Sometimes it feels like every new place that opens is focused around either burgers or pizza. We aren't saying we don't like those foods, but too much grease slows us down. And we're like gazelles or unsponsored triathletes - we run free. So it’s nice when a relatively healthy place opens up, the sort of place where you can bring a picky friend and also find something for yourself. We call these places healthy-ish.
If you want to check out a new restaurant but also keep your bod's status quo, try one of these spots. You probably won’t lose any weight, but you won’t gain much either. Essentially, you can be as healthy as you want. Check them out, because there’s a world of new restaurants beyond burgers and pizza - and if you feel the need to go there, these are the spots.
New to the Healthy-ish Hit List as of 1/3: Miss Paradis, Citizens of Chelsea, Modern Love, Gotan Williamsburg, Blake Lane
Picture a room that feels like a cross between a glass tank for lizards and a nightclub from the 90s. That’s Miss Paradis. There are also bottles of rose everywhere, a lot of glassware that might just be decor, and a subtle R&B soundtrack that makes you think a server might come up and start giving you a back rub. Thing is, the food is actually good, affordable, and pretty healthy. You won’t crave anything from their pescatarian menu at 2 am, but you will leave feeling like a really expensive show dog with owners who obsess over the sheen of your coat. And sometimes that’s a good thing.
We’re honestly curious how many Australians are still in Australia. At this point, there are probably more in New York, and a bunch of them work at places like Citizens of Chelsea. This is yet another Australian-style coffee shop that serves breakfast all day, and it really wants to be Instagrammed. The space is clean and bright with a good number of seats, and there’s some super-casual table service. The food is also mostly healthy (avocado toast, quinoa salad, etc.), but they kindly give you the option of adding bacon to anything.
Somewhere along the line, “vegan” became synonymous with “healthy." We aren’t nutritionists, so we really aren’t going to weigh in on this, but if you’re a vegan or if you feel like eating a lot of vegetables, Modern Love is a solid choice. This place is just a little bit fancy, but the food is fun and satisfying. They do vegan versions of comfort food - stuff like seitan chops and applesauce and samosa-spiced latkes. For your next healthy date night, go here.
These days, we’re finding more and more coffee shops that serve good food. And that’s great because these tend to be laid-back, affordable places where you don’t feel bad about taking out your laptop. The food also tends to be healthier. At the Williamsburg Gotan (there are two others in Manhattan), you can sit down and have some better-than-average toast or a salad while you map out the rest of your day. If you live or work in the area, it’s the sort of place you can eat at several times a week.
The space is a little cafeteria-like, but the UES needed something like this. This isn’t a place you’re going to travel to, but if you live in the area (or if you’re doing the uptown tourist thing), here’s somewhere you can get a casual, healthy-ish meal. The food here is “California-style,” which means lots of vegetables and an obligatory tuna tartare. In this case, the tartare is on toast, and it’s a pretty good piece of toast. A little oily, but good. The setup here doesn’t quite feel like a dinner place, but stop by for lunch when you and a friend just need to eat a bunch of vegetables out of a bowl.
The original Lighthouse is in Williamsburg, and we’d like to point out that it’s one of the best casual dining options we’ve recently encountered. Lighthouse Outpost opened quietly on Mulberry Street, and if you work in the area, it’s where you should be getting your lunch. They do a burger that’ll make you want to send your parents hate mail for allowing you to eat McDonald's, and there are lighter options like ceviche and shakshuka. The storefront is small, and it’s mostly a takeout place, but there are a few seats inside if you need a few minutes away from your desk.
At first glance, Springbone seems like a parody of itself. Here, you can get some grass-fed beef broth or a cup of chicken broth with sweet potato and turmeric puree called, um, “Chakra." So, yes, this place wouldn’t be out of place on an episode of Portlandia. But you know what? Sometimes broth is good. Sometimes you eat too much and you drink too much, and all you want is a cup of savory liquid that feels like a hug from a mother who’s worried about you. There’s also some (literally) solid stuff like zucchini spaghetti with meatballs, and, while that sounds like bullsh*t, it’s actually pretty good. Come here to detox with some food that won’t make you angry.
To say that Cava is like a Mediterranean Chipotle is like saying that The Beatles were like a British Mumford and Sons. Similar, but not comparable. The truly wonderful thing here is that you can be as healthy as you want. If you’re feeling the low-calorie thing, you can have some lentils, greens, and tomato-cucumber salad. Or, if you just went to the gym or you drank too much last night (pretty much the same thing), you can have a bowl of rice, lamb meatballs, and every (free) vegetable topping. Cava is a fast-casual chain from Washington, D.C., and this place by Union Square is their first location in New York. Check them out the next time you need a quick lunch.
Now the Meatpacking District has drug dealers and a cauliflower steak sandwich. The Wild Son (from the team that brought you The Wayland) also has some meat options, but the menu is full of salads, grain bowls, and the like. Go for breakfast or lunch, have a yogurt bowl or some gluten-free pancakes. At dinner, there are some larger plates (roasted chicken, whole trout etc.), and the vibe is more laid-back than your average Meatpacking restaurant.
Everyone wants to be healthy-ish nowadays, and no other place toes the line between healthy and not-healthy quite like by Chloe. We’re pretty sure the food here isn’t necessarily better for us - but it feels like it is. The first by Chloe opened on MacDougal, and now there’s one in Flatiron. Think of it as a restaurant for people who want Shake Shack but don't want to play chicken with their metabolism. They have burgers, salads, baked goods, and ice cream. Also, nothing tastes like it’s vegan, hence: line out the door.
When’s the last time you went out for Indian and ordered a salad? At Pondicheri, this seems like a non-ludicrous thing to do. The original Pondicheri is in Houston, but this one recently opened in the Flatiron District. Here, you can get salads, roti rolls, and breakfast things like masala eggs. In the daytime, you order at a counter then find an open seat. Go here for some lighter, modern Indian that won’t make you want to join SoulCycle then complain about how much it costs then get really into it and be super annoying about it.
Coco & Cru643 Broadway
If you aren’t familiar with Australian cafes by now, here’s the gist: young, attractive people serving toasts and salads to other young, attractive people in a casual setting that probably has good light. You feel good at Coco & Cru. It’s a nice place to have a meeting or grab a healthy-ish lunch in Noho. The tempura cod sandwich won’t make you any more optimistic about your next high school reunion, but we could see ourselves having one of their bowls or salads every day.
Chikarashi is a counter-service poke spot in a clean little storefront on Canal. Choose a signature bowl with high-quality fish, and get a meal for around fifteen bucks. Bowls come with rice and usually a few Japanese ingredients you’re probably half-familiar with like ponzu, furikake, wakame, and shichimi. Of all the new places selling poke bowls, we've found Chikarashi's to be of the highest quality.
Baby Brasa was opened by a Peruvian male model who seems to be permanently parked outside the restaurant. They serve Peruvian food, primarily rotisserie chicken (which you can get in quarter, half, or gluten-free sandwich form). For something lighter, get a quinoa and kale salad that actually doesn’t suck. It’s a good spot to get a quick lunch and people watch on the LES.
Have we told you about Australian cafes? Good, so that’s covered. The original Two Hands is on Mott Street, but the new one in Tribeca has a bar and a much bigger menu. Swing by in the morning for some granola or beet-cured salmon, or stop by at night for a laid-back, well-rounded healthy-ish dinner. Get a few small plates and order their cocktail with rye and apple juice called The Drunk Granny (because there are worse things to be).