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March 2006
The Big Vegan Apple: Reasons to Love Veg NYC
By Patrick Kwan


This is Metropolis. This is Gotham City. This is the one all the other cities wish they were—“the 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 flesh.

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

Atlas Café
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.

Blossom
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 gourmet 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.

Buddha Bodai
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 Street, (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

Foodswings
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 this 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, www.foodswings.net.

Kate’s Joint
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 potatoes and gravy, and seitan specials whenever available. Other good bets include the grilled Portobello and spinach salad and vegan banana tiramisu. 58 Avenue B, (212) 777-7059. 

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 vegan 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

Organic Grill
When Organic Grill introduced their vegan tofu omelets, complete with vegan cheese—yep, 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 with your omelet!) And though their vegan omelets are must-haves, don’t neglect their other brunchy items, such as tofu huevos rancheros, vegan Belgian waffles, French toast and pancakes—they are just as incredible. Organic Grill is not just great for weekend brunch, they also serve delectable entrees and sandwiches for 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

Pukk
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.

Red Bamboo

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, www.redbamboo-nyc.com.

‘sNice
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 panini sandwiches, and a sinful chocolate chip cookie sandwich with your choice of soy ice cream. 45 8th Avenue, (212) 645-0310.

Teany
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 dine in and stroll past. Located on Rivington Street on the Lower East Side, with an outside 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. Be sure 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 Babeland is not listed here just because their Lower East side store is only steps away from 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 may 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. The Wong 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 that 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.

 

HopStop 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, Hopstop.com 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.



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