One thing is for sure, it's never been easier to find exciting plant-based dishes in New York. But it’s more than just veggie burgers, although NYC has plenty of those, too—we’re talking about falafel joints and tapas bars and some of the city’s best Indian restaurants (even some of the best Manhattan restaurants made the list). We're tired of hearing the narrative that vegetarian and vegan food is a trend: even though it may seem that way on your Instagram feed, many non-western cuisines have been experimenting with and perfecting satisfying meatless dishes for centuries and its time they get their proper due.
Ethical eating at these restaurants doesn't have to be dogmatic or leave you feeling hungry (although so often with many menus' only veggie-friendly option being a measley side salad, it can feel that way): from high-concept cooking to comfort foods, there are the best restaurants in NYC that won't have you asking, "where's the meat?"
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Best vegan and vegetarian restaurants
In a white-tiled slip of an East Village eatery, former James Beard Award-winning Del Posto pastry great and erstwhile punk-rock drummer Brooks Headley gives his uberpopular veggie burger pop-up the brick-and-mortar treatment, offering the namesake patty, yuba verde sandwich, vegetarian sloppy joes and some of the city's most excellent desserts.
At this vegetarian Ethiopian charmer, you’ll get a spread of traditional bites, including red lentils in berbere sauce, mashed split peas simmered with tomato, and a chickpea stuffing with kale. Cool the heat of the spicier flavors with a strip of injera.
Fueled by the ambition to make people crave vegetables, Amanda Cohen revived her beloved East Village eatery on the Lower East Side with a ramped-up tasting menu and a space three times the size of the 18-seat original. Emblazoned with a mural of greenery by graffiti artist Noah McDonough, the sprawling dining room is focused on the open kitchen at its heart—complete with a chef’s counter—and a full bar along one wall. Much like the plates of Cohen’s past, each dish is anchored by one vegetable, but her retooled offerings layer multiple ingredients.
A vegetarian Indian food haven in Floral Park, Queens specializes in fast casual bites, savory snacks and colorful desserts. Usha is one of the best vegetarian destinations for generous portions, combo platters that allow you to try a little bit of everything and a menu that strongly demonstrates you don't need meat to have one of the city's most satisfying meals. It's just down the road from Patel Brothers, one of our favorite supermarket for hard-to-find Indian pantry staples.
Even with recent renovations giving the space a facelift, Buddha Bodai remains one of New York's most essential vegetarian and vegan-friendly dining destinations. Chef Dong has been doling out incredibly convincing plant-based versions of peking duck, turnip cake and vegetarian sesame chicken for over 45 years.
While you can depend on a meatless meal at Nix—the first fully veg-only restaurant from John Fraser, who dipped his toe in the genre with Meatless Mondays at Michelin-starred Dovetail and his blogger-luring rotisserie beets at Narcissa—there are no #cleaneating diatribes to be found at the Cali-chic Union Square restaurant.
Brothers Max and Eli Sussman are ones to watch: after pop-ups led them to opening a brick-and-mortar in South Williamsburg, they teamed up with Grimm Taproom to lead the brewery's food program. Now they've launched a new venture at Essex Street Market where they serve the most convincing meat replacements we've ever had, in the form of a delicious vegan shawarma (available only at that location).
Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s first meat-free venture looks like the inside of Gwyneth Paltrow’s brain: The spacious room is a Goop-y stretch of all-white furniture, with pops of color (courtesy of the artisanal ceramic plateware), millennial-pink wall panels and boho banquettes. Each menu arrives with a chart that details the health benefits of various vegetables. Oh, and the food’s delicious, too.
Thanks to a Shark Tank deal, they've been able to evolve the vegan concept beyond only sushi, opening a table-service, sit-down versions. We were initially skeptical that a menu we'd come to love for healthy on-the-go sushi, would be somewhere we'd make dinner reservations. But the new menu keeps crowd favorites, as the Spicy Mang, while adding whimsical seasonally focused offerings and artful plating—garlic bread served in a planter and lurid beet dumplings—that were a joy to savor the whole way through. The dinner menu changes seasonally, so keep an eye out for new offerings.
Run by Francesca "Sol" Chaney, this casual vegan spot in the heart of Bushwick is dedicated to make plant-based eating affordable and accessible not just to the neighborhood's newcomers but rather, lower-income community members who are often left out of the white-dominated vegan conversation. Chaney's activism is not only achieved through fair pricing, a weekend brunch menu that is sliding scale (diners by based on their income level and what they can afford) but also through delicious versions of a bacon, egg and cheese or a tamarind jack fruit panini.
Vegans are mindful about what they put in their bodies—aren’t you? How refreshing, then, that Ladybird serves what can only be called vegan drunk food: late-night breaded mac-and-cheese balls meant to be hand-dipped in excellent buffalo sauce or nondairy ranch dressing. Everyone deserves to embrace their sloppy, slurred side. Beyond late-night, the avocado plate—a textural and flavorful winner with seaweed, black garlic ponzu and fried avocado croquettes atop fanned raw avocado—is due beatification as the patron saint of conversion to veganism. Beware the heat from the spiced broccoli in the artichoke-chardonnay fondue platter!
