This is Metropolis. This
is Gotham City. This is the one all the other cities wish they
only real city-city, as Truman Capote puts it.”—from
Patricia Schultz’s introduction
to New York City in her book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die
Simply put: We’re spoiled. In a city where even street food carts
come in vegan varieties, you’d understand why the tune of “I
Love New York” is especially true for vegans and vegetarians.
As the cultural melting pot of the world, veg-friendly eats can be
found at ethnic restaurants featuring cuisines such as Ethiopian, Japanese,
Malaysian and Middle Eastern in every one of the five boroughs. But
the true highlight for the millions of New Yorkers and tourists is
the more than 80 restaurants and eateries that serve absolutely no
These vegetarian and vegan places dish up American, Caribbean, Chinese,
Indian, Italian, Korean, raw, soul, Thai and fusion cuisines, featuring
mock meats like
crispy soul “chicken” and Cajun fried “shrimp,” gourmet
dishes such as seitan piccata and tofu quiche, and simple fares like club sandwiches
and vegan pancakes. Veggie restaurants can be found in the form of a swanky café,
diner bar, bustling bistro, celebrity hang-out, serene tea house, fast food joint
and even a former White Castle restaurant! But the sweetness of it all can be
truly savored when visiting the all-vegan bakeries and eateries featuring vegan
pastries, soft serve ice cream, and dessert crepes. And should I also mention
that New York City is home to several vegetarian markets and a vegan shoe store,
MooShoes [see interview in this issue]?
While Pamela Rice of New York City’s very own VivaVegie Society (www.vivavegie.org)
may offer you 101 reasons to go veg, here are the gems—in alphabetical
order—that give color to the Big Vegan Apple and the simple reasons why
vegans and vegetarians love this Gotham city.
Walid Hammami of Atlas
Café. Photo by Kevin Lysaght
Carrying perhaps the biggest selection of Danielle Konya’s decadent Vegan
Treats (www.vegantreats.com), this small, friendly and cozy East Village café also
serves coffee drinks, sandwiches, vegan crepes and soft serve ice cream with
a huge variety of add-ins to mix in and create your own unique flavor. Start
with a vanilla tofu soft serve base, and then choose from an array of nuts, chips,
cookies and fruits. Your imagination’s the limit, but don’t forget
about their incredible crepes, like the strawberry-banana vegan crepe, and
sandwiches, such as the Moroccan Soy Chicken! 73 2nd Avenue, (212) 539-0966.
Though a new kid on the block, Blossom has already made quite a buzz in the
vegetarian community and New York restaurant scene with their innovative organic
vegan cuisine and refreshing and heartening stated mission of being “first
and foremost animal caring.” Equipped with a fireplace and a private
dining room upstairs, the romantic candlelit restaurant features beautifully-presented
and scrumptious dishes such as porcini-crusted seitan filets in red wine sauce
over garlic mashed potatoes and the absolutely delectable South Asian Lumpia
made with curried seitan and potatoes wrapped in a crispy chickpea crepe. Be
sure to save room for their exciting gourmet desserts, which include grilled
pineapple crepes with vanilla ice cream in coconut cream. Blossom also carries
a selection of organic wine and beer. 187 9th Avenue, (212) 627-1144, www.blossomnyc.com.
Located in Chinatown, Buddha Bodai serves the most authentic Chinese vegetarian
cuisine in not only New York City, but the United States. It’s also the
only certified Kosher restaurant in Chinatown. And unlike many vegetarian restaurants
that opt to purchase imported factory-produced mock meats, Buddha Bodai makes
all of their vegetarian meats and seafood from scratch. Their extensive dim sum
lunch selections featuring traditional Chinese dumplings, small plates, snacks
and pastries are a must for anyone who wants the best, most authentic vegetarian
dim sum experience. For dim sum, try their roast pork buns, watercress dumplings,
ribs in black bean sauce and fried taro dumplings. For lunch or dinner, try their
golden pineapple with soy chicken and beef, barbecued roast meat, jumbo shrimp
with walnuts (sans mayonnaise) and Buddha’s bowl (stir-fried surf and
turf with veggies and cashew nuts served in a flakey mashed taro nest). 5 Mott
(212) 566-8388, www.buddhabodai.com.
