After years of being the butt of jokes about missing out on pork butt, vegetarians and vegans are finally getting their due, and nowhere is that more apparent than in NYC. The city has always had its select spots for vegheads, but as more and more people shift their diets due to increased research on the benefits of going plant-based, and the potential consequences of continuing to eat our friends on the farm, big-name New York chefs and restaurateurs, like John Fraser and Ravi DeRossi, have hopped on the trend with modern, vegetable-focused menus that appeal to kale and bacon lovers alike. With these major culinary players embracing vegetarianism and veganism, a new light has also been cast on places that have been catering to the clean-eating crew for ages.
So, to spread the glory of greens, we picked out a mix of the best vegetarian & vegan spots in NYC that even meat-lovers can get behind -- from high-end Japanese tasting menus to gluttonous diner fare to trendy just-opened spots with a keen eye for bringing out the best of what our earth has to offer. You'll never believe what they can do with cauliflower and carrots.
While the sheer idea of eating sushi sans fish is something straight out of your darkest nightmares, Beyond Sushi has somehow figured out a way to turn it into something even Jiro might dream about. Run by a husband-and-wife duo, Beyond reinvents traditional sushi by using fresh, local, all-vegan ingredients. Dig your chopsticks into a insanely colorful and beautifully crafted Spicy Mang roll with black rice, avocado, mango, cucumber, spicy veggies, and toasted cayenne sauce, or the Mighty Mushroom roll made up of six-grain rice, enoki, tofu, shiitake, arugula, and shiitake teriyaki sauce.
From esteemed bar owner/restaurateur Ravi DeRossi, Avant Garden is the dream restaurant non-meat eaters wish for when they’re forced into going to a fancy steakhouse, only to order some sad creamed spinach. Rather than relying on meat as imitation inspiration, this high-end animal-free haven lets veggies stand proudly on their own and stay true to themselves, elevating veganism to a level unheard of by both carnivores and Future alike. With a seasonal menu broken up into three different sections (“Toast,” “Cold,” and “Hot”), Avant lets you feast on beautifully plated dishes like multi-textured carrot harissa toast topped with apple and whipped tofu; hearty salt-baked sweet potato mixed with jicama and jalapeño; and meaty maitake mushrooms alongside peas, fingerling potatoes, and cipollini onions.
The best part? You’ll also leave with a clean conscience, as portions of the restaurant's profits go to BEAST, an organization started by DeRossi that aims to help end animal cruelty. In addition to Avant Garden, DeRossi is also intent on implementing vegan menus at his other ventures (the menu at Mother of Pearl made the switch recently). He also just opened Ladybird, a stunning, veggie-centric tapas joint that’s serving up dishes like smoky, spicy charred eggplant with sweet potato crisps, and creamy saffron risotto with oyster mushrooms.
Vinnie's may not be a completely veg spot, but it deserves a spot on this list for not only having some of the most insane pies of any pizza place, but also an insane number of vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options. From the vegetarian avocado quesadilla slice with pico, avo, tortilla chips, cheddar, and sour cream, to the totally vegan T.HANKS with BBQ "chicken," "bacon," cheddar, mozzarella, and BBQ sauce, Vinnie's has your pizza cravings covered (and good luck finishing more than one slice). Whatever you choose to order, be sure you start off with the vegan chicken drumsticks -- they're actually crispy, and will totally satisfy that craving for buffalo wings (which you definitely don't have) when you dip them in hot sauce.
Helmed by seasoned chef John Fraser -- whose plant-based prowess was never a secret thanks to his Meatless Mondays and carrots Wellington at Dovetail and Narcissa, respectively -- Nix has only been open for a mere few months and is already garnering more attention than a fiery vegan YouTube feud. The simple, subtly detailed space is pumping out dishes that very well might encourage carnivores to turn over a new leaf (literally).
To start off, it’s imperative that you get at least one order of tandoor bread alongside at least one dip (like the red pepper & walnut). Then toss all your preconceived notions of healthy vegetarianism aside, because you’re getting ANOTHER order of bread, this one of the “Yukon potato fry” variety and topped with the likes of cheddar, sour cream, and, yes, veggies. Still, the main attraction here is undeniably the cauliflower tempura: crispy, poppy seed-adorned, sweet-and-spicy chunks that take the place of pork in soft, pillowy buns and are served with pickled veggies for an extra tangy crunch. If you've saved any room at all for dessert (or even if you haven't) don't miss out on the 20-minute tandoor-roasted pineapple with tamarind glaze.