This East Village spot serves 100% vegan Szechuan favorites such as dan dan noodles made with Impossible™ meat, mapo tofu and General Tso's mushroom.
Falafel doesn’t usually come in different flavors—unless it’s made by an Israel-born chef who’s worked under Bobby Flay. At her falafel and smoothie bar, Einat Admony seasons chickpea batter three ways: traditional (with parsley and cilantro), sweet (with roasted red pepper) and spicy (with Tunisian spices and garlic). She pairs the terrific falafel with tasty salads like marinated beets, spicy Moroccan carrot salad or baba ghanoush, and three dipping sauces.
While few articles come up when Googling this vegan restaurant, the buffet 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 pigeon peas. Like a real New York joint, they even have chopped cheese sandwiches (made with a cheese alternative, of course).
With Contra, young guns Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske draw inspiration from Paris’s néo-bistrot movement, which champions affordable set menus served in casual spaces. While the excellent restaurant is most known for their regular tasting menu, their vegetarian procession is incredibly underrated.
Public Records, which opened in March 2019, is a music-focused cafe, record "hi-fi bar" and performance space that hopes to function less like a traditional club and more like a community space for the Gowanus neighborhood. Here, there’s an excellent sound system and an ideal space for dancing; music programming is overseen by partner and producer Francis Harris of the local record labels Scissor & Thread and Kingdoms. But beyond the beats, Public Records is also opens as a café in the morning, offering a seated menu that continues into the night with dinner. The menu, conceptualized by Chef Mariela Alvarez, is entirely vegan, a nod to the space's former life as an ASPCA headquarters. Alvarez pairs her healthful cooking with her masters in architecture for well-composed, design-focused plating.
Enjoy some of the city's most exciting vegan bites—cashew haloumi with z'aatar, smoked beets with cornichon and horseradish cream, or the lemon meringue—at Matthew Kenney's experimental fine dining establishment in Flatiron.
Despite what the name suggests, Greedi Vegan is all about inclusivity. Like many restaurants in Crown Heights, the menu is influenced by soul food, but with a modern spin, allowing everyone to take part, no matter one's dietary restrictions. We love their Greedi Soul Bowl (with a choice of the grain of the day or mac & cheese made vegan, topped with quinoa breaded "fried chicken, with choice of kale or spinach and sweet potatoes); grits 'n vegan beef gravy; and vegan crab cake sliders.
Be sure your socks are looking good: You’ll have to surrender your shoes upon entering this Korean vegetarian’s paradise. Carefully crafted dishes include thin leek, kimchi, mushroom and mung-bean pancakes, and maitake mushrooms sautéed with spinach. The scene is serene, but the Zen detachment may not suit all tastes—the quiet waitstaff can seem as chilly as the delicious dessert of chocolate-tofu ice cream.
Diners often compare eating great food to a religious experience, but at Kajitsu—possibly New York's only kaiseki restaurant to offer the centuries-old Zen Buddhist vegetarian cuisine known as shojin, from which modern-day Japanese cooking is thought to have developed—there's something literal in the restaurant's connection to the divine. The sparse, hushed interior suggests a reverence for nature that is also expressed in the food. For those accustomed to bold flavors, the preparations can at first seem understated to a fault. But with each jewel-like course, the meal emerges as an artful meditation on simplicity and seasonality.
This small, but colorful vegan Mexican spot at the meeting point for Two Bridges, the Lower East Side and Chinatown could easily be cast off as somewhere where gaggles of Instagram influencers hangout. But the food can back it up, with inventive plant-based spins on Mexican favorites. There's a "chorizo" burrito made with cauliflower rice, rainbow chard bowl with vegan cotija and crispy chayote fish taco made with a seafood-substitute.
These days, Williamsburg is a circus of high-rises and upscale eateries. In one of the most gentrified neighborhoods in Brooklyn it's becoming harder and harder to find affordable vegetarian bites. Oasis is our no-fail, no-frills, trusty best friend for falafel platters and pita sandwiches. Beyond just damn good falafel, we really appreciate the bounty of pickled veggies that don't feel like an afterthought or filler.
The name is definitely worthy of an eye roll, but dad-joke hokeyness is graciously absent elsewhere at Avant Garden, a virtuous vegan-restaurant detour for owner Ravi Derossi, whose personal brand of New York locales have heretofore been imbued with a Baz Luhrmann loucheness. Decadence is dialed down in the 28-seat space—a petrified-wood counter forsakes velvet trimmings and tiki camp; raw tree branches hang above an open kitchen; and the restaurant is painted in muted shades of earth—but there are indulgences to be had on the plate.
The Champs Diner team is known for their vegan comfort foods and Screamer's Pizzeria doesn't disappoint. Offering vegan pies such as a Sausage & Mushroom (tomato sauce, housemade seitan sausage, cremini mushrooms and vegan cheese), the Old School (broccolini, almond ricotta and caramelized onions) and a make-your-own option, Screamer's makes clear the drunk food doesn't only need any animal byproducts to feel decadent.
Bushwick's favorite diner is all vegan with dishes like the "hippie hash," a po boy salad (sans seafood) and a roster of decadent milkshakes made with dairy alternatives.
