Originally posted August 2019; updated January 2020.
One of the best vegan restaurants in New York is located in South Richmond Hill, Queens. And whether you're headed to JFK airport or looking for things to do in the Rockaways, it's worth getting off the train early to try the food here.
While few articles come up when Googling this vegan restaurant, the buffet and smoothie bar isn't a secret to its over 32,000 Instagram followers and hungry fans who make the trip for owner Viburt Bernard's Caribbean fare. Veggie Castle's buffet is not only an opportunity for more dining options sans meat, but a chance for creativity. Customers of the restaurant demonstrate the diversity of Veggie Castle's options and endless customization potential with hundreds of tagged photos of their vegan salt-baked fish, jerk chicken, wings and other mock proteins, joined by delicious sides like collards, mac 'n cheese and kale patties. Like a real New York joint, they have chopped cheese sandwiches (made with a cheese alternative, of course). And Veggie Castle even added a secret menu item made with oyster mushrooms, for those in-the-know.
Now, Veggie Castle has returned Brooklyn with a new location as of today, January 27th 2020. The new space is located at 2085 Flatbush Avenue, in Flatlands, Brooklyn. The team's third restaurant is smaller than the Queens destination and will be lovingly called Veggie Castle Mini. The new venture harkens back to Bernard's roots, who opened Veggie Castle's first iteration in Flatbush, back in 1998 (that year, according to Bernard, Time Out New York was the first to cover the restaurant).
The royal name stems from Bernard's mother, who owns the beloved roti shop Sybil's. After she was sick in the hospital, requiring heart surgery, she suggested to her son that he take over a derelict White Castle nearby the family restaurant and transform the space into something vegetarian-friendly. Leaving the original White Castle architecture in place, Bernard began renting, hoping to attract the neighborhood Rastafarians, many who subscribe to an ital diet, in which vegetarian dining is a spiritual duty.
But "Veggie Castle isn't just something for Rastafarians. Our restaurant is for people from all walks of life that want to enjoy something special and healthy," shares Bernard, in a phone interview with Time Out New York.
With so many new vegan spots opening across the city, it can feel like plant-based menus are a trend, when, in reality communities like the Rastafari have been cooking this way for decades. Not to mention, so many of these new spots make a desire to not eat animals expensive. Veggie Castle joins vegan spots like Sol Sips, that hope to underscore the inequities in the vegan movement, with food accessible to lower-income communities. Both South Richmond Hill and Flatlands are considered to be food swamps, with a high concentration of fast food, disproportionate to the available fresh food options.
"We're excited to return to Brooklyn. So many of our customers already live there," says Bernard.
Stop by Veggie Castle's locations and you might just run into rapper, Action Bronson who cites the spot as a favorite.
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Veggie Castle Mini is located at 2085 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11234.