It’s an interesting time for vegan food in New York City.
In the past year, a meatless burger joint was praised by traditional food critics at the New York Times and a downtown cocktail impresario announced his next project would be upscale plant-based cuisine. At the same time, the city’s most revered raw, vegan destination imploded, and GustOrganics closed almost immediately after switching to a vegan menu.
Whatever the heck is going on, there’s currently a robust crop of spots (both old and new) where you can order (delicious) produce instead of prosciutto. Most are 100 percent vegan (so you’ll never have to ask “was that cooked with butter?”), while a few are vegetarian restaurants that were just too good to leave out (and have plenty of cheese-free options).
So whether you’re a purist, need a strategy for eating more greens, or want to lighten up your environmental footprint, we surveyed the scene to bring you this guide to the most of-the-moment vegan dining destinations (juice bars not included). —Lisa Elaine Held
This article was originally published on May 12, 2014 and was updated September 15, 2015.
(Photo: Instagram/Butcher’s Daughter)
There was lots of chatter leading up to the opening of this tiny spot on September 14, since cocktail bar guru and restaurateur Ravi DeRossi (think Death+Co., Amor Y Amargo, and Cienfuegos) is behind it. The paint is barely dry, but the menu is definitely worth checking out. It’s divided into toasts like one with tomato jam, preserved peach, pine nut, and basil, cold dishes like Kale Panzanella, and hot dishes like Carrots with orange, cumin, chili, and wild rice and Pumpkin Farro Risotto. Hard-core vegans rejoice: DeRossi is launching an animal rights non-profit in conjunction with the opening, and the Avant Garden is in the old Gingersnap’s Organic space, so there’s definitely no cooked meat smell lingering in the kitchen. 130 E. 7th St., between First Ave. and Ave A., East Village, www.avantgardennyc.com
Sushi without fish usually equals “boring” when it comes to flavor, but not here. Not even close. Beyond Sushi’s colorful rolls come wrapped in healthier rice (black or six-grain) and packed with creative, delicious ingredients like mango, pickled jalapeño, sweet potato, and jicama. Its biggest location yet opened less than a year ago in Midtown, too, so there are now three locations where you can eat vegan with chopsticks. Locations in Gramercy, Chelsea Market, Midtown, www.beyondsushinyc.com
(Photo: Beyond Sushi)
City vegans panicked when the popular Upper West Side staple Cafe Blossom shuttered in 2014, but the company opened a reimagined, more upscale version a few months later, just two blocks north, with new and old menu options. It features the meatless restaurant group’s first full bar (and bar scene), with a nice wine list and cocktail menu, so you can head there for an after-work drink, too. 507 Columbus Ave., between 84th and 85th St., Upper West Side, www.blossomnyc.com
(Photo: Blossom on Columbus)
Downtown restaurateur Heather Tierney (co-owner of Apotheke and Pulqueria) created this place-to-be restaurant and juice bar where the the city’s stylistas eat Smashed Avocado Toast and sip Hangover Killers (main ingredient: coconut water). The food is super fresh and flavorful, but the cool-kid vibe can also mean long waits and scattered service. The spot has become such a popular scene that Tierney is set to open new locations in the West Village and on Abbot Kinney in Los Angeles, soon. 19 Kenmare St., between Bowery and Elizabeth, Nolita, www.thebutchersdaughter.com
(Photo: The Butcher’s Daughter)
This brand-new fast casual spot on Bleecker Street is popular cookbook author Chloe Coscarelli’s first restaurant, and her vegan comfort food menu is a meatless dream, with juicy Guac Burgers, Mac ‘N Cheese made with sweet potato “cheese” and shiitake “bacon,” and Kale-Matcha Mojitos. It’s a spot that’s already popular for post-work girls’ nights and NYU student lunches and just a few months in, a second location in the Flatiron has already been announced for a Spring 2016 opening. 185 Bleecker St., at MacDougal, Greenwich Village, www.bychefchloe.com
(Photo: Lisa Elaine Held for Well+Good)
This old-school institution doesn’t have the buzz of other spots, but especially with Pure Food and Wine gone, it’s still the city’s best all-vegan fine-dining establishment, with famous dishes like its Seitan Piccata and an amazing healthy-leaning cocktail list. Plus, its meals are hearty and reminiscent of their meatier counterparts, so it’s the perfect place to bring your vegetable-skeptical significant other on date night. 154 E. 79 St., between Lexington and Third Ave., Upper East Side, www.candle79.com
(Photo: Candle 79)
Sorry, it’s going to be a while until you can get a table. While veggie rockstar chef Amanda Cohen moved her operation into a much bigger space this year, reservations are still hard to come by, with dishes like Brussels sprout tacos and pulled, pickled, and jerked carrots on the menu. Be sure to ask about vegan options here, since dairy is definitely around, and be aware: you won’t have to figure out a tip, it’ll be included in your bill. 86 Allen St., between Grand and Broome, Lower East Side, www.dirtcandynyc.com
(Photo: Dirt Candy)
The raw, vegan spot popular with yogis and other wellness gurus (like Gabrielle Bernstein) moved across town this year to the West Village, where you can sit at a reclaimed wood table to enjoy a Kale Mint Tahini Salad or Ramen Noodles made with kelp noodles and house-made kimichi. It’s also a great indie source for a fresh juice. 113 W. 10th St., between Greenwich and Sixth Ave., West Village, www.gingersnapsorganic.com
(Photo: Gingersnap’s Organic)
If you haven’t bit into Brooks’ Headley’s famous veggie burger (which comes either vegetarian or vegan), you’ve basically been wasting the year. Praised by food critics at New York Magazine and the New York Times, the burger comes with all of the good elements of fast food-reminiscent flavor without the hunk of cheap beef product, and a rotating menu of delicious vegetable sides to complement. (He’s already got a cookbook deal, FYI.) Just don’t plan on dining in unless you’re solo—the space is the size of an (adorable) shoebox. 430 E. 9th St., between First Ave. and Ave. A, East Village, www.superiorityburger.com