Grow Your Plant-Based Dining Options at NYC’s Best Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants
I’m no stranger to navigating people’s confusion with my diet. No thank you, I don’t eat meat. Haha yeah, white meat still counts as meat. Ah, I generally avoid eating fish too since it’s an animal. Well no that doesn’t make me vegan. I was raised a vegetarian, and between happy hours, dinner parties, and nights out with friends, I find myself answering questions about my diet on an almost-daily basis. If you’ve ever dabbled with vegetarianism -- or, God bless, veganism -- you know exactly what I’m talking about.
There’s no way to fully avoid those awkward moments when turning down an hors d’oeuvre leads to a group discussion about your picky lifestyle, but thankfully in New York City, there are numerous places where vegans and vegetarians can order freely off a menu without fear of judgment; places where substitutions aren’t necessary and options abound; places catered to you, and not your meat-eating friends. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or somewhere in between, these are the meat-free restaurants you need to try. Because we deserve gluttony, too.
Chelsea & Upper West Side
Dairy-free dining on the left side of the island
Blossom puts its care for animals in the foreground, and the opening of an Upper West Side location demonstrated a commitment to spreading the sustainable health message a little farther and a little wider. The menu spans several categories of cuisine, the atmosphere leans toward classy, and, although it isn’t cheap, you’ll find yourself craving a return visit dangerously soon after leaving.
A diner that vegans can actually enjoy
Gone are the days when vegans begrudgingly followed their friends to a diner only to order a sad Sprite and a side of tots for supper. Champs fills a major gap in the herbivore community, offering meatless takes on traditional diner fare -- and unlike some vegan substitutes, Champs’ food satisfies. The shop opens in time for breakfast and stays active till midnight for around-the-clock fulfillment.
Little slice of Paris in the heart of the Village
Traditional French cuisine relies heavily on animal products, making Delice & Sarrasin such an important addition to the city’s culinary scene. The entirely vegan restaurant serves all sorts of dishes in a charming Christopher Street space that could very well pass for a Parisian cafe. They’ve mastered brunch -- crepes, waffles, French toast, salads -- but their vegan renditions of steak, tartare, escargot, scallops, coq au vin, and the like give animal-averse eaters a rare chance to truly experience French cooking.
Fast, fresh, and flavorful Asian fare
There’s nothing fancy about Ginger Root Vegan’s appearance, but you won’t mind when you bite into one of their consistently high-quality dishes. The ingredients are fresh, the service is quick, and it’s a great candidate for takeout if you’re in the mood to eat at home. Ginger Root’s menu finds inspiration from a handful of places: Japan, Korea, China, and Thailand among them.
‘70s-themed eatery flipping killer burgers
Its beet-based Rah Rah Burger is among the best vegetarian patties in NYC, but the fast-casual menu doesn’t end there: Dressed-up waffle fries, striking salads, breakfast burritos, and other sandwiches share the spotlight. Everything’s vegan, and just about everything’s made in-house. The colorful dining room mimics a 1970s-era cafe -- brought to life by the creative team behind Champs -- and casual as it may be, you’ll be tempted to hang for a while (or at least until you’ve snapped the perfect photo).
Meatless Mexican concept that’s cute as hell
This plant-based venture is anything but funny. Come for the beautifully plated Mexican street food (tacos, nachos, empanadas, and lighter eats that vary by location), stay for the ambience. The Lower East Side and West Village locations also craft delicious Latin cocktails, like the Pineapple y Mezcal, Pomegranate y Jalapeno, Matcha y Coconut, and Frozen Agave Margarita. And the liquor options? Extensive.
Classy evening tapas bar guaranteed to impress
Ladybird makes vegetables -- dare we say -- fun? Steamed bao buns get a maitake mushroom makeover, ceviche trades seafood for beet and avocado, and potatoes are loaded with cashew sour cream and mushroom bacon. The vegetarian hotspot charges a pretty penny for its (slightly less) guilty pleasures, so save it for special occasions. You’re better off making a reservation than dropping in due to limited seating.
Sustainable veggie bowls complemented by organic wines
Le Botaniste champions the cause to save Planet Earth with responsible dishes that cater to nearly every dietary restriction. Everything’s safe for celiacs, options are plentiful for vegans, and for the people who refuse to eat anything that’s not organic, 99% of the menu is on-limits. In addition to the entirely botanical bowls, Le Botaniste’s three Manhattan locations offer healthy dessert options, detox juice, and a selection of natural wines.
