New York, New York!
Things seem to be alive and well on the NYC vegan scene and we were so excited to hoon around and try out as many of the restaurants as we could while we were there for a week in May. Sids, my partner, and I generally stick to a whole foods plant-based diet when we are at home. We eat mountains of organic fruit and vegetables, avoid most oil and steer clear of processed foods as often as we can. However, the idea and principles of that went out the window on our recent trip to New York. We went all in, balls in and sourced, hunted and combed the city for the best vegan food we could find – with the sugar, oil and processed foods we usually avoid piled on top of it. Of course, you never feel too rough after vegan food, regardless of how ‘junkie’ it is. The flavours, quality and nutrient density in most cases is just too good when it’s done well and we can have piece of mind knowing that we won’t have any cholesterol issues after consuming it either. Brilliant.
We walked miles and miles for these restaurants and we left New York with an even greater respect for vegan food, a wider take on how creative it can be and a stomach stretched to the size of a pregnant seal. But as they say, when in Rome! And we came back to our temporary home in the UK with no regrets whatsoever.
So here is a list of the places we visited in no particular order. I couldn’t rate them – all very good. Is this everything vegan New York has to offer? Of course not, but this is what we looked into with the timeframe we had. Do your own research and i’m sure you’ll find many more. NYC is a vegan’s paradise.
NB: Following on from this restaurant guide, will be a post on where to source the best sweet things in NY. Hooray!
Franchia Teahouse & Restaurant
Franchia is a cool little vegan Korean restaurant located on Park Avenue and the sister of more well-known restaurant Hangawi. We visited this tranquil abode one early weekday afternoon and had no problem getting a table. The decor is relaxing, set over three levels and with a very cool ambience that instils a sense of calm amongst the hustle and bustle of the NY streets. The staff were very friendly and the service was prompt. And they have call buttons – what the flip? Like on aeroplanes. You press the button when you want service and they leave you alone for the rest of the time. How bloody brilliant. All restaurants need that.
The food was incredibly flavourful and well presented and their selection of teas is huge. These guys really know their tea. Tea gurus. To eat, we opted for the spicy vegan ‘buffalo’ wings, the ‘chicken’ teriyaki roll, the ‘chicken’ satay skewers, the crispy tofu skin roll and a vegetable dish and all were simply fantastic. We were in mock-meat, no cholesterol heaven. I had read somewhere online that the portion sizes for Franchia were small and left you hungry which was a bit of a concern at the time as I had one ravenous companion. I soon learnt though, that whoever wrote that review must have been the size of a german tank, 400 kilograms or eating for two because the portions were not small at all and I left feeling like a bit of a lard. The menu is large, portion sizes great and food simply fabulous.
Crispy Tofu Skin Roll
Franchia Teahouse & Restaurant
12 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10016
‘Peacefood Cafe serves delicious, innovative and healthy vegan cuisine prepared with mindfulness, gratitude and intention to nurture spirit and body’. They also believe that a vegan lifestyle can transform not only the lives of farm animals but also the environment and one’s personal health. I concur.
I ordered the ‘Other Caesar Salad’ with smoked tempeh, crostini and Peacefood’s winning caesar dressing. 10/10 – ain’t no one made a caesar salad like that for me before. We also had the fluffy quinoa salad with a lime mustard vinaigrette and the chickpea fries with indian spices and a house dipping sauce. The menu didn’t show as much creativity as other vegan establishments, but that did not impact on flavour at all and they win extra points for having a large smoothie and juice selection as well as a range of vegan cookies and cakes in the window which are all absolutely drool-worthy.
Overall, Peacefood Cafe is a great option if you are in the Upper West Side area where food options lacks and there are a lot of crappy, junk food, cholesterol raising restaurants. The staff were friendly and attentive and went above and beyond to wait on us. The atmosphere and layout of Peacefood was very casual and Melbourne-like making us feel right at home, even being shoulder to shoulder with another table. Peacefood has two locations, but we visited the one on the Upper West Side twice for lunch. My advice, make sure you get there early, because this place packs out.
