Maybe someone ordered pizza for the office all-hands meeting this afternoon, and before that, you raided the supply closet’s stock of mini Twix bars. Maybe your friend has just Gchatted you declaring he or she “just feels a little gross right now and would like to eat something light.”
Either way, when discussing plans for that casual dinner you have on the docket later, you’ve decided you would like to eat something “kind of healthy.” We’re not talking going full vegan or signing up for a 10-day juice cleanse. What we are talking about is potentially eating some greens or a big salad and maybe a nice piece of fish.
For those nights, here are some suggestions.
Check out the rest of our Guide To Being A Little Healthier.
If you’re around Dumbo and you want a quick meal that isn’t something wrapped in tin foil, go to VHH Foods. It’s the casual all-day spot from the Vinegar Hill House people, and it’s right on the waterfront by the Brooklyn Bridge. Stop by when it’s nice outside, and you can sit at a table on the front patio and stare out at the East River. The food itself is stuff like fried eggs with curried chickpeas, kale salad, and pork shoulder, and the service is extremely laid-back.
Made Nice is a counter-service place from the people behind Eleven Madison Park, and they serve the sort of food you’d ideally make at home if you weren’t so busy trying to rebrand yourself. They do things like a smoked salmon salad (with croutons that are actually small hashbrowns) and a bowl of chicken and rice that’s more filling and flavorful than you expect. The space itself kind of feels like a daycare center for 20-somethings, but it’s still a good spot for an easy meal that you won’t regret eating.
Australian restaurants in NYC are very good at being kind of healthy. Banter, for example, has both a quinoa bowl and chia pudding bowl in addition to a burger and a pulled pork sandwich. So you can come by for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, take a look at the menu and make a last-minute decision on how healthy you want to be. Banter also happens to be on a nice, quiet block of Greenwich Village, so it’s a solid alternative for when your friend suggests Westville but you need to not eat Westville for the third time this week.
We aren’t sure if vegetarian restaurants are significantly healthier than those that serve meat, but at least at abcV you know you have a zero percent chance of accidentally eating a pound of bacon. This is one of our favorite vegetarian restaurants in the city, and the food is stuff like a whole head of cauliflower and a dosa filled with egg or avocado. Everyone you bring here will probably like it, as long as you make a reservation - no one likes eating at 10:30pm.
Atla is the sister restaurant of Cosme, and it’s sort of like the casual, downtown, let’s-get-food-after-SoulCycle version of that place. So it’s actually pretty different. They serve flax-seed chilaquiles and an arctic-char stuffed avocado, and the bright space is good for a daytime meal - although it’s also open for dinner. Plan a lunch meeting here when you don’t want to weigh yourself down for the rest of the day. Or, if you have a stressful morning and the only thing that will help is a sandwich, they have a chorizo one that’s pretty great (add the avocado).
Jajaja is another spot that doesn’t serve meat, although here they don’t even have cheese. This restaurant is fully vegan, and also Mexican - and if you’re wondering how that works, the answer is: surprisingly well. Start with some vegan nachos that may or may not be healthier than non-vegan ones, then move on to some fried squash tacos.
Loring Place is the restaurant you come to for a nice dinner, and as an added bonus you’ll find that it’s easy to eat fairly healthily. The huge menu involves a lot of vegetables, so you could have zucchini fries and some kind of vegetable pizza, or baked ricotta and some whole-wheat pasta. And if you decide you just want a burger, they have one of those too. This restaurant is good for a dinner with your family or a group of friends - as long as you book a table far in advance.
Gohan is a quiet little spot on the LES that specializes in Japanese homestyle cooking. They make things like brown-rice sushi, a few kinds of sashimi, some different soups, and set meals that come with a protein and a few vegetable sides. The food is all pretty uniformly healthy, but not in a way that’ll make you start planning your second dinner halfway through your meal. Bring a friend who thinks Dimes is lame. They’ll be into the fact that this place doesn’t try too hard.
If you aren’t deliberately trying to eat healthy, some things here might offend you. Quinoa tagliatelle, for example. But if you are trying to eat something sort of healthy, this place fits the bill. The menu at your average restaurant is 75% unhealthy and 25% healthy, but this one’s the opposite. It’s also perfect for a girls night out or a dinner with the parents. So come have some salmon and kale or chickpea hushpuppies. Just don’t order the steamed broccoli. There’s no dignity in that.
You could argue that grilled meat and couscous is kind of healthy for you and, actually, we’re going to make that argument. Come to Mogador and have some vegetarian couscous or a chicken stew with rice and chickpeas, or a big salad. Your meal will be filling, and you won’t feel bad about yourself. Plus, there’s a pretty atrium/greenhouse in the back where you can eat your dinner, and you’re guaranteed to be surrounded by the youth of Williamsburg. Hopefully you think that’s a positive.
How bad can vegetables be for you? Pretty bad, probably. But Superiority Burger keeps things mostly healthy. Their vegetarian sloppy joe might not be a part of any cleanse currently trending, but it must be healthier than the real thing. The veggie burger also tastes like it’s made from real vegetables, and the sides generally won’t do you much damage. Have some burnt broccoli. Just be aware that this is really just a takeout counter and you’re going to need to find somewhere to eat your food.
Nix is a vegetarian place with many vegan options, but you don’t necessarily have to eat healthy here. The potato fry bread is definitely not good for you, but if you’re trying to toe the line between healthy and unhealthy, we’d go with the cauliflower tempura. Inevitably, you will eat many vegetables here, so no matter what you order, you’ll feel alright when you leave. Nix is a little bit fancy, and it’s a good place to take someone intrigued by the idea of a trendy restaurant that doesn’t serve meat.