Serving up bright, colorful, Instagram-worthy meals inside a space that boasts all the same enviable qualities, by CHLOE. is a fast-casual vegan concept from a young female duo: longtime vegan and Cupcake Wars winner Chloe Coscarelli and hospitality wiz Samantha Wasser. They operate under the idea of creating fresh, affordable vegan options that use whole, locally sourced ingredients. That translates to a menu that is clean, comforting, and most importantly, looks and tastes like non-vegan food: there’s a quinoa taco salad bursting with spiced seitan chorizo, corn, black beans, and tortilla strips; a pretty damn famous guac burger that translates to a house-made black bean/quinoa/sweet potato loaded up with guac (duh) and chipotle aioli; and plenty of enormous cinnamon espresso cookies. There’s a reason this place has been rapidly expanding in NYC, Boston, and LA, and it’s best to see it in action yourself.
Are you a vegetarian who kinda, maybe, sorta, OK really misses pork buns? If you answered yes, this Chinese dim sum spot was made for you. It's 100% vegetarian, and, if you're a member of the tribe, it's kosher too, so you can kill two soy-based birds with one stone. Bring a group so you can try as many unique offerings as possible. The BBQ veg meat tastes almost identical to actual meat, and you can even get it stuffed inside a fried eggplant.
For a vegetarian on a budget, you can't do much better than a trip to the lunch buffet at Govinda's. It's a hidden gem in the basement of a Hare Krishna temple, and the friendly staff and delicious, ever-changing mix of Indian and Westernized eats will make a believer out of anyone wary of going all-veg. For a mere $10 (so, less than you'd spend on most cheeseburgers), you can snag a lunch box with soup, salad, and all the day's dishes, which can include options like eggplant Parm, spinach daal, samosas, zucchini, potato & cauliflower stew, and cheesecake.
There's a reason this place is named what it is. This always-busy Williamsburg spot is the champion of completely vegan comfort food and truly proves that yes, veggies can be gluttonous too, dammit! The menu here is a hangover dream come true, packed with everything from mozzarella sticks to heroes to burgers. Still, your best bet is a sandwich, like the Philly Cheese Steak (grilled seitan, bell peppers, mayo, and cheese), the Grinder (all of the above plus banana peppers), or the way-too-convincing Chik'n Parmesan. There's also an entire breakfast menu full of things like Chik’n & Waffles topped with powdered sugar and butter, so you'll never have to suffer over your home-cooked tofu omelets again.
Israeli chef Einat Admony and her husband are the team behind the little, yet mighty, Taïm. Some of the best, if not THE best, falafel sandwiches are coming out of this all-veg Mediterranean kitchen, with flavors like traditional parsley, cilantro, and mint; spicy harissa; and roasted red pepper. You're going to want to ask for it "with everything," which means the no-fee addition of pickles, a Yemeni hot sauce called s'rug, and amba, a sweet-and-sour mango chutney. If falafels not your style (how?), you'll be equally satisfied with the fried eggplant sabich.
Opened by two vegans looking to spread the gospel of non-violence via the vegan lifestyle and all its benefits, this charming UWS cafe & bakery has been so successful that it opened a second location Downtown, too. This is the kind of place you to go when you're completely unsure of what you want to eat but kind of want a little bit of everything. That means ordering chickpea fries, Shanghai dumplings, and either a Japanese pumpkin or fried seitan medallion sandwich. And don't even dare leave without trying a dessert, like the peanut butter cheesecake or the raw Key lime pie.
Its name literally translates to "day of celebration," which is exactly when you want to visit this upscale restaurant that specializes in the art of Japanese shojin cuisine. Shojin is a style of seasonal, multi-course vegetarian cooking that has roots in Zen Buddhism, and though it doesn't support the use of meat or fish, it does support food that's so delicious you won't even miss them. Kajitsu offers both a smaller, less-expensive meal option, and a pricier one with more courses, but both menus change monthly. Right now you can feast on the likes of summer vegetable "nabe" and creamy corn soup, plus so much more.
This popular Chelsea restaurant has expanded to three locations across the city, each offering a totally unique experience (from the menu to the atmosphere), making the Blossom restaurant group an animal product-free force to be reckoned with. Visit the intimate flagship that started it all for a low-key, healthful meal. With the goal of cooking food that can be enjoyed by anyone, vegan or not, Blossom boasts dishes like vegan lasagna, mushroom tacos, and a soy bacon cheeseburger that could almost convince Shake Shack's most loyal customer to switch teams.
Celebrated chef Amanda Cohen turns the simplest of vegetables into edible art at her Michelin-starred LES veg haven. Once housed in a cramped East Village space, Dirt Candy has since moved to a more spacious locale, where it became the first restaurant in New York to do away with tipping, adding instead a 20% price raise to the menu. And that raise is well worth the chance to enjoy some of the most creative and innovative plant-based dishes in the city, from Korean fried broccoli to jalapeño hush puppies to Brussels sprout tacos.