Caesar salad with Smoked Tempeh
460 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024
Vegan organic fine dining at its best, Candle 79 was probably my favourite restaurant in NYC and is an absolute mecca for vegans and omnivores alike. Nestled amongst the Upper East Side, Candle 79 plays host to an attractive clientele seeking the best quality health food available that is as equally as nutritious as it is delicious. We went with an omnivorous friend of ours who devoured the food almost quicker than we did and was thoroughly impressed at how fine vegan fine dining can be.
Candle 79 has acquired international recognition due to the quality of the food they plate. The top-notch produce they use is fresh, organic where possible and locally sourced from top-tier farms. The menu is creative with a long list of mouth watering options and no vegetable or fruit is left untouched, which equates to a very broad and extensive menu. Further, they have an huge organic wine menu and sake bar.
We opted for the spinach ravioli, angel’s nachos, polenta fries, caesar salad and the stuffed avocado for starters and mains. All were absolutely exquisite to the taste and equally as exquisitely presented. For dessert we ordered the seasonal fruit pie, the live coconut cream pie and the chocolate peanut butter bliss…oh my god, died and gone to heaven. So rich, so delicious and still good for you. HOWWWW? I’m in love.
Candle 79 brings elegance and grace to vegan fine dining. It is on the pricier side, but you get what you pay for. Quality food in a quality environment is one of my most favourite things. I was only disappointed that we visited Candle 79 closer to the end of our stay, otherwise we would have been back again.. and again… and again.
154 E 79th Street
New York, NY 10075
I had read a lot of reviews before coming to Champs and surprisingly most of them were from non-vegans praising the awesomeness of this place, so I was super keen to try it. It is popular within the greater Brooklyn area, so sometimes there might be a small wait for a seat. But it’s worth it. Trust me.
The layout of Champs Diner is classically cool diner chic. The facade isn’t that welcoming, but once you are inside, the tunes, the staff and the ambience is great and all very charming. For all non-Americans, kind of picture what you expect an American diner to look like and that’s what Champs Diner looks like. Funny that.
The menu is huge and it proves difficult to cancel out items one-by-one. There is just too many delicious offerings which all leave you frothing at the bit. Breakfast is served all day long so if you are the partying type and are in a comatose state for all of the morning after, you can take your sweet time getting there for some grease. The food on the menu is no doubt familiar to our non-vegan friends with items like ‘philly cheese steak’, ‘buffalo chik’N’ and ‘french toast’. Champs offered me my first ever experience of ‘eggs benedict’ with ‘hollandaise sauce’. The ‘egg’ even looked like an egg and Sids had to examine it incredibly closely to ensure there hadn’t been a mistake and I had been served real eggs. But as everything on the menu was vegan, there was no chance of it. I have never had faux bacon, egg, cheese etc this good before. Ever. Absolutely off its head.
Blossom Du Jour
My mouth still salivates for their BLT caesar sandwich and I still drive Sids mad talking about it all the time. I often wake up in the morning and the first words I utter are, ‘I feel like a Blossom BLT caesar sandwich’. And then I go back to sleep and continue to dream about it.
Blossom Du Jour is 100% vegan “alternate fast food”. They aim to provide healthful and environmentally conscious food and beverages that are prepared quickly and easily. Over the week we were there, we walked the five blocks to Blossom du Jour from our hotel in Midtown a number of times for breakfast. Unfortunately not many places in New York around the Midtown area are open early, so we kept going back (no complaints here). I probably had the BLT caesar four times. Oh god, it was love. Sids and I also dabbled in the un-chicken avocado griller, the anytime breakfast scramble wrap and the thrive and coconut bliss smoothies. All were exceptional, quick and extra delicious. But my heart was with the BLT.
Three locations in Chelsea, Midtown West and the Upper West Side New York , NY
The mother hen of Blossom Du Jour and more of a fine dining experience. Vegan or not, Blossom is serious food. We visited on our first night in NY with high expectations after reading many raving reviews. We were absolutely exhausted and fighting the urge to rest our weary heads on the table and kip for half an hour, but the drool-worthy menu demanded our attention.
All the food served at Blossom is organic and aims to creatively bring vegan dining to a fresh, innovative and delicious level. Blossom believes animal care should come first and foremost and they also know an organic, vegan diet encourages a healthy lifestyle. I couldn’t agree more.
