Maybe you’re dating someone who prefers not to eat animals, and it’s their birthday or your three-week anniversary. Maybe you yourself are a vegan or vegetarian-inclined human who also enjoys tweezer food. Or maybe you’re just sick of eating branzino and short rib at every “nice dinner” and want some vegetables that feel inventive, for goodness sake. Sometimes you just want to go to a restaurant that feels a little special and eat a plate of vegetables that’s more than just a composed salad consisting of a tennis ball-sized head of butter lettuce and a cheff-y riff on ranch dressing. When you’re in that kind of mood, these are the places to go.
Plant-based sushi might sound like a gimmick, but we actually really enjoy the food at Omakaseed, where you’ll eat all kinds of whimsical things made from vegetables—from a savory mushroom latte that’s shockingly delicious to a tomato nigiri that’s a dead-ringer for akami. For $65, you’ll be served 15 lightning-fast courses over the course of an hour, so note that this is not a restaurant where you can hang out for hours. The food is inventive, and the menu changes every week or two, making this a great spot for those who enjoy a reliable surprise.
The vegan tasting menu at HAGS isn’t just one of the best vegan options in NYC’s fine dining scene. It’s one of the best options, period. If you’ve been looking for a special-occasion spot to spend money on food that’s made from plants, come here. The menu will change seasonally, but we hope they keep some version of the tempe—which we’d choose over most meat dishes any day of the week—on the roster for good.
Cadence is a vegan restaurant in the East Village that specializes in Southern soul food. It’s from the team behind a bunch of other upscale vegan spots like Ladybird, Avant Garden, and Proletariat, and it’s the only place in the city where you’ll find dishes like purple yams with blackberry coulis and toasted marshmallow, collard greens stuffed with rice, and Southern fried lasagna with pine nut ricotta. If you’re planning a special occasion date night or a birthday dinner with close friends who don’t eat meat, give this spot a try.
This LES spot is known for their playful seasonal dishes made entirely out of plants. Here, you’ll settle in for a $90 five-course tasting menu that involves things like brussels sprout ice cream and carrot sliders. The room is decidedly upscale, so this is a great spot for date nights, birthdays, or just generally feeling like you’re having a night on the town while you eat an extravagant salad.
Modern Love Brooklyn
Modern Love’s name might make you think it’s the kind of place where servers say namaste as they bring you grain bowls. That is not the case. It’s a modern space with high ceilings and industrial chandeliers, and the menu is made up of vegan takes on classic comfort foods from around the world. They serve BBQ cauliflower wings and mac and cheese, but also stuff like arancini, fish and chips, and our favorite dish, the Caribbean jerk tofu.
photo credit: Eric Medsker
If you want to eat things like mushroom toast and tofu prepared Peking-duck style while lounging on a velvet banquette, come to Ladybird. This entirely plant-based spot serves the best vegan mac and cheese that we’ve had, and it’s a genuine accomplishment if you can stop eating the coconutty crème brûlée before it’s all gone. Whether you’re a vegan or not, Ladybird is the perfect place to bring someone on a third date when you’re both ready to consume things other than alcohol in each other’s presence.
Rather than serve vegetables that taste like meat, Avant Garden serves vegetables that taste like vegetables. They also serve bread and pasta. Chewy, crusty bread topped with tomato jam and pickled peaches? Turns out that’s totally vegan. We’ve never eaten anything exactly like it in a restaurant, meat-serving or not. And that’s the case with the dishes throughout the menu here: They’re legitimately original. They’re also legitimately tasty.
photo credit: David A. Lee
Ras Plant Based
Good date night spots shouldn’t just be cute. You’re there to make great memories, while also eating excellent food. Ras Plant Based, a vegan Ethiopian place in Crown Heights, comes through on both fronts. This dimly lit hideaway full of colorful murals makes a plant-based meal feel like a multisensory art exhibit. Every dish is thoughtfully plated, you can feel each ingredient with your bare hands, and you can hear other diners having a great time right along with you.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Nothing says “fancy” like a visit to a Jean-Georges restaurant, and we actually think abcV is one of his best. The plant-based menu has some real hits, like crisp, fragrant dosas served with a trio of inventive chutneys and a whole roasted cauliflower that has a cult-following for a reason. We’re also a big fan of the desserts here. The sorbets are some of the best in the city.
At Hangawi, you take your shoes off at the door then sit on a pillow on the floor next to your table. This Korean restaurant on 32nd Street feels homey and unique, and the extensive menu is entirely vegetarian. You can get dumplings, kimbap, rice cakes, and a bunch of other things like bibimbap and a spicy tofu hot pot. There's also a prix fixe option for $75, but we recommend going the à la carte route so you can customize your meal. Bring a few in-laws for a nice meal, or stop by for a quiet date night. Socks aren't required, but they're highly recommended.