Candle Café / Candle 79
If you’ve never had seitan from Candle Café or Candle 79, you’ve
really never had seitan. Their seitan chimichurri appetizers are ridiculously
addictive (heck, all their seitan dishes are). Try Candle Café’s
seitan sandwich and Candle 79’s seitan piccata. And don’t leave without
trying their chocolate mousse pie! Candle 79, 154 E. 79th Street; Café,
1307 3rd Avenue, (212) 472-0970, www.candlecafe.com.
Imagine Manhattanites trekking to Brooklyn on the L train at one a.m. just
for some late night grub. Foodswings Vegan Fast Food Joint has accomplished
feat. This vegan fast food hangout has developed a cult following with a “screw
rabbit food” attitude since its opening. The midnight munchies menu, available
only on Friday and Saturday nights from 10:30 to two a.m., features such items
as eggie & cheese sandwiches, buffalo wing pizzas, zeppoles and fried mozz
sticks. Their second to none, absolutely to die for vegan milkshakes bring all
the boys and girls to the yard. Choose from strawberry, mocha, latte, peanut
butter, “the tank”—cookies, chocolate ice cream and peanut
butter—and tons of other flavors that the crazy crew at Foodswings can
whip up to please your desires. 295 Grand Street, Brooklyn, (718) 388-1919,
This laid-back popular East Village restaurant features diner-style comfort
foods and a full bar, including vegan white Russians. It’s hard to go
wrong with their tasty unturkey club, southern fried tofu cutlets with mashed
gravy, and seitan specials whenever available. Other good bets include the
grilled Portobello and spinach salad and vegan banana tiramisu. 58 Avenue B,
May Wah Healthy Vegetarian Food
Shhh! This is the secret of many vegetarian restaurants across the country
and around the world! May Wah carries the best selection of mock meats, seafoods
and snacks from Asia, and distributes them all over the city and U.S. While
chicken nuggets, fish sticks and citrus spare ribs are the favorites of many
New Yorkers, why not be a little more adventurous and try their vegan shark’s
fin, dried cuttle fish and lobster (yes, it’s shaped just like a lobster!)?
213 Hester Street, (212) 334-4428, www.vegieworld.com.
When Organic Grill introduced their vegan tofu omelets, complete with vegan
you read that right; tofu goodness shaped just like an egg omelet—it
caused quite a stir throughout town. (Be sure to throw in a side of seitan
omelet!) And though their vegan omelets are must-haves, don’t neglect
their other brunchy items, such as tofu huevos rancheros, vegan Belgian waffles,
toast and pancakes—they are just as incredible. Organic Grill is not
just great for weekend brunch, they also serve delectable entrees and sandwiches
lunch and dinner. Their group dining discounts and frequent diner club cards
add to the fun of veg dining! 123 1st Avenue, (212) 477-7177, www.theorganicgrill.com.
Thanya of Pukk. Photo
by Kevin Lysaght
Thai food connoisseurs have always claimed that there’s no such thing as
delicious and authentic Thai food without the use of fish sauce. Well, Pukk has
proved them wrong and won many skeptics over with their completely vegetarian
menu featuring traditional and innovative Thai cuisine. Best-bet dishes include
the duck salad featuring a sweet, sour and spicy medley of mango and corn salsa
over mixed greens, son in law tofu where silken tofu croquettes are encrusted
with crispy Japanese panko breadcrumbs and served over baby bok choy, and a unique
creation of lychee fruit rice pudding brulee. And Pukk may be the only all-vegetarian
Thai restaurant on the East Coast, as well as the only Thai restaurant serving
the signature Thai iced tea—with soymilk! 71 1st Avenue, (212) 253-2741, www.pukknyc.com.