We started off with the cashew cream ravioli and the porcini cigars for entree. Words would be lost trying to describe the amazing flavours that melted on your tastebuds with these dishes. Both were exceptional and presented beautifully. For main, I had the pistachio and pepper dusted tofu plate and followed that up with the chocolate ganache. I could echo the same compliments about both these dishes as I did the entrees. Absolutely flawless.
The waiters make Blossom even better with their lively attitudes and great banter. They inject a real energy into the restaurant and have a wealth of knowledge on the menu and will happily talk you through any of the menu queries you may have. Further, the ambience is fantastic with only candles lighting the room – an ideal place for a date.
Chocolate Ganache with Peanut Butter Drizzle and Vanilla ‘Ice-cream’
187 Ninth Avenue
Between 21st & 22nd
Chelsea, NY 10011
The Butcher’s Daughter
The irony at work in the name and the imagery of meat hooks hanging fresh fruit and produce from the ceiling is what initially attracted me to this little cafe/restaurant. The Butcher’s Daughter, or “the vegetable slaughterhouse”, is 100% vegetarian and dairy free, however they do serve eggs. A lot of their breakfast and brunch menu items had eggs, but these were easily excluded if need be.
Sids was a massive fan of this place, but I thought it was so-so. Still great, but I found my mind wondering off to other meals I’d had elsewhere. The juices and smoothie menu was fantastic and they had some really wonderful food ideas, but I just felt the food was missing something. The venue is tastefully decorated and boasts lots of character and it’s a great place to sit in the sun if you can nab a table amongst the uber-cool Downtown crowd. We gave it two cracks, but maybe I needed to give it another shot. Third time lucky perhaps!
The Butcher’s Daughter
19 Kenmare Street
Nolita, NY, 10012
The ‘other’ sister to Blossom and Blossom Du Jour the food here was, as expected, superb. V-note is a casual but welcoming establishment located on the Upper East Side offering gourmet vegan food and an extensive organic booze menu all at a reasonable price.
The vibe at V-note is very casual and laid-back. We popped in for a late lunch after being absolutely drowned with rain and were warmly greeted by the friendly staff who raised no complaints about the puddles of water we left in a trail behind us.
When it came to ordering, we noticed a few items on the menu that were similar to those at Blossom Du Jour, but there were no complaints from us. I ordered a freshly pressed juice and the ‘Chicken Cutlet’ burger and thoroughly enjoyed demolishing the both of them at great haste. Sids had an amazing beetroot salad and a wrap and sang their praises as well. Unfortunately, when the time came we were too full for dessert (and we were heading to Vegan Divas afterwards), but some of the plates that were coming out looked undeniably phenomenal.
Chick’n Cutlet Burger
Angelica’s Kitchen is an entirely organic vegan restaurant with a very earthy, bohemian feel to it. It has the reputation of being one of Downtown NY’s best vegan restaurants, so Sids and I gave it a whirl after an exhausting day of shopping (tough).
When we arrived, the restaurant was already heaving and we had a quick 15 minute wait for a table. Fine by us. The food coming out around us looked superb and we happily sat and waited while we pondered the menu. Angelica’s Kitchen has an extensive list of daily specials which rotates daily and keeps things fresh. Also, a win for the bottoms up folk is that Angelica’s Kitchen is all BYOB with a small corkage fee.
In all honesty, the food at Angelica’s was not as good as we had elsewhere. I’m not sure if that’s because the standard of the restaurants we had been too in NY was top of the bar or because we had ordered poorly. I thought some of the food, not all, was a bit bland and lacked the wham! factor I had gotten with dishes at other restaurants. In saying that though, I will go back when i’m next in NY so I can try some of the other menu items and give it a second chance. I always applaud restaurants who take a stand on the usual salt-loaded, oil-loaded and fat-loaded way that most places cook and admire that everything at Angelica’s Kitchen plates is so fresh and healthy.
300 E 12th St
New York, NY 10003
Pure Food & Wine
One of NYC’s finest organic and entirely raw restaurants, Pure Food & Wine is an absolute delight to the senses. The entirely raw menu is created around locally sourced seasonal produce and their wines are biodynamic, organic and sustainable. Further, their sake cocktails are made using organic sake which is then mixed with organic fresh pressed juices and exotic flavours. Oh yes.
