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As a long time vegetarian, I am always on the lookout for a great vegetarian restaurant. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Blind Faith Cafe Located in Evanston on Dempster Street, this restaurant is totally vegetarian and offers an eclectic menu at a fairly reasonable price. A bit artsy, but not grungy. Soy cheese is available for the lactose intolerant or vegetarians who abstain from eating cheese. My pick: try their Pad Thai, and top it off with one of their delicious smoothies! If you are in a hurry or by yourself, try the fast food counter at the front of the restaurant. Very comfortable, same menu, and you can meet some very interesting people.

2. Heartland Cafe Located on Ashland in Rogers Park, this is the granddaddy of vegetarian restaurants in Chicago. Low prices, great food and a very laid-back atmosphere make this a wonderful place to go for a real vegetarian experience. On weekends they sometimes have bands, and they have a bookshop in a separate part of the restaurant with good vegetarian literature. My pick: try anything Mexican on their menu. Very tasty! Also a place to meet bright and interesting people.

3. Chowpatti Located in the northwestern suburb of Arlington Heights, this family-owned vegetarian restaurant is fabulous. Their menu is beyond diverse - it's practically a book! As the owners are East Indian, there is a lot of Indian food, but everything is well represented on their menu as well. My pick: Samosas with dahi - a potato dumpling casserole with a sweet yogurt sauce served cold. Sop up the extra yogurt with some delicious Indian bread. The prices are relatively high for a vegetarian restaurant, and as they prepare everything fresh, be prepared to wait a little while. Believe me, however. It is worth the wait.

4. Chicago Diner Located in both Chicago on Clark Street or in the northern suburb of Highland Park. This is another long-established vegetarian restaurant. The Chicago location would be my favorite, as it has much more ambiance, but if you are a vegetarian in the northern suburbs of Chicago, you know there are not many choices! Good food, reasonable prices. My favorite: Vegetarian Sloppy Joes with Tempe. Served with fries and a pickle, you won't even believe you're not eating meat! Soy cheese is available upon request.

5. Charlie Trotters Not a traditional vegetarian restaurant, world-reknowned chef Charlie Trotter loves preparing innovative vegetable dishes. Very upscale and very pricy, this price-fixed multi-coursed dinner is amazing. You have never seen vegetables prepared in this manner before. Make sure you let them know you want the vegetarian dinner when you call for reservations. Extremely popular, you might have to wait weeks to get in. Be prepared to pay a couple of hundred dollars (including wine) for dinner, though the vegetarian dinner is a bit cheaper than the one including meat.