenhouse, allowing Althea to serve perfectly red and ripe tomatoes year-round.

Stephanie Shields


This cheesecake was deliciously thick and smooth, especially considering the lack of dairy. Candied pistachios, toasted coconut flakes and fresh strawberries added layers of sweetness and textural diversity to otherwise creamy bites.

Stephanie Shields

Final Thoughts

Althea’s idealistic and nutritionally dense menu had some clear hits and misses. Our favorites were certainly the kimchi dumplings and Thai squash soup, while we probably wouldn’t order the Kelp Noodle Cacio e Pepe or the Tomato and Zucchini Lasagna again. Despite our reservations, the attention to presentation and flavor Kenney and his team imparted on each dish is exceptional. Plant-based recipes as innovative as Althea’s are hard to find, and we appreciate getting to experience such extraordinary culinary art. Through thoughtfully-sourced ingredients and Instagram-worthy presentations, Althea is quite the restaurant to visit.