In a society that is entirely bogged down by rubbish and overly-processed foods, Pure Food & Wine is a sanctuary amongst the crap. Too many people assume that by eating raw you’re missing out on the ‘finer things in life’. However, eating this way can offer up awfully sweet rewards for those who dabble in it. This food won’t fatten you up and it is all incredibly healthy, versatile and satisfying. You can eat a five course meal in there and walk out feeling satisfied and full, but at the same time as light as a feather. When we were there we had the zucchini and greenhouse tomato lasagna, which was made with spicy sun-dried tomato sauce, pistachio basil pesto and pumpkin seed macadamia ricotta. Phenomenal. We also had the caesar salad (i’m caesar mad) with romaine leaves, nori, pumpkin seed macadamia parmesan, lemon and caesar dressing. Again, phenomenal and the serving was huugggeeeee.
We also tried the raw classic sundae which our friend John Joseph, the lead singer of The Cro-Mags, plant-based Ironman and all-round crazy cat highly recommended and told us was an absolute must. He was not wrong. It was lick the bowl kind of stuff. I twinkled on the edge of licking it clean and embarrassing my boyfriend or being socially acceptable. It was so good – too good perhaps and I really couldn’t get my head around the fact that every ingredient was entirely raw. Wow.
If you’re in NYC in the summer on a beautiful day, there is also an incredibly large outdoor garden seating area which is unusual for NYC. You can simply sit there, soak up some rays, all whilst enjoying some of the most flavoursome, nutritious and exceptional food money can buy.
Raw Zucchini and Greenhouse Tomato Lasagna
Raw Classic Sundae
Pure Food & Wine
54 Irving Pl
New York, NY 10003
Caravan of Dreams
Humble, rustic little place right up the road from Lula’s Sweet Apothecary (dessert post to follow). Caravan of Dreams has been operating as an organic, vegan restaurant since 1991. That’s a pretty good crack for a restaurant, especially a vegan one.
We stumbled into Caravan of Dreams for a late lunch one afternoon and were absolutely starving. We started off with the raw beetroot ravioli and a serve of the raw nachos, with dehydrated chia chips and almond cream. Both were incredibly fresh and devoured in no time. I then opted for the Caesar Avocado salad (shock, horror, another caesar salad for me) and Sids grabbed the Caravan Burrito. Again, both were really fresh but I found the salad slightly bland.
Overall, the food was great, but not outstanding, however they get extra points for being entirely organic. They have heaps of raw options and you can tell it’s all very healthful and nutritious and the quality of the food they are using it top-notch. Apparently they play live music some nights too which is great, if that’s your thing.
Raw Beetroot Ravioli
Caravan of Dreams
405 E 6th St
New York, NY 10009
PLACES WE MISSED
Book about a month in advance for this place. So upset we missed out!
Michelin starred vegan Japanese. What’s not to like.
Apparently as fantastic as its sister, Candle 79. Will be on the hit list next time we are there.
100% vegetarian falafel restaurant with more vegan options than not.
Standard Italian restaurant with a huge range of vegan options.
Incredibly delicious looking vegetarian and vegan sushi.
Vegetarian and vegan asian-inspired foods with homemade mock-meats.
PLACES TO AVOID
Asiate at the Mandarin Oriental
Top-tier restaurant with impressive views overlooking Central Park. The only restaurant we went to that wasn’t vegan and what a mistake that was. We told them of our dietary requirements a week in advance and the food they served up was the absolute pits. They had ample time to prepare and had they not wanted to cater for us, they should have said at the time of booking. Bland, boring, lacking any creativity and downright terrible. I swear we got served the same thing twice, just plated differently. AND to top things off, they put fish in one of the dishes. When we questioned the manager about the overpowering smell of fish coming out of the meal, he responded with, ‘Isn’t that Tofu?’. No. Fool. It’s not tofu. And it’s definitely not vegan. A monstrous bill later (huge), we left and swore to never come back. Avoid this place like the plague.
Not even going to put the website link here. Just don’t do it.