With a menu featuring a fusion of Pan-Asian and soul cuisines, and random delights
like vegan Philly cheese steak sandwiches and chicken Parmesan, Red Bamboo has
attracted a loyal following throughout New York and the world. The popular restaurant
features incredible vegan dishes such as Cajun fried shrimp, roti canai, collard
green rolls, grilled bourbon chicken, and an amazing selection of vegan desserts
including Vegan Treats and soy ice creams and shakes in flavors such as mint
chocolate chip, caramel butter pecan and pistachio. Though the restaurant is
almost always busy, the wait is well worth it. 140 W. 4th Street, (212) 260-1212,
With fair trade organic coffee and complimentary high speed wireless Internet
access, it’s no wonder that ‘sNice is a mecca for trendy, mobile
professionals looking for a great vegetarian alternative to Starbucks. Even if
you don’t have a laptop or PDA, their magazine collection, board games,
and cozy, laid-back atmosphere make it the best place to curl up with a book
or catch up on your homework. And the best part? Savoring their to-die-for
vegan pot pie wrap, buffalo soy chicken wrap, grilled tofu and vegan pesto
and a sinful chocolate chip cookie sandwich with your choice of soy ice cream.
45 8th Avenue, (212) 645-0310.
Sure, some musician named Moby co-owns this cute little teahouse, but that’s
not all that makes Teany a hotspot. The most interesting thing about this
place is the many hip and trendy New Yorkers and New Yorker-wannabes that
and stroll past. Located on Rivington Street on the Lower East Side, with
seating area and top to bottom windows, Teany is the place to see and be
seen while sipping exotic teas, spreading herbed tofu cream cheese on crostini,
and enjoying your toasted vegan scone with sides of soy margarine and jam.
to try their vegan turkey club sandwich! Teany is currently undergoing renovations
and open during limited hours on Friday and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.,
and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 90 Rivington Street, (212) 475-9190, www.teany.com.
Toys in Babeland
Since the opening of their first store in Seattle, feminist-owned Toys in
Babeland has redefined the whole idea of adult toy stores. Surely, Toys in
is not listed here just because their Lower East side store is only steps
Teany and around the block from MooShoes. The folks at Toys in Babeland cater
to the animal-friendly crowd by clearly labeling all the cruelty-free products
and vegan lubes and condoms—this alone is worth a visit. For those
not in the know, conventional lubes and spermicides and lubricants on condoms
be tested on animals and contain animal ingredients. 94 Rivington Street,
(212) 375-1701, www.toysinbabeland.com.
Vegetarian’s Paradise 2
Yes, this is the Vegetarian’s Paradise 2 with their “World Famous
Crispy Soul Chicken” and equally world famous Peking Spare Ribs. Though
the restaurant has been overtaken by out-of-towners in the last few years,
VP2 still holds a special place in the hearts of many longtime New Yorkers.
family who owns this vegetarian landmark still greets many regular customers
by name and seeks feedback from the regulars for their new dishes before
adding them to their extensive and never-ending menu. Some of the new dishes
will surely become classics include the kung pao chicken spaghetti and beer-battered
Portobello pub fritters. 144 W. 4th Street, (212) 260-7130, www.vp2-nyc.com.
Patrick Kwan is a native New Yorker who recently celebrated his 10th year of
vegan living in the city and is looking forward to celebrating his 15th anniversary
as a vegetarian in April 2006.
Makes it Easy!
Okay, I’ll admit when I first moved to New York two years ago, I
was a lost soul when it came to figuring out our underground city of trains.
Quite frankly it scared me. It wasn’t the homeless singing for change,
the fear of accidentally being pushed off the platform during rush hour,
or the idea of someone running off with my bag that spooked me. No, it
was the fact that I consider myself to be bright enough to read a map,
yet was finding myself heading in the wrong direction and missing stops
on more than one occasion. Of course it doesn’t help that the conductor
sounds like Charlie Brown’s inaudible teacher, “Mrwa…wa…wa.”
If HopStop.com had only existed back then, I guarantee I would have been
a saner person. Founded just a few months ago by New Yorker Chinedu Echeruo,
is literally the mapquest for the city’s transit system. Simply type in
your departing address, your destination, your preferred mode of transportation,
and it gives you the world, well at least door-to-door subway and bus directions.
You can even plan trips with multiple destinations. And with HopStop’s
mobile services you can send directions by email or text message to your cell
phone and find the locations of nearby subway and bus stops while en route. Additional
benefits of HopStop include a search engine for places to eat, drink, sleep and
see—all just a hop stop away.—K.A.M.