A romantic creperie for animal-free indulging
Bring a date to the upper floor of this charming, two-story creperie where healthy ingredients morph into indulgent creations both savory and sweet, vegan and gluten-free. The dolled-up dining area feels reminiscent of a small-town tea parlor, which makes sense considering the Apothecary serves a large variety of teas in addition to their elaborate coffee, smoothie, juice, wine, beer, crepe, and dessert menus.
Instagrammable comfort food
The finer things in life involve “mozz sticks,” “cheese” fondue, and garlic bread. Oh, and fried tofu & waffles, Buffalo tempeh wings, and some oyster mushroom calamari. Plus maybe a cannoli for dessert and a cocktail for good measure? Long story short, Modern Love knows a thing or two about the finer things, and even better, they know how to translate the finer things into vegan-friendly dishes that brighten the table. You asked the universe for romance, and here it is -- your modern love affair.
Michelin-starred bites worth the splurge
Chefs John Fraser and James Truman didn’t slog away to earn veggies a Michelin star just for you to order another round of takeout from by CHLOE. Nix brandishes an eclectic, seasonally changing menu of vegetarian shareables, and its energetic cocktails mirror the lively atmosphere that diners help to create. It’s open for dinner seven days a week, and serves equally adored brunch provisions on Saturdays and Sundays.
Upper West Side & Greenwich Village
Queen of the health food scene
Before plant-based diets became a cultural fad, two vegans opened Peacefood on the UWS to promote personal health, environmental sustainability, and non-violence with farm animals. Since its founding in 2009, Peacefood opened a slightly trendier downtown location that dishes up the same vegan meals and attracts the same social crowd. Their food definitely tastes healthy, and when you’re looking for a guilt-free bite, it hits the spot.
Greenpoint & Crown Heights
Because sometimes vegans crave a slice too...
Vegan pizza is too often synonymous with disappointment: While everyone else grabs thick, gooey slices of their favorite pies, vegans are left with a sad sauce-and-mushroom option, or worse -- nothing at all. Thankfully, the people behind Screamer’s Pizza understand the dilemma and swooped in with “cheesy” creations that vegans can devour, whether a full pie for your apartment movie night or a quick slice to satisfy a case of the drunchies.
Flavorful vegan Szechuan
Spicy Moon works with all the same vegetables and seasonings found in typical Chinese restaurants, simply excluding the animal products. Vegetable dumplings, wontons, and spring rolls cover the basics, while more inventive bites like General Tso’s mushrooms and Beyond Beef meatballs in mala sauce show off Spicy Moon’s individuality. Still, the spicy spring roll dipping sauce is the true seductress -- taste for yourself and see.
Veggie burger haven where “a lot is accidentally vegan”
New York City’s superior veggie burger destination attracts people from all around town to nosh on creative meatless sandwiches. The shop is tiny -- with only a few seats -- but nobody stops in for the ambience. They go for an animal-free meal that’s just as good as the real thing, even if it means waiting in a long line just to scarf everything down on the curb.
Fast-casual ode to the chickpea
“Taïm” is Hebrew for “tasty,” and its chickpea-oriented menu is just that. What makes this local falafel chain so special? Even with affordable prices and multiple Manhattan locations, Taïm maintains a consistent level of quality that other modest lunch chains just can’t guarantee. The menu was designed for vegans and vegetarians, and makes for a perfect grab-and-go experience if you’re limited on time.
Vegetable slaughterhouse, but make it chic
When The Butcher’s Daughter cut the ribbon on its flagship Nolita location in 2012, “chic” and “vegetarian” were less synonymous. Founder Heather Tierney brought her professional design experience to the project, creating a trendy, plant-based paradise with flavors bold enough to amass a cult following even among meat-eaters. A Butcher’s Daughter brunch should be on every New Yorker’s bucket list -- it’s just that good.
Park Slope & East Village
Colombian cuisine that knows how to satisfy
Next time you’re craving a Latin treat, make it easy on yourself and go where you can approximate cheese and sour cream, and incorporate solid protein into your restricted diet. Vegan empanadas and arepas bring the heat at V-SPOT, a Colombian outpost from Brooklyn so gratifying that it opened a second location in the Vegan Food Court on St. Marks. On the topic of vegan eateries, V-SPOT has earned a place in the canon.
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