After closing for months due to the horrific East Village gas explosion, B&H triumphantly returned this past August, and the city is a better place for it. Brimming with old-school EV charm, this no-frills diner-like spot offers heaping plates of Jewish deli favorites made for the vegetarian set. If you’ve ever felt neglected at a Passover dinner, wipe away your tears and seek refuge in a steaming-hot bowl of veggie broth-based matzoh ball soup or non-meat-stuffed cabbage. Want something a little sweeter? Go for the fluffy, fresh-baked challah French toast or fruity blintzes. Regardless of what you choose, you’ll leave full and happy, the way your grandma would want -- even if she’s still upset that you won’t eat her brisket.
The vegetarian answer to typical meat-heavy Korean BBQ spots ("sure, I'll pay $25 for some mushrooms and potato..."), Hangawi boasts an authentic, purely plant-based menu that seeks to provide diners with nourishing, balanced meals, and even asks that you remove your shoes upon entering. It's definitely on the more expensive side, with both prix fixe and a la carte options, but you can still dine here while just gently denting the bank instead of breaking it. Must-try items include the spicy baby dumplings, avocado stone bowl rice, tofu kimchi hot pot, and spicy chili mushrooms.
One of the more high-end picks on this list, Candle is perfect for those times when you need to spoil yourself, or that special veggie lover in your life (we all have one). Candle 79's the posh sister to the cool Candle Cafe (in case you couldn't guess by the name), and has elevated its healthful, organic, well-crafted cuisine to levels that meat could only hope to reach, with dishes like Moroccan-spiced chickpea cake, a wild mushroom crepe, and seitan piccata. Don't miss the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bliss for dessert.
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Rachel Freeman is a copy editor at Thrillist, and though she's admittedly a pescatarian, she has become Thrillist's token non-meat-eater. She is OK with this. Tell her how she forgot your favorite place at @rachelifreeman.
Run by a dynamic husband & wife duo, Beyond reinvents traditional sushi using fresh, local, all-vegan ingredients to create colorful, beautifully crafted rolls. In lieu of fish, this small New York City chain uses both standard and inventive alternatives, like avocado, mango, sweet potato, portabello mushroom, and asparagus. And, with healthy dining as a key feature, Beyond Sushi replaces white rice with six-grain and black rice.
This cozy East Village restaurant from Ravi DeRossi is doing upscale vegan food in an intimate rustic setting (complete with a chandelier made of branches). The plant-based menu is broken up into toasts, hot, and cold plates, all of which are complemented by a selection of natural wines, ciders, and beers. Whether you eat meat or not, you'll appreciate how masterfully grains, fruits, and vegetables are transformed into deliciously creative plates here.
A small pizza shop in Williamsburg, Vinnie's went internet famous in 2016 for creating two monstrous pies: a pizza served in a box made out of pizza, and a pizza topped with mini slices of pizza. When Vinnie's isn't taking America's favorite delivery food to new meta levels, it's serving up speciality meat, vegetarian, and vegan pies, like the Florentine made with sautéed spinach, feta cheese, and chopped tomato. The space might be tiny and filled with only a few booths, but ingredients like pesto cream, breaded eggplant, and teriyaki chicken help separate it from the neighboring run-of-the-mill slice shops on Bedford.
4. Nix 72 University Pl, New York, NY 10003 (Greenwich Village)
When a Michelin-starred chef opens a vegetarian restaurant, it's best to pay attention. Such is the case with Greenwich Village's Nix, an upscale spot from Chef John Fraser of Narcissa that sources many of its ingredients from the nearby Union Square Greenmarket. Nix isn't completely indulgence-free, though: there's a formidable list of cocktails to complement your cauliflower tempura and broccoli pesto.
After winning the Food Network's Cupcake Wars, vegan chef Chloe Coscarelli brought plant-based eating to the masses with her fast-casual restaurant, By Chloe. The all-day menu is stacked with meatless comfort foods like air-baked sweet potato fries, quinoa tacos, and cashew mac & cheese. If the savory stuff doesn't convert you to Coscarelli's vegan tribe, her dairy-free ice cream in flavors like kale cookies & cream and roasted banana bourbon surely will.
