FOOD AND DRINK
Meatless in Manhattan
From bulging burgers to refined takes on cauliflower, New York’s best vegan restaurants give diners a thriving garden of options
Vegans have it pretty good in New York, perhaps as well as they have it anywhere. As vegan fare has become more mainstream and popular among all people, and not just strict vegans, a new wave of restaurants has sprouted up to fill the demand, and New York’s vegan restaurants now occupy myriad niches, spanning the range from fast food to full-on fine dining.
There are still reliable cafes to enjoy a macro bowl, green smoothie and soy latte with a pumpkin scone, but now there are also decadent burgers and fancy cheese plates to sample. These six New York places represent the best of what’s on offer through a variety of styles, settings and cuisines for your non-animal product dining pleasure.
The small East Village eatery is a magnet for hipsters and curious foodies, often forming a line out of the door. The vintage school chair seating with built-in desks offer a few lucky diners a spot to eat in. Many other customers opt to take their to-go bags half a block away to nearby Tompkins Square Park. Orders are filled in a fast-food fashion, cranked out by a well-oiled machine of cooks and friendly cashiers. Meanwhile the quality rivals the best sit-down vegan options anywhere in the city. Come for the burger but stay for the sides, including the house staple burnt broccoli salad, deliciously spicy and creamy all at once. Free lemon-infused water is a nice touch, and be sure to check the specials board.
430 East 9th Street, 212-256-1192
Vegans and non-vegans alike rejoiced when the beloved Cinnamon Snail food truck opened a brick-and-mortar location in the The Pennsy local food hall, next to Penn Station. The space itself is clean and tidily managed, featuring a spacious setup and open-air dining during nice weather. The Snail’s small menu is designed for commuters and comes out lightning fast from behind a counter that tantalizingly displays an array of donuts and pastries. A quick crème brûlée donut for the train is just as satisfying as the heartier meal options, which include “beastmode burger” (sic), which boasts Korean chili sauce and mac and cheese as condiments. While everything is vegan, indulgence is the goal here, and it’s oh-so-bad in the best way.
2 Pennsylvania Plaza, 917-475-1830
This all-vegan restaurant with three locations throughout the city creates a sophisticated dining experience that’s perfect right down to the pretty plating. Chic interiors are as comfortable as they are casual and the wait staff are as educated and friendly as they would be at any meat-focused white tablecloth joint. Meat and dairy substitutes plus seasonal produce equals a cuisine that would easily satisfy the pickiest of omnivores, as well as veteran vegans. The menu is a mix between classics-made-vegan – such as tacos and buffalo wing-style croquettes – and more upscale items like seitan scallopini and mushroom ravioli. In other words, there’s something for everyone.
41-43 Carmine Street, 646-438-9939, multiple locations
Currently the destination in Manhattan for upscale, all-vegan dining, Candle 79’s elegant space – sultry with its dim lighting and warm wood – is on par with other chic uptown restaurants. The menu also speaks the language of contemporary foodies, with offerings like artichoke-avocado tartare, a live cheese plate (ask if you don’t know), grilled kale salad and a chocolate mole seitan entrée. The presentation and wine list round out the polished concept and execution. Definitely a destination for special occasions and business dinners. The prices are what you’d expect for Upper East Side fine dining (think $23 for a grilled cauliflower).
154 East 79th Street, 212-537-7179
This casual café just off of Union Square between the East and West Villages is a bright and open bakery that also serves a full menu of multicultural comfort food. With so many surrounding liberal arts schools in the surrounding area, Peacefood Cafe plays host to students and faculty looking for fresh and healthy fare. And they find it: From colourful salads and sushi rolls to sandwiches, pizzas and an extensive juice bar, it’s a hungry vegan’s dream. The menu is large and good enough that it would be easy to eat here five times a week without getting bored. Nor will you find a dud of a dish.
41 East 11th St., 212-979-2288
Vegans need comfort food, too, and that’s where this greasy spoon diner tucked away in Brooklyn comes to the rescue. Despite the confusion of many carnivores, vegan is not synonymous with healthy. For proof, check out Champs Diner’s menu, loaded with mac and cheese, burgers, pancakes, wings, burritos and other gut-busting stuff. The quality is on par with most of the other nondescript diners of New York; which is to say good but not perfect – there can be slippage on consistency and attention to detail. That being said, for vegans, a laid-back joint where you can score a club sandwich and fries makes a pretty great find.
197 Meserole Street, Brooklyn, 718-599-2743