Photo: Kitchen 17

The Kitchen 17 rosemary-roasted zucchini burger is held together by soy protein, chickpea flour, and wheat gluten for good measure.

New to Chicago this past fall, Don Clements walked past the empty storefront that had housed Matto Fornaio and had a you-only-live-once moment. He signed the lease in March, and May 3 opened Kitchen 17 (613 W. Briar Pl., 773-661-1757), an 18-seat vegan restaurant. A sampling of his menu:

• “Chicken” salad, made with extra-firm tofu and Vegenaise, which uses high-sulfur East Indian salts to introduce an eggy flavor. The chickeniness comes from a poultry spice mix. “I use some spices that you would traditionally use in Thanksgiving turkey, like tarragon,” Clements says.

• A veggie burger, made with rosemary-roasted zucchini, red onion, carrot, and garlic and blended with soy protein, chickpea flour, and wheat gluten.

• Saigon Salad Bowl, with romaine, vermicelli rice noodles, peanut-ginger coleslaw, and skewers of ginger-marinated tempeh. 

• Pizza. “Vegans don’t have a real lot of good pizza options,” Clements says. Toppings include “pepperoni” and “Italian sausage,” both made from homemade seitan loaded with the spices in their traditional recipes.

Clements himself makes everything from scratch. “The only thing that comes out of a package is the vegan cheese,” he says.

Sounds like vegans would have no beef with that.