Your birthday is the one day you shouldn’t have to settle. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, that means the menu at wherever you decide to have dinner better have more options than three vegetable sides and a baked potato. Whether you’re looking to have a meal by yourself or with everyone you’ve gotten drinks with in the last six months, use this guide. You’ll find everything from tasting menu restaurants to a diner where cookie dough pancakes are served all day - it’s almost entirely vegetarian, and many of these options are also vegan. And we promise, none of them involve compostable salad bowls.
All of the food at this upscale vegan spot in the East Village feels original, which means you won’t find a veggie burger or imitation meat anywhere in sight. What you will find in this cozy little restaurant are tasty combinations of vegetables, toast, and pasta. You’ll definitely need to make a reservation to eat here with more than two people, and you absolutely should for the opportunity to try the tomato jam and pickled peach toast.
At this upscale Korean spot in Midtown, you’ll remove your shoes, sit at a table on the floor, and eat family-style vegetarian dishes like pumpkin porridge and dumplings. And even though Hangawi has enough ceramics and rugs encased in glass on display to qualify as an extension of The Met, you can laugh loudly, drink inhumane amounts of soju, and try to forget you’re aging without getting any angry stares.
If you want your birthday dinner to evolve into an underground disco party, come to Black Flamingo in Williamsburg. After 10pm on weekends, a DJ starts spinning in a small club right underneath this vegan Mexican spot. But even if you’d be content calling it a night after dinner, the latke tacos here are special occasion-worthy on their own. Have one for every year you’ve been alive and then cry a little, since it’s your birthday and you can do that if you want to.
Sure, you and a friend could eat at Spicy Moon, a vegetarian Szechuan spot in the East Village, on a Wednesday night before your mid-week home improvement show marathon. But it could also be a good starting point for the kind of night where you’ll inevitably leave something in an Uber you shouldn’t have called in the first place. The red darkroom lighting here makes feasting on dan dan noodles and dry pot with tofu feel like an intimate dinner party. And whatever happens afterwards is up to you.
If the Real Housewives of NYC ever have a vegan dinner, there’s a good chance it’ll happen at Plant Food + Wine. Even the plants in this sleek, all-black, East Village spot have individual spotlights to show off their tiny pores. You’ll find the best vegan cheese plate we’ve ever had, plus incredible bread and butter (which is worth the $8), and a veggie burger that’s too good to eat on camera.
Full disclosure - there are only three vegetarian options on the menu at this Korean spot in Flatiron. But all three of them are interesting combinations of things like sunchokes, truffles, and chrysanthemum that rank among the best vegetable-based dishes we’ve ever had. Plus, the communal tables in the industrial-looking space here work perfectly for packing in with a big group and plenty of drinks for as long as humanly possible.
There are certain dining situations when “everything in moderation” doesn’t apply, like pre-marathon, post break-up, or on your birthday. And when you’re looking to have an “I’ll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow” type of dinner, you should check out Modern Love in Williamsburg. Their vegan takes on comfort foods from around the world - like buffalo tempeh wings and mac and cashew cheese - are as enjoyable and at least as heavy as most traditional, non-vegetarian versions.
At first glance, you might think P.S. Kitchen is just an average American restaurant in Midtown. But unlike other Midtown restaurants serving comfort food to tourists and people who might sleep in suits, P.S. Kitchen is a vegan spot where you’ll want to hang out and sing along to Drake (ironically or unironically) with a group of friends. Come here for vegan burgers, wings, and pastas that taste better than most of the other vegetarian-friendly comfort food in the city. Plus, 100% of P.S.’s profits go to charity.
If cookie dough pancakes, tater tot nachos, and mozzarella sticks don’t sound like heaven to you - we have nothing in common. But since we’re probably on the same team here, you should eat all of these things at Champs Diner on your birthday. Everything on the menu at this Williamsburg spot is vegan, but since most of the vegan population in Brooklyn is aware of this, you’ll probably need to get here before all of your friends to give your name to the host.
If you only want to celebrate with your significant other or best friend, you need to go somewhere that feels special. Go to Dirt Candy, a vegetarian tasting menu restaurant on the LES where dinner may start with a three-story wooden tower full of things like edible flowers over black-eyed pea hummus, and end with eggplant foster flambeed tableside. In between those bookends to the six or nine-course meal - which can be made vegan - are other delicious dishes that look and taste unlike any others in the city.
If you want to take your shoes off and eat until you can’t move (but outside of your apartment), go to Vatan. This vegetarian Indian restaurant in Murray Hill only serves a $34 three-course Gujarati-style meal that comes with unlimited refills of anything you want (our favorites are the batavada potato dumplings and sweet rice pudding). Everyone gets their own tray of food, so you won’t need to worry about sharing or ordering the right amount. Plus, Vatan feels like a party no matter the occasion - mostly because of the massive tree in the middle of the room, a wishing well, thatched roofs over every table, and the no-shoe policy.
This vegetarian spot in the East Village is run by the same people who own the yoga studio directly above it. So it makes sense that everything at this ayurvedic vegetarian spot is intended to make your three primary energies align, or something. If you’re looking for a calm spot to eat vegetable lasagna, carrot risotto, spinach and cheese cutlets, this is it.
If children were fed Loring Place’s tempura spiced cauliflower, the vegetable would have a much better rep among the 7-to-14-year-old demographic. Actually, we could say the same thing about the broccoli, butternut squash, and brussels sprouts, too - since this West Village spot fries, wood-grills, or puts them on pizzas. Regardless of dietary restrictions, everyone at your birthday party will be able to find something to eat at Loring Place. Even a twelve-year-old.
Historically speaking, many birthday parties have happened at red sauce Italian spots. And, historically speaking, vegans have struggled through those meals. John’s of 12th Street is the only restaurant in the city where that won’t be the case. It’s as classic as NYC Italian places get (framed black and white photos on the walls, white tablecloths, and massive portions), but there’s also an entire menu of vegan options. Which means you can get eggplant parm with cashew cheese and a delicious portobello mushroom with polenta and greens. And, if your friends aren’t vegan, they’ll probably be happy with a pile of meatballs.
The biggest thing Buddha Bodai has going for it is its BYOB policy. And the fact that most of the dishes at this kosher vegetarian Chinese restaurant cost less than $15. If you’re vegan and looking for a place in Chinatown where you can order absolutely anything on the menu (the dumplings, spring rolls, and vegetarian duck are all pretty decent) and drink whatever you want, this is a great place to consider.