If it’s been months of boring tofu scrambles, frozen hash browns, and back-to-back recipes from an article titled “10 Simple Ways to Cook with Eggplant,” we’re here to remind you that cutting out meat and dairy doesn’t mean you can’t have variety. Especially since new vegan restaurants are popping up in 2021 just about as frequently as Andre 3000 sightings happened in 2020. So whenever you’re ready to try a new vegan or vegetarian dish that came from somewhere other than a drawer in your fridge, use this guide. It has seven excellent options all over NYC that you’ll love, no matter if you’re a vegetarian, vegan, freegan, or flexitarian.
This LES restaurant is serving Chinese-inspired vegan dishes from a takeout window on Broome Street Tuesday through Sunday until 8pm. Even if you’re not vegan, you’ll probably develop strong feelings for their delicious mushroom sloppy, soft rice rolls, and perfectly-fried salt and pepper cauliflower bites. The food comes out on a tray, and there are a few tables under a covered tent where you can drink some wine while you wait.
If you’ve ever dreamt of picking up a ficus and a torta from the same counter-service place, head to Guevara’s in Clinton Hill. This cafe and plant shop from the people behind Mekelburg’s serves an excellent torta stacked high with avocado, red cabbage, tomato, jalapeno, and a crunchy slab of eggplant milanese. But the greatness doesn’t stop there. They’ve also got everything from plant-based lox bagels and picadillo empanadas to ceviche tostadas and guava donuts on the menu, and nothing costs more than $10.
Not all vegan food is created equal. And if you’re feeling like skipping the grain bowl and going for vegan fast food today, Pop’s Eat Rite is the best place to do it. It’s a casual takeout spot on St. Marks Place in the East Village that serves cheese fries, mini donuts, and - most importantly - three different kinds of smash burgers. The classic burger with vegan cheese, pickles, caramelized onions has the grease factor of an Americana fast food fever dream. So much so that it will practically sing “You’re The One That I Want” at you before you eat it. It’s topped with thick-cut sour pickles, caramelized onions, a dash of sweet ketchup, and vegan American cheese that tastes salty and creamy enough for you to question its vegan-ness.
Ras Plant Based is the vegan Ethiopian restaurant love child of a couple that met while working at Awash’s Cobble Hill location together. The Crown Heights spot opened back in March 2020 and managed to shift its menu of tender mushroom tibs, spongy injera, and creamy shiro to a takeout and delivery only model soon after. Now, Ras Plant Based has opened its mural-covered dining room for limited seating indoors. From the flaky sambusas and crispy cauliflower wings to huge platters of Ethiopian classics like Kitfo made with pea protein, all of the plant-based dishes here are excellent. So if you’ve ever heard someone say that all vegan food is “bland and boring,” you know what to do.
Other than oat milk and ceremonial grade matcha powder, most specialty grocery stores in this city don’t sell much for vegans or vegetarians. Thankfully, Galioto’s is changing all that. This Italian deli from the team behind Jajaja offers dishes like a meatball parm hero made with Impossible beef, panzanella salad made with dairy-free mozzarella, and kitchen staples for plant-based cooking at home. There’s a cafe counter inside where you can pick up a latte to-go, or you can shop around for things like fresh produce, rainbow cookies, and quiche.
Xilonen is a vegan restaurant that isn’t afraid to let vegetables be the stars of every bite. Throughout your meal at this Greenpoint spot from the team behind Oxomoco, you’ll find stunning vegetables in places you don’t expect. From a crispy heirloom corn tostada topped with tender carrots to creamy guacamole that involves crunchy winter greens and pickled serrano peppers, the plant-based food at this Mexican spot will make you want to push back from your table with raised eyebrows and a huge grin. Their excellent masa pancakes aren’t topped with perfectly charred vegetables, but you should still try them someday for brunch one weekend.
Aunts et Uncles is a vegan cafe and shop in Flatbush that has the soothing pastel color scheme one might expect from an upscale yarn studio. They sell everything from veggie burgers and mofongo to books and magazines, so if you’re looking for a gift to send to your cousin who is trying to become someone in LA, stop by their store on Nostrand Avenue between 10am and 10pm.
Being vegan and enjoying great restaurants is easy in NYC, especially with all of the new plant-based spots that continue opening month after month. Le Petit Monstre is one of the standout bakeries that has opened in Clinton Hill, right around the corner from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It specializes in French pastries like kouign amann, cinnamon rolls, and danishes, but the huge cafe also sells houseplants, coffee, and other home goods. If you want to check it out but don’t live in the neighborhood, you should know there’s a Citi Bike rack right outside of the front entrance.