Sometimes it feels like every new restaurant focuses on burgers, pizza, or some kind of noodle. 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 Kind-Of-Healthy Hit List as of 1/16: AbcV, Made Nice, Fairfax, Banter, Lalito, JaJaJa, Old Rose, Atla, Shuka
Not all vegetables leave you feeling as fresh and light as the actors dancing in fields in allergy medicine commercials while the narrator warns that this medicine may kill you. Unlike spots whose vegetable options include fried brussels sprouts and squash tempura, abcV makes their greens and grains taste good without throwing them in vats of boiling oil. They serve interesting and, from what we can gather, quite healthy food, and it’s currently our favorite all-vegetarian restaurant in the city. If you want to eat at abcV in a less-formal setting than its white-tablecloth dinner service, check it out for a healthy breakfast or lunch.
Made Nice is a high-quality and fairly healthy lunch and dinner option from the people behind Eleven Madison Park. Rather than a tasting menu that costs as much as rent in anywhere-but-New-York, everything at this fast-casual spot in Flatiron is under $15. It’s the kind of place where you’ll feel confident that the chicken and cows lived happy lives before becoming your Tuesday takeout lunch order. You should also know they serve incredible soft serve, if your desire to be healthy doesn’t apply to dessert.
In the kinds of idealized versions of NYC you only see on TV (where a single person lives in a two-bedroom apartment and subway cars just happen to always be empty), every neighborhood has a spot like Lalito waiting to be discovered. This all-day place serves California-ish Mexican food that’s both excellent and mostly healthy, ranging from roasted yam and granola at breakfast to carnitas later in the day. It’s worth a trip for weekend brunch or a casual-but-still-nice dinner, when you can sit in the bright room with orange booths.
We’ve heard that avocados are fairly popular right now. They’re also pretty healthy. Atla happens to serve what may be the best avocado toast in the city, and their arctic char-stuffed avocado is another pretty good way to eat it. This is an all-day spot for modern Mexican food, and we like it best for a relatively healthy breakfast or lunch. It’s a bright, open space in the part of Noho with cobblestone streets.
The new location of El Rey is almost as tiny as the original LES spot, only this one is inside a men’s clothing store (Todd Snyder in Flatiron). But you should know about this place even if you have no plans to purchase a $700 raincoat anytime soon. El Rey Annex serves stuff like carrot and grain bowls and salmon toast, in a bright space ideal for hiding out on your lunch break. Try it if you work in the area, and if you don’t, keep it in mind for the next time you find yourself near Madison Square Park and in need of something healthier than Shake Shack.
When you’re tasked with organizing a group dinner, your friends typically bail in stages. One friend will say she’s out after you choose a burger place. Another friend seems to think Manhattan ends at 14th St, and anything north of it is just where hedge funds do shady stuff and rich people nod at their doormen after getting out of chauffeured cars. While you can safely assume that your reservation for 12 is going to end up looking more like eight, Shuka is a place everyone should be happy with. You can be as healthy as you want here (there’s stuff like beet hummus and kale salad, but also lamb kebabs), and the share plates are affordable. The friend who bails on this one - well, she probably just doesn’t like you.
Fairfax is in the West Village space that used to be Perla Cafe, and it’s a casual all-day restaurant that looks like someone’s living room. Along with avocado and white bean toasts in the morning, they serve healthy small plates, like broccoli with chili vinaigrette in the afternoon and evening. If you want to meet someone for drinks and a bite, but don’t want to have to choose between a bowl of olives and a double cheeseburger, then the velvet armchairs at Fairfax are waiting for you.
Old Rose is an all-day restaurant on the ground floor of the Jane Hotel in Meatpacking. It serves the kind of food that appeals to everyone from the guy temporarily inspired by a Perfect Pushup commercial to the neighborhood’s skinny-jean wearing tourists who tend to use cigarettes as meal replacements. Old Rose serves healthy options all day, like a mushroom bowl over coconut rice at breakfast, and a chicken salad with smoked yogurt in the afternoon/evening. The big space is good for groups, and they have pizzas and pastas on the menu for your friend who already did his five Perfect Pushups today.
Imagine if all of the coffee shops in Australia were staffed by Americans trying to find their purpose after college. If this were the case, Australians would have a solid understanding of the current New York cafe scene. Bright, all-day Australian coffee shops seem to be opening daily, and Banter is a new-ish one in Greenwich Village. It serves healthy things like grain bowls, salads, and turmeric hummus, along with some not-so-healthy things, which makes it a good spot for a casual meal with just about any of your accent-appreciating friends.
JaJaJa is a vegan Mexican restaurant that looks like a New Yorker’s idea of a diner in New Mexico. The small, bright space has a few bar seats, booths, two-top tables, and hanging beads over a doorway. They serve things like “fish” (hemp seed battered chayote squash) tacos, and we’re fans of the nachos and pupusas. We can’t confirm exactly how healthy the food is here, but we do know that there are lots of vegetables and grains.
Blake Lane’s space is a little cafeteria-like, but the UES needed something like this. If you live in the area (or if you’re doing the uptown tourist thing), this is a good place to get a casual, mostly-healthy 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. 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.