So, you work downtown. Or you live downtown. Maybe you just come downtown on occasion. Damn, you must be pretty cool.
If you spend time in the southern part of Manhattan, you have access to some pretty spectacular food. And hopefully, you’ve had a chance to take advantage of all the tremendous burgers and plates of pasta around these parts. But if you’re like us, on most Mondays or Thursdays or even Sundays at 1pm, you’re looking for something relatively healthy to power yourself through the next six hours. Whether you need something quick to pick up or are looking for more of a sit-down situation, here are 14 of our favorite kind of healthy lunches downtown.
Check out the rest of our Guide To Being A Little Healthier, presented in partnership with Bai (a drink that helps us be a little healthier).
We’ve occasionally joked about doing a “best salads in New York City” list, and if we ever do, the Big Salad at Lighthouse Outpost is going near the very top. It’s basically just a big salad with gem lettuce and snap peas and sesame seeds and it makes you feel like you’re making good choices in your life. This is the Nolita sister location of Lighthouse, one of our favorite Williamsburg restaurants, and the menu is full of fresh, kind of healthy options in bowl and sandwich form. It’s a small space with counter seating, but it’s also a major takeout operation.
In New York right now, poke places are kind of like yoga studios. There’s always some new one around the corner, and most of them are… fine. Some of them smell like feet and farts. And a rare few are actually great. What we’re trying to say here is that in a city full of places serving kind of average bowls of raw fish and rice, Chikarashi stands out above the rest. The fish is freshly sliced, and the toppings are quality as well. This is mostly a takeout spot, but there’s a bit of counter seating. It’s worth going slightly out of your way for this option.
Siggy’s is a place on Elizabeth Street right above Houston, but it feels like it should be near someone’s aunt’s house in the Berkshires, or in a liberal college town. So imagine that, but with way better food. You can find anything from a vegan salad to a truly excellent salmon burger (and beef and turkey burgers too). They deliver from Grand Street up to 10th Street, and it’s also a good option to pop into for a quick sit-down meal.
Mulberry and Vine is based around a bunch of different vegetables and proteins, and the general move is to go for one of their “pick three” platters. Unlike the soggy and kind of sad greens you’ll find at most of these places, the food here is surprisingly good - expect things like miso peanut cauliflower or charred avocado with pumpkin seed yogurt puree. And despite the Tribeca mom and Nomad tech worker demographic at the two respective locations, it’s actually not that absurdly priced - depending on what you get, a pick-three bowl ranges from $9 to $11.50.
The easiest way to describe Soho Tiffin is to say “healthy Indian Chipotle.” A lot of the fillings are vegan or gluten free - we’re particular fans of the curried cauliflower. If you work in the Washington Square/southern Union Square area, get this place on your radar for when you want a filling but healthy lunch.
Dudley’s has a dish called the “crispy rice salad,” and it’s basically a ripoff of a dish they serve at a place in LA called Sqirl, which is basically the patron saint of all “kind of healthy” restaurants. Anyway, this is a hip little place that has quite a few salads and rice bowls, where you will undoubtedly be surrounded during lunch time by people who look cooler than you and probably don’t have jobs.
If you asked us to pick one fully vegan restaurant we had to eat at for the rest of our lifetimes, we’d probably pick Peacefood Cafe. Would we want to eat at one restaurant for the rest of our lives, especially a vegan one? Absolutely not, that sounds awful. But point is: Peacefood makes a big variety of tasty, enjoyable vegan food. You can have a very pleasant quinoa salad, chickpea fries, or even vegan nachos, which definitely are still not healthy but do taste good.
El Rey is a cute little Lower East Side spot with the basic theme of “Los Angeles lite.” They make an excellent kale salad (top it with a pickled egg) and a take on an avocado toast that’s served on a pita with Middle Eastern spices and pickled onions. They aren’t doing their interesting dinner options anymore, which is too bad, but it’s still a nice place to grab a not unhealthy lunch.
You’d think that Nolita would have a lot of healthy options, but once you actually take a walk around, you’re confronted by Parm, Rubirosa, and Tacombi. In these situations, Cafe Gitane’s an oldie but a goodie. After all, this place basically invented the avocado toast. Well, maybe that was someone in Australia, but Gitane definitely brought it to New York first.
Ruby’s does serve burgers and pastas, but they also have a large selection of salads and healthy-ish bowls, and they’re another one of our reasonable lunch moves when going out for, or ordering in, lunch in the Nolita area.
Here are some of the things you’ll find at The Smile To Go: bone broth, turmeric lattes, “creative directors” wearing sunglasses inside, and girls in leather jackets who just bought some stuff at Reformation or Opening Ceremony across the street. Even if you don’t understand what any of that means, what you need to know is that this is an outpost of The Smile located on the southern end of Soho, and they serve good food throughout the day. You’ll find a bunch of different salads and grains and vegetable sides to mix and match, as well as rotisserie chicken. For a quick, simple lunch that’ll keep you full throughout the day, this is your best bet in this area.
Beyond Sushi makes vegan sushi, and if your reaction to that is, “Does the world really need vegan sushi?” we get it. We were skeptical too. But it turns out these rolls, filled with stuff like avocado and spicy mango, are actually pretty enjoyable. They make rice paper wraps and some salads too.
Taboonette is a little Middle Eastern/Mediterranean spot serving bowls and pitas. Not everything’s super healthy, but they do have grilled salmon as one of the available fillings, and they also make salads. You can eat well here, and there’s quite a bit of seating. And the food is really, really good.