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 13 excellent options all over NYC that you’ll love, no matter if you’re a vegetarian, vegan, freegan, or flexitarian.
7 Grain Army should be considered a holy place for people looking for gluten-free baked goods. All of the muffins, coffee cakes, and sandwiches at this Williamsburg are made with grains like fonio and quinoa. Their coffee cake has the consistency of a Twinkie, the blueberry muffin is filled with sweet cranberry jam, and the mushroom breakfast tacos wrapped in tortillas (made with a mixture of rice, oat, and corn flour) are regular guest stars in our food dreams. The small shop on Roebling Street opens up at 8am every day except Tuesday, and we highly recommend coming early to try everything while it’s fresh out of the oven.
This takeout-only restaurant in Brooklyn’s Dekalb Market Hall is the only place we’ve been to where plantains shapeshift from dish to dish. From a massive black bean burger with a fried plantain “bun” to an open-faced veggie taco with a soft plantain shell, Kelewele proves that the fruit has the universal range often attributed to potatoes and yucca. So if you want to join the plantain movement for a quick lunch break or picnic in Fort Greene Park, order the “Placo” with a brownie on the side. The pillowy soft dessert was so moist that it stuck to the roof of our mouth between bites, leaving us lots of time to consider why more people don’t make sweets with plantain.
When a vegan wine bar serving Italian food makes perfectly al dente pasta and pine nut ricotta-covered carta di musica, we want to tell everybody we know about it. That’s why we’re writing about Soda Club in the East Village. In addition to a large wine list featuring different orange bottles and chilled reds by the glass, the pasta dishes - including the standout bucatini arrabiata with focaccia breadcrumbs - are some of the most properly cooked we’ve had in a while. This place now has a permanent spot in our date-night rotation, since nothing says romance like sitting in a velvet chair over a glass of wine and some pasta.
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, but 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 birthday dinner with close friends who don’t eat meat, give this spot a try.
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 lack of dairy.
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 to-go latte, 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 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.
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 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.
Sarashina Horii isn’t a vegan restaurant, but you can order the handmade soba noodles alone or with a side of vegetable tempura. The cold “mori” soba made with a mix of buckwheat and wheat flour has a smooth, chewy texture and lightly salted dipping sauce. Every single noodle in this dish is exactly the same size and cooked to the perfect degree of firmness, and they pair especially well with a plate of tender, crunchy mushroom tempura.