Olea is a neighborhood restaurant in Fort Greene with a Mediterranean menu and a few quality houseplants. Service is casual, prices are reasonable, and they serve a range of food that should please just about anyone. Stop by and share a bunch of tapas, or have something bigger like a piece of fish with kale and cauliflower puree. Take a walk in the neighborhood after dinner. It’s an objectively nice-looking area.
The house specialty at Soba-ya is, unsurprisingly, soba. They make the buckwheat soba noodles in-house, and there are a bunch of hot and cold varieties to choose from. But we tend to go for their rice bowls. Get one with tuna or salmon sashimi, and it’ll be like that bowl of poke you just had for lunch but without the unnecessary fried onions and spicy mayo all over the top. Even if you get the largest of the three sizes, you’ll still respect yourself when you leave. Soba-ya is in the East Village, it’s casual and reasonably priced, and waits usually aren’t too long on weeknights.
Meme has two locations, and we especially like the one in the West Village. The dining room is a little small, but there’s a good amount of outdoor seating where you can hang out and watch West-Village-residing celebrities walk their dogs. The food here is an affordable mix of the Mediterranean greatest hits and crowd-pleasing dishes like brussels sprouts and mac & cheese. It isn’t going to blow your mind, but the servers are nice, and if you’re looking for a nice little place with some healthy-ish stuff like salad or lemon chicken with vegetables, Meme will do just fine.
Lovely Day has 1950’s diner vibes, and the menu leans toward Thai. The weird thing is, they also do stuff like a burger and fries. So don’t expect the best food you’ve ever had, just know that this place is fun, casual, inexpensive, and perfect for an easy night out with friends. Come here and have salmon with brown rice, steak with mashed potatoes or something Thai (like spicy green curry). The menu’s pretty big, and you can pick how healthy you want to be.
If you want to eat healthy at 12 Chairs, the go-to move is a salad. They do a bunch of them, including one with chicken schnitzel. And while that might not be the healthiest choice you could make, you’ll feel better about eating schnitzel when it’s on a bed of chopped salad. Other healthy options include couscous, fish, or shakshouka. There are two 12 Chairs locations and they serve the same affordable Mediterranean menu, but the Williamsburg one is brighter, more spacious, and better for an extended hang with friends.
If all you want is a nice piece of fish, you’ll have some options at Crave. Swordfish, salmon, yellowfin tuna - whatever you choose will be somewhat healthy. You can also get a salad or some ceviche. Crave is good for pretty much any scenario (date night, business lunch, etc.), and those who aren’t interested in being healthy can eat fried chicken. The warm chocolate chip cookie should be enjoyed by all, however.
At Lighthouse, you can very easily eat something healthy without trying to eat something healthy. The menu is made up of filling, interesting vegetable dishes and simple proteins (the roast chicken is phenomenal), all done really well and at reasonable prices. Add in the indoor/outdoor space, the daily oyster happy hour, and the ridiculously good burger on hand in case you decide you can be a little less healthy, and this place is officially our favorite weeknight spot in Williamsburg.
Maybe Lighthouse sounds good to you, but you aren’t in Williamsburg. If you happen to be near Nolita, you can go to Lighthouse Outpost - their tiny space on Mulberry with food as good as the original. If you’re by yourself (or maybe with one other person), come for lunch and eat a chicken bowl with coconut rice and a bunch of fresh herbs that will make you wonder why you don’t eat more herbs. And maybe split a burger with someone. The one here is also really good.
Dudley’s is a Lower East Side restaurant that’s usually filled with very trendy, attractive people, and which also happens to serve several tasty salads and a great roasted chicken. Maybe skip the fries that come with the chicken, or maybe don’t.
Greeks figured out the enjoyable, healthy food thing a long time back. How? They invented the perfect salad that doesn’t even involve lettuce. Kiki’s serves Greek food in Chinatown, and while you can get your food covered in French fries here, there are a lot of ways to eat pretty healthy at Kiki’s - make sure the Horiatiki salad is in your order.
Rider’s menu is split up into four sections, starting with vegan dishes and ending with a burger and a ribeye. And while this big range of options has the potential to feel all over the place, it ends up making for a pretty simple I’m-trying-to-eat-kinda-healthy situation. Stick with the top two sections for most of your meal, maybe pepper in a wildcard option from the bottom two sections, and you have a highly satisfying, mostly good for you dinner.
A place where you can feel kind of cool as you eat kind of healthy. The cozy, below-ground space is a nice place to hide out after a rough Monday, and the menu is made up of satisfying food - salads, proteins, and grains all done nicely.
A still under the radar Japanese spot, Ise serves some awesome soba, and the soba salad here is about as healthy as you’re going to get while still eating a plate of noodles. There’s also an excellent selection of sashimi and other light appetizers. Bonus points for an extremely zen environment.
If you’ve been trying to eat healthier lately, your restaurant orders have probably involved some combination of roasted chicken, roasted vegetables - maybe even getting wild with a pan-seared fish once and a while. If you’re tired of that routine, mix it up at Timna, a modern Mediterranean spot in the East Village where you can eat things like raw fish on quinoa and octopus with eggplant puree.
Seamore’s is entirely built around the idea of a kind of healthy dinner. The starring item here is the Reel Deal, which gets you a piece of fish plus three daily market sides. The salads are great too, and we might roll our eyes at the fact that they serve vegan frozen yogurt for dessert, if it weren’t so good.
A proper restaurant in Tribeca from the people who brought you the acai bowl extravaganza that is Two Hands Cafe in Nolita. Bunch here is typically a highly crowded scene, but dinner is significantly calmer. There’s grilled salmon and braised chicken, plus some more fun appetizers like little shrimp sliders.