Where vegetarian versions of most foods fall short on texture and umami taste, Buddha Bodai takes meat-centric recipes as mere inspiration for its sweet and savory plant-based entrees. All items on the menu are 100% vegetarian and kosher, so if you're a member of the tribe, you can kill two birds with one soy-based stone. The portions are generous, and a single order of General Tso's vegetarian chicken -- chewy and glazed with a sweet maple sauce -- might last you beyond two meals. Although, a single swipe of that glaze might have you rethinking portion control.
For a vegetarian on a budget, you can't do much better than a trip to the lunch buffet at Govinda's. It's a hidden gem in the basement of a Hare Krishna temple, and the friendly staff and delicious, ever-changing mix of Indian and Westernized eats will make a believer out of anyone wary of going all-veg.
8. Champs 197 Meserole St, Brooklyn, NY 11206 (Bushwick)
With an endearing '50s theme and earth-friendly versions of diner favorites, Champs is the place vegetarians take carnivore friends to convert them to the ways of plant-based eating. The menu is ripe with flavor-packed dishes like country-fried seitan, chik'n parmesan, and tempeh wings, plus hangover cures like breakfast burritos and pancake combos. In true diner fashion, Champs has a full dessert menu with over-the-top creations like peanut butter mousse cupcakes and mint cookie crumble shakes.
9. Taïm 222 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014 (West Village)
This West Village counter-serve makes crave-worthy falafel that should definitely be part of your weekly lunch repertoire if you work nearby. The three varieties of falafel -- traditional, harissa, and roasted red pepper -- are served as sandwiches or platters, and are complemented by healthy sides like Israeli salad, spicy Moroccan carrots, and marinated red beets. Taim is quick and cheap (most sandwiches are under $10) but the food isn't greasy or fast-food like at all.
Founded by a vegan antiques dealer and interior designer who wanted to spread non-violence awareness through delicious plant-based food, Peacefood Cafe serves a menu so healthful, you can identify every ingredient folded into each entree. At this location, bright walls and conversational chatter dominates, presenting a warm and casual environment in which to enjoy crunchy, creamy items like the tempeh avocado sandwich, made with marinated tempeh, avocado smear, pickled radishes, and cilantro.
One of Manhattan's pioneers in shojin cuisine -- a style of multi-course vegetarian cooking with roots in Zen Buddhism -- this upscale, Michelin-starred restaurant offers a dining experience that's memorable in both visual and culinary scope. There are two menus available -- four-course or eight-course -- and though both change monthly, they always feature seasonal vegetables and wheat gluten, or nama-fu. Kajitsu's sparse, minimalistic interior matches its Zen-like ethos and puts the spotlight on the poetically-arranged plates of food.
Originating in Chelsea, Blossom has quickly expanded into three brick & mortars, multiple fast-casual outposts, and even a bakery. And if that lightening-quick expansion isn’t enough to convince you that their vegan fare is off-the-chain, then the food certainly will. Dedicated to locally sourced, 100% animal-free ingredients, Blossom delivers tasty Italian-inspired eats like mushroom calamari with spicy arrabbiata sauce, cashew cream ravioli with smoked tempeh, and a tapioca cheese lasagna with roasted eggplant and tofu marinara. The prices are reasonable, too, with most entrees priced around $20.
Amanda Cohen was one of the first downtown chefs to prove that vegetarian food can be cool. Dirt Candy, her five-time Michelin star restaurant on the Lower East Side, serves an outstanding vegetable-only menu that will make you ditch any and all of your carnivorous cravings. Expect some of the most creative plant-based dishes you'll ever taste, like Korean fried broccoli, jalapeño hush puppies, and Brussels sprouts tacos. Know before you go: there's no tipping, but menu prices are inflated about 20%.
Not much has changed at this tiny Eastern European lunch counter since it opened up in the East Village in the '40s. The hole-in-the-wall kosher diner serves vegetarian pierogis, blintzes, and knishes, and a host of other comfort staples, like grilled cheese and matzoh ball soup. There are only a few tables and a dozen counter stools, so it's a great option for a quick solo meal. Every order with comes a piece of soft challah on a paper plate.
You'll be asked to take off your shoes as soon as you walk into Hangawi, an upscale Korean restaurant that eschews the meats typical of Korean cuisine in favor of vegetarian dishes like spicy kimchi mushroom pancakes and sweet potato noodles. Right in the heart of K-Town, the restaurant's peaceful atmosphere provides a restorative escape from the crowds lining up and down the block for barbecue and karaoke.
Long before trendy plant-based restaurants started popping up downtown, Candle 79 was serving creative vegan and vegetarian fare on the Upper East Side. The sophisticated sister to nearby Candle Cafe, this bi-level spot serves healthful and high-end delicacies that are so good you won't even notice the absence of meat. It's the perfect date spot to take the veggie lover in your life.