This upscale vegetarian spot is ideal for anyone who loves food or animals. The intimate, bi-level townhouse possesses an ambience that gourmet-minded vegetarians crave but rarely encounter. Best is the food itself—fresh, creative and considerate (a separate gluten-free menu keeps celiacs sated). Delectable dishes include the seitan piccata, crisp medallions in a light bath of lemon butter and capers, and the saffron-flavored paella, studded with seitan sausage and seasonal veggies. Service is knowledgeable and attentive, and the desserts—one layers chocolate and peanut butter mousse inside a dark chocolate shell—impossibly rich.
The entirely plant-based concept in the heart of Greenwich Village, offers meat- and dairy-free grab n' go treats, cold-pressed juices and a veggie burger (tempeh-lentil-chia-walnut with a potato bun). The takeout area offers matcha kelp noodles in cashew cream sauce, brunch with quinoa hash browns and organic scrambled tofu and dessert with vegan ice creams (roasted banana bourbon kale cookies).
Train budding vegans at this Upper East Side favorite. If they’re not quite ready to tackle baked tempeh with pumpkin-seed–guajillo sauce, suggest easy-to-eat grilled seitan skewers or the chipotle tofu club with vegan mayo and balsamic-drizzled mesclun salad.
With collective experience from prior jobs at Saltie, Milk Bar, Pok Pok, and Lucky Bee, the owners pair their culinary training with Afro-Asian inflections: curry is the common ground. We recommend the vegetarian and vegan-friendly butternut squash curry served with corn, potatoes served with jasmine rice, chadon beni and daikon pickles.
This vegan gem, outfitted with soothing sage-colored walls, soft amber lighting and a buzzing, cheerily staffed counter, is a welcome addition to the only slightly veggie-compliant Upper West Side. An earthy salad combines red quinoa, white beans, corn, red peppers, avocado and lime-mustard vinaigrette in one invigoratingly fresh starter. It provides a light counterpoint to the fried seitan medallion panino, a creation that teams a wheat-gluten cutlet with cashew-based “goat cheese,” peppery arugula and chopped tomatoes on a hunk of yeasty homemade focaccia.
The vegan movement is expanding beyond just restaurants, as grocers, butchers and deli counters are starting to go meatless. Joya Carlton (the Butcher’s Daughter, Buvette) teams with Sara and Erica Kubersky (MooShoes, Modern Love Brooklyn) for this Lower East Side grocery store and delicatessen that’s exclusively stocked with vegan products. Along with prepackaged and pantry items, the deli counter offers house-made meat-free sandwiches, salads and pastries: The Bowery sandwich consists of turmeric-tofu egg, tempeh bacon and Chao cheese on a potato roll, while the Marlowe is a veg-focused Reuben stuffed with beet-brined seitan, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing on marble rye. End the meal on a sweet note with soft-serve sundaes featuring your choice of dairy-free ice cream (vanilla, chocolate) and toppings like a coconut-chocolate Magic Shell and puffed chickpeas.
The light, savory South Indian crepes known as dosas, stuffed with curried potatoes and vegetables, are well-prepared at this vegan stand by beloved vendor Thiru “Dosa Man” Kumar.
Vegetarians, vegans and raw-foodists, unite! This longtime East Village hangout offers both regular meat-free dishes—grilled seitan nachos, black-bean chili, stir-fries—and “live foods” made from uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Live “hummus” (whipped from cold-processed tahini and raw almonds instead of the usual chickpeas) can be scooped up with pressed flaxseed “chips”; the live Love Boat pairs almond–Brazil nut “meatballs” with mango chutney and cool marinara sauce on a napa cabbage leaf. Naturally, there are loads of salads and some macrobiotically balanced quinoa-and-seaweed combos.
From this roving truck, self-taught chef Adam Sobel dispatches vegan dishes like Korean barbecue seitan and acclaimed desserts including fig pancakes and a crème brulee doughnut.
Punk-rock veganism and a kung fu kick come together at this eclectic eatery from chef Ian Graye (Champs, Clementine) and first-time restaurateurs Tyler Merfeld (Graye’s erstwhile bandmate from Brooklyn rock outfit Perdition) and Jillian Camera. Named after a kung fu combat style from 1978 cult classic Five Deadly Venoms and papered in vintage martial-art movie posters from the ’70s and ’80s, the 14-seat restaurant serves up plant-based riffs on classics like a fried oyster-mushroom banh mi and a cremini-mushroom-lentil burger with house-made ketchup and cashew cheese. Cutlery is similiarly ethical, with knives and forks of the bamboo variety.
For cautious carnivores, Blossom offers one big surprise: All the eggless pastas and mock meats actually taste pretty good. For vegans, it’s a candlelit godsend. Guiltily dreaming of veal scaloppine? Try the pan-seared seitan cutlets, tender wheat gluten served with basil mashed potatoes, swiss chard, a white-wine caper sauce and artichokes. With fake-meat entrées averaging $17, carnivores may feel compelled to eat the real thing elsewhere, but vegetarians have indeed found a great date place.