Best vegan and vegetarian restaurants
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, the food’s delicious, too.
Because veganism is almost always an ethical or moral choice, its fare is often amply spiced with condescension in that way gymgoers pepper chats with talk of “discipline.” 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!
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.
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.
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.
At first glance, you assume this cute little Brooklyn spot is just a café and bakery. After further inspection, you’ll discover that Little Choc Apothecary is a full fledged restaurant with an even cuter dining area upstairs. Situated on a pleasant South Williamsburg block, Little Choc Apothecary is one of the reasons why crowds flock to this neighborhood. Boasting a complete vegan menu, Little Choc Apothecary is something you don’t want to miss. Before ordering anything, make sure to request a bottle of The Wine Love, Gonzalo Gran Tempranillo ($39). This delicious red wine is made with red and dark berries and faint lavender. This tinto compliments any type of meal and sets the mood against Little Choc Apothecary’s lighting which may or may not cause dream-like hallucinations. Dive head first to the savory crepes which is the real reason why you’re there. If the word vegan normally scares you, try the Jacked Up ($14). Made with smoky pulled jackfruit, caramelized onion, roasted red pepper, kale and homemade BBQ sauce. This crepe will hide any hints of greenery and masquerade as a familiar meaty substitute. If the word meat causes an eye roll, try the Garden of Eatin ($12). Garnished with apple, avocado, fresh kale, mint-basil, pesto and lemon juice, the Garden of Eatin is as vegan as you can get. Resonating with mint, this crepe is light eat compared to its faux meaty cousin. Let’s get to the apothecary part of Little Choc. Little Choc Apothecary is notorious for their tea
An expansion of the fast-casual, health-minded midtown eatery, this offshoot has blossomed into a completely gluten-free menu at this full-service follow-up, offering mains like cavatelli with butternut squash and kale, and desserts including pot-roasted apples with vanilla-walnut haroseth.
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Not strictly vegetarian or vegan, and definitely not raw, Souen offers natural, organic foods with no dairy, wheat, sugar, chemicals, preservatives or meat in a clean, bright and peaceful setting. The Asian-influenced menu is extensive: teriyaki or ginger-steamed fish, broccoli tofu and stir-fried soba noodles with vegetables. But don’t be distracted from the chalkboard specials, which reveal the freshest fish choices and other interesting twists on the basics.
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, tofu-cabbage wraps, vegetarian sloppy joes and vanilla-labna gelato.
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 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.
Former caterer Guy Vaknin doles out vegan sushi at this diminutive Gramercy spot. At three wood tables, diners choose from colorful rolls packed with fruits and vegetables from nearby Union Square Greenmarket. Combos include the Crunch N’ Munch (alfalfa, baked tofu, English cucumber and kiwi) and La Fiesta (avocado, pickled jalapeño, chayote and cilantro), or nigiri topped with slivers of carrot, mango and snow pea. Vaknin also crafts a line of vegan pastries, such as black-sesame avocado cookies, sweet-potato black-bean brownies and a date-and-nut bar.
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. The smoothies are exotic too and can be made with whole, skim, soy or no milk.
This organic and vegetarian cafe from two former Blossom employees serves sandwiches (including one inspired by Buffalo chicken wings with soy "chicken" and Buffalo sauce), fresh juices squeezed from a powerful Norwalk juicer, and Stumptown coffee.
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 (the fondue-dipping Bourgeois Pig, the rum-doused Mother of Pearl) 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.
From cupcake-slinging vegan queen Chloe Coscarelli comes this entirely plant-based concept in the heart of Greenwich Village, offering meat- and dairy-free grab n' go treats, cold-pressed juices and a veggie burger (tempeh-lentil-chia-walnut patty on a potato bun to add to New York's growing pantheon. Continuing her vegan crusade—she wrote three cookbooks on it—Coscarelli stocks her takeout section with matcha kelp noodles in cashew cream sauce, brunch with quinoa hash browns and organic scrambled tofu, and dessert with gluten-free ice creams (roasted banana bourbon kale cookies).
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.
The eight-seat location of this café proves that vegan cuisine and comfort food aren't paradoxical terms. Look into the open kitchen, where chefs cook up meatless dishes, like the Midtown Melt (Cajun-spiced seitan, vegan cheddar and chipotle aioli on rosemary focaccia) and a vegan burger with soy bacon and onion rings. Healthy organic fruit and vegetable juices are blended on site, including the Supreme Green, which combines spinach, kale, ginger, lemon, apple, cucumber and parsley.
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.
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.
Heather Tierney—a former TONY Food & Drink writer, full disclosure—built her rep with buzzy spots Pulqueria and Apothéke, both noteworthy stops on the Fashion Week circuit. Now the nightlife maven turns from witching-hour boozing to daylight revitalization via this hybrid juice bar and vegetarian "butcher" shop. The kitchen serves witty variations on classic carnivore dishes, like a beet tartare, and a "charcuterie" plate featuring a roasted-vegetable terrine, broccoli rillette and cashew ricotta with fig mostarda.
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.
You’ll be hard-pressed to put anything off-limits at this almost completely organic bakery, which shuns dairy, eggs, soy and gluten. The shop also avoids using any nuts except for coconut, considered a tree nut. (Its chocolate and flour suppliers, though, handle nuts in their facilities.) Tempt the kids with a red velvet cupcake, a double-chocolate-chip cookie, an agave-sweetened brownie or—why not?—all three.
This bright, clean Curry Hill standout makes a great date place, especially if your date is vegetarian, Jewish (it’s kosher!) or homesick for India. Start with the samosa chaat—two flaky pockets stuffed with potato and peas, covered in a colorful tamarind, cilantro and yogurt sauce. Then sample one of four thalis—multiple servings of rice, curries, chutneys and more served on a single tray. A fresh lunch buffet, offered from 11:30am to 3pm on weekdays, overflows with South Indian standards like a creamy saag paneer and gobi masala (cauliflower and peas)—all you can eat for $8.95.
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.